Superheroes are undoubtedly a large influence on modern life. They’ve become our era’s folklore, our mythology if you will. These “heroes” are symbols of everything we should or shouldn’t be; they represent our ideals, hopes, and even fears. These heroes are as diverse as the human race and range drastically to all extremes. There is one thing though, that all of them share in common: they all had to start somewhere. Some heroes are born, some are made, and some have heroism thrust upon them. These origin stories are as diverse as they are, but often bear great symbolism and tend to foreshadow the type of hero they will become. Let’s take a look at some of the best of these origin stories, and the heroes they reflect.
10. Michael Jon Carter/Booster Gold
Being one of the more comical origins to one of the more comical characters, it deserves to have some light shed on it. Michael Jon Carter was born in 25th century Gotham City, and was a gifted athlete granted a football scholarship due to his athletic abilities. Despite athletics, the only real talent he possessed was self-endorsement, which he used to his advantage by betting on his own games, which he would then throw. He was eventually caught and his bright future was shattered. He then took a job as a night watchman at the Metropolis Space Museum, where he became fascinated by the displays and exhibits of the 20th century superheroes. Inspired, he decided to seek the fame of heroics. He stole equipment and costumes from the different exhibits along with a security robot named Skeets, and traveled back in time (in a time machine again stolen from the museum), taking on the identity of Booster Gold. He then used his knowledge of the future and his advanced technology to promote himself as a hero and seek the fame he desired.
What makes this story so great is not only the comic elements of it which resonate in the comedic hero, but also the fact that it rings true to us. Given the opportunity, most of us would do exactly the same thing. Traveling back in time in order to achieve fame and power is a dream we all share, which is why (despite being a narcissistic goofball) he’s oddly relatable.
9. Hal Jordan/The Green Lantern
The story behind the 2nd Green Lantern is one of the more inspiring ones. The Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force that keeps the peace by using their rings to create hard-light structures which they can use as weapons or as anything they can imagine. After crash landing on earth, one of the corps’ most respected Green Lanterns, Abin Sur, spent his final hours searching for a suitable replacement as he. The ring considered many, including Bruce Wayne and the young Dick Grayson, but decided upon Air Force test pilot: Hal Jordan. Hal Jordan was full of fear and accepted out of respect of the dying alien. He joined the corps without much knowledge and was initially disrespected for being human, however as he learned to control his powers he became a true hero. Through the power of will, he asserted justice on the earth and soon became known as “the greatest Green Lantern of them all”.
This story shines upon the power of humanity’s strength in the will to overcome fear (in much better words than I’ve put it) and inspires hope in the power of an ordinary human becoming something extraordinary.
8. Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk
Everyone knows the story of how Bruce Banner was exposed to lethal levels of gamma radiation, by some miracle survived, and found himself transforming into an emotionally unstable monster in times of great stress. But what most people don’t know is what happened leading up to the accident…
Robert Bruce Banner was the son of an alcoholic who deeply hated him. Banner’s mother showed much affection for her child, who returned her love, but this only served to fuel his father’s rage. His father, Dr. Brian Banner was an atomic physicist who worked on producing clean nuclear power as an energy source, but he was afraid his exposure to it mutated his son’s genes. Bruce showed signs of high intelligence at an early age which strengthened his father’s belief. Brian became abusive to Bruce and when his mother intervened, Brian murdered her. He frightened Bruce to keep quiet, but his own bragging landed him in a psychiatric institute.
As a child Bruce was withdrawn, possibly developing a split personality to help deal with his pain and rage. Bruce found it hard to develop friendships and often found himself on the receiving end of physical abuse at the hands of school bullies. One such incident sparked him to build and plant a bomb in the basement of his school. The bomb was a dud, and Bruce was expelled, but the military took notice of his genius. Eventually, Bruce earned a doctorate in nuclear physics and started a career with them.
This story beyond the accident shows a struggle that we’ve all faced: anger issues. The incident with the gamma rays only made the problem external. Within all of us lies a hulk that we all must learn to control, or else we become truly monstrous
7. Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider
Johnny Blaze grew up in the circus after his parents left him in the hands of his step-father, stunt cyclist: “Crash” Simpson. After growing up to join the act, he discovered that Crash was dying of terminal cancer. Johnny then delved into magical arts discovering a ritual that could supposedly summon Satan himself. He performed the ritual, but instead summoned the demon: Mephisto, and sold him his soul in exchange for him curing Crash’s cancer. The next day Crash awakens in perfect health, but then proceeds to die in a motorcycle accident during his stunt show. Mephisto arrives to collect Johnny’s soul, but is scared away by Johnny’s girlfriend Roxanne, who arrives to proclaim her love for him. He is only able to corrupt half of his soul, which is then bonded to the demon: Zarathos. From then on out, Johnny finds himself transforming into Zarathos at night, and around evil presences. He eventually learns to control his transformations but struggles against Zarathos for dominance for the rest of his life.
What makes this story so unique is the underlying warning within it. Johnny Blaze is living (well, “living” is debatable) proof that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. He is tricked out of his deal because he didn’t think it all the way through, and it really acts as a warning to think about the consequences before acting impulsively.
6. Thor Odinson/Thor
There are a few different versions of this story, but all show the same journey. Growing up as the son of Odin, he was raised to be a great warrior and granted the enchanted hammer: Mjolnir. However, after a display of arrogance, Odin decided to teach him humility. He had the hammer confiscated from him and Odin placed an enchantment on it allowing only one of true worth the ability to lift it. Thor and Mjolnir were then cast onto the earth, where he would come to learn about being a true hero.
Now in some variations his memory was erased and he was given the persona of the crippled medical student: Donald Blake, and in others he retained his memory. However, what they all have in common is his journey of redemption and lesson in humility as he lives his life as a mortal human being. He eventually becomes worthy of wielding Mjolnir again and becomes one of Earth’s mightiest heroes, but not before recognizing the compassion and strength of heart it takes to become a hero.
5. Tony Stark/Iron Man
Born to businessman Howard Stark, Tony Stark was heir to the multimillion dollar franchise of Stark Industries. Having entered MIT at only the age of 15, his incredible intellect made him adept at engineering and suited him well when he took over the company in the wake of his parents’ deaths in a plane crash. The company became well known for its revolutionary weapons technology. During the unveiling of one such weapon, Tony is ambushed by terrorists, sustaining severe chest damage in the process. After being kidnapped and held hostage, he is forced to build a weapon of mass destruction which they plan to use against America. While imprisoned, he comes to learn that his injuries are dire and that he has shrapnel embedded in his chest which is moving towards his heart. His fellow prisoner, renowned physicist: Ho Yinsen, builds him a magnetic pacemaker that keeps the shrapnel from reaching his heart, and assists Stark in building a robotic suit in order to help him escape. Yinsen sacrifices himself during Stark’s escape by distracting the enemy in order to buy him more time.
During his imprisonment he realized the dire repercussions of his company’s actions, and becomes painfully aware of just how dangerous his weapons are when in the wrong hands. He then made a point to take responsibility for his actions and prevent acts of terrorism like he experienced from happening again. What makes this story so great is the lesson that comes with it. It makes us very much aware that power of any sort can be dangerous when in the wrong hands. It’s also a little reminiscent of the origin story of a certain man whose name doesn’t rhyme with Skeeter Starker.
4. Steve Rogers/Captain America
Steve Rogers was always a patriot. His sense of justice was great enough to give him the strong determination to join the military, despite his frail physique. Despite being turned down countless times, Rogers never gave up. His determination was noticed by General Chester Phillips and Dr. Josef Reinstein, who they decided would be the perfect candidate for Project: Rebirth. He was then enlisted and underwent treatment for the experimental “Super Soldier” serum. His strong heart allowed him to survive the experiment and transformed him into a “near-perfect” human being, bringing him to peak human physical ability. He then went on to become one of America’s greatest heroes and, after awaking form suspended animation, he went on to lead the Avengers and many other teams as “The Perfect Soldier”
The unique thing about this story is the lesson that a hero can come from anyone. Despite being a very weak, frail man, Steve Rogers had the courage and heart of a hero. Now if you look past the comic book spectacle of his transformation into “perfection” you can also see that in order to make a difference, you don’t need super strength or heat vision, all it takes is the heart of a hero, and the determination to do what’s right.
