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What’s Up With Comic Characters Alliterative Names?

Fantastic Four

Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, The Green Goblin, Doctor Doom and many others have alliterative names for a practical yet strange reason.

Fantastic Four

Alliterative names in comics are everywhere!  DC Comics has a fair few of them, some of which come from properties that they acquired from Charlton Comics and Fawcett Comics, Archie is littered with them, but Marvel Comics is the main culprit for this standard of naming with most popping up between 1956 and 1970. Marvel Comics used this for teams and characters like The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, The Green Goblin, Black Bolt and Rocket Raccoon but mainly used it for the secret identities of their heroes, villains and supporting cast. Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Victor Von Doom (Doctor Doom), J Jonah Jameson, Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier), Otto Octavius (Doctor Octopus), Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Steven Strange (Doctor Strange), Bruce Banner, Scott Summers (Cyclops), Warren Worthington III (Angel), Pepper Potts and Curt Connors (The Lizard) being some of the best known. So what’s the big deal?

The naming convention existed before 1956 with Wonder Woman, Billy Batson (Captain Marvel), Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and a few others dating back to the 1940s but the deluge of them came from one man – Stan Lee. When Stan Lee was placed in charge of developing super hero characters for Marvel he worked with various talent to create a small army of heroes, villains and their supporting cast all in a reasonably short space of time. Between Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Hulk, Daredevil and Doctor Strange, that was an awful lot of characters to try and remember so Lee started giving them alliterative names with the idea being that if he could remember one name then it would help remind him of the other name. At a Q & A session with Stan Lee and Kevin Smith at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood following a screening of Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man 2, Lee said:

“It would be hard for you to believe this, because I seem so perfect: I have the worst memory in the world, so I finally figured out, if I could give somebody a name, where the last name and the first name begin with the same letter, like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Matt Murdock, then if I could remember one name, it gave me a clue what the other one was, I knew it would begin with the same letter.”

The Hulk

Unfortunately this led to a mistake with The Hulk as his name was established as being Bruce Banner, but relying on one name to remind him of the other caused Lee to think that the character’s name was Bob Banner. This went on for a few months until readers pointed out the mistake, resulting in Lee jokingly claiming that he never made mistakes and that Banner’s full name was Robert Bruce Banner, so some people knew him as Bob while others called him Bruce.

When Lee left writing comics in 1972 to become Marvel’s Publisher the naming style carried on as it was now a cornerstone of comics but wasn’t quite as prevalent. In the 1980’s new characters with alliteration included Lonnie Lincoln (Tombstone), Beta Ray Bill and Watchmen had two characters with alliterate names, Silk Spectre and Daniel Dreiberg (plus some supporting characters), presumably a deliberate choice to make the characters feel more authentic as they were supposed to be heroes from the 1950’s. The 90’s brought us two major characters in Wade Winston Wilson (Deadpool),  Cletus Cassidy (Carnage), the 2000’s gave us Jessica Jones through to current times with Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider-Man), Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) and Kamala Khan (Ms Marvel) amongst others.

So now you know!

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A little bit of trivia: The Martian Manhunter AKA J’onn J’onnz and  Doctor Doom AKA (Victor Von Doom) are probably the best known characters to have the dubious distinction of having both their real names and super identities being alliterative. Another would be Paste Pot Pete AKA Peter Petruski, who had one of the worst super names when he debuted in 1963 but was renamed The Trapster in 1965.

Some of best known comic alliterative names:

DC Comics

  • Beast Boy
  • Billy Batson (Captain Marvel)
  • Blue Beetle
  • Captain Cold
  • Captain Comet
  • Clark Kent (Superman)
  • Gorilla Grodd
  • Guy Gardner
  • J’onn J’onzz
  • Lana Lang
  • Lex Luthor
  • Lois Lane
  • Mary Marvel
  • Mirror Master
  • Mister Mxyzptlk
  • Rachel Roth (Raven)
  • Silk Spectre
  • Suicide Squad
  • Teen Titans
  • Vicky Vale
  • Wally West
  • Wonder Woman
  • Zatanna Zatara

Marvel Comics

  • Black Bolt
  • Bruce Banner
  • Bucky Barnes
  • Cletus Cassidy
  • ‘Crusher’ Creel
  • Curt Connors
  • Doctor Doom
  • Dread Dormammu
  • Fin Fang Foom
  • Green Goblin
  • Happy Hogan
  • J. Jonah Jameson
  • Jessica Jones
  • Kamala Khan
  • Loki Laufeyson
  • Matt Murdock
  • Michael Morbius
  • Miles Morales
  • Moira MacTaggert
  • Otto Octavius
  • Pepper Potts
  • Peter Parker
  • Reed Richards
  • Richard Rider (Nova)
  • Robbie Reyes
  • Robbie Robertson
  • Rocket Raccoon
  • Sebastian Shaw
  • Scott Summers
  • Silver Surfer
  • Steven Strange (Dr. Strange)
  • Sue Storm
  • Victor Von Doom (Doctor Doom)
  • Wade Wilson
  • Warren Worthington III

For the most part independent comics haven’t adopted this style although there are notable exceptions like Hit Girl (Mindy McCready) from Kick Ass.

1 thought on “What’s Up With Comic Characters Alliterative Names?

  1. Well done. Thank you so much for the explanation!

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