A hero is only as good as their villain. You’ve heard that phrase many times. We’ve all seen people take an interest in a well-written villain that poses a physical and psychological threat to the heroes we’re rooting for. While comic books have brought some fantastic villains to the pages and the big screen, many of them suffer from a big problem: they’re just rip-offs of the heroes they fight — we’ve seen it numerous times before. A hero gains a new power but a villain gains a similar one at around the same time. Their conflicting ideals on what to do with those powers put them at odds with each other and they duke it out in the climax of their story. People have criticized Marvel for doing this with their movies, but DC has been known to do this as well.
While the design of a villain being close to the heroes they fight doesn’t make them bad characters, but it is a blemish on their personality. When the entire pitch for a character boils down to, “it’s just like the hero, but he’s evil and has opposite colors,” then you may want to go back to the drawing board. Here are 15 villains that are just lazy rip-offs of heroes.
The Justice League of America happened to be one of the strongest forces to protect Earth. Having brilliant minds like Batman and Martian Manhunter along with powerhouses like Superman and Red Tornado, there are little villains capable of standing up to them. However, there was a group that came from another Earth that gave them a run for their money.
This roster of villains was known as the Crime Syndicate, and if there were five words to sum them up, they would be: the Justice League but evil. That’s essentially all there is to the Crime Syndicate. Sure, they have different names and designs, but hold identical powers. They just decided to use their abilities to destroy the Earth rather than protect it. Not exactly the most original supervillain team.
Of all the Spider-Man villains, Venom remains one of the most popular. After Eddie Brock was bonded with a symbiote from outer space, he became an alien bad guy who had similar powers to the wall-crawler. While Venom has become iconic in Marvel’s history, there’s no denying that he’s little more than an evil Spider-Man.
Both Spider-Man and Venom can shoot webs and sling themselves through the streets of New York. They have crawling powers and can stick to walls. They even share a spider sense. In the wake of much more imposing threats like the Green Goblin, it seems like Venom was a momentary lapse in creativity for the minds at Marvel. Even Carnage is guilty of the same thing — except he’s a murderous sociopath.
Aquaman had his work cut out for him when Black Manta came from the surface and posed a threat to Atlantis. Here was a regular citizen learning the secrets of the Atlanteans and devising his own tech to combat them. This has led to a villain with a very interesting design (and one that easily leaves an impression), but the execution leaves him feeling very similar to Aquaman.
Black Manta wields a trident, has super strength, and can swim very quickly. While he does differentiate himself by the use of missiles and a high-tech suit, he still falls victim to feeling a little same-y to Aquaman. Part of the reason that Black Manta has remained so popular is simply because of how classic and memorable his design is. Thankfully, James Wan will be using it in the Aquaman movie.
Yellowjacket, in the comics, was one of the alter egos of Hank Pym. Later on, Scott Lang was given the Ant-Man suit, and that was when Darren Cross got his hands on the Pym Particle and managed to turn himself into a villainous iteration of Yellowjacket. This was why Cross was chosen for the villain in Marvel’s Ant-Man movie.
However, as we all know, Yellowjacket is nothing more than the Ant-Man suit but yellow and slightly more advanced. The Yellowjacket suit was built for combat and has a few lasers on his back. That said, the two are very much the same. They can both shrink and use those powers to fight each other. It wasn’t much to write home about in the comics and it wasn’t much to write home about in the MCU either.
We have to give props to the writers at DC for giving Superman an arch nemesis who had no powers at all and challenged him on a mental level rather than a physical one. After all, there aren’t many who can go toe to toe with the Man of Steel in combat. That changed when General Zod, a dictatorial Kryptonian, broke out of the Phantom Zone and went to Earth.
The two were evenly matched. Both being Kryptonians, they had a similar set of powers that led to numerous difficult battles. Despite the fact that their philosophies are worlds apart, General Zod is just an evil version of Superman. He looks very similar to the Man of Steel, but he has a black outfit as opposed to red and blue tights.
When Bruce Banner was mutated by gamma radiation, there were few who thought that there would ever be a man who could counter the powers of the Incredible Hulk. As is the case in comics, though, some people were brave enough to get their own dose of gamma radiation and wage war with the green giant. Among them was the Abomination.
As shown in the Incredible Hulk movie, Abomination was injected with the same formula that gave Bruce Banner his powers. Because of this, he’s nothing more than Hulk but evil and uglier. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Marvel later recycled this trope to create other villains like the Red Hulk, who is the Hulk but evil and red. When creating villains for Banner, there was little creativity in the design department.
Steve Rogers was turned into Captain America to be an icon for the public. He was meant to embody truth, justice, and everything that was great about the United States. It makes sense, then, that his most threatening villain would embody hatred, prejudice, and everything that Nazi Germany stood for.
Of course, we’re talking about none other than the Red Skull. While his design is fundamentally different from Captain America’s, he’s just Steve Rogers but a Nazi. He was injected with the same Super Soldier serum that created Cap, and there are many people willing to die for his cause. We’ll admit that he’s quite a perfectly frightening foe, albeit without a lot of creativity behind his execution. Having a hero operate in World War II doesn’t leave the door open for many options, though.
