By Yung ANcient One 32 Comments
I remember a rip-off being a word said whenever someone felt they were being sold an overpriced item or service. I then learned the word to be used for whenever “something […] is too much like something made by someone else” as Merriam-Webster states. I as a child used it all the time. The Street Sharks are a rip-off of the TMNT. “The Battle Toads are a rip-off of the TMNT too,” I would say. The thing is being a “ripoff” today is often viewed as a negative and shunned upon especially in the comicbook community and/or geek/nerd community. My problem with the ideology is that there are inconsistencies.
I find myself asking, what exactly is a rip-off? How much similarity does something have to have to be a rip-off and not something that is inspired by something else? Why is there a general consensus that Aquaman is not a rip-off of Namor but Moon Knight is a rip-off of Batman? Who is the rip-off Swamp-Thing or Man-Thing?
Does a fictional character automatically become a rip-off if she/he has the same powers as previous created character had? Are the Doom Patrol a rip-off of the Fantastic Four? The general consensus is that the X-Men are a rip-off of the Doom Patrol but now I’m not so sure.
Today I saw an obvious DC fangirl troll online. Now I say this user was an obvious fanboy because this user was posting comments on Marvel Comic Con videos. I am not a fan of Swamp-Thing so you will not find me on Swamp-Thing videos/articles/et cetera unless it is connected to something else like it’s a Constantine video/article/whatever that happens to include Swamp-Thing.
Regardless of that, this user was bugging other users by constantly saying Thanos is a rip-off of Darkseid therefore making Marvel an inferior brand. I have heard that Thanos is a rip-off before and have accepted it but one user defended Thanos by claiming Thanos has a completely different story and set of goals. The DC Fangirl replied that Marvel has admitted that Thanos was inspired by Darkseid. The banter got me thinking, what is the difference between inspired and a rip-off? Therefore, we will now look at how art imitates art and try to discover the exact difference of rip-off and inspired.
Let’s start off with the rip-off… of a rip-off? What?
In a world where humans hate and fear “mutants,” there is a team of heroes lead by a brilliant man in a wheelchair who believes that with their powers they can protect the world and teach them they have nothing to fear. They hope that the world will stop hating them but they deal with the issue of another group of mutants who cause chaos and destruction. Their name is The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants.
However, there is another team called Doom Patrol who are also lead by a paraplegic (in a wheelchair) scientist (brilliant mind) who also beliefs that if they protect the world, which hates and fears them, they will be accepted by their heroic actions. They happen to fight a malicious team of villains who call themselves the Brotherhood of Evil (mutants?). It was clear there are a lot of similarities.
I wasn’t familiar with Doom Patrol so I was surprised to find out how users claimed the X-Men are a rip-off of Doom Patrol. When I first saw the patrollers of doom on the Teen Titan show, I initially thought they were very similar to the Fantastic Four. In the cartoon Robotman looked like a robot Thing, an orange powerhouse who can in absolutely no way even pass for human, and all he wants is to be human.
Plus, like the Fantastic Four, the Doom Patrol’s leader is a brilliant scientist, like Mr. Fantastic, who stretches, changes size, just like Elastigirl. Doom Patrol also have a flying character, the Negative Man. Like, Human Torch when his powers are in effect, visually, he's a pure manifestation of his power; Negative Man is pure energy, and Torch looks like pure fire. The Fantastic Four and the Doom Patrol were both accidentally turned into super powered beings unwillingly.
There are some similarities for sure but there are also some differences. Negative Man isn’t a showoff like Johnny Storm is. The Chief isn’t one for fighting while Reed Richards is willing to get into combat from time to time. Robotman is an unlikeable guy while The Thing is ever loving. Plus, besides being similar stories the X-Men have no characters who have similar powers to the patrollers of doom. The villains of the Brotherhood of Evil have no powers similar to any of the mutants on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The strangest thing of it all is that the first appearance of the X-Men was in The X-Men #1 which came out in September 10, 1963 while the first appearance of Doom Patrol was in My Greatest Adventure #80 which came out in June 1963. Three month difference. The Fantastic Four’s first appearance was in The Fantastic Four #1 which came out in November 1961.Two years before Doom Patrol.
Am I to believe that Marvel “ripped off” Doom Patrol because it came out 3 months before the X-Men but DC’s Doom Patrol may have been “inspired” by the Fantastic Four which came out 2 years before? What is this? A rip-off or not?
What makes something a rip-off? Is it the powers or the storyline?
I have seen a user claim Ultron is a rip-off of Brainiac. Really? A Robot who believes humans should be eradicated and replaced by pure machines is a “rip-off” of an extraterrestrial (sometimes also an android) who seeks the superiority that comes from knowledge. Yes, both are similar because both want to exterminate countless life forms. But, does those few similarities make one a rip-off out of the other one instead of being a possible inspired creation? Brainiac at first was just an extraterrestrial. He later was changed to be an android.
There stories are vastly different from one another and their powers are not exactly the same. Brainiac’s first appearance was almost a decade before Ultron. So, does being “first” make the other similar character a rip-off?
If yes, then what about Aquaman?
Aquaman debuted in More Fun Comics #73 which was around November 1941. A character with a similar story and similar powers, Namor, first appearance during October 1939 in Marvel Comics #1. Two years before Aquaman ever came out but Aquaman is [NOT] a rip-off of Namor.
Why not? He has similar powers: Aquatic adaptation. A water adapted physiology grants him superhuman strength, endurance, durability, reflexes, agility, dexterity, healing, and senses. Enhanced swimming speed. Only difference is Namor can fly while Aquaman can’t. Arthur instead has marine telepathy that grants him the ability to manipulate sea life. They also have a similar story. Their story is so similar one could easily confuse one with the other.
Why isn’t Aquaman viewed as a rip-off? Why do users defend Aquaman so passionately about how different his personality is to Namor? Why isn’t Thanos defended the same way as Aquaman is?
Thanos does atrocities around the galaxy because he wants to court Death. He is in love with Death. Everything he does is to gain Death’s love. Darkseid wants to eliminate all free will from the universe and reshape it into his own image. He is creating havoc, despair, and genocide to find the Anti-Life Equation, which gives its user complete control over the thoughts and emotions of all living beings in the universe. He is not looking for love like Thanos. They are just as different as Namor is to Aquaman.
(I would have typed more like how Deadpool is a parody and not a ripoff but I fear it may be already too long)
After all of this, I ask you,what is the difference between a character being inspired by another character and a character being a rip-off of another character? What exactly makes a character a rip-off? Is it the powers? Is it the narrative?
What is it? What is this? A rip-off?
Thank you for reading. I truly appreciate it. All comments are welcomed. (+)