Greetings from the Odinson,
Would it surprise anybody to learn that the cigar-chopping, everyman super hero Benjamin J. Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing, and his longwinded, easily distracted big brain pal, Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mister Fantastic, were modeled after and loosely based on their creators – Jack Kirby and Stan Lee?
Inspiration can be drawn from anywhere, anytime, and anyone. Many characters in fiction were inspired by and/or based on people from real life.
A List of Fictional Characters Based on Real Life People
Shang-Chi (1973) – Let’s kick off our list with a really easy one. As we entered the 1970s a subgenre of action movies was taking Hollywood by storm, and it was not long before the world was singing …everybody loves kung fu fighting…! The Shaw Brothers Studios with their Venom Clan of actors conquered the B-movies. World karate champion Chuck Norris was a rising star in popular entertainment. And, the #1 Super Guy, Hong Kong Phooey, was bringing justice to Saturday morning cartoons. It was at this time that Marvel Comics decided to jump into the fray with their very own kung fu super hero – Shang-Chi. But, if the #1 comic company is going to do this, they are going to do it right, so it should come as no real surprise that the Master of Kung Fu’s look and mannerisms were greatly influenced by the #1 kung fu super star the world has ever known – Bruce Lee.
Leatherface (1974) – It’s almost the season for ghosts and goblins and trick-or-treating, so here’s a nice “heart-warming” tale to get thee in the mood. Four years before John Carpenter kicked off the slasher horror subgenre with Halloween, Tobe Hooper released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a terrifying story about a backwoods cannibalistic family that preyed on an unsuspecting group of vacationing teenagers. The film’s main antagonist is a monstrous butcher that wears the skin of his victims over his faces and wields a screaming chainsaw with the practiced skills of a demented samurai. Other than the obvious scary movie tropes, what makes this particular tale so scary is that Leatherface is loosely based on the real life serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein. NOTE: The Odinson will not go into detail here what his real life crimes were but suffice it to say, it was truly disturbing.
Roland Deschain (1982) – The great Stephen King wanted to do his version of The Lord of the Rings, so in 1982 he began The Dark Tower Saga, an epic tale of mystery, horror, and fantasy that would take him seven books and over two decades to tell. At the center of this massive tale is the stalwart, driven gunslinger known as Roland, a super human gunman on a mission to stop the Man in Black from destroying the multiverse. King has said on more than one occasion that his inspiration for this tall, lean, iron-willed man of few words was greatly inspired by Clint Eastwood, particularly Eastwood’s iconic portrayal of the Man with No Name persona from Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy.
John Constantine (1984) – Constantine is a lying, cheating, chain-smoking, womanizing, thief and conman that also just so happens to protect mankind from all the things that go bump in the night. Created by Alan Moore (Swamp Thing), Steve Bissette (Godzilla King of Monsters), and John Totleben (Miracleman), John Constantine’s physical appearance was based on the legendary rock star Sting, former lead singer of The Police.
Johnny Cage (1992) – In the early 90s, Mortal Kombat hit the arcades and became a mega pop cultural phenomenon, spawning many sequels, spin-off games, movies, cartoons, TV shows, toys, and comic books. Originally, Midway was developing a video game based on 80s-90s movie action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. When that fell through that project morphed into Mortal Kombat. That is why the character Johnny Cage bears a striking resemblance to the Muscles from Brussels, even utilizing the movie star’s signature splits/crotch-punch move from the movie Bloodsport.
Sonya Blade (1992) – The Special Forces operative Sonya Blade is another prominent character from the Mortal Kombat franchise that was based on the physical appearance and fighting prowess of an 80s-90s action star. She was inspired by the karate queen Cynthia Rothrock.
Jesse Custer (1995) – Jesse is a hard-drinking, two-fisted anti-hero on a mission to literally find God. So, for motivation for his amazing, eye-catching covers for Preacher, artist Glenn Fabry drew inspiration from not one but three pop culture bad boys, Jim Morrison, Adam Ant, and Johnny Depp.
Ultimate Nick Fury (2002) – When Marvel launched an updated take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes at the turn of the century artist Bryan Hitch’s take on the eye-patch-wearing super spy was 100% inspired by the super cool Quentin Tarantino muse Samuel L. Jackson. In a funny twist of art imitating life imitating art, Jackson, an admitted comic book fan for years, would go on to play Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Fox (2003) – The physical appearance for the Fox, the super villain mentor and love interest of Wesley, the main character of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ Wanted series, was inspired by the beautiful Halle Berry, the actress that also has comic book cred for portraying Storm in the X-Men franchise.
Whether by design, accident, appearance, or personality traits, many characters in fiction have been inspired by and/or based on people from real life. Many, many characters designed over the years by legendary artist George Perez were inspired by people he has known or met in his lifetime. Sometimes all a writer or artist needs for inspiration is to take a look to their left or right.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell