Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if the imitation is a cheap excuse that is caught red-handed from the most initial of glances, then the gloves come off and critics assemble. WASDUK refuses to take you on a common route. We know the popular floggings due to birth years, such as the Justice League assembling before the Avengers, so this committee of one won’t touch ’em. Are you ready, WASDUKers?
10) Captain America
The entire world is now familiar with the origin story of Captain America, otherwise known as Steve Rogers. Disney/Marvel firmly established him as a propaganda piece on the big-screen, though his typical “Avengers assemble!” cries and any rational form of leadership skills have fallen by the wayside. Tony Stark is the alpha-wolf of the cinematic Avengers pack, and the list will get to him later.
Regardless, when DC green-lit their own version of the super soldier with an indestructible shield, he came from the same creative minds behind Cap: Jack Kirby and Joel Simon. In short, Pre-Cap became Guardian.
Both Captain America and Guardian are American patriots. Whereas Cap is a volunteer soldier who didn’t like bullies, Guardian is a police officer. Furthermore, both characters made their debut in comics within a year of each other. Although Captain America threw his indestructible shield first in 1941, Guardian was based on preliminary drawings of him and made his DC launch in 1942.
They are each highly trained tacticians, and have recently been given minor make-overs. DC’s wonderful Young Justice presented two versions of Guardian, and Captain America was portrayed in his Ultimates version for his Disney/Marvel film. Clearly, Captain America has been established much more effectively by Marvel, which makes Guardian the rip-off here. When Guardian shows up on the pages of DC, does any reader care? No, they do not. He is simply an homage constructed of rejected sketches.
9) Green Arrow
DC was not shy about Robin Hood’s influence on the Green Arrow. In his Year One origin story, Oliver Queen loses everything to a corrupt employee after he buys Robin Hood’s cinematic bow. His constant drinking and bling-laden life make him out to be an expendable joke. After being treated like the poor in a Grimm’s tale, there was no law for him anymore.
At his core, he remains the voice of reason in the Justice League. He stands up for the little guy when his cohorts are taking down overpowered alien threats. Yet, his dark-side of wanton revenge often shines through. For instance, in the wonderful animated take on The Dark Knight Returns he cracks a smile and, in a dead-pan voice, says “I always thought it would come down to you two,” before agreeing to help Batman take down Superman, who has become the enforcer for the U.S. government.
Oliver Queen is 23 years older than Clint Barton, and Hawkeye was introduced as a reluctant villain, who eventually joined the Avengers in 1964. Most lists reserve this spot to point out the obvious to readers, like how Deathstroke begat Deadpool and Doom Patrol begat X-Men and Flash begat Quicksilver, but we are sick of the commonality of those overly used excuses to get viewers to kick dead horses. Anyway…
Similar to Green Arrow, Hawkeye is a voice of the obvious for Marvel’s Avengers. Both he and Oliver can, therefore, come across as sarcastic assholes, which is actually a welcome relief in light of the shared nationalistic naivety between the red, white and blue costumed team leaders of Captain America and Superman. Aside from the fact that both characters use bows, Hawkeye really has no other reason to be around aside from assuring fans that Marvel and DC do have to rip-off each other’s characters when the quiver of ideas run out.
To add salt to the wound, Disney/Marvel recently reported rumors of recasting the role of Hawkeye in their films. The original plan was to make a Hawkeye franchise with Jason Bourne as a skin. However, when the new Bourne film was released Disney/Marvel ran out of rational skins to use, which further fortifies how bothersome throw-ins like Hawkeye are. Finally, nobody wants to see Hawkeye as a suave James Bond (DON’T even go there) because Bond’s latest interpretation was also a Jason Bourne skin; useless.
8) Iron Man
An Iron Man film had been in the works for years before his licensing reverted to Marvel/Disney. The end result was a fun, kinetic counterpart to the far-superior and brooding The Dark Knight. Still, whenever one mentions a robotic suit of armor in comics, Iron Man and Tony Stark immediately spring into the conversation. This persona has become the wet-dream of children across the globe: grow-up to be an alcoholic that is too rich to have consequences, and who can just dick around all day inventing stuff that may or may not destroy the universe while boning Coldplay’s wife and listening to AC/DC.
In 1987, 24 years after Iron Man’s conception, DC decided to raid the armored suit village. A nice Russian man with a taste for all things American debuted as Rocket Red. Just like Iron Man, Rocket Red got the circuitry beat out of him and had to upgrade his suit, before getting that suit annihilated which led to more upgrading. Whereas Tony Stark would eventually engineer hundreds of suits to combat every threat imaginable, Rocket Red’s Dmitri Pushkin would spend most of his time worrying about his family as well as being content with one suit. You know, until some nobody like Time Commander exposed a weakness, tore it apart, and it had to be upgraded again. In the end, Dmitri was the sanitized Tony Stark. Unfortunately, his squeaky clean stereo-type proved far too tame and boring for readers. Even the minor family squabbles he endured proved vice-less. Therefore, Iron Man remains the true demon in a mech-bottle.
The philosopher David Hume argued that there are no original ideas. Every thing is formed from two previous, unoriginal things. For example, a dragon is just the combination of a lizard and a bird (Lizard + Bird = Dragon), and even water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. So, what is Brainiac?
Brainiac found Earth and took on Superman for the first time in 1958. Describing him in all of his incarnations is a little more challenging. At one point, he was an alien super spy, at another point he changed his name to Pulsar Stargrave (logs into Facebook, changes name, smiles, gets all friends, becomes President of Moon) in the 30th century. Most recently, he reverted to his 50’s origin and became an unstoppable alien robot that traveled from planet to planet to absorb all intelligence before he destroyed it. As a result, the safest equation for Brainiac is as follows: Alien + Robot = Brainiac
In the span of two years, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four would face off against variations of Brainiac. The first of these incarnations was Galactus (1966), who was the world eater form of Brainiac. Marvel tried to separate him from the herd by proclaiming him a god and pitting his might against the superior intelligence and humanity of the Fantastic Four.
Then, in 1968, Ultron was created. Also like Brainiac, Ultron was an unstoppable robot that sought to destroy Earth and was only hampered by its heroes. Both Galactus, who was turned into a giant tornado for some reason, and Ultron (it is the big-bad of the Avengers sequel) have made it to the movies first, but the rip-off factor shows an extension to David Hume’s equation below:
Alien + Robot = Brainiac = Galactus + Ultron
Our next entry gets the nod over Brainiac’s exercise in cloning because it is a serious case of inbreeding. All comics eventually tether themselves with evil being a necessity. This requires our heroes to either work alongside their villains, or to be blackmailed so that heroes have to be exposed to the underbelly they long to destroy. For whatever reason, Steve Ditko decided to side-step this practice, just yell, “Fuck it,” and to proceed in making a cheap, annoying copy of the Joker.
The Joker has been around since the 40’s, and his character has been altered over the years to fit the guidelines of the comic-medium. He arose as a psycho-path and then he was watered-down into a prankster role. Despite all of his past short-comings, he contingently remains the most iconic villain in all of literature.
In 1975, 35 years after the Joker took his first stab at Bats, the Creeper showed up in a short-lived Joker series. Both of them had green hair as well as maniacal laughter. Not only did this confuse readers, but DC finally had their answer to the eternal question of whether “two” many Jokers was enough. Yes, DC. ENOUGH!
For some reason, DC insists on shoving the Creeper down as many gullets as possible. He appeared in an animated episode of The New Batman Adventures, where he was clearly modeled after Jim Carrey’s on-screen persona. The Creeper was given an origin tale in the episode that was exactly the same as the Joker’s. He fell into a chemical bath and came out warped. Thankfully, the Creeper only had non-speaking parts in Justice League: Unlimited, though why he showed up in the first place is anyone’s guess. Thankfully, Warner Bros plan to include him in the Man of Steel film was denied by DC. Let us just reiterate that: Creeper had his big-screen reveal planned before Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Aquaman and the rest of the essential Justice League members.
Sauron is Marvel’s take on Jekyll and Hyde. Originally, he was supposed to be a vampire-like creature that drained energy from his prey. In the 60’s this violated the Comics Code Authority, so he was altered to a man who transformed into a pterodactyl when he touched and absorbed the energy from mutants. The potion Dr. Jekyll drank to become the devious Mr. Hyde was now a breed of meta-humans. Sauron primarily terrorized the inhabitants of the Savage Land, which is a prehistoric area in Marvel’s universe, but the idea of touching others to gain powers would not end with him.
