Do Marvel and DC steal from each other? There’s been no real public confessions, but sometimes, the evidence seems to speak for itself.
You don’t have to be a real comic book aficionado to realize that the world of creating comic books is fairly small. There are just a handful of players on the stage when it comes to big sales, and in the big leagues, it really does boil down to just two: DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Naturally, there’s a lot of back and forth when it comes to personnel, including the artists and writers who come up with iconic characters.
Sometimes, there are just too many similarities to make any other conclusion. Other times, there are differences, but a key aspect of the characters seems to be nearly identical, and the characters seem to take up a similar role in their respective universes. Here’s a look at 15 times our big comic book faves seem to have err...borrowed ideas from each other.
14 DC Theft — Aquaman VS Sub-Mariner
It was 1939 when Timely Comics published the very first issue of Marvel Comics #1. It featured Namor, the Sub-Mariner, ruler and protector of the world under the waves. Namor began to attack targets on the ground because of the land creatures (a.k.a. humans) and their abuse of the ocean. (Where is he now when we need him?) He’s a mutant, born to an Atlantean princess who fell in love with his American scientist father. He eventually teams up with Captain America to battle the bad Nazis in the Second World War. A couple of years down the road, National Comics — the precursor to DC Comics — would come out with Aquaman in an issue called "More Fun Comics #73". Aquaman is the love child of a human lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean princess. Aquaman became ruler of Atlantis, and took up arms against those evil surface dwellers who were destroying the ocean...Coincidence? We think not.
13 Marvel Theft — Fantastic Four And The Avengers VS The Justice League
This one comes straight from the source. The Justice League debuted in an issue of National Comics called "The Brave and the Bold #28" in February-March of 1960. The concept was new and the title was a success right off the bat. It turned heads in the comic-book world. Stan Lee, in his autobiography, Origins of Marvel Comics, tells the story of a golf game involving Jack Liebowitz, who was the publisher of DC Comics, and Marvel-Timely Comics owner Martin Goodman back in 1961. Jack was talking about how well the Justice League titles were selling. In fact, JL sales were outpacing everything else in their catalog. The next day, Stan got a call from Liebowitz, who told him to come up with a similar team of superheroes concept for Marvel. Stan Lee and comic-book legend Jack Kirby first came up with The Fantastic Four. With the concept doing well, later, in 1963, they added The Avengers.
12 DC Theft — The Wasp VS Bumblebee
In the world of Marvel Comics, Wasp was one of the founding members of The Avengers. She was created by none other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and made her debut in 1963. She showed up on the scene to help Ant-Man, who had first appeared in 1962’s "Tales to Astonish #27." Janet van Dyne, the Wasp, can shrink in the same way as Ant-Man, and she can also sting her enemies. What’s interesting is that DC’s Bumblebee didn’t come along until much later in 1976. Karen Beecher-Duncan (a.k.a. Bumblebee) also shrinks in size, flies with insect-like wings, and has the power to sting — even her costume is similar. She was DC’s first African-American female superhero, and part of the Teen Titans. Was it really so difficult to come up with an original superhero concept that they had to crib off a successful rival? Sheesh.
11 Marvel Theft — The Doom Patrol VS The X-Men
This alleged copycat move occurred within months of each other’s release. In June of 1963, DC debuted The Doom Patrol. They were young characters with various superhuman gifts, made outcasts by a society that feared them. They are led by a wise doctor who is wheelchair bound. He unites them to create a group that helps protect the very society that cast them out. In September, Marvel came out with the first X-Men story. They were young characters who had superhuman powers, cast out by society — you get the idea. Exactly the same except for one point — the X-Men are born with a genetic mutation that causes them to be who they are, while the Doom Patrollers get their powers accidentally. In 1964, both superhero teams battled evil mutants — the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants for the X-Men, and The Brotherhood of Evil for The Doom Patrol. Arnold Drake, the creator of Doom Patrol, even went so far as to accuse Stan Lee of stealing his ideas. Nothing ever came of the accusation. Maybe great minds really do think alike? It’s ironic that the X-Men have proven to be by far the more successful series.
10 Marvel Theft — Catwoman VS Black Cat
Catwoman has been a staple of the Batman universe since 1940, when she appeared as just “The Cat.” Today, she’s still the same ultra agile burglar with a thing for Batman. Although she's usually trying to escape from Batman, she sometimes sides with him to defeat an even greater villain. The appeal is obvious – she’s smart, hot, and she’s the one villain who can get under The Bat’s skin. For obvious reasons. It wasn’t until 1979 that DC came up with a rival. Black Cat was the creation of Marv Wolfman, who seemingly didn’t care much about disguising where his inspiration came from. Now, Black Cat has undergone some changes over the years, including a suit that gives her super strength, and the ability to cause bad luck around her, but she began as a simply sexy cat burglar with a thing for Spider-Man who is sometimes bad girl, sometimes good girl. In the end, we’re not sure we really mind the idea of two cat-themed anti-heroines.
9 Marvel Theft — Deathstroke VS Deadpool
Deathstroke, Deadpool. Slade Wilson, Wade Wilson. Rob Lieffield, creator of Deadpool, is a controversial figure in the comic-book world. He’s had a long and varied career working with both DC and Marvel, among others. Depending on who you ask, he’s either the artist who defined the 1990s look and feel in comics — or he’s the worst thing to happen to the industry. We’ll just say, whoever came up with Deadpool can’t be all bad. It’s just that, the original concept was a ringer for Deathstroke, and even writer Fabian Nicieza was quoted in the media as noting the resemblance. Deadpool didn’t show up on the Marvel side until 1991, a full 11 years after DC’s Deathstroke first appeared in 1980. In the end, Marvel took the clever route in how they developed their super assassin. They were very similar to begin with, but while the DC version has remained an unrelenting stone-cold killer, Deadpool has evolved into everyone’s favorite anti-superhero — he's funny as he is lethal.
8 Marvel Theft — Bullseye VS Deadshot
Deadshot, as he originally appeared in DC comics back in 1950, was a dapper gentleman in a top hat with a deadly accurate aim. He was a would-be superhero looking to oust Batman from his place in Gotham City. Later on, he became the beefed-up anti-hero who is part of the Suicide Squad. Bullseye didn’t show up to harass and threaten Daredevil and Elektra until 1976. There are a lot of similar points between these two — they're both the guy who never misses a shot, is adept in hand-to-hand, and has metal body parts. The two also have some unexpected visual similarities — both face down a superhero good guy who has horns in Batman and Daredevil. But, in this case, the creators have made some notable distinctions. Bullseye is a psychopathic assassin with mysterious origins. All we know is that he's joked about killing members of his family — and he might not have been kidding. Floyd Lawton (a.k.a. Deadshot) is an expert shooter and an assassin for hire. He has a backstory with an ex-wife and daughter that gets tangled up in the plot now and then.
7 Marvel Theft — Thanos VS Darkseid
The giant alien to end all aliens is a character common to both comic book worlds. But who came up with it first? Darkseid, a creation of Jack Kirby for DC, became lord over Apokolips for the first time in 1970. He’s bent on destroying life and liberty as we know it throughout the universe, has super strength, can teleport himself anywhere, including through time, and is ageless. When you’re trying to come up with the ultimate villain to pit your superheroes against, it doesn’t get much worse. Maybe that’s why there are similarities to Thanos, who made his first appearance in an Ironman comic in 1974. His world is called Titan, and some of the other details are dissimilar, but their powers are basically the same. Thanos creator Jim Starlin has talked about being told where to get his inspiration from in interviews, so it’s no real secret. Credit Marvel, though, for making Thanos into a worthy supervillain in his own right.
6 Marvel Theft — Hawkeye VS Green Arrow
The Green Arrow made his first appearance in "Fun Comics #73" in 1941. His altar ego is Oliver Queen, the billionaire playboy of Star City. A former industrialist, he fights crime in secret and in disguise. He learned archery as a way to hunt and survive when he was stranded on a remote island all alone. Back at home, he uses his wealth to develop high tech adaptations to the age old art of archery. Marvel’s Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye) came along in 1964. He’s an orphan who joins the circus, learning swordplay and archery along the way. He begins as a villain, and only later switches sides to become an Avenger. Hawkeye uses high-tech to enhance his archery skill, financed by Stark Industries. And, just as Arrow is a member of the JL, Hawkeye is the human without superpowers in a team of demigods known as the Avengers. There are undeniable similarities, but enough differences to keep it interesting. We’ll also mention that the billionaire playboy with a secret identity thing has been done before too.
5 DC Theft — Captain America VS The Guardian And Captain Steel
Timely Comics, which became Marvel, released the first Captain America title in 1941 while the Second World War was still raging. This ultra-patriotic comic character with his indestructible shield and penchant for punching Nazis won the public’s heart and became an early hit. While the series and character found success, however, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who had created the phenom, felt they weren’t getting their fair share of the pie. So, they headed for National Comics, the pre-DC title, and created cop-turned-superhero The Guardian in 1942. He had the same law-and-order appeal, along with a familiar-looking shield. He’s never caught on in the same way, although he still turns up in the DC world now and then. Commander Steel, alias Hank Heywood, made his debut as The Indestructible Man in DC Comics in March 1978 in a series written by Gerry Conway, who had written several Marvel titles previously. Heywood is a WWII-era character with a star on his chest and a red and blue uniform who began his life as a marine. A biology professor performs the surgery that repairs his war wounds and then turns him into a superhero. Coincidence? Likely not.
4 Marvel Theft — Ultron VS Brainiac
In the Marvel Comics world, Ultron is the work of Hank Pym, and he first showed up in 1968. Pym creates him with the idea of saving the world, natch, but it all goes wrong. Ultron decides, in the way of all ultra-logical robotic characters, that it's best to just exterminate all humans in order to save the Earth. The logic is compelling, we’ll agree, but still detrimental to our health. Brainiac is a cyborg of extraterrestrial origins — at least, most of the time. His story has been retold more than once in the DC universe, but he began in "Action Comics #242" in July of 1958. It was the so-called Silver Age of comics, and he's a green alien. On the cover, he's got red electrodes on his head, although they don't really play a part in the story. He’s been a metahuman, an alien, super-intelligent scientist, an android, and an AI on Krypton. He’s had many forms, let’s say, but they all end up turning against their creators. He's also a nuisance for Superman and the JL. There’s certainly room for both — an evil technological villain on a mission to destroy humanity is a must in both comic-book worlds.
3 DC Theft — Black Panther VS Bronze Tiger
Black Panther was a sidekick of the Fantastic Four when he made his first appearance in one of their comics in 1966. He was the first African American superhero in mainstream comics. The king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, he has access to superior technology, and is a badass fighter. Bronze Tiger first appeared in a DC novel release called Dragon's Fists in 1974, and the martial artist has been kicking around ever since. The parallels are obvious, but the Tiger is a villain, not the Warrior King of an African nation. Bronze Tiger became a member of the Suicide Squad in 1992, and has even aided Bruce Wayne on rescue missions. He turns up now and then in the DC Universe, but, with the Black Panther movie starring Chadwick Boseman looming large on the horizon, he just can't compete when it comes to impact on the comic book/movie world.
2 DC Theft — Wolverine VS Warblade
These two have two completely different backstories — the similarities lie in their physical structure and abilities. Wolverine made his debut in "The Incredible Hulk #180" in October 1974 in the final teaser panel, with his official appearance as a character in the next issue in November 1974. His origins were mysterious, until he became part of the X-Men revival in 1975. Warblade is the product of a DC/Wildstorm collaboration, and had his own miniseries in 1995 and again in 2004/2005. He becomes part of the Wildcats after aliens kill his parents, and his own half-alien heritage is revealed. Later on, he becomes leader of the Ravagers. Even with all that, it’s hard to escape the similarities. Both of them can alter molecular structures — Wolverine can heal himself, and Warblade can convert his body parts to a kind of organic steel. They also share a surly disposition. The dead giveaways, of course, are the metal blades that come from both sets of fingers to become their deadliest weapon.
DC Theft — Black Racer VS Silver Surfer
The Silver Surfer was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966 for Marvel, a cosmic surfer from the planet Zenn-La. He sacrifices himself to serve Galactus, devourer of worlds, in an effort to divert the destruction from his own planet. That's how he ends up leading Galactus across the universe to Earth. He was once a noble humanoid, but has forgotten his emotions. In later comics, he rebels against the planet-eater and has his own adventures, but he’s usually presented as a melancholy wanderer. Black Racer was created by DC in 1971 as part of their multi-god response to the creation of Marvel’s Asgardian characters. The DC pantheon included Darseid and Orion, among others. Black Racer was supposed to be Death personified, and he rode around space on skis. Yes, you read right. That’s the sticking point. We know that a surfboard sounds just as dumb, but somehow, the Surfer’s backstory makes it all work. The Black Racer? Not so much.
1 DC Theft — Uncanny X-Men VS New Teen Titans
Wolverine became part of Marvel’s relaunch known as the Uncanny X-Men in 1975, making his debut alongside new characters like Nightcrawler and Banshee. The X-Men had initially appeared in 1963, but failed to catch on fire. The reboot, however, was a huge success, and the mutant team went to the top of the superhero-team heap seemingly overnight. DC’s Teen Titans were another superhero team from the mid-1960s that failed to catch on at first. DC looked to repeat Marvel’s success by revamping them in 1980, adding Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire to the existing team of Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl. Along with the emphasis on younger characters and mutant abilities, the conflicts between the teens is part of the plot. It turns out, both Marvel and DC had a hit, and both franchises flourished, as we now know. In fact, in 1982, the two were featured in a one-time crossover called Apokolips. It saw the young teams lining up against villains Darkseid, Deathstroke, and Dark Phoenix.