Gone are the days when our homes would have a stack of colorful comics that were a treat to read. The adventures of Archie and the philosophical discussions of Calvin and Hobbes were unputdownable. DC and Marvel comics created characters that became so popular that we now see them on screens, alive and talking. Did you know that there is a character named “Axel Asher” (Access) jointly owned by Marvel and DC, whose job is to keep the Marvel and DC universes separate? The world of comics is enthralling. Read on to know some interesting facts about famous comic book characters that you will love to share with your friends.
1. Iron Man was created as a challenge by Stan Lee. He gave himself a dare to create a hero that nobody would like and then force people to like him.
One of the most popular comic book characters of Marvel, Iron Man, was co-created by writer and editor Stan Lee for whom the character was a way to explore Cold War themes and American technology’s contribution in the fight against communism. Iron Man first appeared in an issue of May 1963 titled Tales of Suspense #39. When Lee created the character, it was a dare he gave to himself. He wanted to create a “quintessential capitalist” that went against the spirit of Marvel’s readers. He created a character people would dislike and then made them like him. In his words, the plan was,
“I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military…So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist…I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him…And he became very popular.”
Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, went on to be ranked 12th on IGN’s “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes” in 2011 and third in their list of “The Top 50 Avengers” in 2012.
“Is it better to be feared or respected? And I say, is it too much to ask for both?” – Iron Man. (source)
2. The Hulk was originally supposed to be grey, not green, but was portrayed so because of a printing malfunction. His character was inspired after the creator saw a woman lifting a car to free her child who was trapped underneath.
Dr. Bruce Banner and his alter ego, the Hulk, are two sides of a coin. The green Hulk, who turns into a huge monster-like humanoid, was never intended to be of that color. He first appeared in May 1962’s issue of Marvel comics titled The Incredible Hulk #1. He was originally supposed to be grey because the creators did not want the Hulk to be associated with any ethnic group. The character was inspired by Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But things went wrong when the comics went in print.
Colorist Stan Goldberg had problems with the color of the Hulk, appearing to be different shades of grey and green in the same issue. That is when it was decided that the Hulk will remain green in color for the rest of the issues. It is only in some reprints and really old issues of Marvel comics that the Hulk’s skin is grey. Jack Kirby derived inspiration for the character from the “Golem” of Jewish mythology and from a tale of a mother who rescued her kid from underneath a car.
“Always somebody yelling. You want the ship? It’s yours. But the Hulk doesn’t kneel!” – Hulk. (source)
3. Clark Kent, who is actually Superman in DC comics, is a not-so-famous character in Marvel comics too. The Kent in Marvel is a reporter without an alias and nothing more. The writers included him as a “joke.”
Clark Kent, who has an alias of Superman in DC comics, is so famous that every kid in the last few decades would know him and would also imitate his style of wearing a red cape for fun. In DC Comics, Clark Kent is a reporter who works at The Daily Planet, the city of Metropolis’ news organization. He turns into Superman whenever the people need him. In Marvel, Clark Kent is just another reporter who works for a “great Metropolitan newspaper” and has a penchant for covering superheroes.
This started as a spoof in 1976. The character continued to appear without much emphasis put on Kent in Marvel comics because the writers thought it was funny and acted as a “sight gag” and a “spitball” at DC. They kept the details subtle enough to avoid any legal trouble about copyright infringement. DC never filed a suit against Marvel for this.
“The amazing can only be created by facing fear, risk, and failure during the process.” – Superman. (source)
4. The famous villain “Venom” from Spider-Man was originally supposed to be a pregnant woman about to give birth who then bonds with an alien symbiote.
Spider-Man’s nemesis, Venom, is a simple but cool villain. He is often called the “Spider-Man’s opposite.” When you think of it like that, Venom could have been a woman. David Michelinie, one of the creators of Venom, wanted him to be a woman originally. The character was to be a heavily pregnant woman who loses her husband after a taxi driver, distracted by Spider-Man, hits him on the road. This incident was to cause the woman to go into labor on the road, losing the baby, her husband, and her sanity altogether.
This proto-female Venom was to get out of the hospital and bond with an alien symbiote which would then become the source of her power. She would become a powerful villainess who could attack Spider-Man from the shadows without triggering his spider-sense. But Marvel editor Jim Salicrup thought that a woman would not be a believable threat to a teen with superpowers and scrapped the idea.
“What’s the matter, bro? Spider-sense didn’t tingle?” – Venom. (source)
5. Batman actually pays Superman’s salary. Bruce Wayne, alias “Batman” is a part owner of The Daily Planet where Clark Kent, alias “Superman,” works.
Clark Kent, aka “Superman,” is a reporter who works for The Daily Planet, a fictional broadsheet newspaper that appeared in DC Comics. First owned by the bald villain Lex Luthor, the ownership of the newspaper was then transferred to the editor-in-chief, Perry White after Luthor sold it to him for one dollar thanks to a bold endeavor by Lois Lane. Then, the ownership fell into the hands of Bruce Wayne and in Batman: Hush, it was named as a subsidiary of Wayne Entertainment, a part of Wayne Enterprises. Wayne continues to own The Daily Planet. We all know who Bruce Wayne also is—Batman.
“Sometimes, it’s only madness that makes us what we are.” – Batman. (source)
6. Calvin and Hobbes were side characters in a comic strip known as In The Doghouse before they got their own strip. The syndicate that suggested it rejected the new strip stating that it lacked marketing potential.
