Just about every character in comics has an origin, whether they are a superhero or super-villain and sometimes just a everyday person like Lois Lane. The origin story is a small biography of the character usually involving a life altering event that sways them away from the normal to the fantastical and led them to where they are now as a character.
Sometimes this can be an incident or a random accident which gives the person powers, like the radioactive Spider that bit Spider-Man or the death of Batman's parents. Sometimes it could be the deliberate actions of another person or entity like the scientist that gave Captain America the Super Soldier Serum.
Usually, these are single issues but sometimes these can be a whole story arcs lasting several issues. Several whole series have been dedicated to revealing the origins of characters. Like, DC Comics, Secret Origins published in 1976, 1986, and 1989. Sometimes origin stories are sometimes redone and rebooted into a new origins or at the very least a new perspective or retelling of the story.
Teams can also have origin stories. The Avengers are notable, as the various incarnations were often formed out of chance during large scale crises. Perhaps even better known is the Justice League of America.
Note: Only MAJOR character's origins should be added to this page (those with hundreds of appearances).
DC Comics Origin Stories
Perhaps the best known origins is Bruce Wayne's. After seeing his parents killed in an alley by the mugger Joe Chill. The orphaned billionaire devotes his life to combating crime and evil. His origin story was later redone in the 1991 Tim Burton movie "Batman." In that film the mugger is Jack who would go on to become the Joker.
The Ragman has had his origin done three times. The first time was in the first issue of Ragman ever in Ragman 1. In this origin Ragman's father is killed and he uses a costume to get justice for his father Gerry Regan. It was redone and changed in an eight issue series also called Ragman. In this series the origin is the just about the same but the suit is drastically different. This gives Ragman more power. Most recently it was redone again in Ragman: Suit of Souls. In this series more is revealed about the origin of the suit itself.
Virgil Hawkins, aka Static's origin has never changed, during a gang fight in Paris Island, Dakota, Static was caught in the gangfight to end all gangfights, called the Big Bang, when police attempted to release a radioactive tracer on all the gang members who were brawling. This, however, had a negative effect when mixed with chemicals that were stored around the fight area, called Q Juice, that exploded and either vaporized or mutated everyone in the area.
Dr. Light, or Kimyo Hoshi, was an Japanese Astronomer during the Crisis of Infinite Earths. During the conflict, the Anti Monitor decided another hero was needed, and bestowed upon her the power of light manipulation via a burst of powerful light from the vega star.
Kyle, one of the five Earth Born Green Lanterns, was originally a struggling cartoonist around the time when Hal Jordan, the most famous Green Lantern, had been possessed by Parallax and destroyed the corps. Ganthet, the lone survivor Guardian of the Universe, fashioned one last green lantern ring and searched for a bearer, and appeared before Kyle and a homeless bum....and so choose Kyle.
Victor Stone was once a promising football player, whose scientist parents never had any time for him. Over time, he began to resent his parents, but when a trans dimensional monster got loose during an experiment at S.T.A.R labs, his mother was slain and his father could only save Victor by turning him into a cyborg.
In the New 52, the origin changed slightly, his mother was dead before this event and he was instead heavily injured by the invading forces of Darkseid.
Dick Grayson was born to a family of acrobats, but when he was eight and the circus arrived in Gotham City, mob boss Tony Zucco attempted to extort money from his parents. Zucco had his revenge, however, and sabotaged his parents ropes, sending them falling to his death. After this, he was made the ward of Bruce Wayne, and soon after became the first Robin, and later Nightwing and later even became Batman for a time.
Barry Allen / The Flash - when the future greatest speedster was 11, his mother was murdered, and his father imprisoned for it, but Barry never believed his father was the killer. Entering forensic science, as to one day discover his mothers true killer, one night an accident at his lab caused him to be dosed with chemicals while at the same time struck by lightning. Apparently unharmed, Barry discovered he could move at super speeds. A comic fan, Barry took a mantle for himself to become Central Cities greatest hero, the greatest Flash of all.
Diana is the princess of the amazons, created by her mother from clay and given life by the Olympian Gods, she trained for centuries on Paradise Island before the Gods sent her to the world of man as a champion of peace.
