The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived


The Original! The funny version!

   Real-world significance -- wars, revolutions!

Serious and thoughtful, with enough comic relief not to be stuffy.

Available cheap on Amazon in print and e-book. 

Cinderella debunked! King Kong saves RKO!

Frankenstein and organ transplantation, cardiac defibrillation!

Smokey Bear started superfires! Rosie launches paycheck feminism!

Santa controls US economy! Sam Spade! Lilith! Uncle Tom loved, hated for heroism!

Does Barbie set high achievement standards for girls?
How many will die following The Marlboro Man's example -- smoking cigarettes?
In Nancy Drew stories, girls saw -- and continue to see -- abilities and attitudes that they soon acquired.
"We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us." -- attributed to Marshall McLuhan



 Our fantasy life does more than sell books and movies, it drives technology, social change, war, and the everyday thoughts that fill our lives.


Characters of fiction, who helped to incite wars, revolutions, social upheaval, and more.  Some capture essential personality types: the miser, the obsessive leader, the womanizer, the matriarch, the victim, the hero.

Move your cursor over an underlined name in the list below to get a peek at what influence that character might have had.




The 101:

1. The Marlboro Man
2. Big Brother
3. King Arthur
4. Santa Claus (St. Nick)
5. Hamlet
6. Dr. Frankenstein's Monster
7. Siegfried
8. Sherlock Holmes
9. Romeo and Juliet
10. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
11. Uncle Tom
12. Robin Hood
13. Jim Crow
14. Oedipus
15. Lady Chatterley
16. Ebenezer Scrooge
17. Don Quixote
18. Mickey Mouse
19. The American Cowboy
20. Prince Charming
21. Smokey Bear
22. Robinson Crusoe
23. Apollo and Dionysus
24. Odysseus
25. Nora Helmer
26. Cinderella
27. Shylock
28. Rosie the Riveter
29. Midas
30. Hester Prynne
31. The Little Engine That Could
32. Archie Bunker
33. Dracula
34. Alice in Wonderland
35. Citizen Kane
36. Faust
37. Figaro
38. Godzilla
39. Mary Richards
40. Don Juan
41. Bambi
42. William Tell
43. Barbie
44. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
45. Venus and Cupid
46. Prometheus
47. Pandora
48. G. I. Joe
49. Tarzan
50. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock

What is importance or influence, after all? Read this article.


Teachers: We've posted tons of free stuff for your classroom here.


Hey, we all make mistakes. Here are the corrections and updates.

51. James Bond

52. Hansel and Gretel 

53. Captain Ahab 

54. Rick Blaine 

55. Ugly Duckling 

56. Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) 

57. Atticus Finch 

58. Valentine (St)

59. Helen (of Troy) 

60. Batman

61. Uncle Sam 

62. Nancy Drew 

63. J. R. Ewing 

64. Superman 

65. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

66. HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

67. Kermit the Frog 

68. Sam Spade

69. Pied Piper 

70. Peter Pan 

71. Hiawatha

72. Othello 

73. The Little Tramp

74. King Kong 

75. Norman Bates

76. Hercules (Heracles) 

77. Dick Tracy 

78. Joe Camel 

79. Cat in the Hat 

80. Icarus 

81. Mammy

82. Sindbad

83. Amos 'n' Andy 

84. Buck Rogers (incl. Flash Gordon)

85. Luke Skywalker

86. Perry Mason

87. Dr. Strangelove 

88. Pygmalion 

89. Madame Butterfly 

90. Hans Beckert 

91. Dorothy Gale (Wizard of Oz

92. Wandering Jew 

93. Jay Gatsby 

94. Buck (Jack London - Call of the Wild)

95. Willy Loman 

96. Betty Boop 

97. Ivanhoe 

98. Elmer Gantry 

99. Lilith 

100. John Doe 

101. Paul Bunyan














Buy the book on-line now from Amazon.

"Slightly silly and infinitely entertaining, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived is also, in fact, seriously interesting. The contemplative coauthors of this unusual book treat the reader to an amusing short essay about each of the 101 fictional characters they deem to be the most significant in American cultural history. Among the great invented luminaries, you'll find Icarus, Santa Claus, Don Juan, King Kong, Jim Crow, Luke Skywalker, Sherlock Holmes, G. I. Joe, Captain Ahab, Alice, Hamlet, HAL 9000, Mary Richards, Bambi, the Marlboro Man, Big Brother, and Archie Bunker." -- CH, Bas Bleu 



What do Archie Bunker, Hercules, Nancy Drew, and Santa Claus have in common?

Who was more influential in women's liberation: Lady Chatterley or Rosie the Riveter?

How are ancient legends used to justify political decisions?

What moral behavior do we expect of our machines?

What are the 10 most recognizable, and the 10 most important, characters in fiction today?


"The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived is a riot. It's a brilliant concept, charmingly executed. Even when you disagree with their choices-and disagreeing is half the fun-Messrs. Lazar, Karlan, and Salter make such good, solid, and clever cases for their nominees that you have to nod in agreement or at least in admiration. From Odysseus to Bond, James Bond and Lilith to Mouse, Mickey Mouse, the selections are provocative, the writing lively, the discussion animated and engaging. Any book that can bring together Othello, Hiawatha, and Kermit T. Frog gets my vote. Over and over again, I found myself musing, why didn't I think of this? I'm insanely jealous. And grateful."

Tom Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor

More Reviews


               Consider The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived for your next Book Club 

               selection. It's guaranteed to provoke lively and enthusiastic discussions.



Teachers (college and high school): why not include this book in your curriculum?  It's  entertaining, well-written, and informative. English literature, cultural studies, and  even humanities courses can benefit from the introduction of this collection of essays. Visit the Harper Academic site for the downloadable Teacher's Guide to The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived.






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We regret to report the death of co-author and friend Allan Lazar on August 23, 2011.





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                Website created and maintained by Dan Karlan, 2006 and beyond.
                Last updated July 30, 2013