When it comes to creating comic book characters, there’s a finite number of ideas out there. There are only so many different abilities, superpowers, costumes, and personas you can give your characters while still maintaining originality. Eventually though, you’ll start to infringe upon ideas that have already been done elsewhere and your characters, which may seem new, can easily be viewed as copy-cats or rip-offs. At some point or another, all new characters will start to take ideas from older ones.
Given that DC Comics is responsible for the creation of some of the oldest and most iconic comic book characters – from heroes like Superman and Batman to villains like the Joker and Two Face – it should come as no surprise that their ideas have often been used in the creation of new characters. In some cases, those characters simply feature a similar power or background story to the original. In other cases, the borrowing of ideas is much more blatant, with characters having everything, including their superpowers, background, opponents, and even uniform replicated.
With that in mind, here are the 15 Worst Rip-Offs Of Classic DC Characters:
15. Catwoman (original) – Black Cat (rip-off)
The idea of taking a cat burglar and creating a character in a cat costume who commits robberies isn’t exactly high concept. Still, DC deserves credit for being the first to make such a character popular with the introduction of Catwoman in Batman #1 in 1940. By the time Marvel introduced their own leather-wearing feline, Black Cat, in 1979, Catwoman had already become a well-known figure.
Marv Wolfman, the man who created Black Cat, supposedly got the idea after seeing a Tex Avery cartoon about a black cat bringing bad luck to anyone whose path it crossed, but it’s hard to believe that he thought it was a unique idea for a comic book character. Given that Catwoman already had been around for nearly four decades, including television and movie appearances, and the fact that both characters wear skin-tight leather outfits and have complicated, affectionate relationships with superheroes (Black Cat with Spider-Man and Catwoman with Batman), it’s easy to see Marvel’s introduction of Felicia Hardy as a rip-off of Selina Kyle.
14. Green Arrow (original) – Hawkeye (rip-off)
Hawkeye and Green Arrow are both superheroes who prefer bow and arrows to more modern weapons and they both fight as members of a superhero team – Hawkeye with the Avengers and Green Arrow with the Justice League of America. While Green Arrow is a billionaire who uses his fortune for scientific upgrades to his equipment, Hawkeye relies on Stark Industries to fund his expensive archery. As if those similarities between the two are not enough, both heroes have also had relationships with female superheroes named after birds – Hawkeye with Mockingbird and Green Arrow with Black Canary – who also happen to be blonde.
DC had Oliver Queen slinging his Green Arrow long before Clint Barton and his Hawkeye, as the former made his first appearance in 1941, 23 years before the latter came along. Both DC and Marvel have had much success with these two heroes. Green Arrow has spawned his own television series while his Marvel rip-off has found his way onto the silver screen.
13. Captain Boomerang (original) – Boomerang (rip-off)
Even when DC comes up with character ideas that aren’t the greatest, they still find some of these ideas being used elsewhere. That’s what brings us to DC’s Captain Boomerang, who first appeared in 1960, and Marvel’s Boomerang, who was born six years later.
Captain Boomerang is an Australian villain whose main weapons are boomerangs that have been altered to include bombs, blades, and other such sources of destruction. His main foe is the Flash. Boomerang, meanwhile, is also an Australian villain who uses the same type of boomerangs for the same purposes and whose main rival is Spider-Man.
We will give Marvel credit for at least giving their design a superior uniform. Captain Boomerang initially wore a tacky boomerang patterned shirt while Boomerang wore the more conventional uniform that included tights and a mask covered in boomerangs. Why either side thought these characters were a good idea is anyone’s guess, but they have gotten a surprising amount of longevity out of them.
12. Amazo (original) – Super Adaptoid (rip-off)
Although the two differ greatly in appearance, Marvel’s Super Adaptoid which was first introduced in 1966 followed the same basic concept as DC’s Amazo, which had been created six years earlier. Both characters were robots designed to copy the superpowers of a team of heroes and then use those powers to destroy those same heroes. Amazo was busy fighting, and often defeating, the Justice League of America before Super Adaptoid came along as a foe for the Avengers, who he too often defeated. On one occasion, it was even believed he’d killed Captain America.
While some character rip-offs can be viewed as coincidences of two publications coming up with similar ideas at the same time, in this case (as was the case with the first three entries on this list), the gap between the two is large enough to make us suspicious of the similarities between Stan Lee’s character and the idea that was first used by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson.
11. Darkseid (original) – Thanos (rip-off)
Marvel’s Thanos and DC’s Darkseid are both big, strong bad guys trying to conquer the universe. Both possess telekinetic and teleportation powers. They’re also both the most powerful villains in their respective universes, able to move through time to unleash their destruction. Everything about them is pretty much the same, but like every other character on this list, DC’s version was on the scene first. Darkseid made his first appearance in 1970, nearly three years before Thanos. By Thanos creator Jim Starlin’s own admission, his original plan was not to make a duplicate of Darkseid, but rather rip-off a different DC character.
