Every comic character had to come from somewhere. Here are some of our favorite origin stories in comics!
In Outhouse Roundtable, Royal Nonesuch gathers the writing staff of The Outhouse to find out where they stand in the landscape of comic book fandom. The formula is simple: one question, a joyous multitude of answers.
Week 12: What are some of your favorite origin stories in comics?
I've always thought that Wolverine's origin (before too much "stuff" got added onto it) was pretty compelling. I like the whole thing about all he know about himself was that he was captured and experimented on at some point, but had no idea who the crazy people were who did it to him. Similarly, I always liked Black Widow's story as well, where she was conditioned to be a spy at The Red Room. Another great but tragic story is that of Katina Choovanski, aka "Katchoo," in Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise. Come to think of it, I seem to gravitate towards stories about people with a fucked up past that they can't escape wherein they suffered at the hands of someone else. I've never actually realized that before now.
I'm going with Wolverine for my first pick as well...but for different reasons, and for different origins. I enjoyed the Howlett origin version honestly. Not only was it beautifully crafted between the art team, but I honestly think it was some of writer Paul Jenkin's best work. You'd also have to give Joey Q the nod as I'm sure he was at the helm and a heavy influence on this take. I like this Origin so much that I've been hunting down the comics to animated dvd version of this for years. I knew that day I was standing in Toys R Us I should've picked it up, but put it back down.
Runner ups to origins would be Ghost Rider and Luke Cage but for an obscure suggestion I'd have to applaud Jim Krueger's Foot Soldiers. Three young cats find the grave yard of the worlds former superheros and raid their tombs and each gets a super quality from the former hero in the form of shoes and gadgets and of course Rags. One of the freshest origin stories and series I've ever read.
I always liked the creation of the first Venom. The combination of the symbiot and Eddie Brock, 2 beings who found common ground through their recent feelings of rejection and their hatred for Peter Parker, was always pretty compelling to me. It helped that the origin took place in a dramatic setting such as a church, too.
Spider-Man's is a good one. I didn't care much for it at first, but I now think that it's a pretty great and sad story, even if I'm not sure I agree with, "With great power, comes great responsibility." I don't like it as much because of how he got his powers as I do because of why he started using them to help people. I think that was great.
1.) Spiderman - Its probably one of the most well known origins in comics, but its also one that everyone can relate to. Sure not everyone is gonna get bit by a radioactive spider, but everyone can relate to the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" part of the origin.
2.) Tim Drake - The fact that for the most part when Tim started out he was the exact opposite from Batman is what is so great about his origin. He didn't become a hero because of some tragedy, he did it because he wanted to help the world. Then add to that, he was able to deduce who Batman and Nightwing really were, it shows how much Tim belonged in the bat world.
3.) The Runaways - Sure most of the characters had "typical" origins, but for me the origin of the group is what stands out. The fact that these children found out that their parents were evil, and rather than just freak out, they did something about it was great.
For me it would be Nexus. His origin was one of the best as it had qualities so similar to Superman and Batman but with plenty of twists. His father was a communist despot, his mother a virtual prisoner. His father destroys the planet rather then let it be free from him. The crash land on Ylum, an isolated moon where Horatio is born and gets "playmates" as he grows up to become the puppet of an insane ancient alien. His first action with his powers as Nexis, to execute his father. His father is happy about it.
Superman's by John Byrne. He re-ignited my interest and enjoyment of the character in new ways that also still made me think and feel what I had when seeing the Chris Reeve film for the first time and the original comics from the late 30s and early 40s. Nothing else has touched that so far.
Batman's Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. I doubt anything will ever really top that one.
Spider-Man's is one that works well in it's simplicity. A teen-age kid that gets amazing powers, gets stupid and learns a very hard lesson.
The Fantastic Four is one of the few that keeps getting updated but worked for me. They were a family that went out one day and came back changed. They stayed together.
Wolverine's prior to all the crap added in the last twenty years was good. The rest was over done. He was a mutant found wandering in the Canadian wilds. He had his metal claws and skeleton and nothing else was really known. The Hudsons saved him and then lost him to bureaucratic scumbags.
The original Captain Marvel. Simple and whimsical.
Grendel - Hunter Rose was the best of the lot of great origins. He was the best at what ever he tried to do. Ultimately he was seduced by an older women who would cause him to move on to darker challenges. Ones he'd win.
I'd also include Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. Simply, he was drafted.
Rom. Still one of the most compelling stories (and sacrifices) that can be made. One of my all-time favorite origins.
Batman's is hard to top for me. It's simple yet compelling.
I'd also have to give points to Harley Quinn. A psychiatrist that falls in love with a patient. That's a nice spin for an origin story, and it's also pretty relatable in a way. Who hasn't fallen in love with the wrong person at some point?
I'm not a fan of Doomsday as a character, but he does have an excellent origins story. The product of a nasty experiment, Doomsday was born on prehistoric Krypton, exposed to impossibly harsh conditions, and then allowed to die. He was then immediately cloned and forced to face this cycle of senseless death thousands of times over until finally he evolved into an indestructible being. The torment he endured during these countless deaths were recorded in his genes, producing in him boundless scorn. That pretty much makes him the ultimate bad ass.
I love Superman's origin, if only because of Jon and Martha Kent's hand in molding Supes into the superhero he is today. This is a dude who, if he had the mind to, can shatter planets with his fists. But he was raised to do good, and so he chooses to use his powers for good. We don't get that sort of homegrown goodness in comics anymore, and that's what makes it so special.
A close second would be Dex-Starr, the cat of Rage. I have a severely soft spot for kittens, and his sad origin story was sad but awesome.
It doesn't get much better than that. The details and the unnecessary guff that Geoff Johns cares about may change, but for 70 years, that has been the origin of the greatest comic-book character of all time, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely perfectly summed it up in 4 panels.
But I don't just love simple origins, I have a perverse obsession with incredibly complex origins. Like Cable, he makes no sense, but it works. Most 80s and 90s X-Men characters are like that, especially when time-travel gets involved. If you stop to think about it your brain will explode, so best to not think about it and just get on with the pouches and gun actions.
So yeah, Superman and Cable.
It took me a a while to think of an origin that stood out to me. Never been a big fan Spider-Man, too depressing. Nor the X-Men, too much angst. Superman, too perfect. Batman, too obsessive. Wonder Woman, too much clay. Aquaman, too much water. I came up with Iron Man and Captain America's origins.
Iron Man's Origin: wounded man builds a suit of armor to escape from captivity and extracting revenge of the death of a friend could be transplanted into any era. It has a lot of the sensibilities of reality with just a light enough dose of make believe to make one believe how Tony Stark became Iron Man it could happen.
Captain America is another origin that I can see being a reality, sans the fighting Nazi's, since well, there really are no Nazi's to fight. Young boy who loves his country wants to do his part for the war effort but cannot because physically he does not qualify. With a done of the super Solider Serum he is given an enhanced physical strength and abilities. Sure Captain America could be an anthology for the Steroid Era of Sports, gain your abilities through chemicals conditioning and not physical conditioning, but what made Captain America different was that even with his enhanced abilities he was still that 'Kid from Brooklyn' who just wanted to do his part for the country he loved.
I love the Joker's origin(s). As he said in The Killing Joke, "If I'm going to have a past. I prefer it to be multiple choice!" And thus we're dealt various origins with all of them possibly being fake or one amongst them actually being the real one. You just can't know and that's the ironic joke.
Magneto's origin is a brilliant one because it's not a single act that forges him into being the man that he is in comics. It's several acts that make him into gray area character that he is, or the villain who's ironically become what he's long hated.
