5 Iconic Designs of Famous Characters (That Were Mistakes)
November 19, 2015
Here’s the hard truth, kids: There’s a great chance that the thing you’ll be remembered for is something you did completely on accident. Most of you will fall into your career because you happened to walk past the right “Help Wanted” sign on the right day; many of you will meet your spouse in the course of some wacky yet adorable misadventure (unless romantic comedies have been lying to us all these years).
And this is true for everyone — the great, creative minds who’ve built your world were just as prone to stumbling backward into success as the rest of us. For example …
#5. The Hulk Is Green Because Marvel’s Printers Sucked
Cracked patron saint Stan Lee has created more iconic comic book characters than most of us have created cocktail napkin doodles. But while the majority of his innovations are down to Lee’s obvious knack for ingenuity, sometimes the iconic aspects of his work were brought about by plain old dumb luck. Nothing demonstrates that better than Marvel’s walking, green-skinned advertisement for anger management therapy, the Incredible Hulk.
Lee decided early on that the rage beast Banner turned into when he lost his temper should have a non-human skin color. However, he never intended for the Hulk to be his familiar cabbage-y hue. He was supposed to be grey, which Lee picked so it wouldn’t suggest any particular ethnic group, and blue would presumably just make him look like he wasn’t getting enough air.
The problem was when they saw the first issue, it looked like shit. The printers Marvel used back in the 1960s just couldn’t get the color right. We’re not sure how a printer fails to print “grey,” but we barely understand how to change the toner in ours, so we’re going to chalk this up to knowledge beyond our technical expertise. Anyway, this resulted in Hulk being a different shade of grey on every page, and even came off greenish in some spots.
So, they switched to an even more inhuman green and acted as though he’d always been the way, because it’s not like comic book fans pay attention to little stuff like that.
Years later, when the world’s “grey” technology finally caught up with the groundbreaking “green” technology of the 1960s, they retconned the idea of a grey Hulk into yet another personality type Banner could turn into. And that’s the story of how uncontrollable rage is a beautiful rainbow.
#4. Jason Voorhees Got His Hockey Mask Because the Film Crew Was Lazy
Ever since Jason Voorhees first donned his infamous hockey mask to hack up teenagers for having premarital sex, the outdated piece of sports equipment has been one of the most iconic images of modern horror. It’s all but been forgotten that in Jason’s first appearance as an adult in Friday the 13th Part 2, he wore a freaking bag over his head like he was embarrassed to be there.
Fortunately for the franchise, the whole “ashamed Cleveland Browns fan” look was dropped with the third installment. However, the decision to give the guy a creepy mask wasn’t a stroke of inspiration. Instead it came about, like many great things in life, through pure, unabashed laziness.
During filming, the director called for a lighting test, and that meant the crew would have to apply makeup to Jason. However, Mr. Voorhees’ makeup requirements were a lot more than just a dash of eyeliner and a splodge of blush — although the audience was never supposed to see much of his face, Jason was always intended to have an appearance that resembled the lovechild of Quasimodo and that banjo kid from Deliverance. It would make for a shocking reveal when he was finally un-bagged, because obviously ugly and evil are synonymous.
This was not a trivial amount of work, and the crew probably wanted to get home and listen to Duran Duran, or whatever it was people did for fun in the distant year of 1982. So as an excuse to forgo the process of uglying up the actor for a mere lighting test, they covered his face with the first thing they could find lying around. That happened to be a goalie mask, because one of the crew members was a huge fan who just happened to have a mask on him, presumably because he was going to go play a game set to Duran Duran after the day was done.
The director, rather than get mad at his crew for their lack of enthusiasm, fell in love with the intimidating look. They added the red triangles and extra holes and it’s been a staple ever since. And that just goes to show that while ingenuity and hard work are nice, sometimes you just can’t beat the results of good old-fashioned not giving a shit.
#3. Donkey Kong’s Name Comes From His Creator’s Poor English
Mario games are so iconic, it’s easy to forget that most of them make absolutely no sense. Why are a couple of fat plumbers the most heroic people in the land? Where do they get the money for all those ridiculous go-kart tracks? And why did they dub their giant, formally attired gorilla antagonist/hero/golf enthusiast Donkey Kong?
Well, we know the answer to that last one.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the obsessive banana hoarder, wanted to name the character “Stupid Ape,” because subtlety was not, nor has it ever been, the video game industry’s strong point. He came up with the last name Kong because he knew people associated the word with apes, and because he was still young and naive and never thought that the owners of the King Kong trademark would launch a hilariously ineffective lawsuit.
But where in Bowser’s name did the Donkey part come from? Sadly, there wasn’t an early draft ofDonkey Kong where Mario battled a giant, barrel-flinging donkey, although we really hope someone makes that ROM hack. No, Miyamoto thought “donkey” was synonymous with “stupid” in English. We can’t help but wonder if he got donkey confused with jackass, leaving us one thesaurus consultation away from Mario versus Ass Kong.
Anyway, Miyamoto told his English-speaking co-workers his idea, and they promptly pointed out that his name made no sense whatsoever. Miyamoto shrugged, decided they were being donkeys, and rolled with the name anyway. And so the erroneously named simian went on to become one of gaming’s most iconic characters, proving that in the world of video games, consumers really don’t care if the product name is just a nonsense string of noises (a tradition that includes Pong, the Nintendo Wii U, and everything in between).
#2. A Miscommunication Creates Doctor Who’s Beloved Scarf
For the uninitiated, Doctor Who is a whimsical sci-fi series about a serial kidnapper who preys predominantly on young women and escapes capture by constantly changing his appearance. To fans of the show, there’s perhaps no piece of clothing more iconic than the colorful and ridiculously long scarf worn by Tom Baker during his tenure as the Fourth Doctor.
With the enormous scarf being such a figurative (if not literal) perfect fit for the eccentric character, most Whovians probably thought its unique design came after dozens of scarf-centric focus tests.But in a documentary, Baker describes the scarf as a “happy accident,” like the invention of the pacemaker or that much younger sibling of yours. When they were designing the Fourth Doctor’s costume, head costume designer Jim Acheson wanted him to have a scarf — just a simple, regular old scarf. So he bought large quantities of wool in various colors and gave it all to a woman/Jane Austen character named Begonia Pope. What Acheson didn’t realize is that telling a knitter in a room full of wool to make a scarf is like asking Lil Wayne to look after your cough syrup collection.
When Baker and Acheson returned to see what Pope had come up with, they found that she’d used all of the wool rather than just a small selection. They were shocked by the puke rainbow leviathan they had inadvertently unleashed on the world, but when Baker tried it on, everyone agreed that the scarf was both hilarious and in tune with his bizarre interpretation of the Doctor. Pope then went on to knit the Daleks and most of the sets.
#1. The Transporters in Star Trek Were Created Due to the Show’s Low Budget
When Star Trek first Shatner-ed its way onto our television screens back in the ’60s, it gave sci-fi fans something they sorely needed — a future that was actually pretty appealing, as opposed to yet another dystopian nightmare where humanity was subjugated by ape/robot/ape robot overlords. Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision showed us a society where prejudice and greed had been replaced with spaceships, almost limitless medical technology, and the impossibly cool yetexistentially terrifying transporters.