Now, when it comes to the appreciation of comic-book characters, superheroes tend to get the vast bulk of our unconditional love. From DC's Supermen and Wonder Women, through to Marvel's Squirrel Girls and Marvel Boys, via countless independent heroes in between, there are tens of thousands of heroes out there waiting eagerly for our adoration.
There's also, however, another side to that particular coin - and a whole other kind of comic-book love to feel. Y'see, while the heroes are great and all - and anyone who's ever read a superhero comic-book can attest to that - there's something a little special about the love that dares not speak its name. The love of...the villain.
Now, some villains have always been loved by fans - with the likes of The Joker, Venom, Sinestro and Magneto receiving almost as much love as their heroic foes - but that hasn't stopped the vast majority of them from garnering a whole lot less interest than the majority of heroes. Cool as Fin Fang Foom may be, he's still a whole lot less likely to be someone's favorite character than your average heroic B-Lister.
That imbalance, though, might actually be surprising correctable - since as it turns out, a whole lot of classic super-villains have some of the most interesting origin stories around. Now, to be clear - I don't mean origin stories like 'had a pot of searing hot chili dumped on their head, and became The Hot Pot'. Instead, I'm referring to the oft-overlooked fact that many villains were - unlike their often more generic heroic counterparts - born via some seriously peculiar inspiration on the part of their creators.
What's more, thanks to the intrepid research work of the good folks over at ScreenRant, a whole lot of those origins have not only been revealed, but diligently verified. Here, then, are seven of our personal favorites...
7. Venom Was Created By a Member of the Public
Now, technically, Venom's origin story isn't all that out of the ordinary - seeing as he was essentially imagined as black-suited version of Spider-Man.
The reason his beginnings are so notable, though? He was created by a fan.
Specifically, Randy Schueller, who sent his idea for Spidey's black suit into Marvel comics back in the 1980s, and was rewarded with a surprise offer of $220 to purchase the idea outright. The idea developed a fair way before Venom himself fully came into being (care of Mike Zeck and Todd McFarlane), but his origins still lie in that most geek-friendly of places: an actual fan's mind.
6. Darkseid Was Based on a US President
DC's big-bad Darkseid, on the other hand, owes his origins to a much more traditional source of inspiration: famous people.
According to Mark Evanier, comic-book legend (and Darkseid creator) Jack Kirby's biographer, Darkseid was an unholy combination of actor Jack Palance, Adolf Hitler and...Richard Nixon? As he put it:
"…the style and substance of this master antagonist were based on just about every power-mad tyrant Kirby had ever met or observed, with a special emphasis on Richard Milhous Nixon."
Which, when you think about it, kind of puts that whole Watergate thing into perspective...
5. Fin Fang Foom is Proof That Stan Lee Plays By His Own Rules
The reason? Well, according to Lee himself, the dastardly dragon's name came from a movie he could barely remember, even at the time: Chu Chin Chow. Which, just to make things weird, was a musical comedy based on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves - and had nothing whatsoever to do with dragons.
As Lee explained, though, the naming had less to do with plot, and more to do with the peculiar genius of his creative process:
"When I was a kid, I loved going to the movies. And there was one movie I’d seen. I remember nothing about it except the name. It took place in China, I believe, and the name of the movie was ‘Chu Chin Chow.’ Now I have no idea what it meant — I don’t know if it was somebody’s name or a country or a city, but I never forgot that name. Those three words just stuck in my memory: ‘Chu Chin Chow.’ So when I was looking for the name of a monster, I remember ‘Chu Chin Chow’ … and that particular meter, that beat, somehow led to Fin Fang Foom."
The dragon element, presumably, then came from the fact that dragons are freaking awesome.
4. Shredder Was Based on...an Actual Shredder
Yup, that's right. Shredder was directly inspired by an actual, factual cheese grater. As his co-creator Kevin Eastman put it:
"It’s probably the silliest way we came up with a character. I was drawing this up, and I slid my hand and held on to the end. Could you imagine a character with weapons on his arms like this? The guy would be lethal. And we’re like “Shredder! What a name for a character."
Which, more than anything else, means we should be thankful Eastman didn't just grab a more standard kitchen utensil - since the Forker would have been a hell of a lot less intimidating...
3. Galactus is God
Returning to both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for a moment, the legendary world-eating Marvel space-being Galactus has the kind of inspiration most villains would kill for: He's literally God.
Stan the Man has skirted around the idea in the past...
"Galactus was simply another in a long line of super-villains whom we loved creating. Having dreamed up [many] powerful baddies … we felt the only way to top ourselves was to come up with an evil-doer who had almost godlike powers. Therefore, the natural choice was sort of demi-god."
...but Kirby, in typical fashion, was far less circumspect, revealing that:
"My inspirations were the fact that I had to make sales. And I had to come up with characters that were no longer stereotypes. For some reason, I went to the Bible and I came up with Galactus…and of course the Silver Surfer is the fallen angel. They were above mythic figures, and of course, they were the first gods."
Which presumably makes the perennially Galactus-opposing Reed Richards and co. the most dedicated group of atheists the comic-book world has ever known...
2. The Joker Was a Silent Movie Star
Specifically, that one - Gwynplaine from the 1928 silent movie The Man Who Laughs (as played by the legendary Conrad Veidt).
Now, exactly who came up with the idea of turning the character into a super-villain remains a source of much controversy - with Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson all having been credited to some extent or another. The general process, though, is well summed up in Kane's version of the tale:
"Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, by Victor Hugo. Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, ‘Here’s the Joker.’ Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it…he brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him."
Which, again, suggests it was fortunate the creators hadn't instead been watching, say, musical comedy Chu Chin Chow - or we wouldn't have the Joker we know and love today.
My personal favorite, though?
1. The Red Skull Was a Hot Fudge Sundae
Which is, as it turns out, an origin so wonderful in its insanity that only the character's original creator can be trusted to explain it. Thankfully, Joe Simon opened up about the 'Skull in his autobiography, revealing:
"I was always thinking about heroes and villains, with all sorts of ideas swimming around in my head…I had a hot fudge sundae sitting in front of me, with the vanilla ice cream, and the hot fudge is running down the side. It was intriguing. The hot fudge looked like limbs—legs, feet, and hands—and I’m thinking to myself. Gee, this’d make an interesting villain, I mused. We’ll call him Hot Fudge … Just put a face on him, and have him ooze all over the place. But I looked again at the sundae, and I saw the big cherry on top. The cherry looked like a skull. 'Wow,' I said to myself. 'Red Skull … that sounds good.'"
Which...really is the cherry on top of this whole deal. Nicely played, Mr Simon. Nicely played...
What do you reckon, though?