Rogue (1981) yields the ability to absorb the mutant powers of anybody she touches. This is another case of inbreeding, though Marvel’s inbreeding created a far-superior heroine to the DC’s annoying Joker-hero. To improve on Sauron, Rogue could absorb the powers of multiple heroes. Rather than transforming into a were-dinosaur, she could use any power for a limited time. Later, a number of the powers she had stolen in the past refused to go away, such as Wolverine’s claws, healing factor, and Mrs. Marvel’s (now Captain Marvel) abilities of super-strength and flight. But, DC wanted a “Toucher” as well.
Enter, Black Alice (2005). Like Rogue, she came from a troubling background. Rogue was a runaway and Black Alice lived with parents who abused drugs. When her mom committed suicide, her grief manifested the magical ability to steal the powers of others. In the above picture, Black Alice has stolen the power of Captain Marvel (who is now SHAZAM!). Black Alice is a gritty and troubled heroine, while Rogue is a punch-first Southern Belle. DC did try to disguise the rip-off by changing Marvel’s touch-powers into magic, but the inbreeding and multiple Sauron skins establish this case far too strongly.
4) Super-Strength (Every character and their moms?)
WASDUK is still hurting from listing Rogue and Black Alice as rip-offs, because they are two great heroines and comics need far more bad-ass gals than any form of were-male. Especially in light of DC’s new desire to ruin Wonder Woman.
Speaking of males and females, who doesn’t have super-strength in comics? Super-strength slowly became the easiest power to rip-off ever. It is the sniffing glue in Kindergarten, the body in the trunk, the last drink you never should have drunk, it’s- it’s irresponsible!
Despite the fact that it is a cool power that allows one to toss semi-trucks as though they were paper-planes, almost everybody in the 80’s and 90’s received this power. Thus, look over the list of cheap below. It’s about 0.01% of the heroes and villains that got super-strength:
It’s too bad, because this ability had a lot of potential. It’s been wasted.
When developing this list, this WASDUKian conducted polling. To my surprise, a ton of people either have forgotten about DC and Superman’s crimes against comic-humanity or are comfortably numb. Thank Zeus for our good friend, Mr. Lewis. He sent us the following message to set us straight about a huge characterization rip-off nobody cares to mention anymore:
This could easily transition into a bashing session on Sentry, who, like Red Rocket : Iron Man, was a completely inverted Superman. But, after reading the above, we’ll just remind you of what DC created to replace the void left by the Man of Steel. By the way, he didn’t really die. He just multiplied!
DC’s common practice of flooding the market, which has recently been taken over by Marvel, focused on spreading one of its most treasured icons into nothingness. Comic sales sky-rocketed when Superman “died.” The final result was DC reviving him so that they could cash-in even more. It was a worse move than creating another super-strength powered character. It brought the whole of DC under scrutiny, and its competitors surpassed them.
One of the biggest problems with the overly powered uber-men of comics is that their foes become silly. Were we ever worried that Toy-Man would take out Supes with a huge mechanical doll, or that the Widow-Maker could outwit Mrs. Fantastic and the Avenger’s B-Leaguers? No.
Therefore, dark reflections of the uber-men are required. The never-tiring dictators of the cosmos who long to destroy and rebuild everything in their image must, at some point, rise. For all intensive purposes, the gods are necessary to combat the combined efforts of the Earth’s greatest protectors.
Starro took his time and plotted the domination of Earth in 1960. As his name suggests, he is a giant alien star-fish that was able to stand against the entire Justice League. It’s one-part Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, which is a manifesto against the Salem Witch Trails as well as The Cold War, and it’s one-part of everything that’s wrong with comic-villains.
In short, nobody is taking this thing seriously. The decades of sci-fi inspired giant monsters have taught us that if humanity is about to be defeated, then the evil will have its one weakness exposed and the under-dogs will prevail. It was the cold-virus for the invaders in War of the Worlds and it was King Kong empowered by lightning for Godzilla.
Still, it didn’t stop Marvel from fearing star-fish. Star-fish are so evil that this next guy, Shuma-Gorath, jumped from the pages of a sci-fi short story into Dr. Strange’s list of foes in 1972, and then into a battle of utter chaos against every Marvel hero.
Both Shuma-Gorath and Starro are described as ancient gods that ruled before man-kind existed. Then, humans showed up, mutated, evolved, and were seen as a threat.
Wait. These are gods? Doesn’t anybody want to question why the muscle-bound and largely male populated super-heroes of the holy comic book can make gods seem like silly pusses? The best comics have always been strengthened by the villains. Without evil to raise suspense, then the reader’s eyes quickly droop and all is forgotten. But, this passe evolution of ancient gods doesn’t end here. There are also the alien gods that can only be differentiated by a few external pipes and slightly different leggings and bottoms. Ladies and gentleman, the biggest threats to the universe are… the same?
Overall, these evil gods are fantastic fun and present real threats for about 95% of every story arc they enter. Suddenly, there is one thing they didn’t count on and it’s always silly. They remain watered down byproducts. Heroes like Superman and Iron Man have yet to be challenged with competent villains on the movie-screen, and these big-bads will soon make their debuts as well. It’s too bad writers always reduce them to campy school-boy novelties. This makes films like Cabin In the Woods all the more amazing, because the evil gods in them don’t compromise and they win. Iron Monger? Kevin Spacey? Cut it out. These bad-boy gods are all so cute. No, you hang up. Tee-hee.
Plastic Man is one of many polymorphs. He can change his size and density on a whim. This power makes him quite useful and very formidable. Needless to say, Plastic Man begat Mr. Fantastic, who then begat Elongated Man.
We could focus solely on these three elastic polymorphs, but the main complaint WASDUK has with them is how they took on slightly different forms and refuse to go away. These polymorphs can create any thing their minds summon, from a vase to a bridge- nothing is off-limits. But, what if these plastics were energized? Well, they would be Green Lanterns, who can create any thing their minds summon.
Instead of expanding physically, the Green Lanterns have expanding limbs made of constructed energies. In addition, the Green Lanterns are no longer the sole emotion in the universe (will). Red Lanterns powered by rage and Yellow Lanterns powered by fear, in addition to every other color in the emotional spectrum, have added to the overwhelming number of polymorphs in comics. These new skins are a clever disguise, but as super-strength became the standard power of the 80’s and 90’s, so has polymorphing become the new power of choice for the 20-teen’s.
What makes this instance the top rip-off on WASDUK’s list is that the newly announced multi-cultural characters of DC and Marvel are being rolled into this group of polymorphs.
The new Mrs. Marvel is a 16 year-old Pakistani girl named Kamala. She has been described by Marvel executives as a polymorph. Don’t get us wrong, WASDUK is thrilled that there is a new, strong girl in town. However, the list of cheap found in the super-strength rip-off section is quickly being outnumbered by the masses with this power. Will she be allowed to evolve into the heroine readers need her to be, or will she be lost in the endless chop-shop of this fab?
DC has found a new Green Lantern for Earth. His name is Simon Baz and he is a Lebanese-American with a Muslim background. For some reason, he evidently really likes Kick-Ass, as you can see from his costume below:
Wait! Wow! Is Simon carrying a hand-gun? A dark-skinned guy with a gun and a criminal history? Good thing DC doesn’t stereo-type.
Also, one of the other major faults cited with these polymorphs is a lack of imagination. Hal Jordan constructing giant hands and Plastic-Man turning into a spring to jump about were head-palming, ridiculous camp. The lack of creativity also makes readers shrug and walk away since the drawings and portrayals are so silly. Again, WASDUK is all for the necessity of diversifying the Caucasian dominated pages, but let’s hope that DC and Marvel can add a ton of imagination to these newly minted polymorphs. If not, then polymorphs from both Empires of the comic kingdoms will remain atop WASDUK’s rip-off list. It is unfair to simply roll brilliant personas into one-note skins:
You get the idea. We could go on, but what’s done is done. Hopefully, Marvel and DC can rise to Kamala and Simon’s potential. Until then, the opportunity cost of refurbishing commonality in an endless stream remains the #1 rip-off.
- Classic Articles Archive: RAMA, Assemble! (rochestermusiclessons.wordpress.com)
- Infinity: Avengers Worlds (biffbampop.com)
- Thor v The Hulk (fandangogroovers.wordpress.com)
- Marvel Phase 2 Predictions (iseemovies.wordpress.com)
- Captain America and Some Random Comic-Related Thoughts (worldsgalore.blogspot.com)
- 16 cool super hero icons (smashinghub.com)
- Avengers Assemble (scottjgdoherty.wordpress.com)
- The Superhero movie paradox (gloryfic.wordpress.com)
- The Quicksilver Clause: Which Characters Straddle the Marvel/Fox Line? (comicbookresources.com)
- Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thesuperheroblog.wordpress.com)