The original Hobgoblin. How once more, Peter allows one robber, Georgie to go free and thus they stumble across the late Norman Osborn's lair of Green Goblin equipment. He then informs his boss of the find and they then proceed to pillage the entire arsenal. From there the mysterious boss murders Georgie and then looks upon the now modified equipment. Stepping into his new identity as the Hobgoblin!
It was a nice new take while using some old Spidey standards to usher in this hell fiend into the Spider-Man Rogues Gallery.
I've got a lot of love for the origins of Iron Man and Dr. Strange. They both used to be self-centered and/or self-serving until circumstances forced them to re-orient their mindsets toward the world. Before their transformations, they only thought of themselves and what the world around could provide for them. Afterwards, they became sentinels. Aware of how precious everything around them is. Aware of how fragile they really are. And aware of how they each could lose it all in a second.
One of my favorite DC origins is Hal Jordan Green Lantern. An ordinary working joe whose understanding of the universe is turned upside down and inside out by a ring given to him by a dying purple alien. He is forced to rise up to heights he never thought it was possible for a man to attain.
Another is Firestorm. One of the most unique origins in comics. A high school jock and a college professor melded into a composite being with nuclear fusion powers. He was like one of the X-Men with Professor X constantly in his head. His comic read like a buddy movie with one person. There was nothing else like it at the time.
I like the ones that step out of the norm. Booster Gold's origin was one of the things that got me really interested in the character years ago and continues to be one of my favorites to this day. The idea that he stole all of that stuff--and that he came back thinking that all he needed to do was APPEAR to have powers and that the dumbasses in the past would think he was a superhuman...classic.
For years, I loved Savage Dragon's (complete lack of) an origin, and then once it was revealed I liked it even better. The idea that he's a really, really despicable guy is fascinating to me, and it's got that thing to it where, like Luthor in All-Star Superman, Dragon's story tells you that anyone can be redeemed under the right circumstances. (Well, until he came back to his senses and started murdering everyone in sight.)
Also, because I loves me some time-travelers and have an interview with Tom Peyer on Tuesday, I'll go with the Android Hourman. Loved that character, and the fact that such a great and nuanced character came out of a big, bombastic event story always seemed incongruous and silly to me. Kinda like Hitman.
I love origins and first appearances. I cover as many heroes as a I can in the back-ups of Super Reads (plug!). It's amazing how many good Silver Age origins there are. In my mind, there are three that really stand out.
You can't go wrong with the fifteen or so page Spider-Man origin. It swiftly sets up his home situation and how he got bit by a radioactive spider to gain super-powers. Then, the story actually drops in his motivations for being a good guy. The whole power/ responsibity thing. While it wasn't unique or original to Spider-Man (hello, Batman), many heroes got their powers and just decided that they'd be heroes without any real strong motivations. The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and even Thor don't go any further than background and origin before they simply keep on doing the hero gig. Spidey, on the other hand, had to lose his uncle before he had a good reason to fight for truth and justice.
Speaking of truth and justice, you can't go wrong with Superman's origin. It's a very simple story that sets up our first official super-hero. From a distant, dying planet. Powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men. Raised by an elderly midwest couple. Mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper. It's a set up for over seven decades of stories that are still going strong.
Keeping it Golden Age, I think Captain America also has a great set up. The funny thing is we don't learn anything about Steve Rogers prior to him becoming Captain America except that he is a very skinny dude. All the rest was provided at a later date. It's still enough. He was a man who did whatever he could to fight a war that hadn't even started for the country. It's a story of patriotism and heroism mixed with wicked crazy science experiments, the military, and world war. Any modern writer WISHES they could have come up with something like Captain America.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
Comment without an Outhouse Account using Facebook
Note: while you are welcome to speak your mind freely on any topic, we do ask that you keep discussion civil between each other. Nasty personal attacks against other commenters is strongly discouraged. Thanks!
About the Author - Royal Nonesuch
As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well. You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
More articles from Royal Nonesuch