We are getting a ton of new superhero and villain origin stories lately. It seems like the studios are ready to move on from just releasing sequel after sequel, and are going to be giving fans a look at characters they don’t already know. 2016 gives us “new” origin stories for Batman, Black Panther, Electra, Punisher, Dr. Strange, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Deadpool, and so many more.
It’s getting to a point where we may be getting some of the really bad origin stories coming soon, because there are a lot of those. A good many the studio may choose to turn around and make more realistic, like they did for Electra in Daredevil season 2, but there are more looming. Here are 15 terrible comic book origin stories.
15 Luke Cage
Luke Cage is one of the most popular superheroes. He’s got awesome powers, a relatable personality, and he’s not just some one-dimensional do-gooder who plays by the books. He’s kind of a better version of Captain America. Do you want to know why? Because he is Captain America, just one that never went off to war. Luke Cage is a blatant rip-off of Captain America in origin. In fact it’s not even subtle, he was used for an experiment trying to duplicate Cap’s Super Soldier Serum, but it didn’t work the way they wanted. Part of the reason this is so annoying is that Luke Cage isn’t the only hero with this exact origin; he just was able to stay prominent. The origin also belongs to Patriot, American Kaiju, Bushmaster, Master Man, and notably Red Skull (Captain America’s arch enemy). Alternate realities also have the Hulk get his powers from it as well as Spider-Man. Too many people are just failed clones of Captain America.
The blue and fuzzy teleporter, Nightcrawler, was just born that way. We aren’t knocking that aspect of the story, as close to 50% of heroes are just kinda born with their powers, but the whole background story for Nightcrawler reads like a bad episode of a soap opera. He was found, as a newborn, by some Gypsy sorceress who then took him in and raised him to be a part of her circus troupe. She said that she also found the body of his dead father when she found him. As it turns out Nightcrawler is the son of Mystique and Azazel, two of the X-Men’s regular foes, but he doesn’t learn this until much later in life. There’s also the storyline where he falls in love with his foster sister, after she spends years believing he murdered a bunch of children. There’s a lot of details in Nightcrawler’s background that are forced to make his journey harder, even though it’s probably hard enough seeing that he is the stereotypical design of a blue devil.
You thought Nightcrawler’s character background was bad? Cable is the son of Scott Summers (aka Cyclops) and a clone of Jean grey. He’s basically a mash-up of everything Marvel thought was cool when he was unveiled in the early 90s. He is a time traveling super mutant, who is half robot, and extremely skilled with a gun. So he’s basically The Terminator. The story goes that he was taken from his parents at a very young age, by his parents from the future, because their daughter from a different timeline made them take him, so they could train him to go back to the past and fight his own clone. Yea it makes very little sense, and is overwhelmingly convoluted. On the bright side, Cable is a pretty badass character and his team-ups with Deadpool are movie worthy.
12 The Flash
Jay Garrick just woke up with speed. He just fell asleep and inhaled water vapor and then had super speed. There’s nothing more to it. To be fair, when he was introduced in the ‘40s origin stories weren’t nearly as complex as they are now. For example, Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, just had a magic ring that showed up out of nowhere, and Superman was just an alien (well, that one never changed). However, Garrick wasn’t the only Flash with a questionable origin. Barry Allen and Wally West were both in the exact same accident where lightning randomly hits some chemicals that they were walking past. Nothing else, just lightning hitting something and some dude being in the proximity of it. Their origins have been expanded upon a lot since their inception, but no one can deny how ridiculous this is initially.
11 The Whizzer
What’s up with speedsters having terrible origins? The Whizzer, initially a hero from Timely Comics and later a property of Marvel, is basically the Flash except he’s just not as fast. Robert Frank (who becomes The Whizzer) gets his powers after he’s bit by a cobra while on safari in Africa. In an attempt to save his son, his father injects him with Mongoose blood, which apparently will fight off Cobra venom. Note to readers: don’t do this, in real life you’ll die. Somehow it gives the guy super speed and he uses it to fight crime. Most of what The Whizzer does throughout the comics is equally baffling, such as randomly believing Scarlet Witch is his daughter, and retiring multiple times.
10 Bouncing Boy
Bouncing Boy can be best described as an inflatable kid who is made out of rubber. He’s not actually made out of rubber, but his power is being able to bounce, a lot. The only thing lamer than his actual power is his origin. Charles Taine was tasked with delivering some plastic formula, when he decides to go watch some sport instead of actually doing his job. At the game, he buys a soda, but accidentally grabs the formula he’s tasked with delivering and takes a swig, giving him his new ability. In his defense, who puts their dangerous experimental formula to increase plasticity in a soda bottle? Either way it’s absolutely a ridiculous origin that rewards the random kid for being the worst delivery boy ever. What is that supposed to teach our children?
9 Elongated Man
As a boy, Ralph Dibny was really interested in contortionists. I mean really interested in them. He spends like all his time talking to them trying to figure out how they got their talents. He gains one piece of information; they all really love the same soda called "Gingold." As he grows up, Ralph studies chemistry to find the link between Gingold and contortion. As it turns out the fruit that Gingold is made out of, Gingo, his very elastic. Ralph is able to develop a super-concentrated extract of the fruit and it gives him his elastic powers. No where else will you find superpowers from eating a lot of fruit.
