Karen: What elements make for a successful origin story? While no two characters share exactly the same background, are there certain aspects that resonate with readers?
Karen: I've thought about it and it seems like there is some element of tragedy in many origins. It may not be the major element, but to some degree it is there. It may motivate them for their entire career, or it may simply serve to get them on the path to their eventual career, but it's there. Batman and Spider-Man are obvious examples, with the death of loved ones motivating them to become heroes. Superman's entire planet is destroyed, leaving him the last of his kind (well, sometimes). The early Iron Man wore his chest plate to keep the shrapnel in his chest from reaching his heart-he was always on the edge of dying. Steve Rogers is reborn as Captain America just as his creator/father figure, Dr. Erskine, is killed by a Nazi agent. Norrin Radd sacrifices his humanity and becomes the Silver Surfer to save his world. And so on.
Karen: Now combing through old books, I realize the tragedy angle works mainly with Marvel characters. Looking back at DC heroes, their origins seem far less tragic -although it's hard to know just what those origins are any more,but I'm sticking with Bronze Age and prior. DC's classic pantheon of characters like Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman for example, all seem to be worthy people who deserve to receive their powers. Maybe their common element is just that -they are already heroes in a sense, and their powers just makes them super-heroes. That was really the big difference between Marvel and DC though, at least until the 80s -Marvel characters were normal, Everyman types usually who became heroes mostly by accident. DC characters were guys (and gals) who were already better than your average Joe -they were essentially destined for greatness.
Karen: As far as favorites go, I think Spider-Man and Batman have two of the best, most compelling -I like that they are so similar, and yet the two characters are so different. You could spend hours discussing how the loss of their loved ones affected them. I also have always really liked the Superman origin and comparing the many variations that have sprung up over the years. The same goes for Captain America's origin, which has changed in the details over time.
Karen: I'd like to hear your thoughts on super-hero origin stories, which ones are your favorites, and what in your opinion makes them successful.
1984 #7 - Alex Nino art
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