Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Discuss: Marvel's Batman Knock-offs


Doug:  Today's post came as a suggestion from an Anonymous reader in a comment left in the Suggestion Box last Sunday.  Thanks!

18 comments:

William said...

I'd say Marvel's most successful (and obvious) Batman knockoff was Moon Knight. With the butler, and the moon shaped boomerangs, and the moon-copter, and etc.. I always liked the design of the character as well. His original all white look with the crescent moon symbol on his chest, (not the example pictured above). However, I never really liked Moon Knight's civilian persona. I hated the 3 different personalities angle. I'm sure they thought they were being clever and original with that bunk, but it made the character confusing and impossible to relate to. For me anyway.

david_b said...

Essentially, how do you 'marvel-ize' Batman..? I'm talking the original concept, his history, it's really works against the grain.

I mean, obviously, Bats had his worst years before Dozer (Batmite, Bathound, 'Rainbow Batman', 'Outerspace Batman'..), and again obviously a lot of Marvel writers have added good depth to the character when they worked at DC (Wein, Englehart, Miller, etc..). But to expect even the 'House of Ideas' to create and develop any hero close enough to the darknight detective is silly enough.

I've never regarded any of the attempts even worth any serious analysis or interest. I liked Nighthawk in the Defenders as a stable/generic hero, with obvious trappings (like Moon Knight) of 'brucewayne-isms' but either the others all came too late in the Bronze Era for me to even fein any interest, or categorize higher than a C-level hero making occasional appearances in a MTU/MTIO, Avengers team book or a 'Solo Avengers' backup story.

Suffice to say, they never quite took off like Wolverine or Punisher did. Or.. were they meant to..?

Rip Jagger said...

I'm a big fan of the Squadron Sinister so Nighthawk is a real fave. His quixotic storyline is like few other heroes, a villain gone good and eventually losing his way a few more times before dying. He got better since I think.

The Shroud is a neat variation of the Batman, and once I cobbled together in my imagination a team of Justice League-lites with him and Wundarr, Thunderbolt, a reformed Man-killer, and some others.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Nighthawk's my favorite as well, in both iterations: the one in the regular Marvel U who became a Defender, and the one from the Squadron Supreme universe, especially in that maxi-series written by Gruenwald.

Greg said...

Nighthawk would be my favorite, I always liked him. He was a Defenders regular, had the quick temper and troubled past, so I thought he was kind of fun. I always liked The Shroud too, not sure why, since seeing him in Super Villain Team Up or wherever it was. Not sure if they did much with him after that?

Moon Knight I thought was cool visually, but didn't really care for his series much. Tried to get into him but guess he just didn't do much for me.

O-Bot! said...

Isn't Batman just a knock-off of the Black Bat?

O-Bot! said...

I wish Marvel did more with the Shroud. He was so mysterious when he first showed up in Super Villain Team Up.

themiddlespaces said...

I like Moon Knight (would love to get my hands on some of the classic Moench/Sienkiewicz issues), though recent attempts to revive his title have failed.

But yeah, like Edo and others, I really loved Nighthawk in my Defenders reading days. There was an interesting black power version of him in the early 00s Squadron Supreme series - but ultimately that series was more of the turgid grim superhero crap.

It is amazing how much of a direct rip-off of Batman's origin Shroud's is. Don't know how they got away with that.

Karen said...

I liked the original Moonknight look a lot, although I'm not sure it would ever have translated properly to a real-life costume. I think it was actually supposed to be silver and not white, but I could be wrong. The whole multiple identity thing was confusing to me as well.

The Shroud was a lot of fun, combining elements of Batman and the Shadow. I know he popped up in West Coast Avengers for a while but it never seemed like he really caught on. Is he even still around in the Marvel universe? Another cool idea but it didn't catch fire. He might have made a good Champion! ha ha ha...

Nighthawk...I don't know, he always seemed somewhat blah to me. The second costume, with its strong primary colors, was pretty nice, but he just wasn't a very interesting character, particularly when compared to his fellow Defenders.

kkovats said...

I really liked Moon Knight... though I think it really was due to Doug Moench's stories in the "Hulk" magazine... as well as his first series. After that, I never cared in his later editions.

I seem to remember that the creative team insisted that Moon Knight's costume was actually BLACK, but appears white due to lighting and moonlight...

Anonymous said...

