Change is good. But not always…

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


Pity the poor comic book character who’s minding their own business and one day—BLAM!—everything they thought they knew about themselves has been changed forever.

OK, nothing in comics is forever, but hopefully you know where I’m going with this.

So many characters have had their origins enhanced and embroidered over the years, but there’s a select few who’ve had their beginnings completely written in some cases, all due to the whims of their corporate and editorial masters. For us the readers it can be a dizzying, confusing event, but just imagine how it is for them!

Here’s a list of 13 of these revised riders, those who wake up one day thinking they’re human and find out they’re from, I dunno, Epsilon VIII or something…

By the way, don’t get too used to what’s being said here. It might change at any minute.

Power Girl. She was the Golden Age Superman’s cousin, then she was from Atlantis. Who even knows what she is these days, what with the old Justice Society of America back again…

Green Arrow. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman—their origins have stayed the same at their cores since the ’30s and ’40s, but Green Arrow’s one of those guys whose transition from Golden Age to Silver Age came with a completely different origin. Look it up.

Adventure Comics #256

Black Canary. Here’s one for the history books: Canary wakes up one morning and she’s her own daughter. That’s gotta be weird.

Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers began four-color life as a knockoff of the male Captain Marvel… but these days I’ve lost track of who she is now and what her powers are. If I remember correctly, her origin no longer includes Mar-Vell.

Jason Todd. Here’s a classic switcheroo. Jason started with a cloned origin from Dick Grayson until infinite Earths were wiped out and that origin along with it. He reappeared as if he had never appeared before, complete with a brand-new backstory. Everyone still hated him, though.

Batman #410

The Metal Men. It used to be they were a group of androids built by Doc Magnus until some bright writer came along and explained they were human to begin with. Nowadays, who knows?

Huntress. Helena Wayne was originally the daughter of the Golden Age Batman, but when that Bruce Wayne was wiped out of continuity, she was reborn as the daughter of a mafia boss. How’s that for two sides of a coin, one scarred, the other pristine?

Scarlet Witch. Oh, boy! Jump on the Wanda merry-go-round! Is she a mutant, or isn’t she? Is Magneto her father or not? Was she or was she not born on Wundagore Mountain? That’s not even mentioning her poor brother Pietro…

The Avengers #503

Lex Luthor. Wow—where to start? This guy’s been reinvented so many times it’d make your hair fall out. Criminal scientist, wronged boy genius, wealthy-yet-crooked businessman, etc., etc., ad infinitum. At least he’s (usually) still bald.

Spider-Woman. Did you know the original intention for Jessica Drew was that she was a spider transformed into a woman? Then she only had memories of being a spider implanted in her brain, and then she was the daughter of scientists who… yeah, ya better look this one up, too.

Ragman. Remember Rory Regan, the “Tattered Tatterdemalion”? Originally of Irish descent and gaining abilities from being electrocuted with a bunch of his father’s drunk friends, he morphed into a Jewish man whose superhero union suit was made from souls of deceased bad people. Whew.

Thor. Now, sure, Thor is still from Asgard, and I assume always will be, but man has his family been messed with something fierce. Who are his parents? Who are his siblings? Your guess is as good as mine, True Believer.

Donna Troy. Isn’t Donna like the poster child for Revisionist Origin Syndrome?


— BEST BAT-WISHES: 13 Tributes to the Classic BATMAN AND ROBIN Rooftop Pin-Up. Click here.

— Dig These 13 Sensational MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. 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

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  1. This one may be too painful to read. Too many re-writes that brought an end to much loved characters.

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    • …or fascinating to read as a peek behind the curtain of editorial thinking?

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      • Ah, I see what you did there.

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  2. I love Donna Troy but her origin along with the Black Canary origin story is enough to make your head explode.

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  3. Hawkman would be a good candidate here. But then you’d have to specify whether you were talking about the reincarnated Carter Hall or the Thanagarian Katar Hol. And whether or not they are at the current moment the same person.

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    • My thinking, too. He mat wing it into a future volume, regardless.

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  4. This is why I prefer pre-Crisis DC. If a character like Hawkman or The Flash had two different origins, it was because one was Earth-1 and the other Earth-2. But, in their infinite wisdom, DC decided that was too complicated for us to understand and blew it all up.

    Thanks DC!

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    • And yet now the multiverse is a feature of both the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. I think the real problem was it was too complicated for the *writers and editors* to keep straight!

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  5. The Barry Allen retcon (mom died, dad in prison) still doesn’t sit right with me. It is a needless, unnecessary, and pointless contrivance to a great character.

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  6. Loved the Huntress story, but the last lines of the Green Arrow origin in the same issue were my favorite.

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  7. I, for one, liked pre-Crisis Jason Todd, and thought he was a worthy inheritor of the Robin costume. I only hated the bratty post-Crisis Jason… but I still voted to save him.

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