Superheroes don't just become superheroes out of nowhere. Before they decide to button up a cape, strap on some red boots, and go beat up criminals, they have to start somewhere. Most superheroes began as ordinary people, until some tragic event happened, whether the death of a loved one or a blast of radioactivity. Others are aliens from other worlds. Some are mythological gods. Some have no powers at all, and just are wealthy enough to fund all their little gadgets.
Either way, one thing is consistent across all of these comic book tales: before a superhero becomes a superhero, they're going to have to have an origin story.
But what is that origin? How did each superhero become the person they are today? While some superhero origins are known across the world, other origins are a great deal more hidden. So if you consider yourself a genuine superhero geek, now is the time to test your knowledge. Here are 50 superhero origins, for your reading pleasure: some are true, some are false, and you're going to be the one to tell us which is which. Don't rush, because some origins are trickier than others. It's time to find out, Do You Know These Superhero Origins?
Peter Parker was a regular, nerdy kid until one day at a science experiment, he was bitten by a radioactive spider that endowed him with superhuman abilities. Consumed by his own ego, and excited to use his powers for profit, Peter allowed a burglar to get away... only to find out, hours later, that the same burglar went on to murder his father figure, Uncle Ben. Since that day, Peter has remembered his uncle's lesson that "with great power, comes great responsibility," and dedicated his powers to fighting evil as the Amazing Spider-Man.
The X-Men's resident clawed outsider actually began his life not as a human, but as an ACTUAL wolverine, hence his codename. He was captured from the Canadian wilderness at a young age, and underwent experiments by the Nazi criminal the Red Skull that transformed him into a creature that resembles a human being, but still retained his wolverine characteristics. To get revenge on the Red Skull, this animalistic human -- which had taken to calling itself Logan -- voluntarily underwent surgery to have metal claws implanted between his knuckles.
The vigilante known by the authorities as "Green Arrow" is actually the living reincarnation of the legendary Robin Hood, a heroic outlaw from the thirteenth century. Before his death, Robin was cursed by the evil witch Morgan le Fay to be reborn once every hundred years, with no memory of his past, and to die a brutal death at the hands of a similarly reincarnated Sheriff of Nottingham. The contemporary reincarnation of Robin calls himself "Oliver" as a way to avoid the Sheriff's attention.
A child of privilege, Bruce Wayne's life came crashing down around him when his wealthy parents were shot at gunpoint before his eyes. Swearing vengeance on the criminal underworld, Bruce never let go of his quest to fix Gotham. He grew up, and traveled the world to hone his skills at detection, martial arts, science, illusions, and more. Years later, he then returned to Gotham City as an adult: a symbol of darkness referred to by Gotham as "the Batman."
J'onn J'onzz, known on Earth as the Martian Manhunter, is in fact the last surviving being of his kind. J'onn was born on Mars (known to its then-resident as Ma'aleca'andra), and grew up to become a family man with children. Sadly, all of the Martian species other than J'onn were wiped out, and J'onn was forced to watch his own family burn to death before his eyes. J'onn eventually made his way to Earth, where he has found purpose as a member of the Justice League.
The origin of the young and enthusiast superhero known as Squirrel Girl is actually rather simple. Doreen Green was a young girl in Los Angeles who, due to a mysterious mutation in her DNA, discovers that she has a psychic connection that allows her to communicate with squirrels. As a teenager she becomes Squirrel Girl, and her power to attack opponents with armies of squirrels have proven unbelievably effective at taking down a surprising number of major supervillains, even including Doctor Doom.
Carol Danvers is the granddaughter of Captain America and the Black Widow, born 50 years in the future, in a post-apocalyptic time line where the United States has been taken over by HYDRA. Carol grew up listening to stories of the Avengers, while slaving away as a factory worker under the ruthless control of Crosshatch, the son of Crossbones. After discovering a portal to the past, Carol has come to the present day, where she hopes to prevent her terrible future from ever occurring.