DC and Thrilling Publications may have actually considered lawsuits against each other, but DC staffer Whitney Ellsworth apparently smoothed things over and worked out an agreement. (I think DC agreed not to publish a Batman pulp magazine, and Thrilling promised not to publish a Black Bat comic book.) Batman and Black Bat premiered at so close to the same time, it would probably be hard to prove that one was copied from the other, or even which came first. And both were probably influenced by earlier pulp magazine heroes, like the Shadow. Two-Face and Dr. Mid-Nite both had origins suspiciously similar to the Black Bat, though. Re: Marvel's Batman-like heroes, I thought Moon Knight had great artwork, but the stories sometimes seemed a little overwrought and pretentious. I don't know how Marvel got away with MK, Shroud, or Nighthawk. Maybe the Squadron Sinister/Squadron Supreme in general and Nighthawk in particular could be considered parody rather than plagiarism. And none of those characters really made that much of an impact. Maybe DC would have sued if Moon Knight had outsold Batman, or if Shroud had been adapted to a hit movie.

Fred W. Hill said...

I recall a rather funny (and well-drawn) cartoon in the Comics Journal by Neal Adams showing Batman tripping Moon Knight. While all of these characters may have been created as Marvel versions of Batman, I don't think any of them were initially intended to compete with Batman in the marketplace, although I'm sure Marvel had some high hopes for Mooney when they launched him in his own series, which I rather liked.
From his beginnings as part of Roy Thomas' sly manner of getting 4 favorite Avengers to clash with wicked knockoffs of 4 favorite Justice Leaguers, Nighthawk only superficially resembled Batman. Or at least I don't recall Kyle Richmond ever depicted as intensely dedicated to fighting crime as Bruce Wayne was (at least once DC started taking Bats seriously again in the mid-60s after well over a decade of mostly ridiculous stories). I most liked Nighthawk in the Gerber and early Kraft era Defenders, including those issues guest-starring Moon Knight himself! (After issue 50, the Defenders gradually became one of those titles I continued collecting for years out of habit but no longer liked so much.)
As for the Shroud, I only recall him from Super-Villain Team-Up and he just never struck me as all that interesting.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to vote for what I know, namely Nighthawk from the Defenders. He could have been just a second rate Batman knockoff but I really do think he was successful in becoming an established character with his own identity especially after the costume change. Thank God they got rid of that awful first costume! Who in tarnation came up with that dreadful beak? The second costume has to rank as one of the best costume redesigns in all of comics history.

It's funny that today's topic is Marvel's Batman knockoffs - I once read somewhere that Thor was Marvel's response to Superman; it kinda made sense when you realized the similarities, i.e. the red cape, being immensely powerful, having a nerdy alter ego and being able to fly. Anyone want to expand on that?


- Mike 'looking for a Rolex knockoff' from Trinidad & Tobago.

MattComix said...

I think the main thing is that the billionaire playboy thing is redundant when you already have Tony Stark, a guy who is the height of human physical fighting perfection is redundant when you already have Steve Rogers. Maybe Marvel lacks a detective figure who strikes fear in the hearts of criminals but Daredevil's around to scratch that itch isn't he?

As for Thor, I've always felt that Kirby very readily embraced (rather than be ashamed of or embarrassed by) the stylistic language of superhero comics (much of which he himself contributed to).

If he was looking at superheroes as our modern mythology he knew that mythology as we now it starts with Superman. So when telling both tales of the old gods and eventually the New ones, he modeled them on Superman. That's why they are gods who wear costumes and capes.

O-Bot! said...

Anonymous - Batman and the second Black Bat premiered around the same time. The first Black Bat preceded Batman by a good 5 years.

johnlindwall said...

I loved SVTU and so have great fondness for the Shroud, the man who "killed" Dr. Doom. Even as a kid I knew he was a total ripoff combo of Batman and Daredevil, with maybe a little borrow from Dr Strange's origin. And yet, he was new, and so, cool!

I liked Nighthawk also, being a Giffen-era Defenders fan, but to a lesser degree.

MK's original duds were indeed his finest! I always imagined them as being silver, as impractical as that would have been.

Matt Celis said...

The original Moon Knight I found more interesting than Batman at the time. Not crazy about the costume changes and reincarnation (or whatever) angle they adopted later. I liked the cabbie/mercenary/millionaire identities.

I thought the Shroud was pretty good. Always thought he was
more Shadow than Batman. The pretending-to-be-a-ganglord angle was good. As was basing him on the West Coast. Always thought he and Spider-Woman were a good team; would've liked a real West Coast team instead of a bunch of New Yorkers moaning about L.A.

Nighthawk...blah.

Matt Celis said...

Thor can't fly. He throws his hammer really hard and holds onto the thong.

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