10 Real Historical Figures Who Became Comic Badasses

By Ethan Kaye in Comics, Daily Lists
Friday, March 18, 2011 at 8:07 am
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Real celebrities and politicians have shown up in the comic books since the medium was young. Remember every superhero in the '40s beating on Hitler and Tojo? Yeah. Heck, even once they were defeated, Hitler managed to pop back up as a comic book villain a few times(or at least his brain did), and the floodgate was opened for other historical figures to grace the pages of the comics, too.

The tradition of having real people appear in comics continues to this day, with all sorts of people doing cameos from month to month. A lot of times they're nothing more than the then-current President saying things like, "Good job, Teen Titans! The whole nation thanks you for saving us from that alien invasion!" But sometimes fiction tells the better story, and these real people get reimagined into total badasses. Hey, it's fine when a former president makes an appearance, but it's far more interesting when he's suddenly a time-traveling warrior determined to protect -- or destroy -- the future. Who are some of the real historical figures who comics have cranked up to eleven? Well, here are 10 of the best

10) Barack Obama
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Cracked.com recently ran the top five Obama appearances in comics that included ass-kicking turns in Youngblood, Final Crisis, and Drafted. And yes, he also did manga porn. But my favorite has to be Barack the Barbarian, a politi-fantasy from Devil's Due. All the Democrats and Republicans show up to trade ax blows and magic spells. I blame Sarah Palin's popularity on this book.

9) Dracula
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Know what? He's real. Vlad Tepes was the ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century and, although his boss mustache could control minds, he was no vampire. Tales of his cruelty towards his enemies were widespread (he's still a hero to the people of the region to this day), but most are considered anti-Vlad propaganda. Didn't stop him from becoming comics' #1 public domain badass, with major parts in books from Marvel (Tomb of Dracula), DC (Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula), Dark Horse (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Boom Studios (Dracula: The Company of Monsters), and Harris (Vampirella).

8) John Lennon
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The former Beatle pops up here and there, especially in the swingin' '60s, with Rock N' Roll Comics adaptations, but stories of his life in Liverpool don't get him the "badass" label (and to be frank about it, Paul McCartney will never get that label, ever). But his appearance in Grant Morrison's The Invisibles #1 (above) brought him to a level past Abbey Road and Imagine: godhood. The concept is simple enough, if enough people pray to him, he becomes a sort of god to be invoked. He becomes a psychedelic giant head who spews arcane advice. Best part? Morrison says that he's actually contacted this godhead Lennon.

7) Don Rickles
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This one was tough, since I wanted to put him on the list because he's a real person who appeared in comics as something other than himself, but Rickles is so amazing in real life that nothing could make him better. In fact, his appearances in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen took the loudmouth comic and made him a little sillier -- throw a cape on him and make him a superhero, why don't ya? But you can't be taken seriously in the DC Universe unless you're wearing a costume (proof: Lex Luthor's robot suit), so Rickles' sticky persona gets a cape and tights upgrade.

6) Billy the Kid
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By the time Billy the Kid, a.k.a. William Bonney, a.k.a. Henry McCarty, was killed at the age of 22, he had killed between four and twenty-one men, depending on who you asked. That's pretty kickass in itself, but writer Eric Powell went one step further and had him fighting Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Jack the Ripper in the two volumes of Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities. Killing punkass ranch hands is one thing, blasting away at Victorian freaks is another.

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