THE OLD ORIGIN CHANGETH… especially in the ’80s…

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 are so many comic-book series that have been forgotten or lost in the mists of time and truly deserve our attention. One of my favorites of that ilk is the 1980s 50-issue Secret Origins title from DC.

This book came at such an interesting time in DC’s history, when Crisis on Infinite Earths was sending shock waves through not only the company’s long history, but through the comics industry itself. There’d been nothing like Crisis before, and such a monumental event needed support material to show where DC had been, and where it was going.

That’s what Secret Origins was all about. It had one foot in the past and the other in the future, and could claim some of the very best caretakers in the business at that time, writers, editors, and artists. Part of the charm of the series was the character selection, and the covers really hammered that home with some of the very greatest of any series at that time.

Here’s my take on THE TOP 13 SECRET ORIGINS COVERS — RANKED… a little glimpse into the past when such a title was possible, and something to celebrate.

13. Secret Origins #29 (Aug. 1988). This one’s a personal favorite of mine, not necessarily because of the cool Keith Wilson art, but because my girl Ma Hunkel wound up on the cover of a modern comic (and with a Shelly Mayer story inside!).

Mike Carlin layout

12. Secret Origins #20 (Nov. 1987). Another personal favorite. Batgirl’s my favorite heroine and Dr. Mid-Nite’s my favorite JSAer — and it doesn’t hurt that Kevin Maguire and Bob Wiacek made them look so super.

Kevin Maguire pencils, Bob Wiacek inks

11. Secret Origins #25 (Apr. 1988). This was at a moment in time when any new art from Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson was a rare bird you treasured. And I love the combination of the 30th century Legion with the Golden Age Atom.

Curt Swan pencils, Murphy Anderson inks

10. Secret Origins #50 (Aug. 1990). “The End,” but what a way to go-go with a snazzy and very unique Ty Templeton cover, eh?

Ty Templeton

9. Secret Origins #45 (Oct. 1989). I love the Blackhawk characters, and I love the fact that Murphy Anderson was getting so much work on this series. What an amazing portrait.

Murphy Anderson

8. Secret Origins #19 (Oct. 1987). What? Murphy Anderson again?!? Yes! And doing his best James Montgomery Flagg impression. Plus Jack Kirby! Yes! (Funny story: Way back when I had a chance to meet Murph at a con, this is the book I had him sign. He was so tickled to see it, he called Julie Schwartz over to his table to proudly show it off to him.)

Anderson and Jack Kirby

7. Secret Origins #32 (Nov. 1988). Illustrator Eric Shanower delivered a great look at not only the classic Justice League (with post-Crisis Black Canary subbing for Wonder Woman), but also the then-current group. Dig that grumpy Guy Gardner!

Eric Shanower

6. Secret Origins #5 (Aug. 1986). The Crimson Avenger, blazing away, brought to you by the legendary Gene Colan (with Mike Gustovich). What more do I have to say?

Gene Colan pencils, Mike Gustovich inks

5. Secret Origins #11 (Feb. 1987). I could never be mistaken for a Power Girl fan, but when a cover is signed by Jerry Ordway and it’s this majestic, I’ll swallow my pride and throw it up here.

Jerry Ordway

4. Secret Origins #7 (Aug. 1988). Brian Bolland can do no wrong in my book. This is one of the most unique of all the covers in this series, maybe just for Bolland’s coloring alone.

Brian Bolland

3. Secret Origins #40 (Aug. 1988). Just look at this and tell me it’s not great. “Why is This Chimp Crying?” Because Bill Wray knows his way around apes, motorcycles and dinosaurs, that’s why.

Bill Wray

2. Secret Origins #15 (June 1987). I barely know where to begin with this Ed Hannigan-Dick Giordano masterpiece. It should be in a museum.

Ed Hannigan pencils, Dick Giordano inks

1. Secret Origins #1 (April 1986). We end where it began, with the first issue and the very best of ‘em all. The super-team of Jerry Ordway and Wayne Boring is a match made in Comic Book Heaven. The layout, the line work, the coloring, the characterization (look at Golden Age Superman not remembering what Crisis wiped away!), all superb.

Jerry Ordway and Wayne Boring


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

— BRUCE WAYNE: EXECUTIONER — The Unhinged BATMAN Origin Story Nobody Remembers. 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. I still have my complete run of these after all these years. Great series.

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  2. For the life of me, I always thought the GA Superman was just embarrassed as what a ruckus raiser he was in those early adventures.

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    • SJG, that has always been my impression as well!

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      • I loved the Doom Patrol secret origins annual 1 featuring Robotman, The Chief, Negative Man, Elasti Girl, Tempest, Negative Woman and Celsius in full action running toward us by Byrne….

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    • That’s how I always interpreted this cover – a more mature Kal-L embarrassed by his earlier actions (in Action Comics) and possibly also embarrassed by all of the attention he’s being shown.

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  3. I (still to this day) think it’s interesting that immediately after Crisis, DC is selling books with so many references to the Golden Age. Of that lot, I think my favorite is the classic Sandman cover.

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  4. As this series was an attempt to explain away the original origins following the demolition in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths (I especially mourn the loss of Earth-2), it’s difficult for me to see the changes as “enhancements”.

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  5. Such a phenomenal series. So close to completing my full run after however many decades it’s getting to be. Still, would love to see these collected in an Omnibus form like the recent Who’s Who volumes.

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  6. One of my favorite series. From my collecting heyday. Mr. Ordway and Mr. Bolland on point. Love to see 13 more!

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