The early- to mid-1990s saw an explosion of comics sales with the launch of Image Comics. That newly-formed comic company was booming with the hottest artists of the day and big sales numbers, but many of their “new” characters had an uncanny resemblance to characters from Marvel and DC.
Let me begin by saying that this list started off without “Image Comics” in the title. I had planned to make simply a list of the Top 10 Worst Rip-Off Comic Characters, but as I compiled my possible choices I found it was getting overloaded with Image characters. There were so many, in fact, that I thought I could probably put a second list like this one together.
Don’t get me wrong. Even in the early days, Image changed comics in a number of ways and certainly had a lot of fans (myself included). But love them or hate them, one thing that can’t be denied is that Image was home to some of the most shameless rip-offs ever to hit the page. This list contains the worst offenders of the bunch. These are the characters that are so similar that some will make you just shake your head wondering what their “creators” were thinking, and at least one was so blatant it resulted in a court case. Read along and shake your head with me.
One minor note: Rob Liefeld was part of Image in the beginning but at one point left then came back. For simplicity’s sake all of his studio’s creations were considered fair game for this list.
10. Smash! is a rip-off of The Hulk
Smash! is not here at #10 because he is the least obvious rip-off on the list — quite the contrary in fact – but because I thought we should start off with a bang.
I know what you’re thinking “No, no, that’s just a mis-colored Hulk picture”. Congratulations, that’s exactly what it is except with a new name and used without Marvel’s permission.
This is as obvious as a rip-off gets. Aside from being purple instead of green — and sometimes having a decorative chain around his throat — Smash and the Hulk are identical. In case that wasn’t obvious enough Hulk’s main dialogue of “Hulk smash!” was used for this purple Hulk’s name “Smash!”. How this didn’t end up in court I honestly couldn’t even begin to guess.
This entry was “created” by Rob Liefeld, as were 6 other entries on this list so be prepared to see his name some more. You’ll find the story of why he thought “creating” Smash was okay along with the #1 entry down below, so keep on reading!
9. Maul is a rip-off of Hulk
Okay, so compared to Smash!, I realize that Maul is going to seem like the most original character in the world… but let me explain. First of all (other than #10) this list is in order of least to worst offenders so, yes, compared to the rest of the list Maul isn’t that bad. But still…
Both Hulk and Maul are massive, oversized superheroes whose power is in their strength. While the Hulk gets stronger as he gets angrier, Maul can choose to get bigger/stronger but gets dumber the larger he grows. Along with that while Maul definitely has some cool differences in look (to be expected from a character created by Jim Lee) both have green and purple as their colors (Hulk’s pants being traditionally purple) along with the massive size and muscles.
And the cherry on top is that Maul reverts down to human form and is a skinny scientist just like Hulk does.
8. Supreme is a rip-off of Superman
Supreme is Rob Liefeld’s “Extreme!” version of Superman. Their powers are indistinguishable from one another, there’s the obvious tip of the hat in the name, and the looks are similar. Other than Supreme being eager to kill and a little crazy early in the series, there wasn’t much difference.
Wait, I almost forgot. Their origins are completely different. For that Supreme has his origin ripped off from Captain America instead of Superman.
Sure, you could walk into a comic store and throw a rock and have a decent chance of it hitting a Superman rip-off character but as this series progressed Supreme lost even the difference of wanting to kill, and became a character that was simply written with straight up Superman stories. This happened when comic writing legend Alan Moore took over on a run that many loved and read but which undoubtedly could have simply had Superman swapped in for Supreme in every way.
Even “Darius Dax” was added in as a rip-off of Lex Luthor, as was a Lois Lane-like love interest named Diana Dane (hurray for alliterations!) and an alter ego for Supreme as a comic artist a la Superman’s reporter secret identity. And that’s not all, there was also Suprema to match Supergirl, Kid Supreme to match Superboy and even Judy Jordan to match Lana Lang.
Nonetheless he at least started off as different in his bloodthirstiness so Supreme only comes in at #8. Oh believe me, it gets worse. Much worse.
7. Mighty Man is a rip-off of Captain Marvel/Captain Marvel Jr.
This entry is from the pen of Erik Larsen who has the impressive accomplishment under his belt of having written AND drawn all 200 or so issues of his Savage Dragon comic book in whose pages Mighty Man first appeared. Mighty Man may have been intended as some sort of homage to the classic Captain Marvel character created in the 1940s and still in comics today but the similarities are just too many to ignore.
Aside from the obvious extreme similarity in look the characters are basically the same across the board with the look simply more like Captain Marvel Jr’s. Both transform magically into an entirely different body. Captain Marvel yells Shazam and goes from a boy into an adult superhero while Mighty Man hits his bracelets together and transforms from a female nurse into an adult male superhero. Both have the same powers. Both heroes’ powers originate from an ancient, mysterious wizard. And to top it off Captain Marvel’s comic tagline referred to him as “The World’s Mightiest Mortal!” and Larsen of course named his character “Mighty Man”.
6. Deadlock is a rip-off of Wolverine
Take a good look at Deadlock.
That’s all this section should really need but I’ll elaborate anyway.
Deadlock looks like Wolverine, acts like Wolverine, speaks like Wolverine and has the same attitude as Wolverine. The only significant difference? Liefeld removed the claws.
I know what you’re thinking “But then if he has no claws. What are his powers? How does he attack people?”
