The 6 Most Half-Assed Superhero Origins of All Time
Superhero origins are traditionally moronic. Daredevil was hit by a radioactive truck, Black Condor learned to fly by trying until it worked and Batman was against bad people. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got their start after normal turtles walked across karate ooze, and when Michael Bay suggested changing their story to be "from space," the Internet became something entirely new -- outraged. Sure, being from space would make three of the words in their title wrong, but the uncharacteristic nerd rage it sparked showed that despite the dumbass nature of superhero origins, they are a revered part of our pop culture. You know, except for these ones:
Every few years, all the Marvel superheroes get together and beat the shit out of each other. Sometimes they do it for ridiculous, contrived reasons, and other times it's not as well thought out. Contest of Champions was one of those times. It was a superhero boxing match set up by a space god to gamble against Death. I'd call it stupid, but it's more or less exactly what I would do every day if I was in charge of outer space.
For a comics writer or a comics fan, Contest of Champions was a dream come true. For no goddamn narrative point whatsoever, Hulk could fight Thor, Spider-Man could fight Captain America, Iron Man could fight Defensor and ...wait -- what the hell is a Defensor?
Iron Man's mouth couldn't even bother to form the words ...
... and then he smashed him unconscious against a wall before he ever learned his name.
Defensor was an Argentine superhero who never existed before the Contest of Champions. The writers had their choice of literally any amazing superhero in the cosmos, and they went with a strange man whose power is owning a shield. This analogy is going to sound impossible, but that's like making a movie about the origins of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi and deciding it needs a floppy-eared moon fuck in black face. If you're going to throw an all-new character into the middle of these beloved icons, he needs to do something impressive right away. Here was literally the first thing we ever saw Defensor do or say:
His origin story was revealed later to be this gripping tale: Gabriel Carlos Dantes Sepulveda was an Argentine construction worker who found a magic shield at work. Maybe it was simple laziness, or maybe they thought that since South America liked soccer, they'd also like a superhero who sucked. Either way, I wouldn't go so far to say South America was being insulted. That came later in the same comic, when Defensor forgot which country he was from.
Oh, you're from Brazil? That explains why you keep blurting things in Spanish!
I get that it sounds crazy for Marvel Comics to have an open hatred for South America, yet Defensor never did anything else except die at the hands of a serial killer who only killed South American superheroes. Here's Defensor's glorious death scene in its entirety:
The eulogy for his off-camera slaying got second billing to South America's most legendary superhero, Captain Forsa, a super-strong Brazilian whose name they spelled wrong. Captain Forsa appeared only once before in the Marvel Universe, to announce that he was going to unleash his wrath on whoever keeps killing South American superheroes. He did this by helplessly dying all over the guy. There is no worse job in fiction than being a South American Marvel superhero, and to give you perspective, one of their greatest Canadian heroes had achondroplastic dwarfism for his power.
Speaking of crime fighters whose abilities include holding a shield and nothing, the Guardian started his career as Jim Harper, police officer. Since subtlety wasn't invented until the '50s, he patrolled Suicide Slum, the "toughest section of the city." Jim loved this job so much he'd often shout out loud to himself how well things were going or forget he was covered in body fluids when he went into his boss' office.
"That's a lot of crime blood on your chest, rookie. Top notch police work."
Without skipping ahead even one tiny bit, one day Jim was pistol-whipped by criminals.
"Ha! Bet this cop never expected us criminals to love crime!"
Jim woke up and did what any concussion victim filled with impotent rage would do -- something crazy. He broke into a Halloween store and started stealing pantyhose.
"Costumes!? Hold on, I just got an idea: costumes!"
Breaking and entering and burglary are terrible starts to a crime fighter's second job as a crime fighter, but don't worry. He babbled something about paying for the costume.
"Deer owner: Sorry 4 all the blod. I am hit in head. Needed costorm. Here is maybe the $$ for cost? I am not Jim Harper bye."
After the robbery, Jim jogged over to a bar and assaulted his attackers. He thinks? They were dressed differently, but we've already seen that Suicide Slum is the kind of neighborhood where people make mad dashes for costume changes after street fights. However, Jim only saw one of them from behind before he charged in and upper-cutted him in the ass. There is a huge, huge chance that this guy just ambushed a very confused pool game.
