If you’re a character in a comic book, it’s probably pretty hard to come up with your persona before you go out to fight (or commit) crimes. You have to come up with a name, for starters, and the options are endless.
Will you name yourself after an animal, or should you just pick a random noun that sounds cool? Maybe you can intentionally misspell it to make yourself sound more “xtreme.” What are your gadgets? Do you have a theme you’re going for? It’s all just a bunch of homework, and if all you want to do is go out and punch people in defiance of the law, it can be a real drag.
Not everyone gets lucky enough to have a bat fly into their study, get a nip from a radioactive spider, or have a dying alien hand you a green power ring. A lot of characters are on their own to devise their brands. Sometimes they come up with something awesome, and sometimes they end up going out as Kite Man, a guy who looked deep within himself and decided that the best way to take on Batman was with a bunch of cloth tied to sticks.
Other characters haven’t even gotten that far, taking the easiest of paths by just stealing someone else’s established bit. It could be homage or just straight-up heisting their gear, but all of these people took shortcuts. Here are 15 Superheroes And Villains Who Literally Stole Their Identities.
15. Circe (Wonder Woman)
Wonder Woman’s ancient foe Circe didn’t steal her everyday persona. She is actually the being who turns all of those guys into pigs in The Odyssey Diana once shared their fate(, in fact). But she takes on a new role in a 2006 storyline when she steals Diana’s powers and becomes the new Wonder Woman.
Her reign is as brutal as it is short, as while the original hero’s whole thing is to triumph using love, Wonder Circe prefers to just go around murdering human traffickers and freeing the women they exploited. We honestly don’t blame her, but it’s just not a very Wonder Woman thing to do.
Circe’s tenure doesn’t even last a full issue, as Diana (in human form) reclaims her Lasso of Truth and use it to force the sorceress into reversing the spell. We’re not sure what’s to stop her from just immediately casting it again as soon as she’s free, but that’s comic book logic that we don’t really want to dance with.
14. Booster Gold
Michael Jon Carter’s superhero identity is all him, and that’s good, because the DC universe is only big enough for one ego that size.
He’s from 400 years in the future, and when he lost his promising sports career due to throwing games for his gambler father, he took a job as a security guard at the Metropolis Space Museum. The building contained artifacts from several different heroes, and it isn’t hard to guess what happens next.
Carter steals an antigravity ring, a force field generator, and some other gadgets, and then travels back to the 20th Century to make his fortune by scoring more sponsorships than a NASCAR driver.
When Booster appears on the TV series Smallville, his goal in going back in time is to use his stolen tech and knowledge of past events to become Metropolis’ chosen superhero before it even knows what Superman is. At that point, Clark Kent is still fighting crime under the less catchy title “The Blur,” which is such a dumb name that it makes “Booster Gold” sound awesome.
13. Amadeus Cho (Hulk)
Cho is one of the few Marvel characters who is smarter than Tony Stark, but he spent most of his early comic book appearances playing backup or support for the Avengers, Hercules, and the Hulk. But events in the 2015 series The Totally Awesome Hulk gave him some brawn to go with the brains.
Bruce Banner absorbs the energy from Kiber Island’s experimental fusion reactor, which is in the middle of a meltdown that would endanger millions of people. Unfortunately, since the radiation is totally different from the stuff that already resides in his gamma-infused body, he ends up just turning himself into the thing about to explode and kill everyone.
Enter Amadeus, who approaches the angry hero and uses nanites to build a containment suit and remove the monster from Banner, taking it on himself. This resolves the crisis and makes Cho into a new Hulk, who doesn’t mind being green and sports a fauxhawk, on which we still haven’t formed an opinion.
12. Ulysses Armstrong (Anarky)
The original Anarky was Lonnie Machin, a kid who commits crimes to affect social change and usher in a utopia he’d build on the ashes of what he sees as modern, corrupt society. His “replacement,” Ulysses Armstrong, just takes the name literally and wants to blow things up for fun.
Armstong kidnaps Machin and steals his persona for reasons we’re not entirely clear on. He was already spreading violent chaos as The General and had been doing so since he was a kid. It wasn’t even the first time that he’d stolen someone’s identity. He had a long conflict with Tim Drake, who was then Robin, and Armstrong spent a bit of time going around in a Red Robin costume that used to belong to Drake’s own predecessor, Jason Todd.
11. Alex Trent (Bloodsport)
Bloodsport is a weird character. He’s a mercenary armed with a teleporter that can beam anything from his considerable arsenal directly into his hand. And he’s actually capable of dealing considerable grief to Superman, but that’s mostly because in his original incarnation, whose real name was Robert DuBois, Lex Luthor provided him with a bunch of Kryptonite bullets.
