Even if you’re deprived of superpower, you can join the pantheon of superheroes. Creators of iconic comics need a source of inspiration just like any artist or writer.
So many superheroes have real-life prototypes. It doesn’t mean they wore these leotards and rescued cats out of trees in parallel with saving the world. The prototypes were more mundane, of course, but still influential and enigmatic. It proves that anyone can do something outstanding and become a member of the superhero team.
10 Superheroes and Supervillains Surprisingly Based on Real People
1) Darkseid – Adolf Hitler
Just let me describe Darkseid. He’s a violent self-centered tyrant, suffering from progressive delusions of grandeur. Almost forgot, he is sure he can conquer the world. Sounds familiar? Yes, in 1970 Jack Kirby worked up his supervillain from the insane Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. No physical resemblance, just sick ambitions and relentless hate.
2) John Constantine – Sting
The movie was brilliant and Keanu Reeves’ character was stunning. But such a great performance had the downside because people got used to the dark-haired occult detective, and the initial image of the blond chain-smoker has been fading slowly but steadily away.
New generation of comic addicts would be shocked to find out that the creators of JC were devoted fans of Sting, the Englishman in New York, and simply copy-pasted his image while working on their controversial superhero.
3) Lucifer Morningstar – David Bowie
Music legend transformed into a sophisticated villain seems to be a faultless formula of the comic authors. At this time they wanted to create a Lucifer of a new type instead of the previous stereotypical winged monsters. Probably in the late 80s it was pretty clear who should stylish and mysterious bad boy be like, because the resemblance is photographic.
4) Professor X – Malcolm X
Professor Xavier was made to fight for the rights of the oppressed minorities, so did Malcolm X. It’s believed Magneto was based on another champion of liberty Martin Luther King, Jr, but there is no verified information in this case.
The appearance of Professor X was modeled after actor of Russian descent Yul Brynner. Maybe the creators thought white superhero would be better in the context of marketing.
5) Joker – Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt was a German silent movie actor, who played his life-changing role in a 1928 film “The Man Who Laughs.” The artists Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson didn’t fully rob Veidt, taking just his constant grin, which was combined with the evil clown they created before. Robinson was just 17 at that time (not bad to sketch one of the most iconic comic characters in history).
It feels like everyone who played Joker, from Jack Nicholson to Jared Leto, tried to copy Veidt’s “triangle” smile.
6) Harley Quinn – Arleen Sorkin
Harley Quinn was intended to be a Joker’s henchmen, so producer Paul Dini was thinking of a mad clown and when he watched the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” with Arleen Sorkin playing a jester everything clicked into place.
7) Iron Man – Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes was restored as a role model for playboys and fearless entrepreneurs by Martin Scorsese in 2004. So he can be counted as a separate fictional character today, but there’s no escaping the fact that he was the prototype of Iron Man (or rather Tony Stark) in the early 60s.
That was the time when mankind went crazy about cosmic exploration, and an ingenious and charming engineer gained popularity at the speed of light.
8) Batman – Robert the Bruce and “Mad” Anthony Wayne
Here’s how Bruce Wayne got his first and last name. Both his prototypes were war heroes. Scottish king Robert the Bruce fought for independence from England during the 14th century. American Revolutionary War general “Mad” Anthony Wayne developed the reputation as a “bold commander.”
The creator of Batman Bob Kane simply combined real-life heroes he deeply respected to smelt a fictional crusader.
9) Catwoman – Jean Harlow
Let’s be honest, no one cares about Catwoman’s battle against evil and other superhero stuff, especially after she was played by gorgeous Halle Berry. Yes, the movie is crap, but the same can’t be said about Halle’s latex costume.
Back on track, it was very far-sighted of Bill Finger and Bob Kane to draw Catwoman’s sex appeal from the tempting movie star from the 1930s.
10) Rocket Raccoon – Oreo the Raccoon
That’s right. This brutal cutie voiced by Bradley Cooper had a real-life prototype too. Director of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” James Gunn needed a real animal to model the raccoon, and 5-year-old Oreo was chosen.
The production team loved him so much that he was spotted on the red carpet at London premiere of the Guardians of the Galaxy. What a fantastic career!