The New 52, however, changes this; making her the demigod daughter of Zeus.
A Super Friends original character, who was made to try to add diversity to the team, but instead became a stereotype, Samurai is the only one to make an appearance on New Earth, as one of the characters driven mad by Alan Scott's Starheart.
The daughter Alex Fairchild, a member of the Generation 12, a group of genetically altered super humans, Caitlin was a super smart, but mousy College student/orphan before she was recruited into Project Genesis, which she thought was a Government type military program, but really was meant to force her to become Gen Active as part of Generation 13. When she did, she became a powerful, tall, and attractive amazon of destruction......though she never took on a hero name.
In the New 52, she has ties to N.O.W.H.E.R.E, though has been shown to be trying to take the group down from within. How, if at all, her origins have changed is unknown.
One of the first Female African American heroes, the daughter of an African Priest, Mari McCabe was orphaned when her mother was killed by poachers, and her father by Maksai. Eventually moving to New York as an orphan, she became a successful model before returning to Africa to reclaim the totem her father had, which gave her the powers of the animal kingdom. She became Vixen....
Wally West / The Flash - growing up in the country with abusive/negligent parents until he was invited to stay with his aunt, Iris west, wife of the Flash, Wally dreamed of being like the Flash, unaware he was his uncle....until he ended up repeating the same accident that Barry had, taking the mantle of Kid Flash, and later the Flash himself.
Not all characters with origins are super heroes. Lois Lane spent her childhood in a farming town called Pittsdale. She is the daughter of a farmer Sam Lane and his wife Ella. She also has a younger sister Lucy. Sam was a retired soldier and spent some time in her youth teaching her skills not often associated with a young woman (unarmed combat and the handling of weaponry.) It was Lois’ dream to become a reporter and thus at the age of fifteen, she asked to be employed at the Daily Planet. In order to be employed she was forced to lie about her age, saying she was really nineteen. Lucy revealed that she was in fact lying but in her exposure to the newspaper she discovered that Perry Whitewas looking for a scoop on Lex Luthor. Against heavy odds she was able to sneak out of her house and into Lex’s to obtain some secret files. He caught her, but allowed her to go. Perry was impressed by the lengths that she would go to get a story and he hired her. She would later become the main reporter and linked to Metropolis's Superman....
A former child Soldier whose parents died of age, David Zavimbe managed to escape that life and became a police officer in Tinashia, the most corrupt city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was recruited by Batman to work with Batman Incorporated.
Marvel Comics Origin Stories
Captain America / Steve Rogers- A scrawny kid from New York who wants to serve his country during World War 2, but unable to enlist due to his bad health. He is instead recruited to test the Super-Soldier Serum and becomes A "Star-Spangled Living Legend."
Spider-Man / Peter Parker - A nerdy kid, on a school field trip to a lab, is bitten by a radioactive spider. He develops spider like agility, strength, and awareness. After using his new found power for personal gain and ignoring his duty to society, his Uncle is killed by a criminal he could have stopped. Learning the lesson that "with great power comes great responsibility" he devotes himself to stopping those that would hurt others.
Daredevil / Matt Murdock - Matt Murdock is hit by a truck carrying radioactive material, which leaves him blind but elevates all his other senses. His father, a single parent and boxer named " Battlin' Jack Murdock." is killed by thugs for not throwing a fight. Matt then devotes himself to finding the thugs responsible for killing his father.
Wade Wilson had the murder of his father on his criminal rates. Unable to join the military, he decided that he should serve a different way. He signed up for Weapon X experimentation. The goal of the of the experiment was to make him un-killable. The experiment put his cancer into overdrive, deforming his skin. He was filed under a failed experiment and was sent to where all the other people that failed test. Eventually it was Wade's turn to get executed. A few hours after Wade's head was chopped off, Wade came back to life. The experiment had worked! He then decided he should name himself Deadpool, because he cheated death.
Reed Richards, Sue and Johnny Storm, and pilot Ben Grimm flew into space in a rocket. There the four were bombarded by cosmic rays, when they get back to earth they find themselves physically transformed and possessing remarkable new abilities. Sue could turn invisible. Ben transformed into an orange, muscular "thing." Reed can stretch his body, and Johnny can envelop his body in flames. They decide to use their abilities to become the super team known as the Fantastic Four. They each gave themselves the individual names Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and the Thing.
