Before Barbie was Barbie, she was Lilli, a German comic strip sexpot

Tom Heintjes, of the comic strip history publication Hogan's Alley points out that Mattel's Barbie was based on a German doll named Lilli, which was from a bawdy German comic strip about a sexy young woman.

The website Messy Nessy describes the 1952-1961 Lilli comic strip that appeared in the West German publication Bild: "The comic strip character was known as 'Bild Lilli', a post-war gold-digging buxom broad who got by in life seducing wealthy male suitors." Lilli is also described as "high-end German call girl."

Wikipedia describes Lilli the comic strip character:

Lilli was post-war, sassy, and ambitious, "a golddigger, exhibitionist, and floozy".[2] The cartoon always consisted of a picture of Lilli talking, while dressed or undressed in a manner that showed her figure, usually to girlfriends, boyfriends, or her boss. To a policeman who told her that two-piece swimsuits are banned in the street: "Oh, and in your opinion, what part should I take off?"

The popularity of the character convinced Bild to market a Lilli doll, which was sold from 1955 to 1964. But not for children. "Parents considered the doll inappropriate for children and a German brochure from the 1950s described Lilli as 'always discreet,' and with her impressive wardrobe, she was 'the star of every bar'". The Lilli doll was later described in The New Yorker magazine as "sex doll."

But because the line of Lilli dolls had a wide range of outfits and accessories, German girls began to buy it as a playdoll. That got the attention of Mattel, which purchased the rights to Lilli, renamed her Barbie, and sold her in America.