Origin story  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In comic book terminology, an origin story is an account or back-story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes or supervillains.

In order to keep their characters current, comic book companies frequently rewrite the origins of their oldest characters. This goes from adding details that do not contradict earlier facts to a totally new origin which make it seem that it is an altogether different character.

"Origin story" or pourquoi story is also a term used in the study of myths. It can refer to narratives of how the world began, how creatures and plants came into existence, and why certain things in the cosmos have certain qualities.

Notable examples


  • Spider-Man - Bitten by a radioactive spider granting him spider based superpowers, Peter Parker was motivated to fight crime by his uncle's death, which he blames on himself.
  • Batman - His parents murdered by a mugger, Bruce Wayne used his vast family fortune to become Batman and wage a one-man war on crime.
  • Superman - Born on the planet Krypton, infant Kal-El was sent to Earth before an explosion destroyed his home planet. His strong moral code motivated him to fight for justice.
  • Wonder Woman - Diana, the princess and appointed champion of the Amazon warrior women, who left her homeland to battle injustice.
  • Iron Man - American industrialist Tony Stark was captured by Communist Vietnamese military and forced to build weapons for them. Instead, he built powered armor to escape. He then uses his armor to fight crime.
  • Fantastic Four - Four astronauts (Reed Richards, Sue and Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm) who were exposed to cosmic rays, which gave them superpowers.
  • The Flash - Barry Allen, a forensic scientist, was struck by lightning and bathed in electrically-charged chemicals, connecting him to the Speed Force and giving him super-speed.
  • Incredible Hulk - Doc Bruce Banner, belted by gamma rays, now turns into the super-strong Hulk whenever he gets angry.
  • Green Lantern - Test pilot Hal Jordan receives a power ring from the dying alien police officer, Abin Sur, and becomes a member of the Green Lantern Corps.


  • The Joker - Famous for not having a definitive origin story - sometimes, he remembers it one way and sometimes another way, but the generally accepted (though not definitive) origin is described as follows : An unnamed criminal using the persona of the Red Hood fell in a vat of chemicals that turned his hair green, his skin pale, and his lips red. Driven insane by this trauma, he then makes various gag-themed weapons and a toxin that kills people and leaves them with hideous grins frozen on their cadavers' faces. During his criminal career, he becomes Batman's arch-foe.
  • Two-Face - District Attorney Harvey Dent had the left side of his face horribly scarred after criminal Salvatore Maroni threw acid in his face on trial. Harvey took a two-headed silver dollar and carved one side to make a coin he'd use to decide if he would do an act of good or evil. Since that moment, Harvey Dent became the criminal Two-Face.
  • Green Goblin - Norman Osborn became the insane and malevolent Green Goblin after a side effect to his experimental super serum. He then invented weapons to use to combat Spider-Man.
  • Doctor Octopus - Otto Octavius became one of Spider-Man's greatest enemies after an accident fused four mechanical tentacles to his body.
  • Bizarro - An imperfect and evil duplicate of Superman formed from an attempt to clone the Man of Steel.

Comic book depictions

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Origin story" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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