iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #171 – Comic Book Origins

Show Notes

Josh, Ron, and Conor look at the age old tradition of the superhero origin story. The nature of the origin has changed over the years, going from magic based stories, to scientific accidents gone wrong, to just calling a character a mutant and getting on with it. But how a hero gets their powers, and why they decided to don the tights is the key to an excellent superhero. We’re talking about the best, the worst, and the silliest origin stories in comics.

Origin Stories Over Time

There was a time when a comic book could just be downright silly. There was another time, when the origins evoked the fears of a changing world, and there are other origins that should never have been told in the first place. We talk about origin stories through the ages, from Flash, to Hulk, to Punisher, and what that says about the types of comics being produced at that time. We also take a quick look at which of these are the least bit plausible.

Types of Origin Stories

Conor details the 4- NO, 5 types of superhero origins, like the science accident (The Flash or Hulk), or self made men (Batman or Iron Man), and more. We also explore how some origins never needed to be told, and how certain characters, like Wolverine were better off with a little bit of mystery in their past. We can’t fit the Sentry into any of this.

Favorite Origins

We dig in and talk about the origins of our favorite characters. Ron talks about the poorly run airline run by Cyclops’ parents. Conor says Batman was Batman before he ever suited up. Josh tells the ridiculous story of Hawkeye’s origin. He was just kind of jealous.



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  1. This was so much fun, guys – another classic. Every page & panel brought back priceless memories. My favourite origins were/are Thor, Dr Strange, Green Lantern & Batman – if you held a Demolition Arrow to my head I’d probably nominate Batman’s as the most iconic. Really looking forward to what the rest of the iFanbase has to say.

  2. Great stuff. Conor’s "he must have no testicles" line was pure comedy gold.

  3. My favorite origins have to be Hal Jordan’s, Batman’s, Punisher’s, Daredevil’s & Green Arrow’s b/c they all have the kind of trauma that decides their superhero lives & they make me think of what I would do if those things happened to me (also they are some of the more realistic & tragic origins in comics).

  4. Great idea for a show! Surprised you didn’t do it sooner (you should retcon it into your continuity).

    I’d possibly nominate Green Arrow: Year One as my favourite origin. Brilliant story andcharacterisation of Ollie, but also, it ENDS with him becoming Green Arrow, rather than having it happen halfway through, so it is a literal origin story.

    Honourable mentions to Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, Doom Patrol and Daredevil.

  5. Ha, out on my birthday, perfect timing!  Can’t wait to watch it.

  6. Stupid juice huh?

    What about your mantra- that continuity doesn’t matter and it’s all about the story?  B/c it almost seems like you’re upset about a continuity problem.

    The would be continuity violation here being telling the origin story of a character that shouldn’t have his origin revealed.

    I thought the Origin story for Wolverine was well written and satisfying.  That being enough of a reason for the story to be told.

    So are you saying you thought it was a bad story?  Which by your theory would be the only reason to never tell a certain story?

    I don’t disagree that it was always a strong appeal to have so much of Wolverine’s history "shorouded in mystery"  but there is still a number of Decades that are "missing" and much of his history left to imagination.

  7. It’s gonna be one of those weeks, isn’t it?

  8. "There are no more science accident origins."


    How about Jackpot from recent Amazing Spider-Man stories?  Scientist, working on some crazy formula, the 777th attempt worked and spilled on her, giving her powers and the impetus for her name.

  9. Yeah, Jackpot. Huge character.

  10. One of the most interesting origins I’ve ever read is probably Mantra from Malibu Comics.  His/Her origin is a a warrior who has battled against an evil sorceror for over 1500 years, reincarnating into a new body after every death, is reincarnated into the body of 30 something single mom.  It’s explained that the current female body contains massive amount of latent magical energy that he must harness to defeat the evil sorceror Boneyard.

    As a comic it’s just ok but I think it’s one of the most unique origins out there.  I know Marvel has no plans for the Malibu characters but I could see some very interesting stories coming from a serious Marvel Max take on this character.

  11. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Booster Gold’s origin really stuck with me. After failing completely in both his professional and personal lives in the 25th century, Booster stole a time machine, some tech for a suit, and a robot sidekick in order to create a fresh start in the late 20th century. Well, now I’m sure it’s retconned to being the 21st century, but that’s understandable. He was a hero who was, essentially, a villain. It was also an interesting choice for Dan Jurgens to tease Gold’s origin to readers by holding off on it for six issues (which, for a hero headlining his own comic in 1986, was a long time).

  12. does CRIME have a facebook? most of the science origins today have to do with nanities which makes sense for the modern world but has been done to death. ive always liked deadmans silly origin of yet another circus folk who gets murdered-becomes ghost-empowered by hindu goddess.

  13. oh man that page from Marvel Preview #2!  that issue and Marvel Super Action #1 are the BEST Punisher stories ever.

    @Josh- more science accidents came be found in Avengers: The Initiative; the first issue was titled "Happy Accidents".  Avengers Academy looks like it will have some too.  so it can be done.

    and I have to agree with Ron, I really like the idea of just starting the series and then get to the origin later.  I also agree that the old-school X-Men origins are the best. 

  14. I didn’t realize there was so much hate for Origin.  I actually like Wolverine’s origin, am I the only one?

  15. I’m a fan of Wolverine’s origin and the origins ongoing (even though that series has had a lot of ups and downs). I think there’s a lot of unnecessary internet hate against it. I never liked Weapon X though despite liking the creators involved.

