Publishers do not always rely on mythological characters and legends to create their superheroes. For various reasons, these figures are sometimes built around real people. Perhaps, artists see some known person as the ideal model to create a new superhero. Other times, certain individuals in the real world have such outstanding lives that it is easy to give them superhuman features in a comic.
For that last reason, we have the example of Tony Stark/Iron Man whose creation in 1963 was based on the US billionaire Howard Hughes. Artists in DC wanted to make a character that had the carefree, misaligned appearance of the famous musician Sting. Presumably in 1985, that is how the supernatural antihero named John Constantine was born.
It is well-known that the personality of Professor X, the leader of the Marvel’s X-Men, was inspired by the activist and preacher Martin Luther King Jr. But the character is physically based on the Oscar-winning actor Yul Brynner.
Meanwhile, the actor Samuel L. Jackson was taken as the base to remake Nick Fury, the founder of the Avengers and director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. At first, Jackson did not even know that Marvel used him as inspiration to create the character, but he still agreed to play Fury’s movie version.
Real people don’t just serve as inspiration for superheroes, though. The tyrannical Darkseid, one of the most powerful villains in the DC stories, bases his personality on Adolf Hitler, one of the most famous tyrants in recent history.