Name: Ed Gauthier
Location: California, United States

Welcome to the Toon Pro dot com.
My name is Gauthier. I'm a comics cop.
I bust the hustlers and rip-off bums, while defending the good guys.
Since I already have a couple of more traditional sites on which to toot my own horn
(Mr. Ed Weirdo and the Edmond Gauthier poetry archive),
this one is reserved for investigating everyone else's cartoon-related cases.
I doodle but I don't doddle. I engage in just the facts. The names have not been changed to protect the guilty.
They call me the Toon Pro!

Friday, May 1, 2009


What are the biggest rip-offs in comics history?

Well, many comics fans have their all-time favorites, and what follows is a Top 10, in no particular order. Hopefully some of them were also already on your list somewhere.

In the area of story themes and plot devices, many methods - and even some character types - have become generic over the centuries. But we're dealing here with something much more shoddy than that - wholesale stealing.

It is done by companies knowing they "can't get caught" for such dirty doings in a legal and financial sense, since they justify it by calling them "influences" or merely "borrowed elements." And so we see rich movie companies robbing poorer TV companies, rich comics companies robbing poorer (or out of business) pulp publishers, and even comics robbing from each other, etc., with almost complete impunity.

Sure, it might be a dog-eat-dog world in their money-grabbing minds, but these guys took it up to the wolf level! And so here we go, with a cavalcade of corrupt carnality...

* * *


Ah, for those good ol' days watching such goofy violent TV cartoons from Warner Brothers like Sylvester And Tweety.

Which is a rip-off of:


These popular 1940s MGM cartoon shorts (shown between standard live action films) were the venue for this classic cat versus mouse hunt. (Not to be confused with the somewhat similar - but not a rip-off - Herman And Catnip series.)

So they switched the little mouse from the 1940s short movie features for the little bird to make the 1960s TV cartoons, and also painted the cat black instead of gray. Big deal. That must have passed for originality back then.

True, one could say that The Lion King was merely Disney's take on Shakespeare's Hamlet. But the studio also even more massively ripped off a 1960s Japanese cartoon TV series in cobbling up said Lion King.

Which is a rip-off of:


Kimba, the small albino lion cub in the picture, is the creation of legendary Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka, creator of other famous characters including Astro Boy.

Tezuka called his lion "Kimba," and Disney called his "Simba." Again, the rip-off is not only obvious, but they barely even tried to rewrite it!

Disney employees have let it slip more than once that The Lion King was initially a remake of Kimba, including this early sketch with Simba colored white that was included in one of the DVD versions, but not most others:

At some point Disney decided not to inform at all the copyright and trademark holders of Kimba about this remake, wherein they simply recolored the lion cub and went to town. (Hey, those guys are way off in Japan, right? They'll never even notice!)

The Lion King also borrows scenes and characters like the shaman monkey, Simba's bird friend, and the evil comedy relief hyenas.

The main enemy in Kimba was Kimba's aunt, while Disney's version switched it to Simba's uncle. And some of the most famous scenes from the movie were practically Xeroxed from Kimba, including the one where Simba speaks with the ghost of his father who appeared in the clouds.

One has to wonder what would happen if it were the other way around, and some Japanese animation outfit claimed a harmless "influence" by one of Disney's characters, which was virtually identical except that he was painted gold and called "Mango Mouse." No, one doesn't really need to wonder - the new mouse would be shutdown overnight!

Okay, don't worry - this list gets way better from now on... much more superhero-ish!

Mutated freaks gathered by their wheelchair-bound mentor in order to protect a world that fears and hates them. Yep, those are the X-Men, alright.

Which is a rip-off of:


The DP debuted in comics three months before everybody's favorite, more marketable type X mutants. Unlike the X-Men, the Doom Patrollers were once normal people who suffered an accident that disfigured them but also gave them superpowers. Shunned by the world for just being plain ugly, the freaks were gathered by Doctor Caulder, a paraplegic, who thought that maybe the world wouldn't dislike them so much if they used their powers to save the normal people's asses from giant robots once in a while.

If this sounds awfully familiar to you, it's because they're the same thing as X-Men with the only difference that the smart senior discount guy in the wheelchair was balding with a beard in one and in X-Men the guy was completely bald but had no beard. If you think Doctor X was just Doctor C with his beard shaved off... then ya, that's about it.

And it's almost the same dang tagline, too! Just pathetic!

Possibly, the most unnecessary thing borrowed by X-Men was the name of the Doom Patrol's enemies: The Brotherhood of Evil. In Doom Patrol the name made sense; because they were a group of evil jerks who got together to do jerky things. There was never any confusion about what the group was about.

On the other hand Magneto stole the name, added the word mutant at the end of it and then whined endlessly about how humans persecuted and hated him. Maybe people hated you, Magneto, because you went around the world trying to wipe out humanity, and your group's name was... The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!

