From Metamorpho to Tigra to the Creeper…

Our pal and columnist Jim Beard has a grand new book out — The Old Origin Changeth, a series of historical essays on how some of your favorite characters’ not-so-secret origins have evolved over the decades. It’s a great idea for a book and well executed to boot — natch! — featuring a coterie of comics historians. You can get your copy now from Amazon, in multiple formats. Click here to order. You’ll be glad you did. — Dan


There’s a lot of weirdness in superhero comics.

I mean, to start, there’s all those accidents and irradiations and murders and planets blowing up and whatnot, but what about the really, really strange stuff, those odd origins of your favorite characters that are truly wacky even for comic books? Those are the ones I love the most, with great respect to the guys and gals who pretty much just decided that putting on a costume and fighting crime was the right thing to do.

I’ve been on a serious secret origins kick lately, mostly because of my new book, The Old Origin Changeth! but also because a good origin story is, in my opinion, the important underpinning of the superhero genre.

And a real wild, way-out one is even better.

Here are 13 that I came up with. I’m sure you might even know and cherish a few more than these.

Metamorpho (The Brave and the Bold #57, DC). Pity poor mercenary adventurer Rex Mason: He’s hired to find the fabled Orb of Ra, but he’s knocked out by a guy who looks like a caveman, exposed to an irradiated meteorite, and is turned into a weird-ass mismatched monster with the power to turn into all kinds of elements—but he can’t turn himself back into Rex. And he goes around barefoot.

Ghost Rider (Marvel Spotlight #5, Marvel). Johnny Blaze just wanted his friend to be cured of cancer but had to sell his soul to the Devil (Mephisto). That comes down solidly under the category of “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Golden Age Green Lantern (All-American Comics #16, DC). I always thought Alan Scott had a funky beginning. He’s saved from a collapsing bridge by a living flame from outer space that’s in a lantern created by a former mental patient. Only in the Golden Age of Comics, right?

Tigra (Giant-Size Creatures #1, Marvel). So, here’s a woman who started off as a more-or-less standard superhero, but then she’s transformed by magic and psychic powers from a race of cat people into their legendary champion and warrior. And then the fur really flies.

The Creeper (Showcase #73, DC.) Reporter Jack Ryder dresses up in one of the most garish costumes in the history of comics to sneak into a party, but when he’s wounded, a crazy scientist implants an experimental matter-rearranger device under Jack’s skin that lets him change back and forth between normal dude and crazy color-blind superhero.

Golden Age Human Torch (Marvel Comics #1, Timely). The idea of an android superhero is nothing unusual these days, but I have long considered the original Torch to be a very off anomaly for his time. In fact, I didn’t know he was a synthetic person until many years after I discovered the character, and when I learned about it I remember I didn’t believe it at first, thinking it very, very strange for a superhero. I was young; what can I tell you?

Ultra Boy (Superboy #98, DC.) Sure, he gained his powers by being exposed to radiation like a hundred or more characters before him, but while in the belly of a space-whale that had swallowed him, and that he had to burst out of? And Ultra Boy’s real name is Jo Nah? Mighty weird.

Jack O’Lantern (Super Friends #8, DC). See, he’s a poor guy who lived on his dad’s farm and he was given a magic lantern thingie free of charge by an Irish fairy. And he of course went out to start fighting crime. Just gonna leave this one right here and you hash it out amongst yourselves, ‘kay?

Cloud (Defenders #123. Marvel). A sentient, genderless nebula that took humanoid form and worked with the Defenders. Yes.

Captain Marvel (Whiz Comics #2, Fawcett). Is it just me or is it pretty creepy and weird to lure a child down into an abandoned subway tunnel, force him to say a magic word, and see him disappear in a thunderclap to be replaced by a superpowered adult in a bright red costume? Not that I don’t love it, of course, creepy and weird that it is.

Cable (Uncanny X-Men #201/New Mutants #87, Marvel). What? Another poor, innocent kid basically kidnapped and forced to grow up as some kind of mechanical marvel-messiah? And do you want to throw time-travel into the mix? Sure, why not! In fact, here’s a little “techno-organic” virus, just to get a little more nuts.

The Whizzer (USA Comics #1, Timely). Some of you showed up here just for this one: Bob Frank, a child dying from fever in Africa is given a transfusion of mongoose blood and develops super-speed. Then they had to ruin it later by saying he was a mutant or something. Oh, well; still a great superhero name.

The Spectre (More Fun Comics #52, DC). There’s just something so fantastically odd about a guy having to die to become a superhero — first appearing in a book called More Fun. Did I say he had to die to become a superhero?


— 13 Mind-Boggling Updates to Classic SUPERHERO ORIGINS. Click here.

— The TOP 13 SECRET ORIGINS Covers — RANKED. Click here.

When JIM BEARD’s not editing and publishing through his two houses, Flinch Books and Becky Books, he’s pounding out adventure fiction with both original and licensed characters. In fact, he’s put words in the mouths of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Peter Venkman and the Green Hornet… and lived to tell about it. His latest pop culture non-fiction tome is The Old Origin Changeth!, available here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On


  1. Was having this discussion on line with people the other day. Toro. The dumbest origin. “He could take potatoes out of the fire for the gang.” So, therefore he could just light himself on fire. They retconned that one too and made him a mutant but I like the original.

    Post a Reply
  2. Jim, I should have your book done this weekend. (Let me know if you want to know any needed edits found for the re-published edition.) Loving it! Captain Marvel has to have the worse retcon. He can’t even answer his name to the question, “Who are you?” without giving his identity away.

    Post a Reply
    • Buck if you read Johns SHAZAM Billy can say the name without changing, to change he must have the intention to change

      Post a Reply
  3. I was about 12 years old when I read Feiffer’s “The Great Comic Book Heroes” and read Green Lantern’s origin. It played like one of the vintage radio dramas our local station was playing back in the early 70s. Still a very cool story, especially the lantern’s light restoring the mental patient’s sanity.

    Post a Reply
  4. How the Spectre dies is just as incredibly creepy as the fact that he has to die. And all the weird things the Green Flame does before it even gets to Alan Scott are pretty intense, also.

    Post a Reply
  5. Just bought a reprint of that Whiz Comics issue. The first page or so with Billy Batson sure is creepy.

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: