"Subconscious plagiarism" is a thing. It's when something that you have heard or seen or read about appears in your own work without you even realizing it. It's not definitely ripping someone off, because that's deliberate and nasty and that's not what this list is about.
It's about certain things in the Big Two's comics that ape each other pretty well, to the point of begging the question, "Did they do this on purpose?" Sometimes these certain things just happen over time, but sometimes they happen in such rapid succession that it seems like someone at Marvel or DC must be ripping somebody at DC or Marvel off. Well, we're not accusing anyone of anything, just pointing out some weird analogues...
10) Doom Patrol and X-Men
It's the one that gets the most attention, so I'll make it obvious #10. They appeared within four months of each other -- Doom Patrol in June '63 and X-Men in September -- and the debate has raged about which one was really the first created. Both are teams of misfits, shunned from society because of their gifts, and led by a (occasionally megalomaniacal) genius in a wheelchair. The individual pieces don't match up as well as that leader in a wheelchair, but it is interesting to note that both teams had a big death scene after which they hid from the public for a while.
9) Red Hood and Winter Soldier
There was a time when you could say the phrase, "He's dead. Like, Bucky dead" and it would really mean something. Then Bucky, one of the original teen sidekicks, came back. As evil.And there was a time when Jason Todd, another famous teen sidekick who got bumped off, was considered 100% dead. But he came back too. As evil. Both of them did. In 2005. Within four months of each other.
8) Marvel Zombies and Blackest Night
was a HUUUUUGE hit in '05. It's spawned nearly as many sequels than Friday the 13th
. The entire Marvel U was transformed into flesh-eating zombies, and everyone loved it. There were rumors that DC was prepping a "DC Ghosts" series to compete, but those vanished... until Blackest Night
in 2009, where the dead members of the DC Universe came back as zombies. Even some of the formerly-dead characters, like Superman and Green Arrow became zombies (under the name "Black Lanterns"). And that was that... oh, although we should probably mention Marvel's Chaos War
in 2010, where dead heroes and villains were brought back to life, all at once. So it started with everyone as zombies, then just the dead people, then dead people but not zombies. Oy.
7) Man-Bat and The Lizard
When a scientist in a comic book has a debilitating problem, such as deafness or a missing arm, he goes ahead and starts experimenting on animals to try and find a cure. It's just what you do. Kirk Langstrom made a serum from bats to cure his deafness and became a giant bat, struggling to retain his humanity. Curt Connors made a serum from lizards to grow back his missing arm and became a giant lizard, struggling to retain his humanity. Different animals, yes, but essentially the same origin story.
6) Green Arrow and Hawkeye
There's a reason I chose these two and not any other of the dozen or so bowmen that each company has going at any given time: back from the dead. Sure, heroes come back from the dead all the time, but Green Arrow and Hawkeye were both heroes that stayed dead for a while -- and when they came back, it was a big deal. There's the whole archery aspect of it too, plus the relationships with...
5) Black Canary and Mockingbird
Other than the sonic scream, these two are so similar that I'd swear they were the same person just changing masks. Strategy-minded martial artist blondes with bird names who are in unstable relationships with archers. They're heroes who actually put on less clothes when they want to be incognito (they both even sported big ol' pirate cuffs on their boots for a while). Additionally, they both have seedy side projects - Black Canary is on Birds of Prey as well as the Justice League, and Mockingbird has her own counter-terrorism agency with Hawkeye and Dominic Fortune when she's not helping the Avengers.
4) Darkseid and Thanos
There are very few villains in comics where as soon as they show up you just say, "Oh shit, this story means something." Joker used to be like that, and I'd make the case that Apocalypse doesn't just show up to trade punches for one issue. Darkseid and Thanos are definitely in that class of villain, but I see them as really, really similar. Similar strengths, similar goals, similar in the fact that they're each company's #1 space tyrant, created by Jack Kirby in 1970 and Jim Starlin in 1973, respectively. Thanos tried creating his own race of gods in Celestial Quest, Darkseid has his own race of gods on Apokolips. Thanos quests to get the Infinity Gauntlet, Darkseid quests for the Anti-Life Equation. And they're both big-boned dudes with weird faces. Just sayin'.
3) Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts
The Suicide Squad and the Thunderbolts were both very original ideas. Suicide Squad was a group of supervillains who were offered reduced prison sentences if they agreed to go on covert missions while being tagged with explosives in case they got out of hand. The Thunderbolts was originally a team of supervillains in different costumes doing superhero-y things as part of a nefarious plot. Then some switch was flicked and the Thunderbolts more or less became the Suicide Squad. The class of villains got better, but instead of enjoying being heroes, this new team with Penance, Swordsman, and Bullseye were all prisoners fitted with explosive nanites. Just crossover already and get it out of the way.
2) Millennium and Secret Invasion
I, for one, thought that Marvel's 2008 Secret Invasion
plot was a neat, neat idea. Characters that you've been reading about for months (years?) are revealed to be Skrull secret agents in disguise. Elektra, Hank Pym, Black Bolt, and the Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis were all secret Skrulls, designed to infiltrate. We were on the edges of our seats... just like we were in 1988 during the Millennium crossover when the robot Manhunters infiltrated the DC Universe and posed as Commissioner Gordon, Rocket Red, Wally West's father, and Laurel Kent, member of the Legion.
1) Red Tornado and The Vision
Automatons! Bald automatons! Bald automatons with powers! Bald automatons with powers who marry human women! Bald automatons with powers who marry human women and are in charge of supervising the younger versions of the big name super teams (Young Avengers and Young Justice)! Bald automatons with powers who marry human women and are in charge of
supervising the younger versions of the big name super teams who were both created in 1968! They both also fly and have capes. I saved those last two for the end because they're the weakest points, but I still think the big similarities are there.