Captain Cold: In SHOWCASE #8, Len Snart is introduced as a scientifically-savvy crook who wants to find a way to stop the Flash. He invents a gun to use radiation from a cyclotron. He then essentially walks into a “Radiation Laboratory” which apparently has only one security guard. Being “unfamiliar with the workings of the cyclotron”, he makes a mistake that causes the gun to be irradiated. Afraid of making a mistake that will injure him, Snart leaves with the gun. He then encounters the lone security guard. Not realizing the gun can actually do anything, he intends to scare the armed guard with it (often referred to as suicide by cop). He then accidentally presses the trigger, freezing the guard. With his limited scientific ability, he further modifies the gun before facing the Flash. In later stories he is able, Lex Luthor-like, to make cold guns in prison.

Dr Alchemy: In SHOWCASE #14, the incarcerated Al Desmond, formerly Mr. Element, hears about a “lucky stone” from his cellmate. He has figured out somehow that it is the Philosopher’s Stone of legend, which among other things can change substances into different substances. (As an aside, the book HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was retitled “…SORCERER’S STONE” for American audiences, who apparently can’t be trusted to learn new terminology.) He then digs himself out of prison with a spoon (what, not a Mr. Element trick?) and steals the stone from his cellmate’s home. He abandons his Mr. Element persona, based upon life-long scientific study, in favor of the magical Dr. Alchemy identify. After Flash hands his head to him and tosses the stone into space, Desmond returns as Mr. Element in later stories.

Mirror Master: In FLASH #105, the incarcerated Sam Scudder is helping to manufacture mirrors(?) when he accidentally makes a mistake with the silvering of a mirror. After being chewed out, he notices that the angry foreman’s image is frozen on it. After being released from prison he “examines” the mirror and figures out how to capture images of people and to create what appear to be three-dimensional figures of people and monsters to aid in his robberies. In later stories he employs the mirrors for increasingly wilder uses.

Tattooed Man: In GREEN LANTERN #23, Abel Tarrant, a criminal who is also a merchant seaman, is robbing a chemical company when chemicals are spilled courtesy of flying bullets from him and a security guard (both firing in the dark at no clear target!). While attempting to elude the guard, Tarrant finds chemicals pooling on the floor. One puddle looks like a bomb. When he touches it and desperately wishes it was a real bomb, it actually becomes one. After using it to escape he returns later and sops up the unknown chemical puddles. He later figures out that if he can draw something using the chemical like ink it becomes real. Then he proceeds to draw temporary tattoos on his body and use them as weapons. At least he didn’t become an expert scientist or magician in the bargain.
Weather Wizard: In FLASH #110, Mark Mardon escapes on his way to prison and makes his way to his brother’s lakeside home, which turns out to be mostly a scientific laboratory. He finds his brother dead from natural causes. All broken up (NOT) he begins studying his brother’s notes about weather, and makes a “weather-stick”, becoming the Weather Wizard.
Don’t get me wrong, I have great affection for these stories. Does anyone know of other bad guys who stumbled upon their gimmicks?

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The Mandarin -- driven from his castle by the oncoming Communist hordes, and refusing to work for food, his servant soon dies, but then he follows a legend into a "forbidden" valley, an discovers an ancient alien spacecraft whose pilot was mistaken for a dragon and killed by natives in centuries past.  He studies the spaceship, and then finds its mysterious power source-- a set of ten RINGS, each with a different power.  Watch out, world!

The Looter - he basically chiseled into a meteorite hoping to discover something, and he did.

The legendary Stilt-Man stole his legs from a scientist. Actually, others had the chance to take them and passed them up.

Bill Baggett stumbled upon GL's ring when GL took it off (long story) and they battled for it in GL #18. It didn't become a big deal, with him getting a costume and such, but he did return for another battle much later.

The Joker and Two-Face accidentally became the Joker and Two-Face. That's not quite the same, but those are their gimmicks.

Metallo was made into Metallo, he didn't do it himself.