Iron Man / Tony Stark - Billionaire industrialist is captured in Vietnam (later ret-coned to A country in the Middle East to stay current) and injured. He is captured by the Vietcong (later retconned to Terrorists) and told to create a weapon for them. Stark uses the materials to create an electromagnet to keep the pieces of shrapnel in his body from entering his heart. He also creates an iron suit out of the materials his kidnappers had provided for him to build the weapon. Using his iron suit he is able to escape and decides to use his new suit and the many many variations to do good in the world.
Wolverine / James Howlett - Wolverine stands apart from many other heroes, because of his lack of a back story. Many writers over the years have added bits and pieces to the puzzle, but always kept it vague enough to keep the intrigue alive. Finally in 2006, Marvel decided it was time to answer one of the great mysteries of the Marvel Universe in Wolverine: Origins.
The basics of Wolverine's origin story are that he is a Mutant, he has been alive since the 19th Century, and he has been used by governments and other organizations like Weapon X for his talents as a killer. Oh yea, and the claws have bone underneath the Adamantium
The Hulk / Bruce Banner – While saving a teenager from an experimental gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Bruce Banner was caught in the blasts himself thus fusing his genes with irradiate gamma particles. Now whenever his stress or anger levels reach a certain point, the mild mannered doctor finds himself transformed into The Incredible Hulk.
Born to Mystique and the demon Azazel, Kurt Wagner was born with blue, furry skin, yellow eyes, a tail and three fingers and toes on each foot. Abandoned at birth because the townspeople feared his demonic appearance by Mystique, his father made sure he would not die so quickly, giving him to one of his servants, Margali Szardos, who raised him as her own with two of her own children in a Bavarian circus.
Jubilation Lee was the daughter of rich Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, a gymnastics prodigy who would commit petty shop liftings with her friends. During one of these robberies, she first activated her mutant powers. While her parents accepted her mutant powers, they were later murdered by Hunter Brawn, though this was originally thought to be from a car accident. Originally transferred to a foster home nearby, she ran away and lived in the mall she would shop lift from, until she encountered and followed the X-Men.
Born to a rich father from Snow Valley, Massachusetts, Emma was under constant pressure to succeed from her verbally abusive father, her powers of telepathy eventually developed and allowed her to better her grades. When her father found out that her favorite professor had feelings for he, he got her fired, in turn she blackmailed him with an image of him and a mistress, and while he was pleased with her for this, saying that she was finally showing promise, she left him behind, living as a homeless person before joining the Hellfire club.
Despite his name, he is not a gamma based monster, Dorrek VIII is a hybrid child of two intergalactic warring people; the Skrull and the Kree. Thus he possesses the powers of both races, strength and shapeshifting, and became a valued Young Avenger, even as both races fight over who has him.
The powerful robotic superhero started off a creation of Ultron, made to use his density shifting and laser powers to fight the Avengers. But when the Vision was captured and part of Wonder Man's mind put in him, he had a heroic shift and helped The Avengers defeat Ultron.
Simon Williams was a nerd growing up, with an abusive father who beat him if he failed to get straight A's. While his brother Eric Williams drifted to crime, he inherited his family business, but lost it when he put some money into his brothers business, not knowing of its illegal nature. Blaming Tony Stark for his loss, he took Baron Zemo's offer when he bailed him out when he was arrested for investing in his brother, and was infused with ionic energies. While originally being a member of the Brotherhood of Evil, he switched sides and became one of the greatest Avengers.
Cyclops / Scott Summers - A teenager saves a crowd from falling debris by using optic blasts from his eyes but they immediately turn on him as he’s a mutant. The frightened young man is drawn to a cabin in the woods where he meets the evil mutant Jack O’Diamonds. Scott is tracked down by Professor X whilst being manipulated by Jack O’Diamonds into breaking into a factory. The youngster refuses to kill the professor and eventually switches sides and helps Xavier defeat the evil mutant. Xavier then recruits Scott to join his cause and provides him with a costume thus creating the first X-Man.