3. Kal-El/Clark Kent A.K.A Superman
Born on the planet Krypton, Kal-El was the son of scientists Jor-El and Lara. As astronomers, they became aware of the impending destruction of the planet, and built a spacecraft, which could carry their son to safety. After much travel, the spacecraft lands on earth along with the debris of the planet (in the form of radioactive kryptonite). The young Kal-El is then found and adopted by Jonathon and Martha Kent, who name him Clark. They teach him his strong moral codes growing up, along with guiding him on controlling his powers. He then becomes a journalist at The Daily Planet, and adopts the costumed identity of Superman in order to protect the innocent and to keep his loved ones safe from his enemies.
The symbolism in this story is what lands it so high, as it is heavily based on many science fiction stories such as John Carter of Mars, and Hugo Danner from “Gladiators”. It also lends its beginnings to the story of Moses, copying the story of his voyage down the river in a basket and discovery by his humble lower class parents. Superman is one of, if not THE most well-known of all superheroes. Being an iconic hero and moral figure, his humble beginnings emphasize the American dream.
2. Bruce Wayne/Batman
This is one of the most detailed origin stories in the comic book universe. When Bruce Wayne was between the ages of 6-10 (it varies depending on which version) he and his parents (Thomas and Martha Wayne) went out for a night at the theater to go see Bruce’s favorite show: The Mask of Zorro (Or an opera involving demonic bats in Batman Begins). Earlier that night, he convinced his mother to wear the beautiful pearl necklace that his father had given her for their anniversary. As they walked home, they took a shortcut down Park Row (renamed Crime Alley after the incident) and Martha’s pearl necklace caught the attention of small time criminal: Joe Chill. He then mugged them, taking their money, but shot them when they attempted to stop him from taking Martha’s necklace. Bruce Wayne was helpless to do anything but watch as his parents died in front of him. He then made a vow on their deathbeds to get revenge on the criminal element that caused this tragedy. He then devoted the remainder of his childhood towards training himself, and deemed himself ready after several years of intense physical/mental training, taking on the symbol of the bat in order to strike fear into the hearts of the city’s criminals.
This is one of the darker origin stories, fitting for a darker hero. Batman has always been considered to have questionable sanity, and rightfully so due to the tragedy of watching his parents die in front of him as a SIX TO TEN YEAR OLD KID!!! It’s a story of a man who was broken and chose to devote himself to justice even if it meant walking through hell for the rest of his life in order to do so. It’s one of the most impacting Origin stories in the franchise, second only to one.
1. Peter Parker/Spiderman
Everyone knows the story of how Peter Parker got his powers. He was a very smart nerd who was constantly picked on for being scrawny until one day on a field trip; he was bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. The next day he found himself with super strength, the ability to climb on walls and enhanced reflexes. This is not the origin of Spiderman; this is just how he got his powers. When Peter got his powers he decided to use them for fun, he got back at the bullies at his school, started practicing stunts for the fun of it, and even took up wrestling. After winning an amateurs’ night at a professional wrestling wring, he got cheated out of the money he earned by the manager. On his way out he passed a burglar attempting to rob the place. As revenge on the manager, he did nothing to prevent it. That same robber murdered his uncle Ben while trying to steal his car. After learning this, Peter realized that through his inaction, he caused it. After listening to Uncle Ben’s last words to him via missed phone call, he realized the importance of his message: with great power, comes great responsibility. THAT is the origin of Spiderman.
The impact in this one is truly the most lasting; Marvel’s star character is the perfect display of morals, as he is a shocking reminder of the responsibility that comes with extraordinary gifts. He did what most of us would’ve done in a heartbeat, use his abilities for fun, and get some revenge on his enemies, but with his devastating reality check, he became the symbol of responsibility and one of the most popular and influential characters of his time.
Well there you have it, think I got it wrong? Think I missed anybody? Leave your comments below
Post written by Daniel Jerz