Comic books accidentally or intentionally have similar superheroes pop up all the time. Sometimes they occur close enough that it becomes difficult to tell which came first. For example, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing both originally appeared at close to the same time, making it difficult for the casual reader to see which one potentially ripped off the other. In reality, though Man-Thing did appear first by a month or two, the time needed to produce new comics means that it is unlikely Swamp Thing was inspired by the Man-Thing. But really, which idea came first? Swamp Thing or Man-Thing?
The answer is neither because the first such character was probably the Heap.
Who, or what, is the Heap? Did he have control over plants and the ability to form new bodies like Swamp Thing? Did he burn all who felt fear while guarding the nexus of reality like Man-Thing? Nah, he was just a big strong thing that seemed to be made of plant matter. A walking hay stack, if you will.
What makes the original Heap (there’s been two or three of them) different is how he came to be. He was a German pilot around the time of World War I named Baron Eric von Emmelman (or Emmelmann). Shot down, he somehow focused his will on staying alive, long enough to come to attention of either Ceres or Mother Nature depending on which comic you read. Granting his wish, Emmelman came back as the muck monster that is the Heap.
The Heap’s originally appeared in a story starring Blackhawk-style fighter pilot character SkyWolf who was a wolfman himself or something. That said, the first appearance was also the last time the Heap was a bag guy since he soon realized his old friends were all Nazis and Nazis are bad.
I should not have to explain that last part.
But heck, the Heap was so friendly, he even had a kid sidekick of sorts for some reason.
Now, that Heap wasn’t the only Heap. A 70s revival had him as a somewhat intelligent creature that was originally a cropduster named Jim Robertsr, this one also having regenerative powers. Later still, a new version appeared in the pages of Spawn. This Heap was a homeless man named Eddie Beckett who died while in contact with the stuff that made up Spawn’s body, and he became a new Heap, this one with the ability to send opponents to the “Greenworld,” a realm where nature ruled and…
Wait, portals and a connection to the Green? Heck, that last Heap managed to rip off Swamp Thing and Man-Thing.
Maybe they should have just left him to wrestle werewolves.