Iceman / Bobby Drake – A young couple are attacked by thugs who are defeated when the young man uses his ice powers. Seeing her boyfriend is a mutant, Judy Harmon runs away in terror. Word spreads quickly in the small town and a mutant hating mob attacks the Drake household. The sheriff intervenes and locks up Bobby insisting he’ll get a fair trial however Cyclops breaks him out of jail on Professor X’s orders. Bobby refuses to leave as he feels he’s done nothing wrong but the mob attack the pair after overthrowing the sheriff. The young mutants fight off their attackers and Professor X telepathically commands Cyclops to head for the Drake household. On arrival they find The Professor has explained the situation to Bobby’s parents and they have agreed to let him join Xavier’s school. Thus Bobby Drake joined Cyclops and The X-Men were formed.
A light hearted character born of the 90's time of anti heroes, Dorreen Green attempted to become Iron Man's sidekick, was rejected, and then managed to be one of the few people to truly defeat Doctor Doom with her Squirrelkinesis, becoming one of Marvel's premier humor based characters.
The Son of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, and one of the most powerful beings on the planet with vast reality warping powers, Franklin was born a mutant but since his mom was imbued with cosmic energy he started to exhibit his powers while still in the womb. Franklin was exhibiting powers in-utero, giving the Invisible Woman premonitions and even moving objects telekinetically. During Sue's pregnancy with Franklin she began to weaken to the point where the remainder of the Fantastic Four, traveled to the Negative Zone in order to get Annihilus's, Cosmic Control Rod, in order to save both mother and child. After a long struggle, Reed and the rest of the team managed to salvage some of the cosmic energy from the rod and went back to their own reality where Sue gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In remembrance of her father who had perished in an act of heroism where he saved the life of the team, she and Reed named the boy Franklin Benjamin Richards
The story of Valeria Richards begins during Sue's (Invisible Woman) second pregnancy. Due to her exposure to the cosmic storm, Sue's pregnancies have always been difficult, as was Franklin's and now Valeria's. Because of her body becoming weakened, Sue gave birth to a still-born daughter.
In reality, using his vast psionic abilities, after feeling a part of himself missing, and guided by Roma, a guardian of the Omniverse, Franklin Richards went back in time and managed to save his sister's life before she was born into the world. He sent her "some place else" and for years both Reed and Sue believed their daughter to be dead. It was later shown to be as an alternate reality daughter of Doctor Doom and Susan Storm, before being replaced into her mother's womb to be born to Reed and Sue.
The Silver Surfer
Norrin Radd lived on the planet Zenn-La, where scientific advancement had eradicated all ideologies of religion and achievement and the population were governed by computers. This greatly troubled Norrin who felt his people had lost touch with their roots and he longed to go back to the old ways of adventuring and exploration. One fateful day Zenn-La was attacked by Galactus in order to satisfy his hunger. With his planet on the verge of destruction, Norrin offered to help Galactus find other uninhabited planets to consume if he spared Zenn-La. Galactus accepted and endowed Norrin Radd with a fraction of the Power Cosmic thus transforming him into The Silver Surfer and making him the first Herald of Galactus.
Over time Galactus began to suppress The Silver Surfer’s conscience and he began scouting inhabited planets. One such planet was Earth. However an encounter with The Fantastic Four, Uatu and Alicia Masters broke The Sentinel of The Spaceways free of his master’s hold and he turned on Galactus, refusing to let him destroy Earth.
Namor the Sub-Mariner
The crew of an ice breaker ship planted explosive charges on icebergs to clear the seas. The explosions wreaked massive destruction on Atlantis which was located below and its ruler, Emperor Thakorr, commanded his daughter to send warriors to investigate the source of the deadly blasts. Not wanting to endanger anyone else, Princess Fen made the journey alone. On reaching the ship, Fen was captured but not speaking each other’s languages, she was unable to communicate with the crew. Nonetheless having remained on board for a number of days, Princess Fen and the Captain of the ship, Leonard McKenzie, fell in love and were married by the ship’s Chaplain. Weeks later Thakorr sent a war party in search of his missing daughter and during the inevitable clash between humans and Atlanteans, Leonard McKenzie was slain. Fen was brought back to Atlantis and from that tragic marriage was born Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Not only is Namor a hybrid of human and Atlantean, but he is also a mutant and amongst other powers possess the strength of a hundred men. He was raised to hate the surface men who had destroyed his city but eventually came to terms with his mixed heritage.
