35

The Incredibles' story strikes me as a very original plot line, with the 'supers' outlawed and a spurned sidekick villain. Most 'superhero' movies are inspired by the comics they originated from, but as The Incredibles first featured in a movie there is no such comic inspiration.

Where then, if from anywhere, does The Incredibles get its main inspiration? Largely I'm after any similar story, as opposed to the million-and-one small things that the film surely references.

40

There may not have been any original comics for the Incredibles to be drawn from, but there was plenty of inspiration to be had in their creation. They draw their inspiration from some of the greatest heroes ever in the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four. They also used plenty of the common tropes of the comic industry.

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Some of the ideas are right out of comics:

  • The Incredibles are very reminiscent of the Fantastic Four (family of heroes), even sharing three out of the four same powers; stretching, superstrength and forcefield/invisibility.
  • Using Dash was a nice concept covering part of the concept of the Human Torch, which is high mobility while remaining kid-friendly (what little kid doesn't imaging running circles around his older sister).
  • The registration of metahumans is a concept which has been used by both Marvel and DC.
  • Murdering lesser heroes has been done at least once by Marvel, (see Scourge of the Underworld).
  • The youngest member of the team (Jack Jack) has the most powers, ala Fantastic Four again. (see Franklin Richards)
  • The closing riff with the Underminer was a total homage to the Fantastic Four's first adventure against the Mole Man.
  • Syndrome was a total Lex Luthor kind of villain, manufacture crisis to get fame. Even though Syndrome had real brainpower, he was sorely lacking in the long-term thinking department (he designed a thinking AI and didn't realize it might eventually resent being controlled and have the ability to escape and maybe even take revenge.)

Those things said, what was good about the Incredibles:

  • Superhero aging: Getting worried about being fat, or losing one's edge, raising kids successfully, something that is simply not done well or long by any of the mainstream comic companies. Their heroes stay perpetually...youngish.
  • While superhero registration has been done, suing the heroes for damages has been done much less often (though the Fantastic Four had been sued by the City of New York for damage done to the city.)
  • The inexperience of the younger heroes. They are portrayed very realistically, overconfidence in one, angst-filled in the other.
  • The romance of the Mr. Incredible and Elasticgirl was brilliant.
  • Edna Mode: super-suit designer and fashion mogul - pure gold
  • Frozone and Mr. Incredible sneaking out to fight crime was one of the high points of the movie.
  • Frozone had real powers, contributed to the storyline successfully and survived to the end of the movie (I hadn't expected him to do any of those things). He also had some of the funniest lines in the movie.
  • About the inexperience of the younger : their realisation of this (and their face) when they see their parents dispatching their foes :) talk about learning the effect of experience. – PATRY Guillaume Jun 11 '12 at 11:02
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    I have only one bit to add to this excellent answer - Edna Mode was legendary costume designer Edith Head - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Head, right down to the accent. Incredibles stands as a landmark achievement in animated films. – Chris B. Behrens Jun 11 '12 at 14:47
  • I'm pretty sure that the AI was totally under Syndrome's control at all times -- until he got complacent and lost the control wristlet, at which point the AI had no way to distinguish him from any other person. He had just lied to Bob to get him to visit his island and die. – Dúthomhas Sep 10 '18 at 22:23
15

I think this quote from the Wikipedia page on The Incredibles probably is the most direct answer that you will find.

Brad Bird was not sure where the idea for a superhero family came from, but he stated that it came from drawings he did back in 1993.[2] He was also inspired by his own life while writing the film. His situation during that time was similar to that of Bob Parr after the superhero ban: Bird wanted to follow his love of making films, but each film would fall by the wayside at some point during its development. While this was happening, Bird was also trying to focus on his new family, which demanded more of his time. He felt that he would completely fail at one if he focused too much on the other. He stated, "Consciously, this was just a funny movie about superheroes. But I think that what was going on in my life definitely filtered into the movie."

6

Echoing Donald.McLean's answer, Brad Bird talked about his inspiration in the artbook "The Art of the Incredibles". In short, there was no specific inspiring property that he's referencing. The film is about his own anxieties (his own mid-life crisis and fear of failure) mixed in with superhero and spy movie tropes from a hundred different sources.

It didn’t occur to me that there was anything personal about the genesis of The Incredibles—a goofy story about a middle-aged superhero and his family—until many years later, well into the film’s production.

I first thought of the idea over a decade ago, when I had various projects in development at studios all over Hollywood, but couldn’t seem to get any of them made.

At the same time I was starting a family (with a wife, two young kids, and a third on the way), and the twin demands of family life and meaningful work were creating doubt in me that I’d ever be successful in one area without failing miserably at the other.

I loved both, needed both, and couldn’t imagine life without either.

Consciously, I’d always thought of The Incredibles as a tribute to the pop mythology of my youth, a gumbo of spy movies, comic books, and favorite television shows; but I realize now that the other half of its ingredients came out of personal anxieties about family, work, expectations, and the special gifts we are all given but don’t always appreciate.

