Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 5/16/2014 | 40 comments

David Wagner
With Disney’s success with the Avengers franchise, geeks everywhere are being treated to an outrageously large number of TV shows and movies based on comic book superhero characters. For the fall season alone, we’re going to see new TV series based on The Flash, Constantine, Gotham City before Batman, and even a series featuring Captain America’s crush, Agent Carter. Comic book movies have gotten so popular that Disney actually decided to roll the dice on a Guardians of the Galaxy movie that features a talking tree and a raccoon with automatic weapons.

We’ve come a long way since Saturday morning cartoons were the only time we saw comic book characters on TV. Even then, they thought we needed a monkey and a couple of twins for comic relief, just for kids to get through it.

But all these movies and reboots mean that we’re playing around with origin stories quite a lot, and sometimes for good reason. Iron Man is a perfect example. The original Iron Man origin story takes place in Vietnam. There are obvious reasons that that story needs to be updated for a new movie that meshes with modern characters.

Sometimes, we play with origin stories for rights reasons. Marvel sold the rights to the X-Men to Sony and the Avengers to Disney. So this year, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, who were in both groups at one time, will appear in two different movies played by different actors.

Sometimes, it seems like we do it because people can’t leave well enough alone, as with the Incredible Hulk. People often forget that the Hulk actually is transformed when Bruce Banner is caught in a bomb test blast trying to save a little boy. They also forget that he was abused by his father as a child and his first “rage moment” actually came decades before he becomes the Hulk, when he retaliated against his abusive father. Instead, we’ve got boring experiment gone wrong in most of the movies.

Why do I care about the origin stories so much? Because that’s the moment when a regular person (even possibly a person who already has powers) becomes a hero. It is the best moment in every hero’s first movie. At least the good ones. There are a lot of ways to become super. Here’s a look at some of the best and worst ways to become super:

Bad
The death of your parents. This is a recurring theme. Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Superman all endure the loss of their parents before they become heroes. Interestingly enough, only one of them, Batman, doesn’t need added help. Batman goes so crazy from the loss of his parents he straps on a belt and starts knocking heads. At least the others wait to actually get super. It stinks, because even though it makes you a hero, you’re stuck with dead parents.

Exile. This is the ultimate Superman plot. But it also goes for Thor, Submariner, and Wonder Woman. Usually in this case the hero is more ordinary in his or her home, but after coming to Earth is extraordinary -- compared to us. Exile shapes the heroes' views of the world and gives them their powers. But it's the death of your parents on steroids. You lose not only your family, but your way of life and everything you know. I’ll pass.

Baby, I was born this way. In the Marvel universe, they’re called mutants. Sometimes they’re called gifted, evolved, or chosen. But every comic book universe seems to have a race of humans that is just more advanced than we are. Sounds cool, right? By the lottery of birth you are given incredible power. No deaths in the family. No loss of your planet.

The problem is that humans don’t tend to take too kindly to people who are different. You get hunted down, lose your rights, and live in seclusion or at some pretend school. Worse yet, when you discover your power the first time, you’re almost always incredibly embarrassed, like blowing your first kiss or something. Sometimes things go really bad.

Better
An experiment gone wrong. Marvel loves this one. Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and a bunch of others fall under this category. It usually involves some sort of radiation. This is a good one, because usually you have a couple things going for you here. You’re probably pretty smart, because a lot of times it is your experiment gone wrong. You don’t always have to go through emotional trauma to get your powers (though sometimes to be a hero). You do get pesky side effects though, like sometimes you can’t control the powers, or you get changed physically forever. Or there’s this guy who was probably granted the power of making flat drinks fizzy.

An experiment gone right. An even better origin is when you plan to make yourself super and the thing actually works. Captain America and his super soldier serum is the obvious choice. Even better is Ant-Man, who invented his own serum. That way you’ve got super smarts as well as super powers. The only problem with the experiment gone right is that you become someone else’s experiment. For 60 years a recurring plot around Captain America is trying to replicate the formula that has been lost to time. No one wants to be the bad guy’s guinea pig.

