While researching and reading about my next JLA/JSA entry and scanning through some of the Commander's excellent articles and Fig's Doom Patrol recollections, I thought I would feature those characters whose origins made sense or were cool and those whose were just silly. I'm going to start off with a DC hero but will get to Marvel as well. I plan on focusing on super-heroes but if anyone wants to include super-villains, it's fine by me.
I'm not going to comment on the origins of the Flash, the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man as they are so iconic, even their flaws are untouchable!
Lightning Lad: He first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (Ap'58) with the rest of the Legion. However he was unique in that he actually had an origin. Most of the non-Terran Legionnaires came from planets where everyone had some degree of the same power. No fuss, no muss like Marvel's mutants! Even the Earth-born Legionnaires (Colossal Boy, Invisible Kid and Bouncing Boy) had real simple origins. But Garth Ranzz's grew and evolved, giving him an almost biblical backstory.
It was in Superman #147 (Au'61) where we learn that Garth and Mekt Ranzz, two brothers from the planet Winath, crash on the Lightning World of Korbal when their (borrowed, *ahem*) space cruiser's batteries run out of power. They try to lure the native Lightning Monsters to charge them when they get charged instead! Garth becomes the heroic Lightning Lad while Mekt becomes the evil Lightning Lord!
So we had feuding brothers just like Thor, Aquaman, Ka-Zar, Hercules and Nick Fury. Did Mekt drag his brother for a joy-ride? Did his new found powers affect his mind?
This origin was mentioned in Superman Annual #4 (1961) though I don't know if it came out before or after #147. It was also brought up in Adventure #300 (S'62).
In Adventure #308 (My'63), the origin is expanded on as Garth's sister, Ayla, was there too, gaining the powers of Lightning Lass! The strange thing was that Mekt wasn't shown, Garth was already in his Lightning Lad outfit and wanted to join the Legion that did not exist yet!
Later, with Garth and Ayla described as twins, it was stated that all Winathians were born twins, but Mekt was not and that contributed to his turn to evil! Even his hair turning from red to white was a story!
Lightning Lad's origins had enough depth and subtext that you would think that he was going to get his own book but he had the worst luck of any Legionnaire or the best, depending on your point-of-view! He died but got better, lost an arm, had to wear a robot one but had his arm grown back! And had a solid, long-lasting and fulfilling relationship with a girl who could read his mind!
I'll add to this as I go along!
If this was a standard sci-fi story/comic/movie, Banner is not the lead!
...a narcissistic bent (notice the picture of himself in his quarters)...
You can be a very acute reader sometimes, Philip! Great observations.
Stan Lee said the Hulk was inspired by Frankenstein and you can see that if Bruce is Victor Frankenstein, wanting to stop his creation, bartering with it, filled with guilt, trying to find some way to co-exist but neither can give up the desire for independent life. If the Hulk fears anything, it must be limbo he goes to when Banner is "awake"!
The Hulk, though, is Banner's way into the world. He can explore, dare, live, fully knowing that if he gets into any danger.....HULK SMASH! It's a powerful defense mechanism. One wonders why Banner never just demanded that the government keep him happy and calm?
Philip Portelli said:
One wonders why Banner never just demanded that the government keep him happy and calm?
Do you mean the US government? They don't keep ANYONE happy and calm! ;)
Now for one that doesn't work,
Green Arrow: Even though, like the Hulk, it's a Kirby origin, the story of Adventure Comics #256 (Ja'59) just doesn't make sense. I liked it fine as a kid but now the problems are so obvious!
It may be primitive technology or medieval technology, but making an effective bow and arrows does take technology, something Oliver Queen lacked. Unless there was an iron mine and he devised a smelting process, then a blacksmith shop! There's just far more to archery than tying a vine to a long stick!
Indians and prehistoric man used arrows and spears without a smelting shop. You can chisel shale into arrowheads with other rocks, or use the edge to sharpen a branch. Hinges could've been created with grass. The feathered ends and metal arrow are a leap, but so is the huge amount of mass The Hulk adds and sheds whenever he changes (let alone those purple pants).
It's a little wonky, but GA's origin works okay for me, given that this is a guy who fights criminals by having the exactly correct arrow in his quiver, collapsed down, which he shoots with unerring aim and some of them release their nets, gas, etc., at exactly the correct moment. And he stole every bit of his style from Batman.
I accept his origin as okay. It's his CAREER that bothers me!
Yeah, who can believe that a man could make arrows that would work fighting crime? The guy who can fly and bounce bullets off his chest, the lady with a lasso from the goddess Aphrodite, and the fellow with a magic ring that can do ANYTHING all agree that it's pretty inconceivable.
When people read comic books, do they understand the idea of a comic book? That it's not the world outside their door? That amazing and unbelievable things happen? That super heroes can lift a car without the actual physics of the strength of the car's frame coming into play? That clinging to a wall with the ability to support one's own weight is enough suspension of disbelief - without wondering how it can work through a quarter inch of cloth gloves and boots in addition? That flying through the stratosphere doesn't automatically lead to hypothermia and asphyxiation?
Sheesh. There are historical novels (and comics) if that's someone's cup of tea... but for God's sake, if they read a comic book... UNDERSTAND THE GENRE OF A COMIC BOOK.
Yeah, I grok that! Really I do! But when reality hits you in the face, sometimes you just can't go "suspension of belief" 100% of the time!
Spider-powers! Great! Creating a web formula and web-shooters practically overnight! Not so much.
Bat flies in through a window! Wonderful! Picking a child as your partner! Huh!
You can't overthink these origins too much but you shouldn't have to underthink them, either!
the fellow with a magic ring that can do ANYTHING all agree that it's pretty inconceivable.
I've had friends tell me they like Batman better than Superman, because they could BE Batman, so it's more realistic. Whereas Superman was always my favorite for the same reason.
Could I study chemistry and biology and boxing and build my body up until I could leap from building to building and swing from a rope? Not in a billion years. But could I have been rocketed here from another planet and am just waiting for the solar rays to build up enough until I have super-powers? Yeah, THAT's possible!
With Supes, WW, GL, Flash, we only have to believe one thing, really. With GA, there are a LOT of things that we have to accept that our brains tell us are pretty unlikely.
Granted, how Superman actually flies, changes direction and prevents comets from hitting the Earth by pushing on them take a lot of imagination, and seeing those in cartoons, where it's happening visually, often pulls me out of the story. But the notion of his powers overall takes just one leap.