Let’s face it, folks: not everyone can be rocketed to Earth from a doomed planet just moments before it explodes. With thousands of comic book characters out there, some of them are going to spring from beginnings that are less than humble. It’s just the law of averages.
That’s the lesson that we think we can learn from this week’s “DC Universe Origins” paperback, which collects the two-page origin stories that ran in “52.” And while the creators did a great job summing up the “who they are and how they came to be” for characters like Batman, Wonder Woman and the Joker, there are plenty of others who got their starts in strange, bizarre, and occasionally outright terrible ways! Which is why we here at ComicsAlliance, ever the champions of the underdog, have put together a look at our favorites from seven decades of bizarre origins!
As one of the Silver-Agiest comics of the Silver Age, “The Legion of Super-Heroes” is full of weird origin stories, including characters that were swallowed by whales, kept in the Phantom Zone for a solid thousand years, or just hailed from a planet where everyone ate rocks or whatever. But even in that crowd, there’s only one character that got his super-powers through sheer stupidity: Chuck Taine, a.k.a. Bouncing Boy.The ability to turn oneself into a gigantic ABA basketball would make for a pretty weird power by itself, but it’s the story of how he got them just pushes him over the top. When running an errand for a scientist who developed a “Super-Plastic Fluid,” Chuck gets distracted by a robot gladiator tournament at the local stadium and ends up in the stand watching two robots beat each other to scrap with giant clubs. That, we can get behind, but when he gets thirsty and reaches for his soda…
…he ends up downing the super-plastic fluid by mistake. It’s worth noting that, thanks to the economy of storytelling in 1961, it appears that Chuck actually realizes he’s drinking the formula and then just keeps on going ’til he finishes the bottle, which is even more troubling because it tastes “awful.”Despite the fact that he’s got the attention span of a gnat, Chubbs here ends up using his powers for good, and even winds up getting married to Triplicate GIrl, the foxy Legionnaire with the ability to split into three foxy Legionnaires, thus becoming the wish-fulfillment character for Legion fans everywhere.
MARVEX THE SUPER-ROBOT
If the Silver Age was a time when the rules were crazy, then the Golden Age was when there just weren’t any rules at all, which is how we ended up with characters like Marvex. On the surface, he doesn’t seem that strange, as a robot that rebels against its evil creators is actually pretty standard for science fiction, even if the robot in question rebels by picking up its diminutive maker and beating other little people to death with him:
No, what sets Marvex apart is what happens after, when an explosion of Robot Science blasts him from “the fifth dimension” into the exciting world of 1940, where, despite the fact that he’s a gigantic metal man with scales on his chest, no one seems to realize that he’s actually a robot. Instead, everyone just seems to be worried about the fact that he’s running around naked, which leads him to buy clothes:
Thus, the brief career of Marvel’s greatest robotic crimefighter begins… in style. And the fact that this is all delivered in the matter-of-fact deadpan manner of the panels above (other captions include “The super-robot leaps to the rescue.” and “The bullets do not penetrate his strange metal body.”) makes Marvex one of the most obscure and hilarious characters of all time.
One of the things about building a team largely comprised of all-new characters, as Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo did when they decided to have Batman say he was through with the “two-bit Justice League” and build his own group of misfits, is that eventually, you’re going to want to explain where the heck they all come from. And in the case of the Outsiders, that was a tricky proposition at best.We often shake our heads at Looker (the “plain” girl who turned into an ersatz Jean Grey and who was distinguished by being a princess from an underground kingdom who was also a vampire that wore one of the worst costumes of all time
), but for weird origins, it’s tough to beat “The Truth About Halo,” a three-part story that we swear went on for about four thousand years.
Here’s the short version: Originally a teenage amnesiac with super-powers that Batman found in Europe and promptly put to work fighting crime (because, you know, he’s Batman and that’s what he does when he finds teenagers), young Gaby Doe was eventually revealed to be Violet Harper, a sociopathic juvenile delinquent who was murdered by an agent of Tobias Whale, a hugely obese albino that used to fight Black Lightning. And this is where it starts to get weird.
As Violet’s soul exited her body, it was replaced by Aurakle, an energy being from the beginning of time that came to Earth and apparently got its kicks spying on teenage girls. Thus, traumatized by “death,” Aurakle got amnesia but kept its super-powers, and Halo was born.
All in all, pretty simple. Now if someone could just explain why anyone likes Geo-Force…
By itself, aliens coming to Earth to give a random person phenomenal cosmic powers isn’t that weird an origin. Heck, it’s actually exactly what happened to Kyle Rayner when he became Green Lantern, and it opens up a lot of possibilities to see what happens when an “average” guy gets abilities far beyond those of mortal men.What sets the Captain, the alcoholic Brooklynite of “Nextwave,” is how he reacts:
Of course, if you want to get technical, you could say that the Captain’s only there because he drinks in the first place, and if you want to find out the secret origin of what drove him to the booze…
…we’d have to go back a little further.
One of the truisms of comic book science is that if you get bitten by something, you become (at least partially) that thing. BItten by a vampire? You’re a vampire. Bitten by a radioactive spider? Congratulations, you’ve got radioactive spider powers. And if you happen to be a Nazi scientist experimenting on enslaving mutant bees after fleeing to South America to avoid war crimes trials who gets eaten to death by said mutant bees?
Well, you get the idea.
We mentioned before that the Golden Age produced some of the craziest origin stories in comics–like Dan Dyce, a.k.a. Prisoner #711, who had to escape from prison every night to prove his own innocence–but even Marvex the super-robot doesn’t hold a candle to The Vagabond.Faced with an overwhelming crimewave, FBI Agent Pat Murphy is given “free rein to work on it your own way” by his superiors at the bureau. And just what is “his own way?”
Dressing up like a hobo clown named Chauncey Throttlebottom III
and getting into bar fights. This is the full extent of his plan.A few things to keep in mind about this guy: First, that Murphy doesn’t just dress as a hobo, but rather that he dresses as a clown that is also dressed as a clown version of a hobo
that also affects a faux-upper class accent, including his battle cry, “Yoicks and Tally Ho!” Second, that he is completely dedicated to his cover, going so far as to ask for a job after he wrecks a bar during one of his brawls. And third, that while he is occasionally referred to as “the Vagabond,” a caption says that he is “better known to himself” as Chauncey Throttlebottom III, which means that that is his actual super-hero name
We love that guy.
Okay, let’s see if we can get this straight: Cable is the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor who was taken to the future, where he was raised to be a soldier by his father and the woman his mother was cloned from, who were brought to the future under assumed names, because their daughter from another future, who had been lost in time and was therefore older than both of them, brought them there so that they could prepare him to go backin time in a spaceship and fight his own clone, all while dealing with a future-disease that’s turning him into a robot.We’d try to explain Shatterstar too, but we need to go lay down before our heads explode.
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