Comic book publishers generally have their share of iconic characters. For DC Comics, originally publishing as Detective Comics, there are a number of stars who have extended beyond the world of comic books and into the world of television, movies, video games and even music.
The DC Universe has big names like Batman, who has been developed into a variety of animated cartoons and several all-star actors who have portrayed the Caped Crusader both on television and the silver screen. The same could be said about Superman, who is up there with Batman as one of the top names in the DC Universe.
There are thousands of different characters to go through the DC Universe’s comic pages – including superheroes, super-villains and secondary characters who still have a vital role in the storyline. But not every one that appears in DC pages came from the minds of DC writers. It can be expected since it can be very hard to always come up with original characters. This can sometimes lead to accusations of ripping off rival publishers like Marvel Comics.
At the same time, DC has also used the same inspiration as Marvel in using legends from mythology and folklore as the base of the creation for certain characters. There have been demigods, literary figures and other icons from the past who have found their way to be portrayed in the comic book medium.
The following are 15 characters within the DC Universe that you may not have known were not created by the writers at DC headquarters.
15. Sandman Is Based On Classic Dream Folklore
DC has often found character inspiration from a variety of myths and folklore. They even based several different characters around the name of Sandman. The folklore of Sandman is a person who is able to bring dreams to children throughout the evening. However, this Sandman gimmick has been tagged to a variety of characters in the DC Universe. It all started with a Wesley Dodds who had a gun equipped with sleeping gas in 1939.
But in recent years, Sandman has been associated with the personification of dreaming in the DC Universe in 1974. This version of Sandman also goes by the name Morpheus; who essentially controls the lines that separate fantasy and reality. However, DC has essentially done away with giving kids pleasant dreams at night.
14. Beowulf Comes From Old English To Modern Comics
Beowulf is considered to be the oldest surviving poem that is written in Old English, with a history that dates back to 700 A.D. It tells a story of a hero whose home is under attack before becoming the king of Geats. When first debuting in the DC Universe back in 1967, Beowulf’s story from the Old English poem is told through the art of comics. However, the story continues with more battles in defense of Daneland.
Beowulf later is brought in to help Wonder Woman in a battle against Dgrth. But DC then brought Beowulf into their New 52 mix. This time, he’s a super soldier in a post-apocalyptic world. Take the same swordsman and add cybernetic upgrades with increased vision and tracking. These issues are less likely to pass for literature homework.
13. A Twist On The Classic Bible Story Of Cain And Abel
Among the list of characters inspired by mythology and literature, DC also spawned characters who came from Christianity’s Bible. Cain and Abel were brothers of Adam and Eve, who were the first people created in the world. The two brothers were also part of the Bible’s first murder as Cain killed Abel. Cain was cursed on the Earth, but DC brings a continuation of Abel’s storyline.
The two first debuted in DC’s “House of Secrets” in 1969. But DC made some changes to their story. Instead of Cain killing Abel over jealous of God’s preference, they squabbles were over a woman. But they were brought into the Dreaming by Morpheus, also called Sandman. Their lives in the DC Universe has gone from shepherd to storytellers.
12. British Leader King Arthur Becomes Hero In DC
King Arthur is certainly one of the most iconic names of British history; a man who became king by pulling Excalibur out of a stone. Arthur has become a legendary character in a number of movies, television shows, and even comic books. The DC Universe has seen Arthur in a number of ways. Early comics from the 1930s and 1940s saw a more traditional telling of King Arthur becoming king and leader of England.
In the 1980s, there was “Camelot 3000” with a more futuristic tale of him and the Knights of the Round Table. But Arthur has been seen on the same pages of iconic DC characters like Batman and Superman. Unlike some of the other historical characters brought to DC pages, Arthur doesn’t have any superpowers outside of the magical sword Excalibur.
11. Midnighter: From Wildstorm To DC Universe
There are a number of comic book characters who are imprinted into the DC Universe. One of them is Midnighter, who has generated a good amount of buzz as he and Apollo were two of the first openly gay superheroes. The character was the brainchild of comic book writers Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch for the original Stormwatch series published by the Wildstorm Universe in 1998.
He’s since become part of the New 52 launch in the DC Universe. Midnighter is often compared to Batman. He has a lot of the same abilities with stealth, combat, and marksmanship. He even utilizes his own collection of hi-tech gadgets. But Midnighter is also someone who has a different moral compass from the Caped Crusader.
10. Ares, The God Of War, A Staple In DC Universe
Hercules isn’t the only person to come into the DC Universe from Greek mythology. He’s also not the only son of Zeus who came into DC pages. Ares is known as the god of war who is focused on trying to cause violence between the people of Earth. Ares is also considered to be a villain in Wonder Woman’s universe. His first appearance in DC was in 1942 in the first Wonder Woman comic book.
But Ares has grown a little more popular as a DC character after being one of the characters in the Injustice video game. But DC isn’t the only comic book publisher to have him appear in their comics. Ares has also been seen in the Marvel Universe with wars against the Avengers and Thor. Mythological gods don’t really fall under exclusive rights to any one publisher.
9. Poseidon, God Of The Sea, Heavily Involved With Wonder Woman And Aquaman
Another Greek mythology character to have deep ties into the DC Universe is Poseidon. Brother to both Zeus and Hades, Poseidon is essentially the god of the water. Through the years, he’s often associated with both Wonder Woman and Aquaman. But for the most part, DC keeps Poseidon’s story the same as that of Greek mythology. While he’s been an ally to Wonder Woman, he’s had wars with the king of Atlantis.