Making your own gadgets. Some of the best heroes are normal folks who build cool toys, like Batman, Iron Man, and Hawkeye. The smarter you are, the cooler your toys. But the problem is that, without your toys, you’re just you. That’s why the best way to get your super powers is…

Best
Gifts and artifacts. It is one thing to make your own iron suit. It is another to have an alien hand you a ring of power or to have a special hammer that only you can lift. That’s where the action is. No worries that you aren’t worthy. Some alien or god granted you the right to wield the thing. No worries about being “normal,” because alien artifacts don’t get lost as easily as special guns or bows and arrows. Take an oath and that awesome power is yours -- even if you are Ryan Reynolds.

What do you think? How would you want to become super? What powers would you choose? What would be your origin story? Comment below.

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Pedro Gonzales   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/19/2014 10:40:40 AM
Re: Super Me
I remember that a lot of people where joking around that mickey will fight spider man since they are owned by the same company.  I don't know if a comic book theme park is such a good idea.  I think in real life getting special abilities comes comes with a huge price.  There is a guy who can read many book at one time and memorize all the contents in a single read.  But, he needs someone to feed him and helps him put on clothes. I would like to be able to travel to time that way I can change my future my doing things different in the past. 
SaneIT   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/19/2014 9:32:57 AM
Re: Super Me
"Sometimes, it seems like we do it because people can't leave well enough alone"

 

I see a good deal of Disney's involvement not as branching out but more related to the quote above from the blog post.  They just can't leave anything alone.  I'll use John Carter as an example.  A great story a movie done well enough not to make fans cringe but the marketing was horrible and the movie didn't do well.  It was like Disney was just looking for a movie to make and halfheartedly decided on a hero.  These movies all would have been right in my wheelhouse when I was a kid but now they seem like someone trying to draw me in with nostalgia while trying to be modern enough that my kids will fall for the characters as hard as I did.  It's not about being true to the characters or making an awesome movie it's a formula to put people in seats and they are convinced they can do it better than anyone else if they just make some changes...

 
DBK   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/18/2014 5:18:37 PM
Re: Super Me - Ninja cat you're my hero
cat attacks dog
WaqasAltaf   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/18/2014 4:45:53 AM
Re: Super Me
Broadway, determination is what makes super heroes distinct. Bad guys in all movies and stories are more powerful than the superhero but in the end they lose. That's the problem with bad guys.
WaqasAltaf   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/18/2014 4:35:27 AM
Who ever but full time
David, whichever but I would like to become a full time super hero unlike spider man and batman who had to take off their attires at night and focus on their loved ones. A super hero should be dedicated to his mission and should never live a partial life of normal human being. It casts many weaknesses on the character.
Broadway   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/17/2014 11:31:55 PM
Re: Super Me
Super heroes are Harry Potter before Harry Potter. They all have to grow into their powers. Their role as savior and martyr. That's why the bad guys are the best. They say screw it.
impactnow   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/17/2014 1:15:56 PM
Super Me
 Dave from a market perspective I think the Super hero focus by Disney is an attempt to reach a broader market than its traditional Mickey and Princess focus. They are trying to diversify the parks to broaden the age range and demographic. The themes for the super heroes are eerily similar to the princesses' tales aren't they?

As far as super hero powers I wish I could be super fast get everything done in my day in record time so increased physical and mental strength would be my super hero wish!
CMTucker   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/16/2014 10:13:59 PM
Re: My favorite origin stories
Googled it, or knew it?
David Wagner   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/16/2014 7:46:02 PM
Re: My favorite origin stories
Venture Brothers. How do I redeem my points? :)
CMTucker   Geekend: The Best and Worst Ways to Become Super   5/16/2014 7:41:48 PM
My favorite origin stories
Great subject as usual! I have to go a little obscure with this one: The Monarch. Orphaned as a child and abandoned in a meadow this ginger haired lad was raised by Monarch Butterflies. Name the source for 200 Tucknologies points...
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