Top 10 Comic Characters Created for Legal Reasons

A column article, Top Ten by: Maxwell Yezpitelok

These are all popular comic book characters, with hundreds of message board posts, Geocities pages, and depressingly long Wikipedia entries devoted to each one of them. And yet they were created not to awe and inspire, but to fulfill a simple legal necessity.

10. She-Hulk

Who she is: 
The Hulk with boobs, and better curves. The Hulk’s cousin was introduced in her own comic in 1980, and she’s generally considered to be Stan Lee’s last notable creation (by people who obviously don't remember Stripperella) Since then she has starred in several long running Marvel Comics series, in addition to being a distinguished member of superhero groups like The Avengers. For a while she also replaced The Thing in the Fantastic Four, because, well, she has boobs and he doesn't.

Why she exists:
It's all Benny Hill's fault, basically. 

In the late '70s Benny did a sketch where a woman turns into a muscled green monster. Marvel saw it and freaked out. Since the live action Hulk show was doing pretty well at the time, Marvel felt the introduction of a female counterpart (a la “Bionic Woman”) was only a matter of time. So, they published the first She-Hulk comic for the sole purpose of making sure they owned the rights to the character. The female Lou Ferrigno never came, but Marvel was already stuck with this brilliant creation.

9. Spider-Woman 

Who she is: 
Spider-Man with a vagina, and (slightly) better curves. Star of a popular Saturday Morning cartoon, a long running comic book series, and a recent "motion comic" (whatever the fuck that means). She’s also a current member of The Avengers. Unlike She-Hulk she’s not related to her male counterpart, so they can occasionally make out without getting strange looks from their uncles.

Why she exists:
Yeah, this is basically the same as She-Hulk. We’re lucky they didn’t name her She-Spider-Man. 

In the late 70’s, Marvel learned that Filmation Associates planned to introduce a new cartoon character called Web Woman. Again they freaked out and published a comic to cover their asses (and their intellectual property). Fun fact: she was originally supposed to be an actual spider that evolved to human form thanks to the High Evolutionary. Stan Lee was so disgusted by the idea that he nixed that origin and ordered a new one. This is probably a good thing, because if she was revealed to a spider, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the brilliant idea of having her be the spider that bit Peter Parker (who was secretly in love with him at the time).

8. Dazzler 

Who she is:
Wolverine with a uterus. Okay, not really, but she’s still a member of the X-Men. Dazzler is a mutant with the power of being the only disco singer left in the 80’s. She can also spark, apparently, although I think the disco singer part is probably more useful (especially in a fight). She had a solo series for a while and even a graphic novel. They’ll give those things to anyone.

Why she exists: 
To promote a movie that was never made.

Dazzler was commissioned by Casablanca Records and Filmworks Studios as part of a multimedia marketing campaign, and created by a reluctant committee of Marvel staffers. Artist John Romita Jr. was ordered to make her look like Bo Derek, since Filmworks wanted to give her some publicity. The idea was to promote Dazzler with appearances in various Marvel Comics (starting with The X-Men), but then Filmworks and Casablanca backed out of the project, leaving Marvel stuck with the character. Since Marvel had already hyped her to hell, they figured they might as well give her a comic series.

7. Elongated Man 

Who he is: 
Guess what his power is. Elongated Man is a classic member of the Justice League of America and has appeared in a couple of solo miniseries, plus several episodes of DC Comics’ various cartoon shows. The feather to his cap came in 2004, when the fun loving character had the honor of appearing in a gritty series in which his wife is raped and murdered by villains. FUN!

Why he exists:
Because someone couldn't be arsed to research. 

Back in the '60s, beloved DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz wasn't sure if the company owned the copyright to Plastic Man or not, so he created Elongated Man to cover their stretchy-hero needs. Turns out they did own Plastic Man, which probably makes this dude completely redundant. But hey, that’s never been a problem in an industry based on ripping off Superman. Elongated Man remained a fan favorite hero up until his tragic death and subsequent resurrection as a murderous zombie. YAY FOR COMICS!

6. Captain Marvel 

Who he is:
The name of several Marvel characters who fancy calling themselves Captain and don't feel like looking too far to find the second part of their name. Although Marvel's Captain Marvel has never achieved the popularity of the DC hero of the same name), they have continued to publish several series, miniseries and specials with his name, almost as if they HAD to... 

Why he exists:
Well, yeah, they DO. If they wanna keep the name, that is. 

In the '60s, when the original Captain Marvel's copyright expired due to a complicated lawsuit, Marvel saw an opportunity and registered the name themselves. So now they have to put out a Captain Marvel comic every few years in order to keep the trademark valid. Meanwhile, if DC wants to publish a comic with the REAL Captain Marvel, they have to call it something else (like “The Power of Shazam”). It's clear that Marvel would rather have their name associated with crappy comics published by themselves than with good comics made by someone else, as the following case proves...

5. Marvelman/Miracleman 

Who he is:
A classic British superhero created in the '50s, who gained prominence in the '80s and '90s thanks to a critically acclaimed revival by fan-favorite authors Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Issues of his '80s series are now worth hundreds of dollars, according to eBay. He truly is one of the finest and most original creations in the history of comic books.

Why he exists: 
Because people are unoriginal and greedy. 

When we said "created in the '50s" we actually meant "created in the '40s as Captain Marvel, then ripped off in England". You see, Captain Marvel reprints were selling quite well in England in 1954… but then the US stopped making the comic. Rather than look for something else to reprint or create an original character, the UK publishers decided to give the appearance that the series had continued by making cheap and by all accounts extremely crappy knock-offs. As we mentioned before, the character gained relevance in the '80s, when writer Alan Moore did his post-modern take on him, but that doesn't change the fact that it started as a complete rip-off. 

The '80s Marvelman series did so well it was eventually brought (back) to America... where Marvel Comics obviously freaked out and threatened to sue the shit out of the publishers if they didn't change the name. So, any new stories came out under the name "Miracleman". The layers of irony keep coming: last year Marvel proudly announced their acquisition of Miracleman, hailing the same stories that enraged them in the '80s as timeless classics.

4. Casanova 

Who he is:
The coolest comic book you’re not reading. Casanova Quinn is a secret agent involved in sexy adventures across multiple realities and dimensions, sort of like a psychedelic James Bond. Originally published by Image Comics, its success led Marvel to offer the independent series a spot in their creator owned imprint, Icon. Way to go, Marvel. Say what you will about those guys, they have a talent for spotting talent.

Why he exists: 
Okay, okay, so Casanova wasn’t really created for legal reasons. But come on, I gotta come up with TEN fucking examples for this thing. Gimme a break here.

Casanova was originally pitched as a series about the son of an obscure Marvel Comics character called Dominic Fortune. Marvel obviously rejected the pitch, since they have no eye for talent and they are awful, awful people. Creator Matt Fraction wanted to publish it anyways, so he reworked it into something that didn’t breach Marvel’s copyright. So, in a roundabout way, we COULD say Casanova was created out of legal necessity: a necessity to avoid being sued by someone else. Other characters in the same situation are Image’s Jack Staff (a rejected Union Jack pitch), Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood (originally a Teen Titans revamp), and… 

3. Wanted

Who they are: 
Mark Millar’s Wanted is about a group of super villains who secretly rule the world, having killed all the superheroes at some point. You may know them from the movie adaptation starring Angelina Jolie--or you would if any of them showed up there. The movie is almost nothing like the comic; for one thing, the comic stars the rapper Eminem and the movie doesn’t. You’d think it was the other way around.

Why they exist: 
Yes, kids! Another rejected pitch!

Originally conceived as a comic about the Secret Society of Super Villains, upon rejection it was reworked into… a comic about a secret society of super villains (a different one). The original Secret Society of Super Villains, by the way, is basically the same group of baddies you see in every episode of the Super Friends. So, if DC hadn’t rejected the pitch, maybe Angelina Jolie would’ve ended up playing, I don’t know, Lex Luthor or something.

2. V from V for Vendetta 

Who he is:
A mysterious anarchist dressed in a Guy Fawkes costume, set on destroying the totalitarian regime ruling post-apocalyptic England. The story is set in the far out future of 1997, and in the far out future of 2005 it was adapted into a popcorn flick that never uses the word “anarchy”. That’s a bit like adapting the Bible and never bothering to mention that God guy. Still, the comic is well loved by comic fans and antisocials everywhere, and it remains a highlight in the careers of its creators, Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Why he exists: 
Basically, he’s the product of self-plagiarism.

In the late 70’s, while working at the UK branch of Marvel Comics, David Lloyd co-created a character called Night Raven. Night Raven soon became one of the most popular series in Marvel UK, meaning it was read by about 15 people. But conditions at Marvel UK were pretty crappy back then, leading to constant disputes between head editor Dez Skinn and the American bosses. In 1981 Skinn finally quit Marvel UK, taking many of the unhappy artists with him to form a new company, Quality Communications. One of those artists was David Lloyd. Since Night Raven was so popular, Skinn and Lloyd were eager to continue publishing it… but since Marvel owned the rights, they couldn’t. So, Lloyd invited Alan Moore to help him recreate the concept into something similar yet different enough to avoid a lawsuit, and together they came up with V for Vendetta. 

1. The (New) Fighting American 

Who he (was): 
The original Fighting American is by far the most embarrassing part of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s distinguished comics career. The character was a blatant rip-off of their most famous creation, Captain America, except with an anti-communist twist. He was basically Senator McCarthy in a spandex suit. The comic was cancelled after only a few issues, and should have stayed that way forever.

Why he (still) exists: 
Rob Liefeld.

In the '90s, Marvel Comics sued Liefeld’s Awesome Comics for infringing their copyright with a thinly-veiled Captain America rip-off called Agent: America. As a way to justify the undeniable resemblance, Liefeld bought the rights to the long forgotten Fighting American and fused him with the other guy. The court fell for it, and Awesome Comics continued inflicting the character upon modern audiences. These are probably the most pathetic reasons behind a character revival ever – especially when you consider that under the terms of the settlement with Marvel Comics, it was determined that Fighting American could HAVE a shield, but he must never throw it like Captain America does.

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