Marvel Comics has developed one of the most popular collections of superheroes and super-villains known. Many of them have been in comic books, television shows, movies and video games for multiple generations. The stories of Spider-Man and Captain America can be easily shared between a 77-year-old man and his 7-year-old grandson; both being able to contribute without pause from the age gap.
From their first issue of Marvel Comics in 1939 until today, the Marvel Universe has expanded to an extremely large character library. In 2010, it was revealed that Marvel had increased the number of characters to 7,000. There’s no sign of that growth slowing down anytime soon. But when you take a look at the entire list, not all of them had to come from original ideas at Marvel headquarters.
There will always be some duplicates who appear between Marvel and their rivals at DC Comics. It’s almost impossible to create 7,000 characters that are completely, 100 percent original. As impressive as Stan Lee is for his part in creating the Marvel Universe, one man can only do so much with one creative brain.
But it’s not just a matter of being inspired by another comic company’s characters. On a few rare occasions, characters have been based on pitches from outside the company. It doesn’t happen as much now, if at all. It was several years ago that one fan’s idea for a new Spider-Man costume led to the creation of his deadliest enemy.
Additionally, Marvel has even said on their website that they are on the lookout for self-published and independent comic books. While they don’t take submissions, they tell aspiring writers that Marvel will find them.
Regardless of how they were created, the following are 15 characters who were not created by the staff at Marvel.
15. Jack Frost; A Classic Personification Of Winter
The name Jack Frost has been the name used to personify winter for many generations. The name has been used by a number of different authors and writers, including L. Frank Baum’s “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” and Charles Sangster’s “Little Jack Frost.” But in the 1940s, a superhero by the same name debuted in U.S.A. Comics No. 1 for Timely Comics. While the superhero was considered one of the first creations by Stan Lee, it was still based on the variant of Old Man Winter.
The Jack Frost character would then join the Liberty Legion in 1942 – which also included Bucky, Captain America’s long-time sidekick. Just as you would expect, the character had the powers of creating ice, sleet and snow. Very similar to the Iceman character later debuted in Marvel’s X-Men universe in the 1960s. One might be willing to say that Jack Frost might have led to the eventual creation of Iceman.
14. Thanos Was Based On DC’s Metron And Darkseid
Thanos is likely to be one of the major reasons fans will line up to see the upcoming Avengers movie that covers the Infinity Wars. The god-like alien is certainly one of the most powerful villains throughout the entire Marvel Universe. When he first debuted in Iron Man back in 1973, there was a lot of comparisons to DC Comics’ god, Darkseid. It’s easy to see the comparison between the two villains. Both are essentially the most powerful bad guys in their respective universes.
While writer Jim Starlin admitted there are some things about Darkseid from Jack Kirby that was part of the development of Thanos, he actually credits another DC god in Metron. He actually showed another Marvel write an early concept of Thanos and the Titans. He was told to “beef him up” because if he was going to rip off a DC god, he should rip off Darkseid – “the really good one.”
13. Mr. Hyde Based On Story Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
If there’s one thing that’s been covered up until now, it’s that characters from different forms of fiction have been transformed into the world of comic books. Marvel introduced readers to Dr. Calvin Zabo, who first debuted in “Journey into Mystery” in 1963. Zabo certainly looked to the classic story titled “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; a story of a doctor who created a serum that turned him into an unstoppable monster. While Zabo is somewhat original, the idea of his creation is derived from classic literature.
Zabo would be successful in developing the Hyde Formula. Essentially, he became similar to someone like the Hulk. But Zabo gave this monstrous alter ego the name of Mr. Hyde. Obviously a nod to the story created by Robert Louis Stevenson back in the late 1880s. This villain would become associated with Cobra and had wars against the likes of Thor and Daredevil.
12. Mephisto Is Essentially Based Around Satan
While it’s been written that the Mephisto character is mistaken for Satan that is viewed as the ruler of Hell within the Christian religion, it’s certainly easy to see why there would be comparisons between the two demons. Mephisto first debuted in the Marvel Universe in 1968 in Silver Surfer’s storyline. But he’s also been seen in a number of other storylines as the man who rules Hades, also known as Hell.
But not the Hell we all hear about in the Bible, or in a lot of heavy metal songs. Rather, the character Mephisto was inspired by the demon Mephistopheles from German folklore. He’s often been cited in the Faust legend; a scholar who would make a deal with the devil in an effort to gain unlimited knowledge and also the finest things in life. In conclusion, Mephisto is the devil, but isn’t supposedly the devil that rules the commonly known Hell.