Mar-Vell was a soldier in the Kree Imperial Army. He was a war hero whose bravery, skill and victories in battle were well renowned amongst the Kree. Mar-Vell rose to the rank of Captain at a young age and was on the crew tasked with the mission to spy on and infiltrate Earth. Ironically during his first mission, Mar-Vell had to battle a Kree Sentry. During the battle a soldier mistakenly heard Mar-Vell call himself Captain “Marvel” and thus a new superhero was born. Mar-Vell’s sense of justice would often lead him to protect the very Earthlings his superiors commanded him to destroy. Due to his repeated show of loyalty to humans, Mar-Vell was branded a traitor by his Commanding Officer Colonel Yon-Rogg and his execution was ordered.
Mar-Vell managed to escape, thanks in part to his beloved Una who sacrificed herself to save him. A vigilante in his homeland and a refugee on Earth, Mar-Vell stole a rocket from The Cape military base and spent an unknown amount of time aimlessly wandering through the endless void of space waiting for death until one day he came across a being called Zo. The all powerful Zo bestowed enough new powers in Mar-Vell to transform him into the Protector of the Universe. However this power came with a price and Mar-Vell had to commit a most heinous act in return…
Born and raised in a military family, the young Thaddeus Ross spent much of his early life planning to join the Army, as had his father and his grandfather before him. However, the death of a close friend caused Ross to choose the Air Force instead. He attended West Point and came top of his class, and served bravely in several battles. He met and married Karen Lee, the daughter of his then-commanding officer. The couple had one daughter, Betty, and Ross used his influence to give the child a stable upbringing. However, Karen died of cancer when Betty was young teen, which caused Ross to grow distant with her. He rose quickly through the ranks, eventually obtaining the rank of general. He was assigned to command Desert Base, New Mexico, where Dr Bruce Banner's gamma ray experiments were carried out. He was in control of the base when the accident that caused Banner to become the Hulk occurred.
Lex Luthor - Pre- Crisis, Luthor had the rather bizarre origin of being supremely bitter at Superboy, as he had accidentally made Luthor lose his hair as a child living in Smallville. Now, his baldness was congenital, and he simply hates Superman because he is an antithesis of all he stands for - alien, sincere, noble.
Doctor Doom - A Romany Gipsy from Latveria, Victor Von Doom swore to avenge the deaths of his parents, both of whom had perished at the hands of the brutal regime. Traveling to America to further his education at Empire State University, he sought to contact his mother via an applied combination of science and sorcery. In spite of the warnings of his dorm mate Reed RIchards, Doom carried out his plan, and is horrendously scarred in the process. Expelled from university, Doom travels the world, creating his famous mask and wrestles control of his native country back from the corrupt tyrant, becoming a tyrant himself.
The Joker - Somewhat ambiguous in post-Crisis continuity, two origins have been suggested; Alan Moore's Killing Joke or Ed Brubaker's The Man Who Laughs. Many writers have chosen to bring a level of mystery to the character and have disposed of his origin altogether.
Doctor Octopus - After an experiment with radioactive particles went horribly awry, Dr. Otto Octavius had the "tentacles" that were part of his equipment irrevocably bonded to his arms. The radiation also altered his brain turning him into a criminal mastermind and one of Spider-Man's greatest foes. Doc Ock was also the first villain to unmask Spider-Man.
Sinestro - Originally a member of The Green Lantern Corps, after obtaining his ring from his sector's dying green lantern, watching the corps member die, Sinestro was expelled from their ranks for abusing his power and turning his home planet of Korugar into his personal fiefdom. Believing in a strict rule of order, Sinestro would try to install a rule of fear to enforce order to do so, even creating his own Sinestro Corps to do it. It was revealed in Emerald Dawn that he was Hal Jordan's teacher.