It’s simple! For some reason, despite having no claws, Deadlock claws and scratches at people with just his blunt fingertips. There’s no visual clues as to how he would ever actually hurt anyone that way at all, let alone cut them as if he had claws, but nonetheless that’s what he does. He’s like Wolverine’s sad twin brother whose been declawed but doesn’t realize it.
5. Glory is a rip-off of Wonder Woman
Picture a powerful female superhero who is gorgeous, Superman-like in power level, but with a warrior attitude and is the princess of a hidden, mystical island inhabited by only Amazons. That of course is a perfect description of the highly original character Glory! Another character from Rob Liefeld’s corner of the Image-verse.
I should mention that Glory received a reboot a few years back that was received quite well and which made the character much more unique. Kudos to that but like meat at Taco Bell you really don’t want to look back at where this came from.
4. Roman is a rip-off of Namor
You’re not going to believe this one.
Way back in 1939 Namor, the Sub-Mariner was created. Namor of course is an incredibly strong King of underwater Atlantis who breathes underwater and has a bad attitude. Despite many people thinking Namor is a rip-off of Aquaman, DC’s blonde hero was actually created two years later in 1941.
Then, a mere 50 plus years later, Roman made his first exciting appearance in Brigade #3. Roman is the king of an underwater kingdom, breathes underwater, is super strong and has a bad attitude. Then, as if they wanted to make it absolutely clear that they were ripping off Namor, all that Liefeld and company did to name him was take Namor’s name and literally reverse it, into Roman.
Are you shaking your head yet wondering what they were thinking? C’mon, admit it you are. And yet it still gets worse.
3. Cyblade is a rip-off of Psylocke
Cyblade was part of a team called Cyberforce, a group of “mutants” with cybernetic enhancements. Riddle me this: which of these two characters does Wikipedia describe as having “the mutant ability to generate “blades” from her fingers” and “has also had years of martial arts training, and she is adept at the disciplines of Aikido and Jeet Kune Do”?
The answer is that it doesn’t matter because it applies to both of them. They are the same character.
Cyberforce, including Cyblade, were created coincidentally by Marc Silvestri, who had previously worked drawing X-Men comics. Much like Liefeld with Roman, the least Silvestri could have done is not also mimicked the original character’s name.
2. Warwolf is a rip-off of Sabretooth
This is yet another really shameless one. And I didn’t think it was possible, but it might even be a more blatant rip-off than Smash! was. At least Smash! was a different color. Warwolf is visually near identical to Sabretooth, and I literally couldn’t tell you one significant difference between these two characters. Don’t get me wrong, maybe somewhere there’s a difference in some old Youngblood issue, but show me some mercy and don’t expect me to read through every single one of them.
And I promise you I’m not trying to pick Rob Liefeld’s characters but nonetheless here we are with another one. Warwolf was a minor villain in the Youngblood comics and was apparently created when someone said “Hey, you can’t use Sabretooth, he’s owned by Marvel. At least slap an original name on him”. *Cough* Roman *Cough* Cyblade.
1. Agent America / Fighting American (and many more)
Welcome to easily the worst offender on this list (We’ll just call him Fighting American to save time). Not only is the Fighting American such a rip-off that it resulted in a lawsuit from Marvel but the actual comic was a smorgasbord of additional ripoffs.
The story behind this entry is complex but can shortened to this (to the best of my knowledge)…
Rob Liefeld (yes, him again) and writer Jeph Loeb were working on a story that included Captain America and the Hulk for Marvel when the company declared bankruptcy. In the aftermath Marvel wanted Liefeld to take a pay cut which he wouldn’t do. It’s at this point that one would think a reasonable thing to do would be to get frustrated but then move on and work on other characters and stories, maybe even (crazy idea) create an original character. Rob decided to go a different route and barely alter the Captain America comic and just do it anyways. I would guess he thought he was justified in copying a worldwide famous character because he was upset about how the business transaction went. But unlike the rest of this list this one went to court.
Liefeld’s first plan was to license an old knock off character of Captain America called “Fighting American” (who was at least made by the original creators of Captain America and was different from Cap in a few ways including not having a shield). But when he couldn’t get the price that he wanted he instead created the completely new character (using the term “new” in the loosest sense possible) of Agent America. Before the first issue was even released legal action started. Liefeld then worked out an agreement for the rights to use the Fighting American after all bolstering his defence against Marvel’s lawsuit.
Liefeld changed Fighting American so his costume would look like Cap’s and added the same shield Cap uses and decided he was done.
In court Liefeld was allowed to go ahead as long as the costume was slightly changed and the character could never throw the shield.
But that’s not all. Along with “Fighting American” this comic also premiered “Smash!” and these other highly original characters:
Speed Boy, otherwise known as Bucky with his colors reversed.
Major Blake Baron and the Roarin’ Roughnecks, I presume the long lost cousin of Colonel Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos (even copying the sidekick with the bowler hat and handlebar moustache).
And let’s not forget the villain, the Red Sku…. I mean, aww who even cares what this rip-off was called.
And last but not least, the villain appears sans costume in the issue, and for that Liefeld just straight up drew a Terminator.
And that is the shameful end. If there are any characters that you think come even close to as bad as these please let me know in the comments section but frankly I find it hard to believe that’s possible. Now I’m off to write my own original comic, Superbman! The man of steel-like qualities! Judging from this list I shouldn’t have any problem publishing it.