11. Namor The Sub-Mariner Created Before Marvel Comics
Essentially, Namor the Sub-Mariner is a lesser known character in the Marvel Universe. By that, he’s not in any of the upcoming Marvel movies and he’s rarely featured on television. But Namor is one of the longest-running characters in the universe. He’s also not a highly advertised superhero when compared to Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man. Namor first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1940, but his origins actually date back to before Marvel Comics were officially formed.
Namor was actually created by Bill Everett for Funnies Inc., which was one of the earliest packaging companies for publishers who wanted comics. The idea was that Namor would be part of the company’s “Motion Picture Funnies Weekly,” but it was never officially released. While Namor the Sub-Mariner technically debuted in the first Marvel comic book, he wasn’t technically created under the Marvel banner. Even then, the early issues of “Marvel Comics” were actually published under the company Timely Comics.
10. Deadpool Was A Parody Of DC’s Deathstroke
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a character like Deadpool was made as a bit of a joke. Back in 1990, Marvel writers Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld are working hard on creating the Deadpool character for an issue of “New Mutants.” Essentially what they created was something very similar to Deathstroke, a villain in “Teen Titans” of DC Comics. It turns out that Liefeld was a big fan of the Teen Titans and it led to some inspiration for their New Mutants storyline.
While copying a competitor’s villain may not have been the original intent, they decided to fully embrace the parody once they realized it. Their Deadpool character’s real name was Wade Wilson; very similar to Deathstroke’s real name of Slade Wilson. But they ended up with a fan favorite with a wacky, cartoon-like “Merc with a Mouth.” But would anyone really be surprised that Deadpool was a spinoff parody of a rival company’s character?
9. Fairy Tales Featuring Marvel Characters
This entry is going to combine several comic book storylines together. And while all of the characters were technically still Marvel-created superheroes and villains, they portrayed classic fairy tales that are hundreds of years old. It was an interesting side project that allowed not only common fairy tales to be retold, but ones from other cultures North American readers may not have read before. In 2006, Marvel released four “X-Men Fairy Tales” where the mutants were cast into various stories. For example, Wolverine and Cyclops portrayed the Brothers Grimm to revive the sleeping Jean Grey.
Spider-Man also had his own fairy tale series with a four-comic collection that published in 2007. Venom was featured in a Japanese ghost story and Mary Jane Watson portrayed Red Riding Hood. The last fairy tale collection involved The Avengers in 2008. One of the memorable examples was Cassandra Lang portraying Alice and the Young Avengers acting as the rest of the Alice in Wonderland cast.
8. Marvel’s Quicksilver Was Not The First Quicksilver In Comics
Quicksilver has been part of several different Marvel storylines, mostly with the X-Men. He’s often been viewed as a villain in the Marvel Universe. There have often been some quick to judge that Marvel ripped off the speedster character from The Flash. The two have often been compared for having the same kind of blazing speed and quick agility. The two even raced each other in the “DC vs. Marvel Comics” cross-over series from the 1990s.
But one can say Marvel’s Quicksilver may have been inspired by someone other than The Flash. There was actually a Quicksilver that was published in Quality Comic’s “National Comics” in 1940. Created by Chuck Mazoujian, Quality’s Quicksilver had a slightly different origin story of a former circus acrobatic performer named Max Mercury with super speed and a secret laboratory. Quality Comics would eventually become part of DC Comics, although Quality’s Quicksilver was never resurrected.
7. Several Literary Classics Killed By Deadpool
Similar to the fairy tales mentioned earlier, the Marvel Universe actually brought a number of characters from literary classics to their pages. But there’s a catch. Marvel created a series based on Deadpool losing both of the voices usually seen on the pages. They were replaced with a red box that urged the Merc with a Mouth to kill everyone in the Marvel Universe. This expanded into Deadpool traveling through all parts of the Multiverse.
Which brings us to “Deadpool Killustrated,” where Deadpool goes on a killing spree of various literary icons like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer and even Sherlock Holmes. There were additional literary characters who became victims to Deadpool in the series; with the joke that “all of literature ends here,” along with a fake apology to college students everywhere. But it’s not that anyone in college would be too upset if that was truly the case.
6. Venom Came From A Suit Idea Pitched By A Fan
The origins of one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous villains actually came from outside of Marvel’s headquarters. The idea of Spider-Man’s black suit was first pitched in a fan fiction letter. Sometime in the 1980s, Randy Schueller entered a competition for people who were interested in becoming a comic book writer or artist. Schueller’s idea was for Reed Richards to help create a new suit that upgraded Spidey’s powers.
He would receive a letter and an offer of $220 for the idea. It might seem small now, but it was a different time and that amount of money was considered a good paycheck. Also, Schueller would be asked to help write the script. That didn’t pan out. But the black costume idea did debut about a year later. That black costume would eventually spawn the creation of Venom. However, it might surprise some fans that Schueller was not a fan of turning his costume idea into a villain.
5. Benjamin Franklin Appeared In Multiple Comics
Marvel Comics did have one of the founding fathers of the United States of America as a recurring character in their universe. For starters, it was believed that Franklin was part of the Brotherhood of the Shield. Additionally, he was part of a storyline involving Doctor Strange and Clea when they were traveling through time. In the first issue of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, a time-traveling Captain America inspired both Franklin and Betsy Ross to design the U.S. flag.
Beyond those encounters, the Marvel writers turned Franklin into a ghost living in Deadpool’s house. Because that is something the real Benjamin Franklin would want to do if his spirit lived on through electricity after the death of his body. While celebrities have made cameos in Marvel Comics over the years, Franklin stands out. Only Marvel would explain that the electricity he discovered would be what makes him a ghost that is roommates with a schizophrenic mercenary.
4. The Story Of Hercules Told Through Comics
While creating a number of their own superheroes and villains, Marvel Comics also didn’t shy away from turning mythological icons into comic book characters. One such example was “The Incredible Hercules.” Obviously, this was a character who was adapted from Greek mythology. They even kept the same background as the son of Zeus – God of Thunder and king of Olympus. The comic books also followed him being separated from his family and being raised by normal humans.
Essentially, you could claim this comic series as educational research. Not sure if any high school or college teachers would go for that, but it’s worth a shot. Hercules wasn’t the only character from Greek mythology to grace the pages of Marvel Comics. There have also been comics for Zeus, Venus, Ares and other gods. In fact, there are a lot of characters based on Greco-Roman mythology for both Marvel and DC Comics.
3. Frankenstein’s Monster Crosses Paths With Marvel’s Finest
Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is a 19th century tale of the scientific mind of Victor Frankenstein creating a monster brought to life despite using dead body parts. But the monster was also the inspiration to Marvel writers Don Heck and Roy Thomas, who first brought him to the Marvel Universe to “The (Uncanny) X-Men” in 1968. They brought the story of the monster getting revenge on his creator for not finishing work on the monster’s bride by killing Victor’s wife.
The writers also took the story further as the monster also sought out Frankenstein’s descendants after being frozen for a century. Apparently, the monster likes to hold a grudge. The character kept a lot of the powers you would expect from a collection of dead body parts would have – invulnerability, strength and immortality. Frankenstein has appeared in his own series of comics, but also appeared alongside Wolverine, the X-Men and Spider-Man.
2. Dracula Goes From Transylvania To Marvel Universe
Frankenstein was not the only classic monster to be brought into the pages of Marvel Comics. Dracula also earned himself into the universe with the “Tomb of Dracula” that first ran in 1972. He also made a cameo in Frankenstein’s storyline. However, Dracula would also be seen here and there throughout the Marvel Universe through the 1970s with the likes of Doctor Strange. He also shared the comic pages with Thor, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers.
As one would expect, this Dracula has all of the vampire powers and traits one would expect. Not only was he immortal and had a taste for blood, but he had the ability to shapeshift, control minds and had superhuman strength, reflexes and agility. He also had the regenerative healing abilities comic fans connect with the likes of Wolverine and Deadpool. Dracula has also been the inspiration to a couple of different Marvel characters, including Morbius.
1. Marvel’s Thor Is Based On A Norse Mythological God
While Thor is one of the most popular superheroes of the Marvel Universe, he was also based on another mythological character from the past. Thor is a major figure in Norse mythology and was a major god in a lot of European religions before Christianity became the influential religion that it is today. When reading up on the Norse god Thor, one can find paintings of the mythological figure holding a powerful hammer. Obviously, Marvel’s Thor is based almost entirely on Norse mythology.
Interesting enough, Marvel was not the first comic company to bring Thor to the comic pages. In DC’s “Tales of the Unexpected,” the god Thor was shown in the early 1960s. He looked more traditional to the Norse god shown in older murals. Marvel’s version came across more like a superhero, but Kirby said it was still Thor being drawn on the pages. Once again, art is inspired by historical figures; even though it still probably won’t count as homework for your mythology class.