Art often borrows from history and real life. Films and books tell true stories. Movie characters are based upon well-known figures. But, surely this doesn’t happen in comic books? The characters in comics are too crazy and fantastical to have any basis in the real world. Yet, if you look closely, you can tell that these characters come straight out of a masters degree in history.
Stan Lee based the original incarnation of Tony Stark on Howard Hughes. Hughes was an eccentric billionaire with a strange lifestyle, which surrounded him with intrigue and mystery. He was an inventor, scientist, and genius, but he was also interesting and incredible. Lee said, “Hughes was one of the most colorful men of the time…He was an inventor, an adventurer, a ladies’ man and a nutcase.”. Clearly, a basis for Stark when you think about it. Interestingly though, Robert Downey Jr looked to Tesla co-founder Elon Musk for his inspiration, citing him as someone he thought Tony Stark would like to hang out with.
This one is right out of the history books. Anyone familiar with X-Men will know that a key feature of the comics and films alike is social injustice. Magneto and Professor X spend their lives fighting for the rights and freedoms of mutants. Stan Lee based this largely on the American Civil rights movement of the 1960s and borrowed Magneto, a mutant striving for the promotion of mutant rights, at the expense of humans, from Malcolm X. While this has never been officially confirmed, the similarities are clear. It’s even thought that Professor X is based on Martin Luther King.
Lucifer Morning star
Lucifer Morningstar is perhaps best known to modern audiences as the lead in TV series, Lucifer. However, the character first appeared in the DC Universe Sandman comics in 1989. While the personality of the character was largely based on Satan in Paradise Lost, his look was based on David Bowie.
Darkseidis perhaps one of the evilestbad guys in the history of comic books. He’s a sadistic megalomaniac with an army at his command, running through the Galaxy conquering planets and worlds as they go. Darkseid frequently sets his sights on Earth but is always out smarted by the Justice League. A character this hellbent on power and destruction can only have been based on Adolf Hitler.
Sting is another singer who has his own comic book remake, this time in the form of John Constantine. Creators, Stephen Bissette and John Toltleben, were such huge fans of The Police they drew Sting in the background of many of their earlier comics before creating Constantine in his likeness.
If you are interested in learning more about the real life historical figures, look into an online masters in history. A greater knowledge of some of the figures that inspired some of your favorite comic book characters may well give you a greater appreciation and understanding of their counterparts.