Even compared to a comic book universe, the truth (aka: reality) is stranger than fiction, and through satire, homage and simile that truth can find its way into realms of the fantastic. Whether it’s good or bad, popular or reviled or anything in between, the people, places and things that fascinate the real world often face off in metaphor with the icons of fiction, often with subtlety as the first causality.
First Appearance: Strange Tales #135 (1965)
A Pastiche Of: The Nazis/International Terrorist Organizations
When you have a legion of globe trotting heroes and super-spies there has to be a challenge out there worthy of them, and with the ‘real’ Nazis gone by 1950, there had to be a new source of evil threatening peace and freedom. Enter HYDRA, the oft-retconned secret criminal organization dedicated to achieving world domination. Over the years, even with their large stable of villains and sleeper agents placed high up in the corridors of power, HYDRA has largely been reduced to nothing but leaders espousing grandiose speeches and foot solders all but volunteering to be the fifth in line to have Captain America’s shield bounce off their face. However, HYDRA is poised for a comeback, as it stands in for the actual Nazis in the new The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon series, and will play a similar integral role in the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger movie and Captain America: Super Soldier video game.
Roxxon Energy Corporation
First Appearance: Captain America #180 (1974)
A Pastiche Of: Exxon-Mobil, Oil/Energy Conglomerates
The premier ‘faceless evil corporate bureaucracy’ in the Marvel Universe, Roxxon Energy Corporation, introduced as Roxxon Oil, made its comic debut not-coincidentally during the oil crisis of the mid to early 1970s. During the crisis, the perceived lack of understanding by energy giants and international consortiums to how gas prices and environmental damage were affecting consumers led to a rise in distrust in corporate power. This frustration translated into Marvel’s stable of heroes coming into conflict with a foe that readers would appreciate seeing taken down, the massively powerful corporate titan: Roxxon Oil. A new kind of foe, one with unlimited resources, friends in government and no one apart from hired goons to satisfyingly throw into jail at the end of a story arc, Roxxon would plague not only the well-meaning heroes, but attack allied companies like Stark Industries on all fronts from the battlefield to the boardroom.
First Appearance: The Boys #1 (2006)
A Pastiche Of: Kellogg Brown & Root/Halliburton
Embodying the worst that the Military-Industrial complex can delver, Vought-American
not only instigates wars to sell weapons to both sides, but their massive economic power has bought them the Vice-President of the United States. Their development of Compound-V, which bestows superpowers, ignited a super-human arms race and further tightened their grip on global politics with sponsored teams of carefully marketed, via their subsidiary comic book publisher, amoral super “heroes.”
First Appearance: Forever People vol. 1 #3 (1971)
A Pastiche Of: Televangelists/Talk Radio Hosts
When they handed out powers to the New Gods of Jack Kirby's Fourth World, you’d think the ability to be persuasive would pale against being able to fly or shoot fire out of your mouth, however Glorious Godfrey turned it to his advantage. Posing as community organizer G. Gordon Godfrey (a play on the name of talk radio host and convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy), Glorious used his power to all but turn the citizens of the DC universe against their heroes, leaving the planet open to invasion from Apokolips. Recently Glorious Godfrey appeared amid the Final Crisis as televangelist the Reverend Godfrey Good and as a bombastic, rally-sponsoring, radio talk show host Gordon Godfrey on the TV show Smallville.What are some other good comic book stand-ins?