Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Guest Writer: Imitation Is the Purest Form of Flattery

Doug: It's funny that we had Rob Anderson driving the "If I Had a Buck..." train yesterday. Because look who shows up as Guest Poobah today -- the originator of the Dollar Challenge himself, Martinex1! Take it away, chief!
Mike S.: Recently I've run across a number of comics that are obviously knock offs of very popular books of that era.  For example, in the early 1970's, riding high in the marketplace Archie Comics was not only publishing many multiple Archie character related books (Betty and Veronica, Jughead, Little Archie, Reggie and Me, etc), they also had additional series that were clearly imitating their own popular brand like That Wilkin Boy, Josie and the Pussycats, and the Mad House Maads.   The stories were definitely similar with a repetitive cast of characters to mimic their established icons.  I actually like That Wilkin Boy a lot; partially because it was amongst a group of comics my cousin gave me but also because I feel it had a slight freshness and freedom.   Other publishers also clearly jumped on the bandwagon; Marvel and DC either invented their own Archie doppelgangers or modified existing characters to the styling of Archie. 
Imitation has long existed in the comic industry from characters, to storylines, to series, to cover layouts. Whether Archie, Dennis the Menace, or Casper, there always seemed to be somebody ready to cash in.   I am sure that is true of countless heroes and villains as well.  Are there imitations you enjoy more than the original?  When did you have deja vu?  Here are some covers to wet your whistle.


Redartz said...

Very interesting topic here, Mike! And personally relevant, as well- picked up a few Bronze-age Archies over the weekend at a local flea market.

You illustrate some very good examples here. Those teen humor books really share a similar appearance. Not surprising, artists such as Al Hartley, Stan Goldberg and Dan Decarlo often moved back and forth between companies and titles. Of course, up until recent years the creators weren't credited on many of such comics. I've seen Hartley's name on the cover of some old Atlas Patsy Walkers, but Archie comics didn't show credits until the 80's.

As for 'imitation': an early one would be Captain America; following Archie Comic's "The Shield" by a year....

RobAnderson said...

Great topic!!

Wow, I had no idea those Casper imitators existed. When I was in my very early Casper phase, I definitely would have snapped those up. They must not have been on the stands where I was at the time/moment.

Not sure it counts -- I think they were simultaneous -- but I kind of went for Man-Thing over Swamp Thing, especially when Gerber was writing Man-Thing. Just ordered that new Man-Thing TPB for the Gerber/Mayerik stories... Searching my brain for a real example, though... Await everyone else and my "why didn't I think of those?" reactions...

Doug said...

And... I have no idea why Mike's portion of the post is against a white background.

Anyway, Martin Goodman was the master (or do you say "worst offender"?) of imitation. If he smelled even an ounce of success from a character or genre originating at a competitor, then by golly Marvel (Timely, Atlas...) was going to get in on it.

I think that's why the satirical nature of the Squadron Supreme and the Shi'ar Imperial Guard is so much fun.


Martinex1 said...

Redartz, yes it is amazing how prolific Goldberg and the others were. They were everywhere and on so many titles. Rob, I'm glad you liked the Casper copiers; so blatent but nothing a halo or cowlick couldn't fix. I like how Timmy's buddy wears a bowler just like Spooky.

It is difficult not to see imitators left and right. Doug is right about Goodman. Sometimes the imitations were so close in proximity that it is sometimes hard to tell who inspired who. And it wasn’t just comedy headliners or heroes, it was with supporting characters, creatures, and villains, not to mention all sorts of storylines. I guess cranking out multiple titles month in and month out led to a lot of imitation as inspiration.

I give you:
Little Lulu / Little Dot /Little Audrey / Little Lotta.
Joker / Jester / Toyman / Trickster.
Captain Marvel and Billy Batson / Captain Marvel and Rick Jones.
Rick Jones / Snapper Carr.
Perry White / J. Jonah Jameson.
Atom / Antman.
Sgt. Rock / Sgt. Fury.
Beetle Bailey / Sad Sack
Richie Rich / Royal Roy, A Prince of a Boy
Ringo Kid / Kid Colt / Rawhide Kid / Two-Gun Kid / Apache Kid.
Green Lantern / Quasar
Dr. Strange / Dr. Fate
Alfred / Jarvis
And hundreds more I am sure...

Garett said...

Conan certainly had many imitators: Claw, Wulf the Barbarian, Kull, Groo, Cerebus, Warlord, etc. Warlord is one of my favorites, and the obvious difference is that he's a civilized man in a barbaric world.

Edo Bosnar said...

The first one that came to mind, since you showed a bunch of those teen-oriented Archie knock-offs, is Fast Willie Jackson, which can be best described, in the words of our friend Pete Doree, as "a blaxploitation Archie." He only stuck around for 7 issues, unfortunately (and now they're really hard to find and expensive as heck when you do find them).

Garett said...

Moon Knight is similar to Batman-- rich alter ego, batarang/crescent darts, obsessive/unusual personality, the art by Neal Adams/Sienkiewicz, cool vehicles (Batmobile/moon-shaped helicopter), assistants Alfred/Frenchie.

Some differences give Moon Knight a unique flavour: the triple personality of Jake/Marc/Steven, supportive and playful girlfriend Marlene, the Egyptian origin. Also no sidekick Robin, but interesting supporting cast including Crawley and Gena at the cafe.

When the Moon Knight comic was out in 1980-83, it was better than Batman. I'm reading through the Epic collection which just came out (MK issues 5-23), and so far it's great! I'm liking Klaus Janson's inks over Sienkiewicz in the early issues, and good writing by Moench. Nice colors also.

Martinex1 said...

Edo, that is an interesting historical reference and I had no idea those Willie Jackson comics existed; I definitely never saw those. Thanks for the links. And I am glad there was a reference in the articles to Henry Scarpelli on the art. Along with the artists Redartz mentioned, Scarpelli was a consistent contributor to Archie like books.

Garett, the Moench / Sienkiewicz Moon Knight issues were classics and like you said much better than Batman of the era. There is an early confrontation with an enemy Morpheus (an insomniac creature with psionic powers) that I really enjoyed; it may be worth reviewing here at some point. It is hard to believe that first series only lasted about 30 or so issues; it was really good (and the character has definitely lasted).

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, Moon Knight was a pretty good series for a while there; I followed it for a while, but then stopped reading it when it went direct market. The new Epic Collections that are coming out are really tempting, but man, I've just got so much stuff to read as it is...

Anyway, back on topic: I also thought of jungle girl characters. There's been a ton of those, and I suppose they're all imitations of Rima, although I think the first comic-book jungle girl was Sheena. A few of the imitators from the 1940s and '50s I know by name are Rulah, Nyoka, Pantha and Jann (of the Jungle), and then of course there's my favorite, Marvel's Shanna (and by the '70s Rima herself got her own comic from DC).

J.A. Morris said...

FWIW, I'm no Sad Sack aficionado, but he actually debut 8 years before Beetle Bailey. So the imitator has long outlived its inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Tarzan and Ka-Zar. Also Tarzan and Amra, Lord of the Lions (from Conan The Barbarian #61-64).

Anonymous said...

An imitation I enjoy more than the original?
Marvelman (aka Miracleman). He's clearly a cheap knock off from Captain Marvel, actually commissioned by the publisher to fill the vacuum when Fawcett could no longer provide reprint material (seeing as it seems Captain Marvel was, in turn, ripped from Superman)
And yet the revived version by Ala...er, the Original Writer and Neil Gaiman was - for me - the best superhero comic ever (particularly the issues drawn by John Totleben).


RobAnderson said...

Oh, I definitely agree on "Miracleman"!

Also, I thought of a legit one for myself, though it crosses media.

I read a couple "Executioner" pulp-like novels when I was a kid, but, for me, they never compared to the stories of his comic book imitator, the Punisher. I grew tired of him in the post-Bronze Age, but, man, I loved that character in the mid-Bronze Age, from his appearances in Spidey to the black and white Marvel magazines!

Humanbelly said...

Did it ever seem to anyone else that the "1984" (later "1994") magazin!e was pretty much a lower-brow (if, uhm, that's possible)copy of HEAVY METAL?

Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Speaking of HEAVY METAL/1984-- Frank Thorne himself did an IDENTICAL (well, visually) copy of Red Sonja in one of those magazines called GHITA OF ALIZAR (I think). It was, of course, lurid and trashy and profane. . . not particularly great, really. Just hormonally ratcheted up, as it were.


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