Top 10 Marvel Characters Based on Real People

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Top 10 Marvel Characters Based on Real People

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
Maybe one day someone will base a Marvel character on you! For this list, we'll be looking at characters from this comic company whose appearances or personalities were inspired by actual figures. Our countdown includes Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark, Wolverine, and more!
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Top 10 Marvel Characters Based on Real People


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Marvel Characters Based on Real People.

For this list, we’ll be looking at characters from this comic company whose appearances or personalities were inspired by actual figures.

Did you know any of these origins? Let us know in the comments!

#10: M.O.D.A.A.K.


No, we’re not talking about the bizarre villain M.O.D.O.K. Actually, this one is a little bit stranger. In mid-2016, tensions were running high leading up to the US Presidential election. Writer Jason Latour expressed some of his feelings in “Spider-Gwen Annual #1.” At one point, Gwen entered an alternate universe where Donald Trump essentially became that universe’s M.O.D.O.K. Trump’s new name, Mental Organism Designed as America’s King, seemed to be a very, very, thinly veiled political statement. He was also beaten up by a female variant of Sam Wilson during his brief appearance. Our spider sense tells us his defeat by a diverse Captain America might’ve been the writer’s way of sending another message.


#9: Bucky Barnes


The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel’s most tragic characters. First appearing in the same issue as Cap himself, the young Bucky looks up to the super soldier. And while he isn’t based on a celebrity, he is based on a real person. Captain America co-creator Joe Simon included the future winter soldier in his very first sketch of Cap. He just so happened to go to school with an athletic friend named Bucky Pierson. This real person indirectly helped give the Winter Soldier his memorable and alliterative name. Admittedly, this story made us hope we made friends with a comic creator who will turn our likenesses into an iconic character someday.

#8: Mary Jane Watson


While Spider-Man has had a lot of love interests over the years, Mary Jane Watson is often his most popular girlfriend. Teased throughout several issues, MJ finally made her first appearance in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #42. She barreled into the hearts of readers with a now-iconic line and a nickname for Peter Parker that would stick immediately. The legendary John Romita Sr. modeled MJ’s appearance after Ann-Margret’s Kim from the 1963 musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.” We instantly can see where Spidey’s love interest got her famous red hair. At the same time we wondered if he borrowed some of Ann-Margret’s playfulness for MJ’s personality. In any case, she has a musical to thank for her iconic look.

#7: Kingpin


John Romita Sr. is clearly a big film buff because Ann-Margret isn’t the only movie star he used as inspiration. In the years since Kingpin appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #50, he’s become one of the most ruthless Marvel villains that doesn’t actually have powers. His ability to go toe-to-toe with heroes like Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Daredevil makes him very intimidating. Romita Sr. based the Kingpin’s look on two film stars. One of them was Sydney Greenstreet, who might be best known for appearing as the antagonist Kasper Gutman in “The Maltese Falcon.” The second source of inspiration was another hulking actor known for playing villains named Robert Middleton. Both men helped ensure Kingpin’s appearance was every bit as intimidating as his personality.


#6: The Hellfire Club


Marvel’s Hellfire Club is full of mutants that often have sinister intentions. This shady group draws inspiration from a number of things. Throughout history, several real-world clubs have used the name. These groups usually opened up the door for wealthy members to partake in various forms of debauchery. Ironically, the Hellfire club was featured in a 1966 episode of the non superhero version of “The Avengers”. Lead character Emma’s clothing and her first name influenced the comic club member Emma Frost. Outside of the show, villains like Sebastian Shaw were inspired by real actors such as Robert Shaw. Ultimately, the Hellfire club’s origins are rooted in a cool combination of real and fictional sources.


#5: Wolverine


While Wolverine’s initial appearance in “The Incredible Hulk” wasn’t based on a real person, the more popular version was. Writer Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum began working on the X-Men series in 1975 when Wolverine was anything but a major player. Once artist John Byrne pushed to expand the character’s role, he designed the Canadian mutant to resemble performer Paul D’Amato. The actor would’ve actually made a pitch-perfect Logan if a live-action X-Men movie had been made in the 70s. While D’Amato might not have gotten a chance to play the character he inspired, Wolverine will likely continue to be a pop culture staple.


#4: Professor X


The X-Men are one of Marvel’s most enduring teams. For their leader, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used Yul Brynner as a basis. The Academy Award winning actor known for roles like “The King and I” kept his head shaved. Charles Xavier is the spitting image of the actor. In terms of his personality, many fans assumed he was meant to mirror Martin Luther King, Jr.. The historical figure did fight for equal rights around the time Professor X tried to make the world safe for mutants. However, Chris Claremont clarified that this long standing belief about Xavier’s connection to Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t exactly true in 2016. But that revelation doesn’t take away from how iconic of a character Professor X has become.

#3: Tony Stark


For everybody’s favorite genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, Stan Lee looked to a real-life genius to base him on. Since Howard Hughes was of the most innovative minds of his time, he was a great place to start. He also served as inspiration for Tony’s wealth and womanizing demeanor. But Hughes wasn’t the only real life figure that helped Stark get to where he is today. When it came time to bring Iron Man to the MCU, the creative team took cues from modern innovator and wealthy businessman Elon Musk. Since Tony is a character who is always upgrading his tech, it seems fitting that the people he’s meant to stand in for are updated too.

#2: Nick Fury


One of the most famous cases of a Marvel character being based on a real person is that of Nick Fury. The second iteration of the character that first appeared in Marvel’s Ultimate comic universe, was based on Samuel L. Jackson. The famed actor wasn’t even aware his appearance was being used for the character until he miraculously found a comic with the character inside. After Jackson and his team talked to Marvel, the company reportedly gave him first dibs on any future Fury movie roles. Once he appeared as Fury in 2008’s “Iron Man”, it became clear no one else could’ve done the role justice. We’re extremely thankful to writer Mark Millar for relying on Jackson’s likeness.

#1: J. Jonah Jameson


It may surprise you to hear, but the angry editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle is actually based on Stan Lee himself. For the most part, Lee was a gracious, kind-hearted leader. But his most negative qualities helped make Jameson the gruff character he is today. Although Lee was down to portray the media mogul, the timing never quite worked out. Fortunately, J.K. Simmons has done an amazing job playing Jameson ever since he donned the mustache for the first time in 2002. We’re glad that Lee was willing to make a character that represented the worst aspects of his personality into a key figure. We honestly don’t know if Spider-Man media would be the same without Jameson.
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