When it comes to his powers, he’s still a god of the water. That means being invulnerable to opposing attacks, having a lot of strength while still being able to move extremely fast. But that’s not the end of his long list of powers in the DC Universe. Poseidon is also able to use electricity and also controls fire.
8. Static Created By Milestone Media, Not DC
The electric-themed superhero received a big boost after being part of an animated series in 2000; thanks to a connection with DC Comics. However, his origins actually go through a smaller comic company that DC distributed. Milestone Media was known for creating minority superheroes. Even when they had a publishing deal with DC, they were not under their editorial control in their early years.
Static would debut in 1993 with his own series where a teenage Virgil Hawkins was exposed to a chemical with other gang-involved peers that created a number of meta-humans. Hawkins would develop electromagnetic powers that he would evolve as he got older. Static isn’t necessarily a major name in comics, but he’s earned his place as part of the New 52 launch in 2011.
7. Robin Hood: Host To Time-Traveling DC Superheroes
While the earliest costume designs for Robin, Batman’s sidekick, have that Robin Hood flair, the original thief brought that look back in the late-1930s. Robin Hood was a fictional character from 19th century novelist Howard Pyle; although his roots go back to the 14th century. Hood first appeared in DC’s earliest “New Adventure Comics” in 1938 before receiving his own series in 1956.
The storyline focuses more on Robin Hood’s traditional background of leading a rebellion from within the Sherwood Forest. But the DC writers have had Green Arrow travel in time to meet Robin Hood, while he’s also been associated with the likes of Batman and Robin. For the most part, Robin Hood stays within his timeline while others go to the past to meet him.
6. Grifter Makes The Transition From Wildstorm
Looking similar to a lot of comic book mercenaries, Grifter was part of the Wildstorm Universe that ran from the 1990s and well into the 2000s. Part of the Stormwatch series with the earlier mentioned Midnighter, Grifter was a combination of a superhero and freelance assassin. In a lot of ways, he seems almost like a clone of Marvel’s Deadpool – just without the schizophrenia and breaking the fourth wall.
First created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, Grifter was a former special operations soldier in the U.S. Army before becoming part of the Gen Factor that gave him the powers of telekinesis. Grifter earned his own comic series after DC opened up the New 52 universe. But Grifter has also appeared in DC comics with other Wildstorm alumni and also with DC staples like Deathstroke.
5. Harley Quinn: From Cartoon To Comic Books
Bruce Timm has had a long career in the world of animation. He’s been involved with several iconic cartoons through the 1980s that include “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.” However, he’s also credited with helping the DC Universe with the 1990s cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. It was one of the best cartoon series involving the Caped Crusader that saw a number of characters created that later joined the comic book world.
One of them was Harley Quinn. First created by Timm and his team of writers, Quinn has become a big part of the Joker’s overall character as a girlfriend/sidekick. While the series was also responsible for creating other secondary characters like Renee Montoya, Quinn arguably has made the biggest impact.
4. Classic Literature Inspires Batman Villain In The Mad Hatter
There are a number of times when comic book characters have a character who is inspired by classic literature. In the case of Jervis Tech, he was inspired by the actions and abilities of the Mad Hatter from the classic story “Alice in Wonderland.” The Mad Hatter was known for being able to use hypnosis in the story. Tech would then begin to commit crimes inspired by the character from the book.
His look was very similar to that of the classic novel; including a top hat with a card that featured a weird fraction. The former scientist has since become a regular character who challenged Batman. He’s not a major villain that has reached the higher ranks with Joker, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin. But he’s developed his own niche that has earned him spots on Batman cartoons and video games in the past.
3. German Folk Legend Pied Piper Goes From Enemy To Hero
One of the most well-known legends from Germany is that of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. His musical skills allowed him to help remove rats who were attracted to the sound of his music. This was the inspiration to one of the Flash’s enemies in Hartley Rathaway; who would take on the name. DC’s version of the Pied Piper was actually deaf and used music as a weapon that could actually hypnotize people; much like the rats from the German language.
Piper’s music is also able to cause harm to his enemies. While he was a powerful villain after his 2012 debut in the DC Universe, the Piper has since become a strong ally to his former rival in the Flash. He’s been a big part of the New 52 initiative that led to him becoming one of the heroes who identify as homosexual.
2. Aquaman Viewed As Rip-Off Of Namor The Sub-Mariner
There have been a number of versions of Aquaman – from short hair and ugly orange top, to long hair and shirtless. Regardless of whether you feel the superhero is lame by the standard of Superman and Batman, he’s one of the longest-running characters in the DC Universe. Unfortunately, Aquaman is viewed as just one example of DC stealing ideas from Marvel. Aquaman first debuted in 1941; two years after Namor the Sub-Mariner debuts in 1939.
While the two are certainly similar, they each have had different levels of success. As much as there are comic book fans who pick on Aquaman, he’s weathered the storm to be a big part of the Injustice video game series and the upcoming Justice League movie. Namor, on the other hand, is almost forgotten about in the world of comic books.
1. Greek Mythological Legend Hercules In DC (And Marvel)
Hercules is possibly one of the most recognizable names in Greek mythology. Part of that could be due to the fact that he’s been portrayed several times in television, comic books, and video games. Hercules first debuted in Mystery Men Comics in 1939, which also featured the Blue Beetle. Over the years, DC has placed the son of Zeus turned mortal into their comic pages with his self-titled series.
He’s seen during his more native timeline in ancient Greece. But Hercules has also appeared with the likes of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, now called Shazam. As mentioned earlier, DC isn’t the only comic book publisher to put the Greek demigod into their universe. Marvel also ran comics chronicling the adventures of Hercules.