There are probably a lot of them if we give it some thought, as stumbling upon some power is a good way to get an origin. Heck, a lot of SA super-heroes did that! (Flash, GL, FF, Thor, Hulk, DD, Silver Surfer, the X-Men).

I think those DC stories were designed to give low-level crooks a chance to battle the hero. It takes some fancy-schmancy science gizmoes to beat guys that powerful, and there are only so many scientists who are going to turn evil after creating a device. So starting with a bad guy and giving him something powerful is probably the most logical approach--but it can get repetitious if done too often, as was happening in those Rogues. Maybe that's why they got along so well (and were so bad at winning).

-- MSA

Is it correct to call it a trope, where someone gets their 'powers' through a radioactivity 'accident'?


Years ago, John Byrne suggested that there were far too many such 'accidents' going on, and tried to streamline several into one event when he relaunched Spider-Man: Year One.   As I recall, he had the radioactivity that affected Peter Parker also hit Otto Octavious (there's a cursed name for you!) and the janitor who was carrying a pail of sand... all at the same time... giving birth to Spidey, Doc Oct and the Sandman in one fell swoop.

They did something similar in the Ultimate line with a number of characters being tied to trying to recreate Super Soldier Serum. Green Goblin (with Doc Ock working for Oscorp) which led to Spider-man. Hulk and Giant Man as well.

Kirk G said:

Is it correct to call it a trope, where someone gets their 'powers' through a radioactivity 'accident'?


Years ago, John Byrne suggested that there were far too many such 'accidents' going on, and tried to streamline several into one event when he relaunched Spider-Man: Year One.   As I recall, he had the radioactivity that affected Peter Parker also hit Otto Octavious (there's a cursed name for you!) and the janitor who was carrying a pail of sand... all at the same time... giving birth to Spidey, Doc Oct and the Sandman in one fell swoop.

I liked how they did it in the Milestone universe, as most gained their powers through one incident.

I thought the most interesting things about my initial listing of villains was that most of them found a device and became "scientific" experts after finding it, as opposed to radioactive accidents. I don't like the combining of various accidents into one to make them more "believable." I think that the "suspension of disbelief" is a first step in enjoying these stories. Most of the things that follow after that should be believable or the reader checks out.

The first Fantastic Four movie would have been much better if they had used Doctor Doom's original origin rather than lumping it into that of the FF. Then they compounded it by turning him into a combination of Electro and Colossus. Never having followed the Ultimate line, I don't know if this comes from that version of Marvel. Many of the differences introduced in the Ultimate line are inferior to the originals, IMO.

Richard Willis:

"I don't like the combining of various accidents into one to make them more "believable.""

Well, that's John Byrne all over.  He feels he's the one and only one who knows the "RIGHT" way characters (he never created himself) should be handled.  Let's not forget the tying together of Magneto with Quicksilver & The Scarlet Witch.  It may have been a clever idea in that case, since they had a long history, but, I agreed with whoever said it was more clever if none of them ever found out the truth.  Instead, once it got out to fans, no doubt demands for more came in, and nexct thing, you have entire min-series being created just to expand on what should have been an obscure background detail.

"The first Fantastic Four movie would have been much better if they had used Doctor Doom's original origin rather than lumping it into that of the FF."

I don't know if the 1989 BATMAN movie started this, but it seems to me ever since nearly every superhero or adventure film tries to tie in directly the origins of a hero and his MAIN villain... as if a hero might not have been around for some time before running across someone who would eventually become their most recurring baddie.  The idea that Batman "created" the Joker, and The Joker "created" Batman was an extension of the large number of parallels running thru the script of that particular film (note how both Bruce Wayne and Joker say the exact same words on entering Vicki Vale's apartment-- "Nice apartment-- lots of space.").