Brad Bird - The Art of the Incredibles

Mark Cotta Vaz (film historian and the author of the artbook) who enjoyed considerable access to the film's creator/s seems to intimate that the main influence was James Bond, especially feature films like You Only Live Twice

The Incredibles was not only a metaphor for Bird’s personal struggles; it proved to be another chance for him to turn the dials on his antennae and draw out of the ozone the free-floating dream stuff of pop culture, as he’d done with The Iron Giant (which celebrated everything from Superman comics to cheesy science fiction monster movies). Incredibles design schemes ranged from a stylized take on human and superhuman characters to the aesthetics of early James Bond production designer Ken Adam to the distinctive sixties notion of the future. The innovative but reverential Incredibles vision also pokes self-aware fun at the requisite supervillain’s lair and at haughty supervillains who’ve captured a nemesis and can’t resist gloating (it’s called “monologuing”). One of the film’s classically influenced environments is the exotic island where evildoer Syndrome plots the downfall of our hero, Mr. Incredible.

Mark Cotta Vaz - The Art of the Incredibles


As to why they had the particular powers they had, these are largely extensions of their personalities rather than intended to reflect a particular comic-book family or power team

Once I had the idea for the film, I quickly realized I wasn’t as interested in the superpowers as in the characters themselves. I decided to base the powers on the personalities of the characters. Traditionally the father is the strong one in the family, so Bob’s power is super strength. Helen as wife and mother is being pulled in many different directions, so she seemed to be somebody who could stretch and contort without breaking. Violet is an insecure teenage girl who doesn’t want people to look at her, so she gets to become invisible, and because she’s a little insulated and protective, she can project this force field. Young boys are hyperactive and have enough energy to power a small village, so I decided to make Dash really fast. The baby, Jack-Jack, has no known powers, so he’s all unformed potential. When I thought along those lines, things fell into place fairly quickly

Brad Bird - The Art of the Incredibles

5

Brad Bird has stated quite clearly that he hasn't read — or even was unaware of — many of the works that are commonly thought of as an inspiration for The Incredibles.

He had heard of Watchmen but never read it, he hadn't even heard of Powers, and what he knew of Fantastic Four was through occasional exposure.

Barrier: I've been astonished by how precise the parallels have been that some people have drawn between the film and certain superhero comic books, like Powers, Watchmen, and Fantastic Four. I gather from other interviews, though, that you really haven't been that much of a comic-book reader, and really haven't been consciously influenced by these comic books. What kind of feedback have you been getting from fans about these supposed influences, and how have you been responding?

Bird: I was not a big comic-book reader. I read a few, when I was little, but I was really much more into things like "Peanuts" and "B.C."—funny strips. I got my heroes secondhand, from television and movies, to a certain extent. When fans ask if I was influenced by issue 47 of Whoeverman, I have no idea what they're talking about. I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm not the first to come up with certain ideas involving superheroes; it's probably the most well-trod turf on the planet. If there are similarities, it's simply because the same thoughts that occurred to other people also occurred to me. I'd be astonished if anyone could come up with any truly original powers that were at all interesting any more.

That's not the part of the story that I'm interested in, anyway. The part that I'm interested in is all the personal stuff. I tried to base the powers on family archetypes. The father is always expected to be strong, so I had him have strength. Moms are always pulled in a million different directions, so I had her be elastic. Teenagers are insecure and defensive, so I had her be invisible and have protective shields. Ten-year-old boys are hyperactive energy balls, so I had him be speed. And babies are unknown—they may have great powers, they may have none.

[...]

Barrier: Had you even heard of Powers before?

Bird: No, no. I've heard of Watchmen. Other people have mentioned that aspects of it are similar to Incredibles, I think something about the superheroes being retired. I know it's very highly regarded; if you're going to be compared to something, it's nice if it's something good.

—Interview with Brad Bird by Micheal Barrier, originally for the Los Angeles Times, from Micheal Barrier's site.

4

I've seen an argument that The Incredibles is not a superhero story at all, it's a sports comeback story dressed up in one of Edna's suits. If only I could remember where I read that I'd offer up a link (suggestions from the audience are solicited, because this idea is not originally mine).

Consider the stark contrast drawn between his life as a hero and that as a basically unskilled office worker.

Consider his performance on his "comeback" mission where his poor conditioning nearly costs him his life. Muse on the Rocky-like sequence of getting back into shape. Then we have the return of the glory days in the form of a sports car, and an attractive female companion on whom he can exercise his flirtation skills.

Then there is the crisis when his efforts to recapture his youthful success endanger his marriage and family life (and then his family).

  • It's also a touching story of a family that learns to celebrate their differences and work together. – David Thornley Sep 10 '18 at 16:22
-1

While not one definitive inspiration, it feels like Watchmen definitely helped inspire it, combined with what others mentioned above.

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    I am not sure if I can agree with this answer at all. – Joshua Shane Liberman Jun 11 '12 at 16:01
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    Even some anecdotal evidence would help this... – AncientSwordRage Jun 11 '12 at 16:09
  • No evidence at all, like I said, just a feeling. Specifically relating to the banning of Supers in the beginning. The rest, not so much. – Corwin01 Jun 11 '12 at 21:07
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    As I mentioned in another question; I definitely think Edna Mode's "No Capes" policy was inspired by the Watchmen (I have no proof unfortunately). There was a hero named Dollar Bill who got his cape stuck in a revolving door and was shot to death at point blank range... – djm Oct 9 '14 at 18:15
  • Well I can't believe this answer has no votes. "The incredibles" is no more than a comedy version of "Watchmen" – edc65 May 21 '16 at 16:59

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