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Comics 411: The Biggest Comic Book Imitators

July 12, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1, Secret Weapons #1, and more!

Are you a comic book lover? Live around Baltimore or planning to attend the Baltimore Comic-Con?

As you might be aware, the Baltimore Comic-Con will be hosting the newly-formed Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards, or as we many people like to call them, the Ringo Awards.

Unlike other comic book industry awards, their nomination process is inclusive of the fan vote (at least partially — it will account for 2 slots out of 5 per applicable category on their final ballot), and nominations are currently opened until July 18th.

Go to their site at Happy voting!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we asked, “Is Howard Chaykin’s Comic Cover Controversy Being Overblown?” Here’s what some of you had to say:

Rehab: “The original cover has a guy with brown skin hanging with his junk cut off, for what I presume is because he’s being punished for being gay.

What’s wrong with that?

Nothing wrong with depicting the truth. That’s the reality in Islamic theocracies, right now. Today. And it doesn’t stop for just homosexuals. Christians, Jews, atheists, and any free-thinking woman is open to the same punishment this very moment under Sharia. Why censor it in a comic book when you can open any credible news website and see the real thing.

I’ll never understand why the left simply gives this a pass, or rather, blatantly ignores it. And then when it’s brought up or highlighted like this, they attack with ad hominems. Instead of addressing very real issues, you’re just racists and xenophobic – and then blocked/silenced. Just leads to so many freedom-drunk millennials running around talking about how oppressive white males are, when they’ve never been truly oppressed. They have zero clue what it’s like to be living under Sharia. I mean, I surely don’t either, but the left celebrates it while trashing their own country that allows them to freely have these asinine opinions and freely demonstrate them in the first place. Hurts my head to even begin to process their logic.

Also issue one cover is little confusing. You have the international sign of freedom (US flag) made into the international sign oppression towards women (a hijab)…. are they saying America is slowly turning into a hub for Sharia, under the guise of multiculturalism? Because that would actually be pretty edgy.”

Benjamin J: “Speaking as a creator of indie comics, as ever, no matter what side of the argument you fall on, vote/protest/support with your wallets. That is all.”

Fehérvári András: “I am not touching the subject itself, I just want to highlight that this whole thing is a huge advertisement for the series.

I have not heard a single thing about this series before, I did not know it existed, nothing. And I went out this past weekend to buy the Issue 1, the only one that’s out so far.

Image is making money from this exposure.”

Kung Fu Panda: “Of course it is. What isn’t overblown these days?”

lilidiamond: “Chaykin is a hack and he has been for at least the last decade. This is a calculated attempt at courting controversy and the industry is falling for it hook, line and sinker.

There are more important issues in the world than a comic book cover.”

To read ALL the comments from last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

Biggest Comic Book Imitators!

With an industry as big and diverse as comic books, we are bound to come across characters that have a twinge of familiarity to them. Sometimes it goes way past that and it’s just a blatant swipe by one of the Big Two. We have lots of reasons for this, from popularity to homage, but let’s take a look at some of the most obvious rip-offs around.

Let’s start with Aquaman and Namor. Namor, the Sub-Mariner, debuted in 1937 and Aquaman came three years after. The similarities are obvious. Both were the prince of the underwater city of Atlantis, had power over the ocean and fish, and both are looked at as lower-tier heroes. The more I look at these two, I’m not sure I can call Aquaman a rip-off but I’m including it to see what you all had to say. In comics, you’re going to have overlaps. Water-based heroes, speed-based heroes, and so on. While they share several qualities, they have enough differences, to me, that make them unique on their own. What do you think?

Along that same line of thinking I’ll add Hawkeye and Green Arrow along with Flash and Quicksilver. Also, I’ll put Bullseye and Deadshot in here because assassin is a pretty broad label.

Let’s jump into a rip off that’s pretty popular. Deadpool and Deathstroke. Deadpool was born when Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld were doing The New Mutants. According to Nicieza, Liefeld came up with the character’s visual design and name, and Nicieza came up with the speech mannerisms. Liefeld’s character design of Deadpool was supposed to be “Spider-Man with guns and swords,” which was supposedly an in-joke on Todd McFarlane, who had teased Liefeld over how easy he had it drawing Spider-Man, a character in a mask, while Rob had to draw a team of characters who didn’t wear masks. To muddy the waters even more, Liefeld, a professed fan of the Teen Titans, showed his new character to Nicieza and upon seeing the costume and noting his characteristics (killer with super agility), Nicieza contacted Liefeld, saying “this is Deathstroke from Teen Titans”. Nicieza gave Deadpool the real name of “Wade Wilson” as an inside-joke to being “related” to “Slade Wilson”, Deathstroke. Since then, Marvel has done a fine job making Deadpool more distinct, showing that you can make something good from a rip off.

