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Mark Mainz/Getty Images // DC Comics
Mark Mainz/Getty Images // DC Comics

The Real People Who Inspired 8 Famous Superheroes

Mark Mainz/Getty Images // DC Comics
Mark Mainz/Getty Images // DC Comics

In many ways, pop culture's most famous superheroes are otherworldly beings with powers that we mere mortals can never hope to possess. Yet many of these badass characters found their inspiration in real people. Here are eight of them.

1. JOHN CONSTANTINE

Making his debut appearance in The Saga of the Swamp Thing in the summer of 1985, John Constantine was modeled after Grammy-winning musician Sting. Comic book artists Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben told writer Alan Moore that they wanted to create a character that looked like Sting because they were big fans of the band The Police and the artist's movie roles.

“We began drawing Sting in the background scenes in Swamp Thing. And it was a game we were playing," Bissette told The A.V. Club. "We loved The Police, John was a huge fan of Andy Summers. And I liked Sting, because he had a great face and I was a big fan of the movie Quadrophenia. And we wrote Alan, and said ‘We’re going to put Sting in the comic, and Alan, you better make it a character, because he’s not going to go away. We’re going to make him more and more visible, whether you like it or not.’ So Alan made him John Constantine.”

2. BATMAN

Batman co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane named Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, after Robert the Bruce, or King Bruce I of Scotland, and American Revolutionary War Army officer “Mad” Anthony Wayne. According to Finger, “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert [the] Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. [Then,] I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.”

3. CATWOMAN

In 1940, Batman co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane created Catwoman, then known as simply The Cat, to add sex appeal to their comic book and introduce a “friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman's rather sterile life.” The pair based Catwoman’s appearance on Jean Harlow, who according to Kane, personified "feminine pulchritude at its most sensuous."

4. THE FLASH

In 1956, comic book writer Robert Kanigher created The Flash/Barry Allen (Silver Age) by combining the names of two popular talk show hosts at the time. Barry Gray was a radio host who is known as "The Father of Talk Radio," while Steve Allen was best known as the first host of The Tonight Show in 1954 and later the host of The Steve Allen Show in 1956.

5. SHAZAM!

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Before he was known as Shazam!, the superhero was originally known as Captain Thunder and then later changed to Captain Marvel when he was created in 1939. But due to another superhero taking on the name Captain Marvel for Marvel Comics, DC Comics had to change the superhero’s name, so they changed it to “Shazam!” when the character was re-launched in 2011.

Comic book artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker created the superhero and modeled him after a very popular actor at the time, Fred MacMurray. According to comic book artist Jim Steranko, “[C.C. Beck] began the task of translating Bill Parker’s ideas into graphic form. He chose film star Fred MacMurray as the model of Captain Thunder (Captain Marvel), giving him the same black, wavy hair; bone structure, and cleft chin.”

6. WOLVERINE

Wolverine is the most popular character in the X-Men comic book series. He was originally created as a very minor character for the sole purpose to fight The Incredible Hulk when the “Big Guy” went to Canada. Wolverine’s look was based on character actor Paul D’Amato in Slap Shot. In the cult classic, D’Amato played Dr. Hook, who wore crazy-shaped hair and thick sideburns. He also had a grizzled face and wild personality.

7. PROFESSOR X

By Source, Fair use, Wikipedia

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby modeled the appearance of Professor Charles Xavier after Academy Award–winning actor Yul Brynner. "I thought of Professor X as [actor] Yul Brynner,” Lee said in an interview with Wizard in 1993. “I thought it would be good if he was physically limited, since his mind was so powerful. Even though he was confined to the wheelchair, in a way he was the most powerful."

8. THE JOKER

In 1940, 17-year-old comic book assistant Jerry Robinson brought in a rough sketch of a playing card Joker to comic book writer Bill Finger when the pair was working with artist Bob Kane on Batman #1. They were trying to figure out the character design of Batman’s arch-nemesis, so Finger and Kane refined the sketch to make it look more like silent movie star Conrad Veidt, who played a man with a disfigured and permanent smile on his face in the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs.

“In that first meeting when I showed them that sketch of the Joker, Bill said it reminded him of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs,” Robinson said during San Diego Comic-Con in 2009. “He can be credited and Bob himself, we all played a role in it. The concept was mine. Bill finished that first script from my outline of the persona and what should happen in the first story. He wrote the script of that, so he really was co-creator, and Bob and I did the visuals.”

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The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

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10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life has always been an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time has become just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee, on his 95th birthday.

1. HIS WIFE IS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) reveals the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he writes. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE COMES FROM HIS MOTHER.

Amazing Fantastic IncredibleCourtesy POW! Entertainment[2].jpg

Stan Lee writes that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read. “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Stan Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He says that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (now his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but Lee writes that the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee writes, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.


Rich Polk/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he writes. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He says that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

All images courtesy of Touchstone unless otherwise noted.

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