Top 10 Superheroes Who DIDN’T Originate in Comics
Comic books and superheroes are intertwined. The medium popularised and evolved the genre and, for most of the age of fictional superheroes, been the only source for caped crusaders. These days it could be argued that cinema and television is doing just as much to keep the classic characters in the public consciousness as the ol’ paper and ink format.
Most of the heroes of the screen are the familiar comic book champions brought to live, but we should note the heroes who were original creations.
We kicked around Birdman and Condorman, but the former wasn’t really a character and the latter was lame. Instead we have Defendor, the alter-ego of Arthur Poppington (played by Woody Harrelson). Poppington is an intellectually limited man whose mother died of a drug overdose, and misinterpreted his grandfathers ramblings about her death being caused by ‘captains of industry’ as being the actions of a villain named ‘Captain Industry’. As an adult he took on the guise of Defendor, equipped with bats and marble laden slings, ready to take on petty criminals and corrupt cops. His lonely life in ultimately a tragic one, with Defendor becoming a symbol of good rather than becoming a real threat to evil.
9. Space Ghost
Although he is best known to modern viewers as the superhero host of talk show parody Space Ghost Coast to Coast, he did originally come to our screens as a genuine superhero. In fact, he’s remembered as one of the first characters to popularise superheroes on the screen. Space Ghost could fly, had super strength and shoot energy bolts, making him pretty generic in the powers department. Cool outfit though. Space Ghost would battle villains in space along with a team of teenaged sidekicks and a monkey.
8. The Toxic Avenger
Birthed out of the infamous Troma Studios, and initially conceived as a horror movie, The Toxic Avenger was billed as the ‘first superhero out of New Jersey’. Melvin Ferd III was a stereotypical nerd and victim of bullying, but when he fell into a tank of toxic waste he became hideously mutated. Also super strong and large. Armed with a mop he would take on bullys and criminals as a ‘monster hero’. Now considered a cult classic the character has spawned 3 sequels, a potential remake, a musical, a comic series and a children’s animated series with obligatory toy line. He’d kick Captain Planet’s butt.
7. Ben 10
You’d be pushed to find a kid from the past 20 years who isn’t familiar with this massive franchise. Created by the team at Man of Action Studios (our interview with Man of Action is right here) – later responsible for the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and character concepts for Big Hero 6 – Ben 10 proved to be a genuine phenomenon in children’s entertainment. Ben is a young boy who discovers an alien device called the Omnitrix, which when worn on his wrist allows him to take the form of different alien races. Ben would use these powers to defend the Earth and battle evil. He’s a good sort like that.
6. Crimson Bolt and Boltie
The stars of James Gunn’s (director of Guardians of the Galaxy) first superhero movie Super are pretty far from the archetype hero. Frank Darbo isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and his live has been miserable. Made all the worse when his wife relapses into drug addiction and leaves him for Jacque, a club owner. Darbo dons the identity of the Crimson Bolt and sets out to fight the good fight, and although he’s not physically strong or especially capable it’s amazing what can be achieved with a heavy wrench to the face. He teams up with a misguided young woman who declares herself his sidekick Boltie, and they go after Jacque with…mixed results. Shut Up, Crime!
5. Harley Quinn
This character would be much higher on this list if she wasn’t here on a loophole. Yes, Harley first appeared in an animated series based of the Batman comic series and 1989 movie, but she was an original character on that show. Paul Dini created Harley Quinn to break up the routine of the Joker having all-male henchmen, basing her on a character played by voice actor Arleen Sorkin on Days of Our Lives. Harley proved a hit and was introduced to the comics as a regular villain, earning her own title, appearing in many video games and other media including a big screen debut with Suicide Squad in 2016.
4. Burka Avenger
I didn’t know this character before I started researching this article, but after checking out a few episodes I knew she deserved a spot on the list. A young orphaned girl named Jiya in Pakistan is taken in by a kind family who teaches her martial arts and good values. As a young teacher she moonlights as the Burka Avenger, fighting criminals, injustice and ignorance whilst using a Burka to hide her identity. Jiya is a great character for kids, embodying strong ideals, and the animation style is fantastic. Check it out on youtube.
3. The Green Hornet and Kato
Beginning as a radio serial and later moving into television, The Green Hornet bears many similarities to the legendary Batman, but actually pre-dates him by three years. Green Hornet is the alias of wealthy newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who would moonlight as a vigilante. Driven in his tech’ed out car ‘Black Beauty’ by his sidekick Kato, Green Hornet would battle denizens of the criminal underworld, spies, aliens and more. Why Kato would bother with Green Hornet in itself a mystery, since he was played by a relatively unknown Bruce Lee he could handle things by himself.
This popular British series tells classic superhero stories centred on a group of brash, disenfranchised youths working community service as punishment for petty crimes who gain powers after being struck by lightning. Their powers range from psychic ability, time manipulation and invisibility through to sexual attraction. Although they do not have the usual superhero attitudes they do run through familiar superhero stories, adding dash of absurd comedy to the tropes. Heroes did a similar thing but relied heavily on stereotypes rather than taking an original angle.
1. The Incredibles
Some claim that the stars of this Pixar film was derivative of Fantastic Four, but using some pretty common power sets isn’t enough for us to call foul. What helped bring the Parr family to live on the big screen was some damn good writing. Once known as the world’s greatest hero, Mr. Incredible is now in hiding with his wife, the former Elasti-Girl, and their super powered children. When the chance to relive his glory days comes up, the stuck in a rut hero leaps at the chance, falling straight into a new villains trap. Brilliant animated and characters makes The Incredibles a modern tribute to classic comic heroes. If only we could get that sequel…