Superman? But isn't he one of the most famous and recognizable icons in the world, and also the first superhero ever created, and in the first superhero comic book ever created? Then how can he be a rip-off of anything? Ever hear of pulp magazines? The guys who created Superman sure did!

Which is a rip-off of:


Philip Wylie wrote a pulp novel called Gladiator in 1930. It featured Hugo Danner, a man whose father invents a secret formula that can create superpowers. Instead of selling it and making millions, he just injects it into his son, because, hey, why not? Hugo gains super strength, bullet proof skin and the ability to jump over the tallest building in a single bound. (Jumping, not flying, that's true - but in Superman's early years he couldn't fly either, just jump very high.)

All he was missing was the laser/telescopic eyes and the tons of goofy powers they gave Superman during the 1950s. And Gladiator was published eight years before Superman ever appeared.

Sure, you could say that ancient mythical figures like Atlas and Hercules also had a kind of "super" strength but the resemblance doesn't end there. Both Clark Kent and Hugo Danner grew up in small farming towns - Kent in Kansas and Danner in Colorado. Both pretended to be meek and mild to prevent people from finding out about their superpowers.

And both had a special place where they went to be alone - Superman had his fortress of solitude in the Arctic, and the Gladiator had his own secret place in northern Canada. (Actually, one of Superman's two creators was Canadian, and therefore the character originally worked in Canada for the Toronto Star newspaper. That was changed to the Daily Planet later, when the the powers that be wanted a more "all American" look for Superman.) Anyway, there must be something about self-reflection in icy-cold hideouts that superheroes dig bigtime!

Plus the first image of Superman the world saw, the cover of Action Comics #1, recreates a scene of the Gladiator novel where the Gladiator loses his temper, lifts up a very heavy machine gun and tripod casing, and scares the heck out of everyone nearby!

Although the G.I. Joe action figures have existed since the '60s, it wasn't until 1982 that they gained personalities, an actual story and their very own nemesis; becoming the G.I. Joe we know and love. (And we're not talking about the 1996 "extreme" version.) The enemy was of course Cobra, a snake-themed terrorist organization using secret fortresses and giant lasers.

They are a Rip-Off of:


And also:


So Cobra is really the result of two other snake themed terrorist groups, DC Comics's Kobra and Marvel's Hydra. Both Kobra and Hydra were created by the same person - comics king Jack Kirby. He created Hydra in 1965, as an enemy organization of Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. while Kobra was created in 1976 (and were even the stars of their own comic).

When HASBRO toys decided to revive the G.I. Joe action figures, they contacted Marvel to publish a comic about the new version. Marvel checked their archives and found a rejected pitch for a new comic. It was about a group of elite S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers and Nick Fury's son fighting against Hydra. In other words, it was very similar to the years later version of Kobra, so apparently while they thought such a comic without Nick Fury was a good idea in the '70s, they thought it wasn't ready for one in the '60s. At any rate, they changed the Fury-less "Hydra" concept to "Cobra" and then changed "Nick Fury Jr." to "Duke," and the rest is cheesy '80s icon history.

Anything else besides all of them being snake themed ultra high-tech criminal organizations? You better believe it! Hydra and Cobra both like to hire dominatrix girls and put them in charge of the troops. That way if the troops don't do their job the female commander has to "punish" those naughty boys!

And here's another odd twist to this tawdry tale - Lord Kobra, from DC's Kobra, had a brother who was one of the good guys. Because they were twins, they could feel what happened to the other. Twin brothers who could feel what the other was feeling? Doesn't that sound a lot like Cobra's very own Tomax and Xamot?

Hmmm... Tomax? Xamot?

Wow, they're exactly the same spelled backwards! That's called a... snake-a-gram? Or something like that.

Don't know if he still is, but back in the Silver Age, good ol' Green Lantern had lots of amazing other-wordly powers, but couldn't go near a taxi cab because he was allergic to the color yellow. Hope that pesky ailment no longer bothers Green Lantern.

Which is a rip-off of:


The classic Lensmen space opera series of pulps by Edward Smith started in 1937, and it could be said that every sci-fi series with some sort of space police owes something to the Lensmen, from the Jedi Knights of Star Wars to Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story. If it has space policemen, then it's ripping off Lensman or ripping off something that ripped it off first. The apple that fell closest to the tree was the Green Lantern Corps.

The first Green Lantern was created just one year after the first Lensmen story was published, but back then Green Lantern was just one guy who found a magic ring and he wasn't weak against yellow but to wood, making any tree bearing yellow fruit the only natural predator of all Green Lanterns.

In 1960, the original Green Lantern had been out of print for quite a few years and DC comics thought it was time to bring back the name. Now this time he was part of a group of space policemen. Unlike the Jedi Knights, who were content to copy the general idea of space policemen and a few things here and there, the Green Lanterns Corps went overboard.