  16. I think we’re all forgetting the greatest origin story in comics history: Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark.


  17. Great show guys, but you missed a few origin stories. The characters from Watchmen all offer a different, unique perspective on the origin story. A few to look at would be Rorschach—who really has no motivation other than that he thinks all criminals are scum—Ozymandias who does it because he can—Nite Owl who just wants to be like the superheroes he looks up to and the Silk Specter who is pushed into being a superhero by her mom.

  18. We missed them? We were supposed to do all origins? That would have taken a while.

    Since the Watchmen aren’t original characters, rather characters who were created as a comment on the tropes of superheroes, their origins are post modern, and not really what we were talking about.

  19. I’ve like a lot of origin stories as well. Shazam, Miracle Man, Concrete (created by aliens), Mr. Monster, The Rocketeer, GrimJack (schizo/complex origin there), The Spirit, plus the normal super hero ones too: Batman, Superman, Capt. America, Dr. Doom (let’s hear one for the bad guys! Maybe you could do one on villian origins?).

    Weirder origins: Flaming Carrot, Herbie, Mister Monster, Nocturnals, The Watchers (in Marvel), The Mask (by Dark Horse), and then there are sort of team effort origins: G. I Joe, The Nam, Doom Patrol, The Shadow (and his team), etc.

    Good show guys, a topic that probably could be revisited.  By the way, Harvey Pekar of American Splendor passed away recently.  Another good comic writer, sad loss.  RIP Harvey.  

  20. "There are no more science accident origins."

    Accidental science origins can always come from the fears of current science unknowns (or science which is little understood by the public).

    Sixties Marvel is radiation this and radiation that. The Ultimate line for the most part replaced radiation with Genetic Engineering. In the case of Peter Parker, he’s bitten by a genetically engineered spider – you got your accident.  In other cases the "accident" is more of the  Frankenstein variety, where we discover what sort of genie we’ve let out of the bottle.  You know, a Modern-MODERN day Prometheus.  Ultimate X-Men/Mutants would fall under this category.  

    Ultimate FF are an interesting take on the accident story, since theirs just gets into the whole nature of reality itself, and how they accidently shifted themselves into alternate universal versions via their teleport technology. (Perhaps a version of The Fly movie, with all REALITY standing in for the insect.)

    If I was making a modern accident story, it might goes something like this…
    Joe Philips, your run of the mill everyday Astrophysicist , trying to understand the nature of the universe, accidently creates and is exposed to artificial DARK MATTER!!! (No! Say it ain’t so Joe!) Now gifted with the power to become immaterial will still exerting a gravitational effect on the rest of the world, he fights the good fight against the forces of evil as the hero — DARK MATTER MAN!!!  
    P.S. In issue #6 he gets his sidekick, a monkey also exposed to the artificial DARK MATTER, known to the world as DARK MATTER MONKEY!!

    On the other hand, if Jenny McCarthy were writing a Superhero comic, her hero would be someone injected with a vaccine, which gives them strange powers. Her villain would be all of modern science.

    You could have a hero who has mysterious quantum powers, which results in our hero having the ability to have different outcomes from actions they take to exist at the same time. They could win AND lose a fight, have a secret identity AND not have one, or be dead AND alive all at the same time. It you made this hero a woman in a slinky black outfit they could be called "Schrödinger’s Black Cat".

  21. So glad I discovered this clip on Frequency. Fun stuff you have on this blog.  http://www.frequency.com/video/comic-book/160790

  22. @ Josh

     I know, I didn’t mean it like that. I just think those were interesting origins. that don’t quite fit into the criteria you guys were talking about. (That being the six kinds of origins.) Just food for thought is all.

  23. Good show. You guys almost talked about Iron Man a couple of times, but because of interruptions, his origin story never really got discussed. It doesn’t seem to fit into the other categories (man out of time/space, born with powers, science accident, revenge, mystical), so I’d add the category of “survival.” I think you could also put She-Hulk into this category, as she got her powers from a blood transfusion that was needed to save her life (though I suppose you could say science accident, since the blood did come from Bruce Banner.)

  24. Ditto on the good show stuff; I had a thought about pointing out the Joker’s origin, and how it might add to the ongoing conversation, but then I remembered that The Joker is one character I, and possibly others, DON’T want to really delve into…like with Wolverine, the reasons the Joker gives for being a sadistic, psychopathic criminal aren’t as important as his antithesis to Batman. Bruce Wayne’s origin shapes his character, while the Joker needs no origin story because of his place in the Batman universe, and the psychological impact he has on the series.   

  25. I’ve always enjoyed the charcters with no origin,like sabretooth and joker.they played with them but never set in stone. On the hero side I liked Vision’s why not build a machine that wears briefs and a leotard.

  26. I meant to ask: Where are those pics of Jay Garrick’s origin from?

  27. Really enjoyed that but you missed out one type of origin…a selfless origin like the Silver Surfer’s who sacrificed himself to Galactus to save Zenn La. Silver Surfer is m favourite character and his origin is by far the best in comics. so other than the ‘born with,’ ‘revenge,’ and ‘science accident’ you have the Silver Surfer…i can’t think of any other superheros who has this type of origin.

  28. doctor strange’s origin was forgotten.his is the self serving bitch origin.i gotta fix these prize winning surgeon hands.

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