Way back in September of 2011 I published a badass TR list about weird (and perhaps intentional) analogues in the DC and Marvel universes. You know — Red Tornado and Vision, Millennium and Secret Invasion, Black Canary and Mockingbird, those sorts of things. And that list was awesome.
But it was hardly complete. Marvel and DC have a whole horde of character analogues (and in a few instance, location analogues) that prove that great minds either think alike… or that great minds look at what the competition’s doing and then do the same thing but change the name. Now, these analogues aren’t as time-sensitive as most of the pairs on the previous list; meaning one company didn’t hear about the other premiering something and rush to create a counterpart. Instead, these are 18 characters (and two places) introduced at various times in both companies’ histories that just so happen to fill very similar roles in the Marvel and DC universes.
10) Squadron Supreme and The Extremists
I wanted to include these guys first on the list because these guys were intentionally created to be Marvel versions of DC characters and vice versa. They stand in for each other when the parent companies don’t feel like doing a crossover, which is almost always. And since both Marvel and DC are doing it, no one makes too many grumbly noises. Squadron Supreme (on the left) has popped up in Avengers, Defenders, Quasar, and Marvel Zombies, and includes analogues of Superman (Hyperion), Batman (Nighthawk), Wonder Woman (Power Princess), Green Lantern (Doctor Spectrum), the Martian Manhunter (the Skrullian Skymaster), the Flash (Whizzer), and Aquaman (Amphibian). The Extremists (X-tremists — get it? sigh) haven’t shown up in the New 52 yet, but consisted of Lord Havok (Doctor Doom), Gorgon (Doctor Octopus), Tracer (Sabretooth), Dreamslayer (Dormammu), Carny (Arcade), and Doctor Diehard (Magneto).
9) Flashpoint and House of M
Arguably, two of biggest events to hit the Marvel and DC Universes in the last seven years have been House of M and Flashpoint, respectively. In 2005’s House of M the world was re-created by one ultra-powerful person (Scarlet Witch) to right a family wrong (her dead kids). The aristocrats have taken over (Magneto), but a large resistance movement exists (led by Luke Cage, a Marvel character with no fixed costume), and the conclusion leaves the Marvel Universe with a new status quo (no more mutants). 2011’s Flashpoint fromt DC follows the same path: The world is recreated by one ultra-powerful person (Flash) to right a family wrong (his dead mum). The aristocrats have taken over (Aquaman and Wonder Woman), but a large resistance movement exists (led by Lois Lane, a DC character with no fixed costume), and the conclusion leaves the DC Universe with a new status quo (the New 52).
8) The Punisher and Wild Dog
After my previous list, someone mentioned the similarities between The Punisher and DC’s Vigilante, but I think the links between The Punisher and the forgettable Wild Dog (although he did show up in Booster Gold) are stronger. Both are non-powered, gun-based vigilantes with iconic, but simple shirts; the Punisher has a shirt with a skull, Wild Dog has a shirt with a dog. Both are ex-Marines, the survivors of disasters that wiped out most of their friends. Both had their loved ones killed by the mob, which triggered them to start mowing down thugs and taking no prisoners. But the Punisher was created in 1974, while Wild Dog premiered in 197, when the Punisher was really popular. Go figure.
7) The Savage Land and Dinosaur Island
Problem 1: Dinosaurs are extinct. Problem 2: We really want to have our comic book heroes interact with dinosaurs. For both DC and Marvel, the solution was the sam — just make a place where dinosaurs didn’t die. Other alternatives could have been examined, and neither company is adverse to time travel, but no, both DC and Marvel have a special jungle place where you can go and fight dinosaurs. DC created Dinosaur Island in 1960, four years before Marvel introduced the Savage Land, but it’s possible both companies genuinely needed a place for superheroes to fight dinosaurs.
