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14 Most Surprising Inspirations of Fictional Characters

A lot of fictional characters have very obvious inspirations. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out Jackie Gleason inspired Fred Flintstone or that Donald Trump inspired Biff Tannen in Back to the Future part 2. Sometimes the ideas for characters come from much stranger places people wouldn’t expect.

“Seinfeld’s” Kramer was based off of Larry David’s real life neighbor who was also named Kramer. Larry David once caught Kramer stealing his mail so he put a witch’s curse on him, trapping the man forever in a sitcom dimension with no escape.

Travis Bickle
“Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle was inspired by the diary of Arthur Bremer, a man who attempted to kill presidential candidate George Wallace and failed. Oddly enough Taxi Driver went on to inspire John Hinckly Jr. ‘s failed attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Even weirder was that the John Hinckly Jr. story inspired the movie 2001: A Space Travesty which inspired a man named Frank Donovan’s failed attempt to say a swear word to presidential candidate Jesse Ventura.

Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson
When Matt Groening was a little boy in Oregon, he grew up next to three children named Bart, Lisa, and Maggie who in the thirty years he knew them, never aged a day. Groening originally left for Los Angeles out of fear for what powers they hold, but in the end decided it would just make relatable characters for a TV show.

Jabba the Hut
When it comes to “Star Wars” George Lucas borrowed heavily off of his love of old western and samurai films. In the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo, there is an iconic scene in which five men crawled around in a sack like a big worm to scare the villagers. George Lucas created Jabba the Hutt as a nod to that film.

Spider-Man was thought up by Stan Lee one night after he experienced a nightmare of a strange man crawling on his walls. When he asked Steve Ditko to come up with the art for Spider-Man, the drawing looked exactly like the man from Lee’s nightmares. When Lee asked Ditko why he designed him like that, Ditko replied “Because I saw him too.”

Larry the Cucumber
“Veggietales” creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki based Larry the Cucumber off of their priest/mentor who was a talking banana. They felt bananas wouldn’t read well in animation, so they changed him to a Cucumber.

Captain Janeway
Captain Janeway was inspired by Captain Anne Pilmort, a real life Navy Captain whose ship got lost at sea in uncharted territories but found its way home after discovering new lands. Much like Janeway, Anne Pilmort once temporarily evolved into a salamander type creature. Her ancestors are what we currently know as the modern day mudskipper.

Charlie Brown
Charles Schultz based the look of Charlie Brown off of a kid who used to bully Schultz in high school. After years of pent up rage for the bully, Schultz decided what was best for his mental state was to draw a picture of his tormentor every day being miserable in some way.

Mario was inspired by an Italian guy Shigeru Miyamoto briefly stole the identity of in the late 70’s. Shigeru loved the feeling of living as someone else so much that he decided to make an Italian guy the main character of his video games so that people can experience the joy he did of living in an Italian man’s skin.

Hank Hill
Mike Judge has often said that Hank’s name is an amalgamation of Haee and Ank.


While struggling for work, Jim Davis made money taking care of his neighbor’s cat while they were on vacation. One day he left the door open and the cat ran away. Jim Davis then drew a picture of a cat hoping nobody would notice the difference.

When Steven Spielberg was working on “Jaws,” he was briefly abducted by aliens who loosely resembled the lovable creature we came to know and love. The aliens told Spielberg that in 10 years from now their species will enslave humanity and Steven will be spared only if he can help create some propaganda making their species look adorable. Unfortunately, the species never enslaved humanity but at least a great movie was made out of it.

Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger was based on the real tiger owned by John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the corn flakes. Dr. Kellogg would keep the Tiger in his bedroom to keep himself from masturbating.

Pennywise the Clown

When interviewed about the book, King told Rolling Stone magazine, “I came up with Pennywise to express how much I hate the Ninja Turtles. I mean who lives in the sewers? A bunch of clowns if you ask me.”