Then we have the Fighting American. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby introduced Fighting America in 1954 as a protest against Timely Comics (later to become Marvel) in response to them keeping the copyright to their creation, Captain America. Nothing really came from Fighting American and he went ignored until the 90s. Enter Liefeld. Liefeld said in 1997, while he was putting together a submission for a Captain America series, Marvel had filed for bankruptcy and asked Liefeld to take a paycut. He refused and called Fighting American co-creator Simon and Roz Kirby, widow of co-creator Kirby, who agreed to license the character to him, but at a price Liefeld would not accept. Liefeld turned around and created Agent America. Who looked very familiar to Fighting American. So much that he but withdrew the character when Simon threatened to sue. Liefeld negotiated a new deal for Fighting American, but was then sued by Marvel. Go figure.

I should note that Titan Comics just announced that fans attending San Diego Comic-Con will be able to get a first look at Titan Comics’ new Fighting American series with a convention special Issue #0 featuring a black and white pencil cover by comic book legend, Terry Dodson.

Another one that has roots in shenanigans is Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. Off topic, Man-Thing is one of the strangest names for a character. Say it outloud. “Man-Thing”. Weird,

OK, back on topic. Man-Thing’s first burst upon the scene in Marvel’s Savage Tales #1 in May of 1971. Swamp Thing followed close behind in DC’s House of Secrets #92 in July 1971. Pretty tight schedule. These two are incredibly similar in look, origins, and powers. Too much to be a coincidence so let’s pull back the curtain. Len Wein was living with Gerry Conway around the time both comics came out; Conway wrote Man-Thing and Wein, Swamp Thing. Ah, the answer is simple! Except, Wein claims that neither of them were aware of what the other one was working on. Do you believe that? Yeah, me either.

Catwoman (Selina Kyle) was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and she made her debut in Batman #1 in 1940. While she was originally a bad gal, she’s become more of an antiheroine rather than a traditional villain, sinking her claws into Batman. In a good way. The Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) came along in 1979 and she shares plenty with Catwoman. While Black Cat creator Marv Wolfman says he based her on a character on a Tex Avery cartoon “Bad Luck Blackie”, she comes off too Catwoman-like. Sexy costume, cat thief premise, on-and-off with hero…but it all gets overlooked thanks to the artistic license given to Black Cat’s outfit. Meow.

What happens when you rip-off a whole team? That’s what we have when you look at the Green Lantern Corps and the Nova Corps. Both are an intergalactic space police force with the only difference being the Green Lanterns have been around way longer than the Nova Corps. Different powers but they share too much for it to be an innocent homage.

How about Superman? He’s “inspired” plenty of imitators including Sentry, Supreme, Hyperion, Captain Marvel/Shazam, The Samaritan, and a handful of others. This is one where I give a lot of leeway. Superman is more than a simple comic book character. He’s hope. He’s a symbol that resonates all over the world. I think we can understand why anyone would want to honor the character with someone similar.

On the flip side we have two baddies who inspire dread. I’m talking about Thanos and Darkseid. Thanos creator, Jim Starlin, has gone on record to say that he created Thanos during a college psychology class but later came out to say he took it from Jack Kirby’s New Gods series for DC. Both are evil, both are powerful, both have the same color skin but Darkseid came first. I’m sure Mongul fits in there somewhere.

One of my favorite teams of all time is the Legion of Super Heroes. The original Imperial Guard over at Marvel was designed by Dave Cockrum to be a homage of the Legion of Superheroes, a title he had drawn before the X-Men.

A close second favorite team of mine is the Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol came out in August of 1963 and the X-Men followed in September. Both teams lived in a world that feared them and both had a leader who was very smart and confined to a wheelchair. It’s still up for debate on whether Stan Lee stole the idea of for the X-Men from the Doom Patrol or not. While it’s a tight turnaround, back then it could easily have been accomplished. In fact, Doom Patrol co-creator Arnold Drake has put it out there that a number of guys who freelanced for both DC and Marvel could’ve spilled the beans to Lee. We may never know for sure.

We could throw Bucky and Robin into the mix but then we’d open up all the sidekick discussions. Let’s just say that Bucky and Robin have a lot in common, including them being resurrected around the same time.

We’ll end with the Dark Knight himself, Batman. Who’s a rip-off of a number of characters, the biggest one being The Shadow. But that’s another column for another time.

Which comic book character rip-off is most blatant to you? Good or bad. Sound off in the comments below!

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!