Many centuries ago, Aquaman was known by a different name: he is actually the Poseidon of Greek mythology, who was one day cast down from Mount Olympus when Zeus tired of Poseidon's famous temper. Today, Poseidon has become enraged once again due to mankind's pollution of the oceans, but after being counseled by the goddess Athena, he has decided that if he helps humanity, he may have a chance of convincing them to change their ways. To do this, he has joined the Justice League under the name Aquaman.
After the Jackal's first clone of Spider-Man escaped the lab, and went on to become the vigilante Scarlet Spider, the supervillain immediately went to work on a second clone. However, this new Spider-clone, which went by the name Al Simmons, had dark tendencies from the start: he rebelled against his creator, and fled across the world to study the Necronomicon. With this book in his possession, Simmons sold his soul to Hell, gained supernatural abilities, and became the vigilante known as Spawn.
Victor Stone was a high school football star who had a strained relationship with his father. However, when Victor is severely mutilated by a terrible accident, his father rushes to save his life by merging his body to an array of experimental robotic prosthetics that turn him into a cyborg. Though Victor is at first horrified by his new body, he uses his new powers to help save the world as a member of both the Teen Titans and the Justice League.
Diana Prince is a demigoddess, the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, born and raised on the all-female island of Themyscira, where she was raised amongst the warrior women known as the Amazons. Diana's life changed forever upon the arrival of Steve Trevor on the island. Feeling that she had a duty to help save "man's world" from the evil wars and hostility that had befallen it, Diana journeys back with Steve to become Wonder Woman, an emissary of peace and love.
Kevin Keller was a soldier known for bravery and valiance, until one day a bullet to the spine rendered him paraplegic. Though Kevin was awarded for bravery, his paralysis rendered him hopeless, plagued by PTSD, and desperate for meaning. Gaining an interest in archeology, Kevin discovered the dusty remnants of a relic that may have been the hammer wielded by the mythological Thor, the god of thunder: upon touching this hammer, Kevin was transformed into an embodiment of Thor, and discovered that Asgard is a real place.
When his wife was dying of ovarian cancer, a construction worker named Luke Cage was unable to fund the treatments. Turning to his old college friend Mark, Luke volunteered to undergo a government experiment, in exchange for $60,000 cash. However, while experiment gave Luke superhuman strength, it also turned his body into a ticking time bomb, with only five years to live before he explodes sky-high and potentially destroys the planet. In his last few years left, Luke tries to make a difference in the world as a superhero.
Born on the planet Shi'ar, the Fantastic Four are the last remnants of an interspecies mating experiment between the Kree and the Skrulls. Fleeing for their lives, these four aliens made their way to Earth, where they used their shapeshifting abilities to make themselves resemble humans, pretended to be superheroes, and used a far-fetched origin story involving cosmic rays in order to hide their true identities. Though they have earned worldwide acclaim, the Four live in fear that one day the Kree and Skrulls will find them.
John Rayner was a goldsmith who specialized in high quality jewelry for wealthy clients. One day a corporate businessman named Rex Harrison dropped off a bizarre, glowing emerald stone on Rayner's desk, demanding that it be fashioned into an engagement ring for his wife. Upon doing so, Rayner found that the emerald ring granted him superhuman energy powers, and he decided to use its powers to protect the world. To help him, he has crafted more rings, and given them to other worthy heroes, where they work together as the "Green Lantern Corps."
Bruce Banner was the victim of terrible childhood abuse that, as an adult, left him traumatized, repressed, and with fractured alternate personalities buried in his psyche. When his work as a scientist causes him to be irradiated by gamma rays, the radiation releases the childhood rage inside Banner, and it emerges as a hulking green monster of limited intelligence. After his identity as this "Hulk" is revealed, Banner goes on the run from the U.S. Army, led by his girlfriend's father, General "Thunderbolt" Ross.
