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Comic book adaptations are a big deal — on the big and small screens and in video games. But there’s a number of popular franchises in modern media whose comic book origins have been forgotten and even de-emphasized by their owners. In this week’s Six By 6, I look at six concepts that are well-known by the world at-large who share a secret origin in sequential art.
Aliens Vs. Predator
In 2004, 20th Century Fox put together two of horror/sci-fis biggest villains — and biggest franchises — in the film Aliens vs. Predator (frequently abbreviated to AvP). The live-action movie did great business — earning nearly three times its budget — and prompted a sequel as well as renewed interest in both franchises. But the idea to bring these two disparate villains together was actually birthed in the offices of the then-meager Dark Horse Comics back in 1989. A full year before the movies teased Predators and Aliens colliding in the 1990 movie Predator 2, writer/editors Chris Warner and Randy Stradley partnered with artist Phil Norwood on a four issue series bringing these two together. Although they didn’t create either race of alien, they did figure out a way to make it work. The series sold well on comic stands, leading to several sequels — including work by Chris Claremont and Alex Maleev — as well as further crossovers like Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator and even Superman & Batman vs. Aliens & Predator. Get on that, Hollywood.
The Addams Family
Remember the original Addams Family, the black & white television series from the 1960s? That’s not the original. The family of Addams actually premiered in series of one-off gag strips by cartoonist Charles Addams in the pages of the The New Yorker in the late 1930s. In the original comics they were an unnamed American gothic family, and were only given names when the television show was put into production. Based on his childhood hometown of Westfield, New Jersey, the Addams Family concept took on a life outside of comics that dwarved its sequential art origins. Back in 2010 a book titled The Addams Family: An Evilution was published, tracing the origins of the macabre bunch from a one-time window washer to becoming a staple of modern culture.
Democrats as Donkeys and Republicans as Elephants
Great logos and mascots have an over-sized persona that overwhelms whatever origins it might have — but did you ever stop to think why political parties are named after donkeys and elephants? These animal identifications actually are a result of a late 19th century cartoonist named Thomas Nast. In 1870 Nast illustrated a political cartoon with a donkey — standing in for Democrats — kicking a despondent and already beaten-down lion. Back in 1828 future U.S. President Andrew Jackson took up a donkey icon after being called one by his political opponents, but it wasn’t a mascot for his party itself. The association between Republicans and the elephant was created by Nast four years after the Democrat/Donkey creation, again for a political strip. In it, an elephant labelled “The Republican vote” was among many zoo animals being scared by the Democratic donkey, dressed in a lion suit.
From all records, both parties took to their animal mascots relatively quickly — each emphasizing the positive aspects of their respective animals despite some obvious downsides to each as well. Political spin, 19th century style.