8 Penance (Speedball)
Robbie Baldwin’s change from fun loving Speedball to the self loathing Penance is one of those moments that make readers ask “what the f*** did I just read?” It makes close to no realistic sense, as it’s too much of a 180-degree change in characterization that no one even believed it. Penance is basically a suit filled with internal spikes causing the wearer constant agony. He dawns this suit out of the guilt he feels from Nitro killing 612 people in Stamford (even though he says about 30 billion times it wasn’t his fault). He then teams up with the supervillain gang The Thunderbolts, and attacks his best friend Nova telling the alien that he must register as a superhuman. Fans, because of how ludicrous the transformation is, have continuously panned the character until he revered back to his Speedball incarnation. The writing staff at Marvel even poked fun at how silly the whole thing was, when he tells Squirrel Girl he was just tired of being a comedic character in The Great Lake Avengers: Summer Fun Spectacular.
7 Harley Quinn
They bathe her in acid and take away the choice she made to stay with the Joker. It’s the worst remade origin story of any character ever. Harley Quinn’s original origin is as Dr. Harleen Quinnzel, the Joker’s psychiatrist who eventually falls in love with him and helps to break him out of Arkham. It’s a great origin, as it makes her directly responsible for all her own super villain antics and is the best depiction of an abusive relationship in comic book history. When they redid her origin in the Suicide Squad books, they had her as a helpless victim of the maniacal Joker as he tortures her into insanity by bathing her in bleach. It takes so much away from her character as she loses the choice to be Harley Quinn, which was one of the reasons she was such a great character.
6 The Atom
Ray Palmer has found new fame from being a featured character in the Arrowverse, starring on Legends of Tomorrow. Many people know him as the quirky technical genius who created a suit that can defy matter. That’s similar to his comic origin, except in one major missed point — Palmer doesn’t come up with this technology on his own. While out for a walk one day, he finds a fragment of a dwarf star on the floor, and then one thing leads to another and he determines it’s the missing ingredient to perfecting his shrinking suit. We’ll let that stew for a second. He found a fragment of a dwarf star on the floor? Everything about that is the opposite of how stars work, everything. If he found a fragment of a dwarf star, it would be hot enough to destroy the entire earth, or at least heavy enough to throw it out of orbit. And how did he stumble upon something like that? How did no one notice a firey piece of matter colliding with Earth? Someone just did not think it through at all.
5 The Top
The Top is one of the lesser known enemies of the Flash who’s powers include spinning really fast. This spinning also gave him a heightened intelligence and some telekinetic abilities. How? We don’t know, it’s never really explained. It just kind of happens. He spins a lot and gets really good at it, so he gains new powers from spinning faster and faster. Why doesn’t the Flash, or any of the other 50+ speedsters, try this tactic to get more powers? They can go faster than the top, and if they somehow get telekinesis it would put them at such an advantage against so many of their foes. It’s baffling that this continues on in the comics today.
In current comics, Hawkman’s origin story is a bit suspect. This is mainly because there are two significant origins and the comics decided to keep going with both of them. One is that he is the reincarnation of an Egyptian Prince, and one where he is from the alien planet of Thanagar. When writing new adventures for Hawkman, DC couldn’t decide which story to go with, so they just decided on both of them. Hawkman is an Alien who is also the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince. If you’re a bit confused, don’t worry, so is everyone else. Once the writers created one origin, they should have stuck with it. Then they made another, and instead of separating the two characters, someone had the terrible idea to merge them.
3 Power Girl
Power girl’s problem is similar to Hawkman’s in that no one could decide which origin to use. The difference is that they just kept making more. Sometimes she’s Superman’s clone, sometimes she’s his cousin, sometimes she’s a clone of Superman’s cousin, once she was an Atlantian, and there’s more that we aren’t listing here. When it comes to Power Girl, it feels like the writers really love her character design (really what’s not to love about it), but don’t have any clue what to do about her character. They don’t seem to like the idea of just having a younger female version of Superman running around, but don’t know what else she can be. It’s hard to read some Power Girl stories because, as it turns out, giving a woman huge boobs doesn’t make her compelling.
2 Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is always billed as a super genius who just can’t stand that there’s a man who has more power than he has. However, some origins make it clear that he just wants his hair back. There’s a story where Superman and Lex grew up in Smallville together. They were good friends actually with Superman helping Luthor out of a lot of tight spots. When Lex’s house catches fire, the young Superman comes to aid his friend, blowing out the fire, but also blowing some chemicals around which get spilled on Lex’s head. The chemicals make all his hair fall out. Lex never forgave his friend for balding him, thus the origin of his hate for the Man of Steel. What a ridiculous origin.
1 Black Condor
Black Condor might not be famous purely because of how strange his origin story is. Have you ever heard of the “raised by wolves” trope in stories? Yes you have, think Mowgli from The Jungle Book, or even Tarzan. Well the Black Condor is similar, except he was raised by birds. As a child a condor saved the life of Richard Grey Jr., and raised the boy as it’s own. This condor taught Richard the way of the birds, including teaching him to fly. There’s a hysterical couple of panels of Richard jumping from cliffs attempting to fly, and falling to what should be his death, only to inexplicably survive and try again. DC has since tried to revise the character but fans never seem to get passed the original origin.