5 Crazy Secret Stories About Your Favorite Superheroes

Superheroes have become so big that there are tribes in the Amazon untouched by civilization who know what metal Captain America’s shield is made out of. With such distinctive looks, personalities, and powers, it’s easy to assume that the comic writers of yesteryear spent countless hours perfecting their creations. But the bizarre truth is that quite a few of our most beloved superhero icons exist for the most random and ridiculous reasons. For example …

5

The Hulk Was Originally A Gray Werewolf

Let’s face it, the Hulk isn’t exactly a complicated character to make. Take a little smart guy, occasionally turn him into a big dumb guy, and paint him green so that the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson doesn’t sue your ass off.

But even with the basic idea of the Hulk being a copy of a copy so faded that you can’t read the copyright anymore, he didn’t come out of the womb fully Hulked out. When he first lumbered onto the comic book scene, the Hulk was a drab, battleship-esque gray, and didn’t become the mascot for a fluorescent paint factory until the second issue.

Marvel Comics

Why was the Hulk first going to like an angry block of cement? There’s a variety of explanations. If you ask Stan Lee, it’s because he thought the gray would look better than it did, so he switched the color out for the much more appealing snot green of later issues. If you ask others, it’s because Marvel couldn’t produce a consistent gray tone issue to issue, due to either their shitty printers or shitty paper quality. Of all the colors to not get right, it’s pretty ironic that the Silver Age of comics couldn’t nail light gray.

And it wasn’t just the color of his body that the creators couldn’t keep consistent; it was the same with the nature of how the Hulk transformed. They eventually settled on “the rage of a dad when he sees someone has messed with the thermostat” as the Hulk’s trigger. In his earliest iteration, however, he transformed whenever the sun went down, like he was some sort of weird lycanthrope with alopecia and a green rash.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

Marvel ComicsHe loses an hour during Daylight Smashing Time.

This was eventually retconned and replaced with the explanation that in order to transform, Banner/Hulk had to stand in front of a gamma ray machine and politely ask someone to blast him into/from hulkdom.

Marvel Comics

Somewhat dumb, considering that his whole schtick is that he’s a mindless monster who can’t not flatten his teammates, never mind stand willingly in front of that gizmo. Though it did give us the gift of one comic wherein the ray slightly malfunctions, causing the Hulk to run around with Banner’s head on his green bod.

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Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

Marvel ComicsInfinity War spoilers.

4

Harley Quinn Was Based On A Soap Opera Character

Harley Quinn is — recent off-brand Suicide Girls makeover aside — one of the best modern additions to the Batman canon, alongside his “no killing” rule and the revelation that Gotham sits on top of the dinosaur dimension. Quinn both added much-needed levity to the story and was developed as a deeply complex character that said a lot about psychological trauma. Impressive stuff, especially considering how she was largely inspired by a soap opera that most people know because it got made fun of on Friends.

Whilst drafting episodes of the yet-unaired Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini struggled to create a female henchwoman for a Joker-centric episode. He wound up getting sick and decided to take some time out and watch a tape that his old college friend, actress Arleen Sorkin, had sent him, featuring all of her best performances on Days Of Our Lives. This included a clip in which she dressed up as a clown, because soap operas are basically the Rule 34 of TV shows.

Realizing what he had seen wasn’t some mad fever dream, Dini was inspired to use Sorkin’s performance as inspiration to sketch out a female clown whom he called Harley Quinn.

Warner Bros. Animation… Which thankfully went through some revisions.

Of course, when they were looking for someone to voice her, Dini immediately thought of his friend with the actual psychotic clown experience. And when Sorkin went into the voice booth, she decided to talk in her own nasal Brooklyn accent, creating the cute killer we’re all weirdly terrified of to this day.

3

Deadpool Is A Straight Up Ripoff Of Deathstroke

Deadpool is like pineapple on pizza — you either love him or you’d like to shoot his sweet-and-sour ass into the sun. But there’s something about Marvel’s merc-with-a-mouth schtick that has made him quite popular. A lot more popular than the DC villain he’s a copy of, at least.

That’s right, Deadpool is a shameless duplicate of another sword-wielding assassin: Deathstroke. They didn’t even bother to make his name sound all that different. We’ve talked before about how Marvel likes to steal shit from DC, but the similarities between Deathstroke and Deadpool border on absurdist. Try to guess which side of the comic book border we’re talking about: an assassin who dresses in two-tone, loves swords and murder, and was subjected to medical experiments that left him with super strength, super reflexes, and the super ability to heal super-boo-boos. The answer is C. All of the above.