"Ha! This helmet makes me immune to all head attacks!"
"I don't care! Let us finish our game, maniac!"
When Jim is finished getting his revenge on the three hoodlums by knocking out seven unrelated men in a pool hall, the plot thickens. He steals their money and discovers that their cash has the same serial numbers as the Johnson kidnappers! Wait, holy shit what!?
"Florm, sperp, dingus, duck shape!? My God. Those are the same numbers as the mayor rape money! This case just got a whole lot bigger."
So obviously, this is a very troubled man with a very serious head wound making some very poor decisions. Even if he beat up the right guys, and I think I made a solid case for how there is no way he did, dressing up in a disguise did not help in any way. He was a cop who was his own victim and eyewitness -- he had a pretty solid case for just pulling out his gun and shooting them in front of reporters. And if he wanted to charge them with a crime, it's infinitely easier to do that with an arresting officer than with a note left on top of seven half-dead pool players. Again, all of these bizarre actions make sense for a man whose brain is being pinched by skull fragments, but 70 years later, the Guardian still lives by the knee-jerk decisions he made during that one fit of dementia.
"That's right, villain! Perhaps I AM an idiot. An IDIOT for JUSTICE. A JUSTICE IDIOT! Yes! So henceforth, you criminal villains can call me THE JUSTICE IDIOT!"
Bouncing Boy is a zaftig fellow from the 30th century who has the ability to blow himself up into a ball shape and bounce.
And that's also why we called other superheroes!
He got his powers when he was working as an errand boy for a scientist and was given an "instant, super-plastic fluid" to deliver to the "science council." Unfortunately, his path took him right by the ROBOT GLADIATOR TOURNAMENT. This shouldn't have been a problem, since if you can't trust the impulse control of the only fat guy in the 30th century, what can you trust? Unfortunately, he not only ditched work to watch robot fights, he fucking drank the plastic. If this turns out to be a true story and all of society thinks about it from now until then, we will still never be able to come up with a word to describe Bouncing Boy's failure.
"And oh no! These peanuts! CHOMP! They're! CHOMP! The fingers! GULP! Of screaming children! CHOMP!"
To the future's credit, everyone told Bouncing Boy that he had a crappy superpower and he was denied a spot in the Legion of Superheroes. It didn't help that in his first mission he mistook a skywriting device for a bomb and bounced into the sky to do nothing except literally cry in front of the words "THE WORLD'S BIGGEST FOOL." I'm absolutely not kidding:
Jesus Christ. The writers for Adventure Comics hate fat people more than Taco Bell's plumber.
In 1941, a bored rich kid named Rod Reilly put on a see-through shirt to punch crime as Firebrand! And as lame as is to have the powers and abilities of a drag show brawl, Rod is not the Firebrand with the stupidest origin story. That honor goes to his sister Danette. She was a vulcanologist who appeared in All-Star Squadron almost as a prop, except props aren't constantly trying to kill themselves. Danette Reilly was only useful for two things, and filling a bra was both of them.
"Trampling tampons, curse me and my womanly noises!"
Danette got superpowers in a situation so absurd that I think it might have been a spelling error. It all started when she was running from two evil wizards, Wotan and Professor Zodiak.
And yes, that's an actual argument they're having about whether they should even BOTHER to shoot her in the back.
She runs slowly enough that Wotan and Professor Zodiak finish their long, long conversation about the pros and cons of murdering her. Wotan wins with this faultless and expository logic:
You can skip a lot of this. It's pretty basic wizard ethics stuff.
When an ordinary human woman gets killed straight into lava, there's not a lot of directions her story can take. So it came as a bit of a plot twist on the next page when the heroes set themselves free and one of them is holding Danette.
"Did anyone else find a free woman in the lava?"
So we have a woman who fell into magic lava. We're done being retarded, right? Not by any measure. Danette went back home and had a dream that revealed how to open her late brother's secret closet, where she learned he was Firebrand! We all grieve in our own way, so she put on her swimsuit, and then her dead brother's fetish gear, to surprise and delight his friends. The fact that everything began igniting around her probably had more to do with a furious God than her mystical lava accident.
