Dubious Origins

· 3 min read

I had an idea, it’s value is yet to be determined. There’s a new story I’m working on with a character that is into comics (in universe comics, not real-world comics), several are mentioned by name and I thought it might be an interesting experiment to produce a comic based on these in-universe comics. Only a first edition of the comic, not trying to produce anything too in-depth or expansive, just something as a bit of a curiosity. When I first had this idea I thought it would be an interesting project to try and learn some ins-and-outs of other writing… disciplines, I guess.

I have no idea how far it will get as a project, I’m not sure my idea is good, if the characters even make sense, if any of it is really worthwhile, but regardless I decided to dive into a bit of origin-story research (enlisting the help of some of my comic-focussed friends) and I’ve had a really hard time thinking of characters with interesting, good origins. Now I’m not saying here aren’t any, no, I am 100% positive there are, I think the problem I’m having is over-exposure to the big names. The men of spider, bat and super, the women of wonder, cat and, well I was going to say clown but Harley Quinn isn’t called ‘clown woman’ so that joke doesn’t work. Anyway my point being these are characters you intrinsically know their ‘origin’ but not necessarily the origin story (except for Harley Quinn who apparently became a thing because of a cartoon in the 90s - which is interesting but not really relevant), by that I mean the actual set of comics that were the definitive origin story. Of course that doesn’t have to be the first editions a character appeared or anything, merely a story that has been canonically accepted as that particular hero’s origin (i.e. the one people give you the summary version of).

A lot of the stories don’t really translate well, at least not straight off the mark, some of them have also been superseded by the movie variants, or so it seems (not a comic archivist, lexicologist or in any way deep enough into the comics sphere to say anything with any level of certainty, I just read them from time to time). So I’m back where I started, what actually makes a good origin story? Inherently it shouldn’t be any different to what makes a good story, but so many of the comic-related things I see are reliant on the hero gaining the powers before the tory gets interesting and a comic issue is fairly constrained in length (less so today, but still), so how did they explain the spider bite or the gamma radiation or the building of a suit in a cave, with a box of scraps?

Short answer: I don’t know. Long answer: Well I still don’t know, but I’m hoping to find out by doing it myself, even if it means buying Marvel Unlimited so I can go back and look at the origins of Howard the Duck. Whether that’ll be a what-not-to-do or a what-to-do learning experience time will tell.