Tying in the FF and Dr. Doom does go back to Doom's origin (FF ANNUAL #2), and, the 1967 tv cartoon, "The Way it Began", but only insofar as Reed crossed paths with Victor at college-- briefly-- and Reed warned Victor of a miscalcluation, which Victor in his arrogance ignored, and then, when disaster struck, he tried to blame Reed for the accident he had caused himself!  What they did in the feature film was absurdity beyond all belief.  They wound up bastarding the characters of Reed & Sue, and just about everything on every level about Victor.

Reed warned Victor of a miscalcluation, which Victor in his arrogance ignored, and then, when disaster struck, he tried to blame Reed for the accident he had caused himself! 

Well, let's face it. If Victor had reminded Reed that space had cosmic rays, then they'd be even. There were a lot of accidents roaming around the MU at the very beginning waiting to happen.

How many heroes decided to become heroes and set out to make that happen? Batman (sorta), Captain America (in the GA), and Ant-Man. After that, I'm drawing a blank for a long while, unless you count the Challengers. The rest were making the best of a bad lot, while the villains tried to blame someone else for the accident and get revenge. But most of them were accidents.

I saw the reasoning behind the movie tying in the Joker, although I didn't think it was necessary. It was when they tried to pull Sandman into Uncle Ben's death that I thought they'd gone over the top.

The number of "radioactive" accidents back then doesn't bother me so much, because everyone was pretty cavalier about it overall, or at least didn't take anywhere near enough precautions to be effective. Granted, the radioactivity didn't have anywhere near the right results, but I guess that's the way radioactivity works in the MU instead of here.

-- MSA

Henry R. Kujawa said:

The idea that Batman "created" the Joker, and The Joker "created" Batman was an extension of the large number of parallels running thru the script of that particular film....

I also think that the movie BATMAN making the Joker responsible for killing the Wayne's was overkill. My wife's reaction, being unfamiliar with comics at the time, was "he became Batman to kill the guy who killed his parents, and now he's done it." I'm sure others outside comics had similar reactions.

Tying in the FF and Dr. Doom does go back to Doom's origin (FF ANNUAL #2), and, the 1967 tv cartoon, "The Way it Began", but only insofar as Reed crossed paths with Victor at college-- briefly-- and Reed warned Victor of a miscalcluation, which Victor in his arrogance ignored, and then, when disaster struck, he tried to blame Reed for the accident he had caused himself!

In FF #5 (my first Marvel superhero book) it is established that Reed knew Von Doom in college, from which he was expelled after disfiguring himself during an experiment. When he confronts the FF, he doesn't display any particular antagonism toward Reed. He's attacking them to use them as pawns to obtain Blackbeard's treasure using his time machine. The initial concept of Doctor Doom combined science and the mystic arts, which I think was very original. In FF Annual #2 establishes that Reed not only met Victor in college but also Ben Grimm. This story has Reed interacting with him and warning him of a miscalculation before the accident. Interestingly, at this point in their long history there is no indication that he blames Reed for his accident. This must have been added later. His motivation at this point seems to be to remove the FF as a stumbling block to his ambitions. I don't have a problem with this fleshing-out of his origins as it's from the same creators and nothing contradicts the earlier stories.

IIRC, the idea of Mags being related to Pietro came from Neal Adams drawing a white haired "creator" in the Savage Land, who "turns" the Angel for a while.  Someone saw the white hair similarities, and put two and two together.  It might have been Byrne, but it was pretty darn clever, if you ask me.

There was a fan art piece on Etsy a while back that showed an American Gothic portray of Wanda seated and Pietro standing behind and to one side. On the back left wall was a head and shoulders small portrait of Magneto, and on the other side, back right, balancing the first one, was a portrait of Elsie the Cow.

I laughed so hard, I almost paid the $40 the guy was asking for it.  Priceless!

Another villain who "lucked" into his device: The Parasite, a dumb, ordinary schmoe working as a janitor at a research center who got the wonderfully stupid idea that money was in the containers plainly labeled "radioactive waste." So he opened one and found out the hard way that it really was full of radioactive waste! Exposed to the radiation, he gained the ability to absorb energy and the physical and mental properties from someone else via touch.

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