Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Origins

Sorry, folks, was at work a ridiculously long time last night, so you'll have to wait another week for Better Know A Hero.

However, something occurred to me on the way home that is sticking in my brainpan. One of the old "How Marvel And DC Differ" thoughts.

And suddenly I find myself thinking about character origins.

And then I realize that for me one of the attractions to Marvel comics is that they tend to not fetishize and dwell and obsess over their character origins the way DC does (or, at least, their current crop of writers do).

It just seems like I can't read a Batman story without there being a reference at some point about Bruce's parents, as an example. We just went over Hal Jordan's origin again in the most recent GL arc. Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman are all in various states of "re-origin-ing" their origins, and I suspect you know what I mean by that. Supergirl's spent the better part of, what, 17 issues trying to sort out her origin? Even Jonah Hex makes reference every other issue about his disfigurement at the hands of the Native Americans.

(Side Note: I really loves me some Jonah Hex. Buy it. That is all.)

Conversely, I see (or at least I think I see) a lot less of that stuff in my Marvel reads. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I'm not slamming DC for this or anything, just an interesting difference that I thought about on the way home last night.

What are your thoughts?

More tomorrow.



Blogger Nick said...

For the most part your probably right, I mean look at the current Flash series. I do however think Marvel spends more time on character development then on story though, whereas DC is the exact opposite.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous SanctumSanctorumComix said...

Now, I'm more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan, but perhaps DC is merely trying to give a brief recap of a characters' origin for those whom THAT comic may be their FIRST.

Once upon a time, it was incumbent on EVERY writer to remember that every issue could be a first issue for SOMEONE, and as such, a lot of exposition dialog and recap verbiage was expected in nearly every issue.

For the long-time reader, it was a bit annoying and jarring, to "hear" characters going on and on, repetitively about who they were, where they came from and what they were doing in that alley/ lab/ Lair/ planet.

But, for the first timer... these were golden bread crumbs.

DC may be trying to recruit new readers through FAMILIARITY.

MARVEL is trying to do it through NEW DECONSTRUCTION and "Current Events".


What do I know?


word verification:


As in:
Pqkgar Managon

Pak-Man's Inhuman name before the Terrigan mists turned him into a yellow spheroid freak that eats Ghosts.

Damn... my parents were right.
These damned things rotted my brain.

1:19 PM  
Blogger redlib said...

I don't know Chris-- just about every Spidey talks about Uncle Ben's loss and Moon Knight is full of origin flashbacks. But then, I read much more DC, so I don't know what the heck they are doing in most of the Marvel titles besides these and She-Hulk.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Actually, P-Tor, I think you have it the other way around. Bendis-driven retcons aside, Marvel uses continuity in a broad sense, assuming some basic familiarity among the readers but not really invoking the actual history as such.

DC, on the other hand, seems to engage far more frequently in autocannibalistic tendencies, digging up specific events and characters from the past. Constantly repeating origin stories is part and parcel of that, IMO. It's not so much that they're trying to introduce these characters, it's that more often than not stories depend on you knowing the minutae.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I don't know, isnt' there a Wolverine: Origins ongoing book? Granted, that's only one example, but its a whole damned series dedicated to an origin. And its not going to stop? Or am I wrong and its a limited?

2:21 PM  
Blogger kyle-latino said...

I couldn't agree more. It fits. One of Marvel's most famous properties is the originless band of heroes called the X-Men. Stan Lee was apparently tired of thinking of ways to give people powers, so he just says, "They have them..." and stops there. Not to say they don't have back-stories, just not origins. But think about it, why are mutants mutants, and don't say Earth X; like it or not, it's not cannon.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Nick: Yeah, I think you're right about that.

Sanctum: Rotten brain or no, that's still a damn fine Inhumans reference.

Redlib: Spider-Man's probably the worst offender on the Marvel side, you're absolutely right.

Diana: Your second paragraph is golden. Couldn't agree more, and much better said than my loose thought on the matter.