DC Comics, Marvel Comics“Oh, that reminds me, I should rip off The Terminator too.”

In 1984, following some scant appearances, Deathstroke featured as the main antagonist for the Teen Titans (a superhero team itself inspired by the X-Men, because plagiarism always comes full circle in this business). Fans fell completely in love with Deathstroke … including one up and coming artist named Robert Liefeld. So when the time came for Liefeld to introduce a character to New Mutants, he chose to emulate his favoritest hero in every way. Which is a nice way of saying that he slightly redrew Deathstroke and then had a five-hour lunch break.

There are some differences. Deadpool likes poop jokes, Deathstroke is gruff and makes #importantdecisions. End of list. Seriously, Liefeld put so little effort into his new creation he even named Deadpool “Wade Wilson,” while Deathstroke’s real identity is Slade … Wilson. You might be disappointed, but that’s how low the bar is set in the comic industry that DC wasn’t being able to sue Marvel over copyright infringement and create an Infinite Money Crisis.

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2

Iron Man Was Intentionally Created To Be Hated

When creating a new character, it’s important to make them A) cool enough that kids want to buy the action figure and B) likable enough that the kids aren’t buying them to set on fire. If they’re complex and interesting and relatable? Congratulations! You made Captain America. If they’re complex and interesting and an insufferable dick, you might hope they’re hiring at the local copy place. Except if you’re Stan Lee, who made one of his most iconic super-assholes solely to piss people off.

Marvel Comics“Henchman! I desire to speak with your manager.”

When Nick Fury calls Iron Man compulsive, narcissistic, and self-destructive, that was precisely the point. Lee wanted to create a hero who was totally unlikable. That’s why Tony Stark was conceived as a rich weapons manufacturer at a time when the military-industrial complex was about as popular as Richard Nixon stabbing a puppy.

Of course, making an asshole hero who eventually becomes a villain was never the point. Lee wanted to challenge himself to make comic book readers like one of his creations instead of, you know, trying hard to make a fully formed well-liked superhero. Of course, it turned out that boys found it quite easy to like the funny millionaire with all the coolest gadgets who gets to be best friends with every important person on the planet. Who knew teenage wish fulfillment could be so opportunistic? If you really want to screw up a superhero, you’re going to have to do something a lot dumber than that. Like, say, turning Captain America into a Nazi.

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Marvel Comics*sigh*

1

Stan Lee Couldn’t Remember His Own Superheroes’ Names

You probably know that the names of a lot of Marvel characters are alliterative, but if you think that was a genius artistic choice, you’d be wrong. That’s how Stan Lee used to keep track of their names, figuring that if he knew their first name, he had a good chance of remembering the second. Hence Sue Storm, Stephen Strange, Matthew Murdock, Otto Octavius, Silver Surfer, Peter Palmer … wait, what?

Marvel Comics“I gotta get photos to sell to The Doily Burgle so I can help Aunt Mei!”

There goes Pete Palmer, wearing his Spider-Male suit. This blatant mistake appeared in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man not once but twice. A lazy mistake, sure, but it’s not like Lee didn’t learn his lesson and ever forget Parker’s name again. He only forgot his freaking superhero name, aka the one on the cover of every comic.

Marvel Comics“Trademark suit sense tingling!”

At least Lee got 25 issues into The Incredible Hulk before he got bored and started calling the Hulk’s alter ego Bob Banner.

Marvel Comics“Please, Mr. Banner is my father. Call me … literally anything.”

Yeah, for a guy who created an entire comic book naming tradition to help him remember things, Lee forgot the names of his own precious creations embarrassingly often. But instead of backpedaling and admitting that he made a mistake, he decided to steer into the skid, claiming that “Bob Banner” is his real name, that Bruce is his middle name and he prefers to go by that. It’s a weird hill to die on. We might accept a psychotic scientist turning into a raging green abomination at the drop of a hat, but anyone thinking that Bob is a cooler name than Bruce? That’s not very realistic, Stan.

Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter about depressing history which you should definitely subscribe to.

Don’t be like Stan Lee. Use Post-It notes or something and keep track of stuff.

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