Best origin story

Every superhero has an origin story. Superman is an alien from planet Krypton, Thor a misplaced Norse god, the Hulk the product of an overdose of gamma rays. I love all these origin stories.

But my favorite origin story of them all is the one for Spiderman. Instead of relying on one preposterous premise, two such premises are mashed together, and somehow that tips it all over into a kind of crazy pseudo-plausibility.

I mean, we all know that being bombarded by intense gamma rays doesn’t actually give you super powers. In fact, it kills you rather efficiently. And we all know that being bitten by a spider doesn’t give you super powers. It gives you a nasty rash, and sometimes a fever.

But if you put the two of them together, now you are tapping into the joint mysteries of cosmic rays and genetics. I mean, who knows for sure what kinds of mutations radiation might cause in a spider? I certainly don’t, and you don’t either.

And so this origin story manages to cross the line from the patently ridiculous to “Wait a second, could that work?” At least to an open minded eleven year old, and that’s all that really counts.

There’s something else I like about Spiderman’s origin story, which has more to do with the complexity of our relationship with our superheroes, and that is the element of the monstrous that lurks around the edges of their stories.

In fact, I suspect this monstrousness may be an intrinsic part of our continuing fascination with them. Batman is an emotionally damaged little boy turned vengeance machine, Superman a lonely alien orphin who flies around in his underwear. And the Hulk is, well, a monster. But for sheer borderline weirdness, Spiderman has them all beat. He’s basically an insect.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

2 Responses to “Best origin story”

  1. CC says:

    My favorite origin story is Iron Man’s. He made himself into a superhero deliberately, which I think is really cool. He’s also got a pretty “plausible” story (if you ignore the fact that his suit’s more powerful than physically possible!).

  2. admin says:

    I am a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr. I would probably happily watch him read the phone book. But I have a bit of a problem with the way the 2008 film presents Iron Man’s origin story.

    Even given an alternate universe where the Iron Man suit is physically possible (since it is not possible in this universe), Tony Stark does things that are clearly impossible for a human.

    For example, after his jury-rigged power suit crash lands in Afghanistan and scatters into little pieces, the Tony Stark should have been hamburger. Instead, he emerges from the wreckage unharmed, vamping for the camera in that charming RDJr way, and starts plotting his next exploit.

    It’s all great fun, but the reality breaks its own rules. In contrast, the origin story of Spiderman acts as a kind of “get out of jail free” card for plausibility. “He did what???” you might think, after he performs some feat that seems impossible. Then you remember, “Oh, it’s ok, the guy was bit by a radioactive spider.”

Leave a Reply