Starlin’s original plan for Thanos had the character bear more of a resemblance to Metron, but he was told to “beef up” the character and that if he was going to steal one of DC’s God ideas, then it would be better to ““rip off Darkseid, the really good one”. Thus the version of Thanos that Marvel fans have come to know was born.
10. Ant-Man (rip-off) – The Atom (original)
Ant-Man is a Marvel superhero who possesses the ability to shrink himself down to a subatomic size. The Atom is a DC superhero who also possesses the ability to shrink himself down to a subatomic size. What makes this rip-off interesting, though, is the timeline. Although Atom first appeared in 1940, 22 years prior to Ant-Man, he didn’t always possess the ability to shrink himself. The original Atom, portrayed by Al Pratt was simply a university student and later a physicist who had no real powers, but was out to prove that a small man could make a big difference.
After Pratt’s death, Ray Palmer assumed the Atom role as a university professor who used matter from a white dwarf star to shrink himself down to the size of an atom, first appearing in October of 1961. This only pre-dated Dr. Hank Pym’s January 1962 Ant-Man appearance by a few months. So while it appears as though Ant-Man was a rip-off of the Atom, it’s entirely possible that in this case, the same idea was conceived and executed by the two companies around the same time.
9. The Joker (original) – The Jester (rip-off)
The Joker is arguably the most recognizable comic book villain of all time. He’s been a foil for Batman for decades and the portrayal of him in television and film has garnered praise for most of the actors who’ve played him. So it should come as no surprise that Marvel would want to feed off some of the character’s success by creating a similar villain of their own, which brings us to the Jester. Mostly used as a foe for Daredevil, the Jester is a failed actor who gets fed up with rejection and turns to a life of crime and uses joke themed weapons to subdue his opponents.
The Jester lacks the mental instability of his DC counterpart and sports more of a harlequin themed outfit as opposed to the Joker’s signature white face paint, red lipstick, and purple suit. The Jester has failed to gain as much notoriety as the Joker over the years, but what may be more surprising is that Marvel hasn’t made more attempts to replicate Batman’s biggest rival.
8. Two-Face (original) – Dr. Herbert Landon (rip-off)
Speaking of Batman, Harvey Dent has also long been one of the biggest thorns in his side as the Two-Faced district attorney turned criminal mastermind. Dr. Herbert Landon, on the other hand, was only a short-lived rival for Spider-Man. Best known for his appearances in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Landon is the head of the Herbert Foundation and a scientist hell bent on ridding the world of mutants. However, after a chemical accident he’s left with half of his body mutated, giving him an appearance quite similar to the one that had long ago become Two-Face’s signature. After the accident, Landon went on to work as an assistant for the Kingpin, using his scientific know how to help Wilson Fisk do evil.
7. Scarecrow (original) – Scarecrow (rip-off)
As was the case with Catwoman/Black Cat, the idea of making a villain based on a scarecrow is another pretty simple concept that DC was able to jump on first and turn into a rival for Batman. Their Scarecrow, Dr. Jonathan Crane, is a sadistic professor, psychologist, and biochemist who uses chemicals and dons his Scarecrow mask to induce fear into people. He was first introduced in 1941 and has become another one of the Dark Knight’s most prominent villains.
Marvel’s version of the character, first introduced 23 years after DC’s version, isn’t quite as complex and hasn’t been utilized quite as much. Ebenezer Laughton, a trained acrobat, first donned his Scarecrow mask simply to commit burglaries before later being recruited into life as a supervillain. So, aside from their choice of headwear and monikers, there aren’t a lot of similarities between the two. Oddly enough, the two Scarecrows actually teamed up in the 1996 DC vs. Marvel Comics crossover in a failed attempt to kidnap Lois Lane.
6. Justice League of America (original) – Squadron Supreme
After the success of the Justice League of America, which first joined forces in 1960, Marvel decided to come up with a similar team of superheroes and in 1971 introduced the world to the Squadron Supreme. It wasn’t enough to just create a team from existing characters, though. Instead Marvel created new characters for its team, all of whom possessed powers and abilities similar to those of the JLA. In place of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, Marvel created Hyperion, Nighthawk, Doctor Supreme, Power Princess, and the Whizzer.
The team’s first appearance not only confused the Avengers who discovered them but also the production staff at Marvel, as all of the characters were also the same as those in the team of supervillains that had already been encountered, the Squadron Sinister. The team’s creator, Roy Thomas, has admitted that the Squadron Sinister, and thus the Squadron Supreme as well, were rip-offs of DC’s JLA.