LAter, the demon Bloodthirst implants DuBois’ old tech into the body of Alex Trent, a white supremacist, and makes him the second Bloodsport and cuts him loose on Metropolis to kill every minority and “race traitor” he sees. Trent did not directly steal the identity, but he did co-opt it for even more disgusting purposes, and the fact that DuBois was black adds an extra, gross layer to Trent’s rampage.
In The Adventures of Superman #528, both Bloodsports meet in prison and have a boxing match that ends in a riot. Superman stops DuBois from killing his successor, which is apparently so shameful that the prison’s chapter of the Aryan Brotherhood burns Trent alive.
10. Lady Stilt-Man
Part of the point of stealing an identity is to co-opt one that is cooler than any you could think of on your own. And maybe she thinks she made the right choice, but Callie Ryan, the fourth Stilt-Man, made a very strange pick.
If you’re unfamiliar with the character, Stilt-Man started out fighting Daredevil, and his whole thing is that he wears a suit of armor equipped with telescoping legs so that he can steal things from tall buildings. And he’s better at stealing things than fighting superheroes, probably because stilts are, at best, defensive weapons.
Ryan first appears in The Amazing Spider-Man #611 and helps the web-head recover from a particularly bad day by being incredibly ridiculous and bad at her job of supervillainy. Spidey can’t even pretend to take her seriously, especially once she announces that her name is “Lady Stilt-Man.” That’s like someone showing up in a crimson version of Ted Kord’s suit and calling themselves “Red Blue Beetle.”
She doesn’t do well in that first outing because Deadpool tricks her into stepping into a giant shoe and an open manhole cover. And we think that’s a bit much, because simply being Stilt-Man is probably embarrassing enough on its own.
9. Hank Henshaw (Cyborg Superman)
The “Reign of the Supermen” storyline after the real Man of Steel’s death in 1992 introduced four possible successors to his role … until the real Kal-El just came back from the dead, anyway. One of them, the first Cyborg Superman, turned out to be a villain who had ripped off Supes’ identity to destroy his legacy.
Hank Henshaw was an astronaut whose crew suffered a cosmic event similar to the one that created Marvel’s superteam the Fantastic Four. But instead of getting cool — if grotesque — abilities and fighting crime, Henshaw’s group just went crazy and mostly committed suicide. Hank’s body began to deteriorate until he ditched it by downloading his consciousness into Lex Luthor’s computer system.
He blamed Superman (wrongly) for the shuttle accident and created the cyborg body to impersonate him. And he doesn’t just crib Supes’ name, costume, and appearance; he also steals and exploits his technology to create the cloned tissue and robot parts. He’s just a total rip-off from start to finish.
8. Victor Alvarez (Power Man)
The original Power Man, Luke Cage, was not at all pleased to learn that Victor Alvarez, the son of his old enemy Shades, had stolen his old name and color scheme and was hocking his services as a “hero for hire” on Craigslist. But branding isn’t the only thieving Alvarez does.
He first uses his powers after Bullseye sets off an explosion which kills over a hundred people. Alvarez’ latent ability to absorb chi from his environment kicks in, and by pulling the life force from the people around him, he manages to survive the blast. We don’t know if this would have killed all of those victims independently of the bomb, but luckily, we’ll never know.
This version of Power Man doesn’t have permanently unbreakable skin like the first; he has to concentrate to draw in and focus the ambient energy like Iron Fist does. But it is a power, and he is a man, so the name fits.
7. Ophelia Sarkissian (Viper)
Some people just can’t wait for a name to free up before they steal it. That happens to Ophelia Sarkissian in Captain America and the Falcon issue #180, when she has to give up her previous title of Madame Hydra.
That was because she had her own identity issues with the Space Phantom, who impersonated the Hydra leader to make the evil organization into a private army. Once he dropped the charade, the group ousted Sarkissian because of what “she” had done. And that’s not really fair, but we are talking about an international criminal organization. They don’t really do “fair.”
In need of a new persona and more snake-themed underlings to boss around, Sarkissian frees Viper, leader of the Serpent Squad, from the custody of U.S. Marshals and announces that her new persona will be Viper.
The guy calling himself that is understandably confused, and has just long enough to ask if having two Vipers around would just confuse people before Sarkissian murders him, claiming the name and the Squad.
Peter Quill wasn’t always the puckish, music-loving scoundrel we see in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. When he premiered in Issue 4 of Marvel Preview in 1976, he was, unlike the film version, 100 percent a dick.