Bill Watterson, famous for refusing to sell Calvin and Hobbes even to Steven Speilberg and George Lucas, conceived the comic strip when he was working in an advertising job he disliked. He devoted his free time to create a comic for potential syndication. Out of the several comic strips he created, United Feature Syndicate responded positively to one of those titled In The Doghouse. In this strip, the main character’s little brother had a stuffed tiger. The syndicate asked Watterson to develop the tiger and the young boy as main characters which then became the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Interestingly, the United Feature Syndicate rejected Watterson’s strip giving the reason that it lacked marketing potential. Another syndicate, Universal Press Syndicate took it up. The first Calvin and Hobbes comic was published in November 1985. Within only a year, the strip was a hit and was being run in 250 newspapers simultaneously.
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.” – Calvin. (source)
7. Before the Joker terrorized Gotham City, he worked as a laboratory worker. He quit his job to support his pregnant wife and became a stand-up comedian.
First appearing in the comic book Batman #1 published on April 25, 1940, The Joker is the most famous villain. The archenemy of Batman with no superhuman abilities, the Joker was supposed to die during his initial appearance but was saved. He was introduced as a psychopath with a sadistic sense of humor who becomes a prankster in the late 1950s and a crazy villain in the 1970s. All of his origin stories state that he fell into a tank of chemical waste turning his hair green and skin white which then drove him nuts. The story of how that happened, though, varies. The Joker is known to be a criminal going by the name of “Red Hood” who fell into the tank of chemical waste during his final heist. Several stories have been used to explain how the Joker became what he is today.
Another story and the most-narrated one was published in Batman: The Killing Joke in 1988 where he is portrayed as a failed, stand-up comedian who resorts to committing crimes to support his pregnant wife as the criminal known as “Red Hood.” Batman interferes in one of his heists which leads to him jumping in a chemical vat. Later on, his pregnant wife dies accidentally driving him insane. In February 1951, another layer was added to his past through Detective Comics #168. It reveals that before the Joker became Red Hood, he was a laboratory worker. He aimed to steal a million dollars from his employer by becoming the criminal Red Hood and retire, but that does not happen. It’s how he says it,
“Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another … if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” – Joker. (source)
8. When Deadpool was first introduced, he was a supervillain. He is named after a betting pool run by a group of failed government subjects.
When Deadpool made his first appearance in New Mutants #98, he was portrayed as a supervillain. This “Merc with a Mouth” later evolved into a character that continued to have an antiheroic persona but was relatable, funny, and often “broke the fourth wall.” When creator Robert Liefeld showed his new character inspired from Teen Titans, Fabian Nicieza said he was “Deathstroke,” a supervillain character from Teen Titans. As an inside joke, they gave the name of “Wade Wilson” to Deadpool’s alter-ego because Deathstroke’s alias was named “Slade Wilson.”
How the name “Deadpool” came about has yet another interesting story. When Wade Wilson was diagnosed with cancer, he volunteered to let a government research lab experiment on him. This was a part of Weapon X’s mutant weaponization project. During his painful testing, he gained super-healing powers but also lost his mental stability and was scarred all over his body. As he was the subject of a sadistic Dr. Killbrew and his assistant Ajax, the chances of his survival were dim. A group of failed government subjects began a betting pool called the “Deadpool” where they bet on who would be the last to die at the hands of the researchers. When Wilson escaped, he took on the name “Deadpool” and vowed to take revenge. That’s how he came to be known as “Deadpool.”
9. Wolverine’s signature blue and yellow mask was created by accident. When he first appeared in the comics, he had stubby ears and peculiar whiskers.
With superhuman abilities and a fierce animal-sense, the X-man “Wolverine” first appeared in a teaser panel of The Incredible Hulk #180, and his first major appearance was in The Incredible Hulk #181. He is an agent of the Canadian government. What is unique about this Marvel character is that his costumes have changed a number of times. When he first appeared, it was in a backdrop of the Canadian wilderness and he had short, black ears and whiskers that came out of his nose. Although the yellow and blue costume with black tiger stripes has been the basis of all his looks, his first look had a mask that did not balance out the rest of the outfit.
In his next appearance in Giant Size X-Men #1, he looked different. Artist Gil Kane accidentally drew his mask unlike how it looked originally. She drew larger headpieces. Dave Cockrum, the writer of the comic, liked this alteration and incorporated it into his own story. Cockrum once depicted Wolverine without a mask and drew criticism from the readers.
10. Harley Quinn has a degree in psychology from Gotham State University because she won a gymnastics scholarship and romanced her way through her professors. She once reformed and worked at a women’s shelter.
Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel is another famous DC character. An accomplice and an off-again, on-again lover of the Joker, Harley Quinn met him while she was working as a psychiatrist at Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum and he was her patient. Now an ex-supervillain and anti-hero, Quinn is a “Gotham City Siren” along with Poison Ivy and Cat Woman. Her first comic appearance was in The Batman Adventures #12 in September 1993.
Harley is known to have pursued psychology to understand her dysfunctional family. She won a gymnastics scholarship and got into Gotham State University. She got her degree in psychology by romancing her way through the professors. She planned to become a pop psychologist, but that did not happen after she met The Joker during her internship at Arkham Asylum and fell in love with him. Her origin story is revealed in Back Issue #99.
“You think I’m just a doll. A doll that’s pink and light. A doll you can arrange any way you like. You’re wrong. Very wrong.” – Harley Quinn. (source)