5. Two-Face (original) – Haf-and-Haf (rip-off)
Another Two Face rip-off, Haf-and-Haf was introduced in Dick Tracy comics in 1966, 24 years after Two Face’s first appearance. Born Tulza Tuzon, Haf-and-Haf was driving a truck full of chemicals when he crashed and exposure to those same chemicals left one side of his face permanently disfigured, much like Harvey Dent before him. After the accident, Tuzon joined the Circling Brothers Circus and performed in the freak show under the Haf-and-Haf name before eventually turning to a life of crime. If the facial similarities between him and Two Face weren’t enough, in his early days Haf-and-Haf could be seen wearing suits with two different patterns, similar to Dent’s.
As far as the character being a rip-off of Two-Face goes, its creator, Chester Gould, pled ignorance, claiming he had no idea of Two-Face’s existence and that he had conceived of Haf-and-Haf after seeing a bottle of coffee creamer on the breakfast table. While that may indeed be the case, it is a bit suspicious that a comic book creator wouldn’t know of a prominent character that had already been around for two dozen years.
4. The Penguin (original) – The Owl (rip-off)
As you may have noticed, DC has not only provided Batman with some of the greatest villains of all time, but also some of the most susceptible to rip-offs. The Penguin is no exception to this. The comic book world was first introduced to Oswald Cobblepot in 1941; a crime boss with a bird obsession who wore tuxedos and whose small stature and beak-like nose gave him an appearance similar to a Penguin. In 1964, Marvel created their own ornithological themed villain, the Owl. Primarily a rival of Daredevil, Leland Owlsley is also a crime boss whose appearance is similar to the animal he gets his name from.
The Owl differs from the Penguin in that he does possess superhuman powers. He can glide for short distances and has superhuman hearing and sight, while the Penguin is simply a criminal mastermind with a weaponized umbrella. Still, the basic concept behind the two ideas are the same and it’s enough to make it look like once again Marvel copied an idea from DC.
3. Various Batman rip-offs
It’s not just Batman’s villains who are often copied, as the Dark Knight himself has also been replicated elsewhere. After all, the idea of being a billionaire who uses his fame and fortune to stop crime is obviously very pleasing to people. Among the rip-offs, there was the Black Fox, a hero whose costume is nearly identical to Batman’s, and who used The Foxhole and Flying Fox, similar to Batman’s Batcave and Batplane. Another blatant rip-off of the Caped Crusader was Mark Millar’s short lived 2010 character, Nemesis, which was actually promoted as “What if Batman was the Joker?” The combination of the two character was initially viewed as a high concept, but the result was a character who easily abandoned his morales and committed murder just for the sake of it.
Perhaps the worst Batman rip-off,though, is Bibleman. A direct to video Christian series, Bibleman worked from the BibleCave with his sidekick, Cypher, and often battled a Joker replacement named The Fibbler. Rather than rely on his smarts and science to help him stop crime, Bibleman used blind faith to spread his religious beliefs.
2. Various Superman rip-offs
As the oldest and most well-known of DC’s characters, Superman laid the groundwork on which many future superheroes would be built, so it’s no surprise that many heroes were created by borrowing elements from the Man of Steel.
From the aforementioned Hyperion to Thor, Captain America, and many others, they’ve all copied Superman in some way in another. However, some copycats have been more subtle than others. One example of a very blatant copy of Superman is Marvel’s Gladiator, an alien whose name, Kallark, is a combination of Superman’s Kryptonian and alien names: Kal-El and Clark Kent.
One of the earliest rip-offs of Superman was the original Captain Marvel, created by Fawcett Comics in 1939. Captain Marvel’s only major difference from Superman was that his alter ego was a young boy who transformed into the adult hero by yelling “Shazam!” Captain Marvel actually outsold Superman briefly, but after years of litigation for copyright infringement and an eventual settlement, the character was cancelled in 1953. DC themselves later licensed the character and brought him back in 1972 as Shazam.
1. Doom Patrol (original) – X-Men (rip-off)
Marvel has built the X-Men into one of the world’s biggest superhero teams and the franchise has spawned ten feature films and counting, but the concept is also one that was previously done by DC Comics. First appearing in June of 1963, the Doom Patrol was DC’s own team of misfit heroes who had been ostracized from the community due to their abilities. They even had their own counterpart to Professor X: The Chief.
The Doom Patrol only pre-dated the X-Men by four months, so it’s possible that both companies thought of a similar idea around the same time, but Doom Patrol’s creator, Arnold Drake, has suggested that Stan Lee may have in fact stolen his idea. Given that many writers have worked for both DC and Marvel simultaneously over the years, Drake believes it’s possible one of them made Lee aware of the Doom Patrol idea months in advance of their first appearance. Regardless, Drake cancelled the Doom Patrol in 1968 and the team has only seen limited revivals since, while Marvel has gone on to build an empire around the X-Men.
Which rip-off of a DC character do you think is most blatant? Are there more we missed? Share in the comments!