Thanos - Son of the Eternals Mentor and Sui-San, subjected as a child to the Deviant gene. During his childhood, he distanced himself from his peers, growing enamored of dark magic and Death.
The Mandarin is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. His parents both died soon after his birth and he was brought up by his bitter aunt who taught him to hate. All his wealth and land were eventually confiscated by the Chinese government. Penniless and hate filled, he headed into the dreaded Valley of Spirits where he found a long abandoned alien ship. The ship held the knowledge of many galaxies and the Ten Rings of Maklu… rings containing unlimited power.
Originally a joke villain, Victor Fries gained more depth as he was given a new Origin story starting in Batman, the Animated series. His wife, struck with a terminal illness, was placed in cryo-stasis, however the corrupt head of the science firm Victor worked for attempted to terminate the project, the process coating Victor with chemicals that made him unable to exist in warm environmental, so he built a cryo suit and ice gun, and became Mr. Freeze.
Originally a character created for Superman; The Animated Series, Leslie Willis was Metropolis's most infamous shock jock, even bashing the man of steel himself, until one day during a live presentation, lightning struck her concert stage where she was saved by Superman, but then both were struck with lightning, which granted Leslie Electrokientic powers. In the comics, however, she is a natural metahuman electrokinetic who went on a revenge based rampage when her newscast time was replaced by a country station
As a boy, Mortimer Toynbee was abandoned and teased for his less than average appearance, to a point that being a street orphan was more appealing. This caused him to gain an inferiority complex, making him loyal to anyone who even gave him a slightly kind look, such as Magneto's brotherhood of evil. (Mutants, not the one led by the Brain). While toad worked for a long time as a minion of Magneto, he is now just a janitor at Wolverine's school.
Considered by many to be the worst Batman Villian of all time, Joe Coin sold newspapers for a penny each, until he was fired for keeping some of them for himself. Introduced during the era of gimmicky villains, the only reason Joe has any importance is that he was the original villain to possess the infamous giant penny in the Batcave. However, as Two Face was retconned to have been its owner, Joe Coin may have been removed from canon in full.
A janitor is working in the basement of a chemical research plant when an experimental gamma ray cylinder explodes. He is trapped and his body is bombarded with the rays. Although even a fraction of the dosage he received would normally be enough to kill many men, inexplicably the janitor remained unharmed. The only noticeable change was his new insatiable thirst for knowledge. He started reading all the books he could obtain, learning all he could and his brain absorbed everything like a sponge. Then suddenly one day he collapsed as the gamma rays long term effects finally took place. When he awoke he had transformed into a green skinned creature with an enlarged head to contain his supremely intelligent brain and eventually took the name of The Leader.
A short and light man, Jervis Tetch lived with a family called the Littletons as he attended boarding school. When one of the girls he lived with, Connie, got pregnant, and lied about it, saying she was raped, her mother begged him to get revenge. Already a prodigy of hypnosis, he hypnotized one of the sports players to bring a bomb into their locking room, killing them all and sending him down the road of crime, as the Mad Hatter.
A high lord Daemonite, Helspot was a prince on his homeworld prior to his mother banishing him for questioning her. After this point, Helspont obtained an Acurian body, at some point in Roman times. With his powerful body, Helspont is a dangerous foe ever since the Seventies in the Wildstorm, and later DCnU, universes, fighting the Maestroes, Mr. Majestic, the WildC.A.T.s and, most recently, has gone toe to toe with the man of steel himself, and his name is known and feared across the universe.
A Republican from Kansas, Senator Kelly was a major advocate of mutant imprisonment, which put him up against the X men as a political threat to the mutant team many times in their early days. After many attempts at his life by the Brotherhood, foiled time and time again by the X men (for some reason), who eventually caused him to change his ways. However, he was later shot by a mutant hating human.
The Justice League of America has fought against, and alongside, this droid many times. The creation of Professor Ivo, Amazo was made to duplicate and utilize the powers of the Justice League, such as super strength, super speed and even items such as the power ring (And even once Captain America's shield), it fought the Justice League to give its master a sense of immortality for defeating them. Defeated by the greatest heroes none the less, he was used as a last resort weapon as the league ever since.