When Barry Allen was a young boy, he witnessed the death of his mother at the hands of a yellow streak. When he eventually became the Flash, he figured out that his arch nemesis went back in time to kill his mom and change his life forever. Since then, the Reverse-Flash has been a physical and psychological threat to Barry, but his name and design aren’t very original.
He gets his name from having a literal opposite color scheme to Barry. Instead of a red suit with yellow lightning, Reverse-Flash has a yellow suit with red lightning. One utterance of his name, and you immediately know who he fights on a regular basis. We like what the Reverse-Flash represents for Barry’s life, but we think that DC might’ve wanted to reconsider his design.
The Green Lantern Corps is a massive organization focused on protecting every corner of the DC Universe. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones with Lantern Rings out in the cosmos. The Yellow Lantern Corps is the embodiment of fear and works tirelessly to ensure that the Green Lanterns never see the light of day.
Sinestro, the poster boy for the Yellow Lanterns, was once a Green Lantern. After embracing the belief in fear as the only true motivator, he was cast out of the Green Lantern Corps. Since then, he was waged war with his former allies. However, he (and the rest of the Yellow Lanterns) have identical powers to his rivals. He can create constructs with his ring and fly. The only difference is that he is yellow and the Green Lanterns are, well, green.
Oliver Queen was stranded on a deserted island for a long time. Instead of dying from starvation, he learned the ways of the wild and perfected his skills with a bow and arrow. After he came back to Star City, he took up the identity of Green Arrow, a modern-day Robin Hood. Yet, there was another archer waiting to hunt him: the Dark Archer.
Malcolm Merlyn is the arch nemesis of Oliver Queen and, like most nemeses, he is essentially the Green Arrow but a different color. Their abilities are the same. They both know how to use a myriad of trick arrows, are unrealistically accurate, and are very experienced in hand-to-hand combat. Some of Ollie’s other villains are a bit more unique than this, but it is worth mentioning that Dark Archer is one of the most well-written.
When Stephen Strange trained under the ways of the Ancient One, there was a reason that he was chosen to become the Sorcerer Supreme. There was another magical student, Mordo, who sought to assassinate the Ancient One and become the Sorcerer Supreme himself. It was ultimately Doctor Strange who stopped him and became a magical powerhouse.
Mordo was cast out and left to become the villain, Baron Mordo. As you might expect, training at the same school as Doctor Strange provided them with a nearly identical set of skills. Baron Mordo also wears a cape and robe, but is green and black as opposed to red and blue. The only (fairly) big difference between them is that Mordo is willing to use the help of Dormammu to get the job done.
Wolverine is one of the strongest mutants who ever lived. He doesn’t have earth-shattering powers. but his Adamantium skeleton and claws as well as his healing factor prove nearly impossible to defeat. That doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried, though. One X-Men villain had powers that rivaled that of Wolverine, and she was known as Lady Deathstrike. Appearing in both the comics and then as Stryker’s bodyguard in X2: X-Men United, Deathstrike could just as well be called Lady Wolverine.
Taking the role of an assassin and villain to the X-Men, she quickly formed a rival with the Wolverine. If you’re wondering how she’s different than Logan, the answer is that she doesn’t have retractable claws — her nails are extremely long and infused with Adamantium. To sum things up, she’s essentially Wolverine but a girl and with indestructible fingernails.
When we talk about Prometheus, we’re not referring to the one that appeared in Arrow (though he would be worthy of this list). We’re talking about the one from the comics. This version of Prometheus was the child of two powerful criminals. When they were caught by the police, Prometheus watched as they were shot down by the authorities. From that point, he vowed vengeance on the law and would take matters into his own hands. Sound familiar?
In the comics, Prometheus was a prominent Batman villain and was a twisted mirror of the Dark Knight. The two had similar abilities and skills, with nearly identical drives for vengeance. That said, Prometheus had a drastically different design to Batman, so we’ll give DC credit on that front.
The boy, N’Jadaka, had a rough life. His father was wrapped up to work with Ulysses Klaw, which spawned the intervention of T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda. In a confrontation that resulted in his father’s death, N’Jadaka grew to hate both parties and swore that he would not only kill Klaw, but return to Wakanda to seek revenge.
When he came back to Wakanda he had all the combat training that T’Challa had. The two were nearly evenly matched. In the Black Panther film, N’Jadaka (who changed his name to Erik Killmonger) managed to snag a golden version of the Black Panther suit. On that front, the two men were essentially carbon copies of one another from a design perspective. He’s still a great villain, though.
The story of Captain Marvel is unlike any other superhero. After a young boy has to live life on the streets, he is chosen by the wizard Shazam to contain the power of the gods. After being blessed by the wizard’s abilities, the young Billy Batson could shout the word “shazam,” and become Earth’s Mightiest Mortal: Captain Marvel (who was later renamed to be Shazam).
Like all good heroes, Captain Marvel had to have a villain. His arch nemesis was Black Adam. He was another individual who was blessed with the power of the gods by Shazam and heralded from ancient Egypt. The two are identical in their powers (they both have to shout “Shazam!” to use their powers as well). Black Adam is essentially Captain Marvel except black and yellow as opposed to red and white.
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