"Guys! Guess who I am! Ha ha, I'm your dead partner! And, ha ha ha, check out these penises I drew on all his photos!"
So with a transparent costume 20 sizes too big and the combat training of a vulcanologist, Danette of course felt ready to wield the power of starting random fires whenever she points. I have no idea why the other superheroes thought that was a bad idea. Maybe they were hoping for something more safe and practical, like an algebra teacher who sneezes hand grenades or a seismologist who leaks radiation when teen boys are on his lap.
"Come on, you dicks. Name one time you won't need something to set everything on fire!"
From Barry Allen becoming the Flash when lightning struck police chemicals to Wally West becoming another the Flash when lightning struck police chemicals, super-speed heroes have the best, most novel origin stories. I mean, the Whizzer got his powers when he was bitten by a snake and his deranged father filled him with the blood of the mongoose that killed it. That's almost as awesome as it is educational.
There are a few exceptions, like Johnny Quick, who got his super speed by reciting math, and the other Whizzer, who stepped too close to weird fog, but the worst super speed origin belongs to the original Flash, Jay Garrick. Before he gained his powers, Jay was an ordinary college student with ordinary problems, like being harped at by women for not concentrating enough on football.
That's got to be the nicest way Joan could have put that. Oh, before you walk away, can I cool my drink down against your chest, you horrible bitch?
Jay wasn't much better at science, which is probably why they only let him do experiments with "hard water." What kind of experiments? I have no idea, and neither does Jay.
"God, that stupid professor would not shut up! New this! Experiment that! He almost said an entire sentence!! I'm going to have a cigarette."
"Oh, I'm going to have THE SHIT out of a cigarette."
So Jay leaned against the exact chemistry set he was taking a break from. I'm not saying that couldn't happen ever, but it's kind of like taking a break from setting rat traps to unzip your pants and do push-ups. Everyone except Jay saw this next part coming:
"This was ... the risk ... I took ... when I ... was born ... a dipshit!"
After weeks in the hospital, and what surely had to be the easiest F that chemistry professor had ever given, Jay woke up with fantastic speed. His first and only idea was this: do terrifyingly impossible things in front of that mean girl until she bangs him.
"AAAHH! You're the devil! Plus, this isn't the right book. This isn't CLOSE to the right book. You should really start letting people finish sentences, vanishing freak monstOW!!! Did ... did you just put your finger in my butt?"
In 1961, a mysterious and fit boy came from the future with an old man named Marla and used his PENETRA-VISION to look through other boys' shirts until he found out which one was Superboy. It all took place in the classic issue No. 98:
Tricking people into thinking you were or weren't Superman was how most comic book characters spent their time in the '60s, so this wasn't an unusual story. What made it unusual was how Ultra-Boy got his powers. Like Bouncing Boy, he was a member of the Legion of Superheroes, and every single one of them was created by shoving a stupid person out of a plane and screaming that his parachute will only open if he invents 250 superheroes with unique back stories.
The Legion's lineup was Color Kid and Lightning Lad, who were hit by rays, Colossal Boy and Fire Lad, who were hit by meteors, and Chlorophyll Kid, who fell into a tank of plant food. The rest of them just came from weird theme planets where everyone developed powers to deal with everyday life. For instance, if no one on the planet of Wiltor had a refrigerator, its humans would adapt to have crisper drawers and dispense ice. Jo-Nah lived on Rimbor, which gave him no special abilities. So how did he gain PENETRA-VISION and become Ultra-Boy? The same way the Bravo network picks their fall lineup: by assuming viewers are too busy being gay to care what they're looking at.
"OK, I have this idea for a new superhero. He's ... he's a guy with the powers of, of Superman! His name is Supe -- ULTRA Ma -- Ultra-BOY. He got them from ... from a space whale eating him! Please, I've done what you asked. Just give me my daughter back!"
"I'VE ESCAPED BUT ... MY PREMISE ... FEELS LAME! LAME!!!"
"And on Rimbor, they tell a story about SU-PERBOY. He, too, was a moron written during a fever dream!"