Randy: Yes, but A) it's called out that it's all about the origin, so I can avoid it, and B) it's Wolverine, whose whole schtick is that no one really knows his past. And I think it's an ongoing, though God knows why.

Kyle: Yep, the X-Men are perfect for those who don't want to be bothered with origin stories. Unfortunately, they're now burdened with 20 years of continuity. Ah, well.

8:13 PM  
Blogger James Meeley said...

Now, I'm more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan, but perhaps DC is merely trying to give a brief recap of a characters' origin for those whom THAT comic may be their FIRST.

Fancy that. Setting up a serialized comic, with information for someone who might NOT have been reading it for the last 20 years or more.

Personally, I think the reason for this difference is even more simple than this.

Marvel doesn't give constant recapping of the characters and their origins, simply because it then makes that much easier to throw away the characterization that has come before, when some new hot button topic or semi-controvserial news bit comes into focus that the chatacters can then be molded to fit the needs of telling that story, rather then basing the story to fit around the characters they want to use in it. After all, you don't want established characterization and origin continuity coming back to show up your slip-shod and ill-conceived storytelling concepts. That's the new standard for "How To Write Comics The Marvel Way."

Didn't any of you get that memo from Joey da Q?

9:53 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

I'd say the simplest solution is the best here.

DC just had a major line-wide retcon. They have to recap the origins for their regular readers.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous nothingstopstheblob said...

Marvel seems to change elements of its characters' backgrounds a lot more than DC as well. Superman doesn't wake up one day with secondary mutations, and Batman doesn't find out his real strength came from a mystic bat totem. The characters change, but their basic natures and backstories are (mostly) consistent with their first appearances.

So it's a lot easier to namecheck continuity for DC. Also, their retcons seem to be more companywide and systematic (eg: everyone in the universe gets a slightly new origin riiiiiiight now) than Marvel's piecemeal approach. I'm not saying this is always the case, but DC seems to have made more of an effort to formalize its books.

On the other hand, the Marvel books are full of cross-title reminders about the latest change to their major characters and events. DC seems to respect tradition more while Marvel seems more interested in making sure everyone knows the current status. I've always liked Marvel better than DC, but I think both are valid.

7:36 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Well, I think there's a big difference between making a brief mention of the character's origin per issue, and spending months and months on hashing out an "origin story" for no other reason than that the writers have no plot ideas (Supergirl, Wolverine: Origins). The former is the old "every comic is someone's first" thing, while the latter is just shite.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous plok said...

For quite a while, Marvel used to have little blurbs at the top of the first page of every comic explaining what the main character's shtick was. I always thought that was cool...

But my suggestion for all this is: you can blame Stan for it. Instead of straightforwardly setting up something like "When police scientist Barry Allen was struck by lightning, he gained the super-speed powers that he uses to fight crime as THE FLASH! By the way, this is Iris, his wife...", and then zooming straight on to the action, Stan milked the origins in thought-balloons so as to provide more and better character angst. Cyclops thinking about how his deadly mutant eye-beams keep him from asking Marvel Girl out on a date...Peter Parker constantly worrying about what would happen to Aunt May if she ever found out he was Spider-Man...Rick Jones thinking about how much he owes to Bruce Banner considering if he hadn't saved him from that gamma-bomb explosion he wouldn't be THE HULK now...etc. etc. The origins, or at least the character details, were constantly being rammed down the reader's throat on every page. Iron Man's heart condition, sixty seconds until Thor reverts to Don Blake once the hammer is out of his hand, poor Ben turned into a monster by cosmic rays, Steve Rogers wouldn't even be here if it weren't for the Super-Soldier Serum he was given back in 1941, that can never be duplicated.

Presto! Instant house style.

Well, that's my two cents, anyway.

5:10 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yes, they should bring back the "Blah blah, science, blah, accident, blah, Stan Lee Presents..." top-of-page blurbs. I really liked them.

1:20 AM  

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