6) Nova and Green Lantern
Lets say you have two regular Joe guys and you want to make them heroes. Oh, and lets say that you’re an intergalactic military-style peacekeeping force, or “corps” that wields energy weapons that come from a single power source on a single home planet. Still with me? And once you give those regular Earth Joes the powers of flight, invulnerability, and energy channeling, in each case by a dying member of the corps, they go off and become the most famous of their respective groups. Oh, and both groups boast living planets in their memberships. Now, which one is which again? Nova was first introduced at Marvel in 1976, back when Green Lantern was doing pretty well for himself. Go figure.
5) Super Soldier Serum and Venom
What? Super steroids are common in both Marvel and DC? Of course! They both started out as ways to develop better good guys (Captain America and Hourman), but once the secret’s out everyone and their mama wants a taste. What gets in my head is that both of these are used pretty much as a chaser to every single poison/toxin/serum/potion/beverage in comics. Venom just showed up in Batman: The Dark Knight as a mixer with Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Tweak the super soldier serum and you get Sentry, Taskmaster, Man-Thing, and Union Jack. There’s no way DC intentionally created Venom as a rip-off of the Super Solider Serum, but they both end up fulfilling the same roles — a mysterious liquid that bestows powers that everybody wants.
4) Mr. Mxyzptlk and Impossible Man
Annoying is surprisingly easy to duplicate. Impossible Man is one of those “I can pretty much do anything I feel like” characters who bugs the hell out of the Fantastic Four — for no other reason than being bored. He lives on a planet of people just like himself and possesses no physical limitations. Now let’s look at Mr. Mxyzptlk: he’s an interdimensional imp from a dimension of beings like him, does whatever he wants because nothing can hurt him, and spends his time annoying Superman just because he can. And they both have an affinity for purplish boots and gloves. Of course, Mr. Mxyzptlk started buggin Superman in 1944, and Impossible Man didn’t start harassing the Fantastic Four until 1963.
3) Howard the Duck and Detective Chimp
Talking animals can be funny, but if you’re going to put them into your comic you should make them be serious some of the time. Both of these cigar-chompin’ anthropomorphs went from being jokey characters to hard-nosed badasses, hooking up with groups like Shadowpact and the Defenders. What’s interesting is that both of them have skills that preoccupy comic characters: crime-solving and kung-fu. Detective Chimp was the first character created back in 1952, but had spent more than a decade in total obscurity before Steve Gerber introduced Howard the Duck in 1973. But Howard’s run ended in 1979, and Detective Chimp only resurfaced in the DC universe during the ’80s.
2) John Constantine and Pete Wisdom
I think that the details are significantly different (one is a mutant, one is not), but both pictures are painted with the same broad strokes. Forget biography, as Wisdom is thoroughly entrenched in X-Men continuity and Constantine isn’t, but go broad. Who’s the British magician with a bad, devil-may-care attitude and an extremely disturbing relationship with the occult? When a DC writer needs a street-smart mage, he can turn to Hellblazer (well, he couldn’t before September of last year, thanks to the division of DC and Vertigo). When a Marvel writer wants the same effect, he reaches for Wisdom. DC called first dibs, though, as John Constantine first cameo’d in Alan Moore’s run on Swanp Thing, while Marvel didn’t summon Pete Wisdom until 1995 for Excalibur.
1) Man-Thing and Swamp Thing
This one almost doesn’t seem fair. Bloggers have written about the publishing history of both these swamp monsters, and the question of “Who Had the Idea First?” may never be satisfactorily answered (their first appearances were both in 1971, within two months of each other, and anyway similar swamp monsters had made appearances in both company’s comics decades before either). What gets to me is that later writers assigned added importance to both of them. While they both could live out their days as mopey denizens of the bayou, both have been elevated to god-like statuses in their respective universes. Swamp Thing has become the avatar of the Green, basically the king of all vegetation in the DC universe. Man-Thing is no slouch either: writers have transformed him into the “Nexus of All Realities,” making him the focal point of the Marvel universe. Not bad for a couple of walking houseplants.