It starts when his father tries to kill the newborn Peter with an axe because he doesn’t believe the kid is his. But luckily, the old psycho rages himself into a fatal heart attack first. Later, young Peter sees aliens murder his mom, and he dedicates his life to becoming an astronaut so he can go to space for revenge.
While stationed on an orbital base, an alien ambassador appears and says that it will return to anoint the next Star-Lord. Peter volunteers, but everyone hates him for being such an a-hole, so they pick someone else. As the appointment approaches, Quill shoots everyone between him and the meeting place, and the aliens transport him away before security can kill him.
5. Joker’s Daughter
Like Lady Stilt-Man up there, Joker’s Daughter built her reputation on other, more established villains. She first appears in the Batman Family book, in which she torments Robin using detachable hands and a lipstick that shoots kiss-shaped “bullets.”
She claims to be the Clown Prince of Crime’s offspring, but she doesn’t stop there; she later claims to be the child of other members of Batman’s rogues gallery, including Riddler, Catwoman, and the Penguin. And this has varying levels of truth depending on which era of comics you’re reading.
In most versions, her real name is Duela Dent, which would make her the actual daughter of Two-Face, one of the few villains whose parentage she never claims. But in Countdown to Final Crisis, we learn that she is the Joker’s daughter … just not “our” Joker. She comes from Earth-3, and her parents are the heroes The Jokester and Evelyn Dent, who fights crime as Three Face. And complicated messes like that are why we have relaunches every few years.
4. Superior Spider-Man
Otto “Doctor Octopus” Octavius had a body full of cancer, and like all mad scientists, he came up with a survival plan that feels so much harder and more complicated than just devising a cure for the disease. This involves switching bodies with Peter Parker and replacing him as Spider-Man.
It starts out as a desperate attempt to live, but the new, “Superior” Spider-Man eventually takes to the hero role and tries to genuinely do good. But he’s also used to having a certain number of arms when he works, so his updated Spidey Suit also includes a bunch of extra arms — or legs, since he’s not an octopus anymore.
Despite all the actual villains Octavius fights during his tenure, his most persistent rival is the residual consciousness of his body’s original inhabitant, who urges him to stop killing people all the time. Eventually, the former villain cedes control of the shared body to Peter, who goes back to Spider-Manning as usual.
3. Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond)
The animated series Batman Beyond starts with Bruce Wayne realizing he’s gotten too old for this crimefighting biz, even with a sleek new suit.
Terry McGinnis discovers Wayne’s old night job after the retired hero saves him from the Jokerz street gang, but he can’t convince him to put the cowl back on to help him after a high-powered businessman has McGinnis’ father killed. So, Terry does what any burgeoning vigilante would do: he steals the new Batsuit and tries to take care of it himself.
Bruce doesn’t approve, but he realizes that having a Batman around is a good idea. So he trains Terry to take up his struggle and legacy. This is one of the few times in which the victim of an identity theft both approves of and encourages the person who robbed them, and we’re glad he does, because Batman Beyond is a pretty good show.
2. Martian Manhunter
Martian Manhunter is a rare case on this list: he’s one of the few thieves whose stolen persona is the one they use when they aren’t fighting or committing crimes. He’s in very small company with perhaps Wonder Woman, who bought papers and her name from an Army nurse who wanted to be with her fiancé. (The Amazon paid for that identity, however, so we can’t really count it here.)
In his early appearances, “John Jones” was just the name that Manhunter used when he wasn’t looking all Martian, but his story changed around 2000. More recent versions have cast the real Jones as a slain detective whom the alien impersonated to finish the case the human was working on.
For this version, it’s some kind of amazing cosmic coincidence that the secret identity’s name is so close to the Martian’s actual name (J’onn J’onzz), but comic books are full of happy accidents like that.
1. Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady (Ant-Man)
For a smart guy who has achieved such feats as mastering both miniaturization and enlargement; helped design and build a massive, secret prison in the Negative Zone; and creating (admittedly evil) artificial intelligence, Hank Pym is really dumb at locks.
He’s the only Ant-Man who actually built his own suit. The other two, Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady, stole theirs from his ostensibly “secure” facilities. We’re not sure what to make of this, other than the possibility that this is just a charming/annoying character flaw of Pym’s. It’s kind of like how Bruce Banner turns into a green murder monster, and how Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is just a generally terrible person.
And it isn’t even just the Ant-Man suits that the brilliant scientist forgets to lock up. The second Yellowjacket, Rita DeMara, stole her costume, too. Hank Pym probably gets a lot of really snippy e-mails from SHIELD’s IT department about password strength.
What other less-than-original heroes and villains stole their identities from other characters? Let us know in the comments.