The infant Kal-El was born on the planet Krypton, but blasted away on a rocket when the planet was exploding, killing everyone on it. Kal-El's rocket crashed down on Earth, where he was luckily discovered by a kindhearted couple named Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him "Clark," and raised him with strong values and a good heart. Upon discovering his true origins as an adult, Clark decides that he can use his powers to make the world a better place, and takes on the identity of Superman.
Dan Ketch was a 20-year-old student of demonology, who preferred to be called by his nickname, "Johnny Blaze." Upon discovering a mysterious tome called the Darkhold, Blaze unwittingly caused his body to be possessed by the demon Chthon, while his mind was forced into Chthon's body: a flaming skeleton. Using his father's old motorcycle, this "Ghost Rider" chases Chthon down, trying to get his old body back, before Chthon can open up a portal to hell and destroy civilization as we know it.
Jessica Jones was a regular teenager until, on a car ride with her family, they crashed into a military convoy carrying radioactive chemicals. Though her family members were killed, Jessica awoke from a coma months later with super powers. As an adult, Jessica briefly began a career as a superhero, until she fell under the power of the sociopathic mind controller Killgrave, who tortured her for years. After getting out from his control, Jessica became an alcoholic private investigator, living in fear that Killgrave might come back.
Hawkeye was Vladmir "Hawk" Petrov, a Russian operative in the Cold War who defected to the American side after his superior officers ordered the death of his family. In the United States, Vladmir took on the new identity of Chris Calvin, started up a new family, and mastered the art of using a bow and arrow to pass his free time. However, when superhuman menaces began threatening the Earth, he decided it was time to get involved in the action.
In another dimension known as the Speed Force, light and sound are conscious entities, which attempt to influence the events of the human realm. One day, one of these bursts of energy struck down in the human realm, and bonded to the soul of police scientist Barry Allen. Now, these two entities -- man and lightning -- live together in one body, possessing the power of super speed, battling for control. Though the lightning has always tried to take over Barry's mind, Barry masks his inner struggle with a lovable sense of humor.
Joseph "Dick" Grayson was a young boy whose parents were members of the League of Shadows, until they were murdered by Ra's al Ghul for defying orders. Craving vengeance, Dick was taken in by the Batman, who trained him to become his sidekick, Robin. However, on a mission where Dick came face to face with Ra's al Ghul, he found himself agreeing with Ra's far more than he did Bruce: he rebelled against Batman, and became Ra's right hand man, Nightwing.
Steve Rogers was a frail, skinny American kid in the 1930s-1940s who couldn't stand what was happening overseas, and desperately wanted to help. Though he was rejected from the military, he kept trying, until one day he was brought in as a test subject for a "super soldier" experiment that transformed him into a superhuman. As "Captain America," Steve became a symbol for the Allies. Though one mission saw him frozen in ice and presumed dead, Steve survived and was reawakened in the present day.
Blade is the child of the demon Mephisto, born to a vampire woman on Earth. As a crossbreed, half-demon and half-vampire, Blade possesses the strengths of both... but after falling in love with a mortal woman, he decides that he must exterminate both demons and vampires if the human race is to survive. Deciding that vampires are the first threat to worry about, Blade embarks on a vampire-hunting mission that he hopes will bring him to the door of the vampire king Lestat.
Jennifer Walters was a meek and self-conscious lawyer who struggled to stand up for herself, until one day she was shot and seriously wounded. Her cousin Bruce Banner, desperate to save her life, gave her an emergency blood transfusion -- and his gamma irradiated blood caused her to transform into a "She-Hulk." However, unlike Banner, Walters retained consciousness in her She-Hulk form, though the alteration caused her to become more confident, flirty, and strong willed. She has been a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
Billionaire weapons developer and insensitive asshole Tony Stark saw his life completely changed when he was caught in an explosion, kidnapped by enemy forces, and forced to create weapons for them. The explosion had lodged shrapnel in his heart, putting him on the brink of death, and he was forced to develop weapons for use against American forces. Seeing the error of his ways, Stark developed a suit of armor, broke out of the cave he was being held in, and came back to America with a mission of world peace.