The Lensmen were created by the most advanced alien race in the universe, the Arisians. The Green Lanterns were created by the Oans. The Lensmen are chosen for being the epitome of bravery and honesty, and so where the Green Lanterns. Finally, both organizations give their member a special, unique weapon that can be used by nobody else but the person to whom it was given. In Lensmen's case it was a lens that gave them telepathic powers, and in the Green Lanterns' case a special green ring.

Not surprisingly, today's publishers of various Green Lantern-related material deny even knowing about the Lensmen, which is odd coming from sci-fi writers talking about a sci-fi series that was well known in its time and long afterward. But yet a current day Green Lantern was created as a homage to the Lensmen series (Arisia, named after the planet where the Arisians from Lensman come from). How about that? Didn't they just say they'd never even heard of... never mind.

As a nutty rip-off side-note, comic historians have observed that the Oans, those blue midget aliens who go around giving out Green Lantern rings, are based on David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. And here is the undeniable proof:

Yes, it looks like Star Wars got their Yoda character from this little dude as well. We also see some influence of Grumpy from the late 1930s Snow White - Ben-Gurion was certainly around in the news then (he helped Isreal become a state in 1948 after struggling for years).

So Disney can rightly be busted for using his visage, just as DC could similarly be busted for taking their "Oan" from the "Ion" in "Ben-Gurion."

This one's almost too easy. A year before Robin was forced upon creator Bob Kane to kiddy up the comic cook, there was just Batman.

Which is a rip-off of:


Yes, that dashing destroyer of devilish do-badders' dreams!
Created by Johnston McCulley in 1919, the character first appeared in the pulp magazine All Story Weekly. Some Batman type things were inspired by other sources - such as his rogues gallery being inspired by the army of wackos that Dick Tracy has been busting since 1931 - and not by Batman writer Bill Finger, contrary to recent public opinion. But most of them were copied directly from Zorro himself.

Zorro was first at being a millionaire playboy-slash-dark costumed villain-vexer.
Zorro was first to pretend being a weak-kneed whiner, all the better to avert suspicion.
Zorro was the first to have a secret cave under his mansion where he kept his horse and Zorro stuff, not the caped crusader.

Zorro was also the first hero with a butler, his trusty servant Bernardo. (Although Bruce Wayne's employee Alfred is probably more useful, since Bernardo was deaf and mute.)

(To be accurate, the Scarlet Pimpernel came up with that bit in 1903, but he's usually not counted, since although he righted a few national wrongs, he soon vanished, contrary to Batman's dedicated decades-long crime-fighting career.)

The connections between the Z-man and Bats are so obvious that even Batman's own publishers at DC comics don't bother to dance around them anymore. In fact, in one prominent origin version the movie that a young Bruce Wayne goes to see with his parents the night they're shot is The Mark of Zorro starring Tyrone Power.

But that was a major blooper, of course, since Batman was created in 1939. He was an adult at that time, and thus as a child could never have seen the Mark Of Zorro starring Tyrone Power. Why? Because that movie was never made until... 1939!

The dopes at DC would therefore have been much better off by instead showing the theater marquee advertising the old silent 1920s Zorro serials starring Douglas Fairbanks. Duh!

Yes, a fairly fast runner, indeed, that Quicksilver.

Which is a rip-off of:


In the late 1960s Marvel made a super-speed running character with a lighting bolt costume out of a DC super-speed running character with a lightning bolt costume from the late 1950s. Wow, that must've taken them a whole 10 minutes!

(And this doesn't even get into 1940s Golden Age characters like the original Flash, or Jack Cole's Silver Streak.)

But the next one outdoes even that sheer laziness...

One of Marvel's linchpin characters was a proud member of the 1960s-created Fantastic Four. He was known as Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch.

Which was a rip-off of:


Huh? How could there be more than one? The F.F. never even existed back in the early 1940s! No, they didn't, but another Torch certainly did. He was known as Toro, and instead of being a brash young kid starring in Marvel comics, he was a brash young humanoid robot starring in (soon to be Marvel) Timely comics. So... Marvel stole from themselves 20 years later? That's incest!

But we're not done with the F.F. yet, as you'll see by our final eager entry...

Mr. Fantastic, another member of the afore-mentioned F.F., he was the stretchable strongman guiding his team to victory over a cast of creepy super-villains. But isn't that whole sideshow Indian rubberman bit awfully familiar? (And we don't mean DC's The Elongated man, who appeared in Detective Comics after the F.F. started their comic, so he doesn't count, except as a second teir rip-off.) No, that's not what we mean at all when we bring up the character of '60s star Mr. Fantastic.

Which was a rip-off of:


That's right - everyone's favorite giant rubber band, stolen directly from the 1940s! Before getting his own title ol' Plas, created by the great Jack Cole, was first featured in Police Comics, first published by Busy Arnold's Quality Comics in August 1941.

Well, comics rubbernecks, that wraps up our Top 10 - we've stretched ourselves to the limit!