Matt Murdock was the son of a boxer who was killed for refusing to throw a fight. Murdock was blinded at a young age by radioactive chemicals, but these chemicals also enhanced his other senses to superhuman levels. Murdock harnessed his rage, training in martial arts under the guidance of a sardonic blind mentor named Stick. As an adult, he works as a lawyer, but moonlights as a vigilante named "Daredevil," as he struggles to turn his home territory of Hell's Kitchen into a better place.
The entire Earth comes under threat of extinction when it is approached by the extraterrestrial Galactus, a being that devours planets. In order to save the planet, a man named Norman "Radical" Radd offers himself to become Galactus' emissary in exchange for sparing the Earth. This comes at a great cost: not only is Radd no longer permitted to ever return to Earth (a promise he breaks), he is also transformed into a man of pure ice, with ice-centric powers, named the Iceman. Iceman also has a young son, Bobby, with similar powers, who becomes the Iceman of Earth.
In the early 1940s, Robert L. Frank was a normal young man from Missouri who went on an expedition with his father, Emil Frank, to the African wilderness. However, this adventure leads to catastrophe, when young Robert is bitten by a venomous cobra. Desperate to save Robert's life, Emil saves him by injecting Robert with mongoose blood. Surprisingly, this mongoose blood transfusion not only saves Robert's life, but also gives him the gift of super speed. He uses these new powers as a superhero named the Whizzer.
Patrick "Eel" O'Brien was an everyday crook who was betrayed by his gang, and doused in bizarre chemicals. When he recovered, he discovered that his entire body now possessed malleable properties that allowed him to stretch to any size, and change to any shape. Not sure what to do with his new powers, and uncertain whether there's more profit in crime or crime fighting, Eel makes the decision to be a hero by flipping a coin. After that, he becomes Plastic Man.
Created in a lab during WW2 by fusing demon DNA with that of a human being, the creature known as "Hellboy" escaped after the war ended, and took up refuge in the United States forest, where he was raised by the creature commonly known as Bigfoot. Hellboy was interested in human life, and eventually found a place in it by joining with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, where it has become his life mission to prevent the Golden Army from opening up a portal between Earth and Mars.
The Tick, a lovable oaf in a blue costume, has no memory of his life before being the Tick, so his past is shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that before the Tick found his mild-mannered sidekick Arthur and became the official hero of "The City," he was an unhappy and bored resident of an insane asylum. Deciding that he had tired of that lifestyle, the already super-powered Tick decided to go ahead and leave, which he did.
Before his untimely death, Bruce Wayne's father Thomas has a sense that something bad was going to happen, so he placed a call to his associate Ben Bridges to lock up the mysterious Egyptian artifact they had unearthed that week: the Eclipse Ruby. Ben Bridges did so, but when he touched the ruby, his soul became trapped inside it, and the twelve souls that were inside lunged out. Together, these souls are the Spectre, an agent of righteous vengeance and justice.
In the near future, Colonel Luther Manning is fatally injured at war. However, the remains of Luther's body and mind are restored against his will within a cyborg killing machine called "Deathlok." When Luther finally wakes up within his cybernetic shell, he breaks free from the control of his captors, and is horrified to walk out into a now post-apocalyptic world where society has collapsed, vicious cannibals roam the streets, and his wife has found a new husband. As Deathlok, Luther decides to take down the corporation that transformed him.
In 1971, scientists placed a DNA capsule on the moon, powered it with radiation, and let it sit there for the next 20 years. When it awakened, a man emerged: Maximus, a glowing being with powers that fluctuate according to the cycles of the moon. Maximus escaped back to Earth, where he fights crime, supervillains, and werewolves as the vigilante Moon Knight while simultaneously trying to avoid the attention of government agents who want to capture him for use as a test subject.
The descendant of the Old West hero the Lone Ranger is Britt Reid, who is the publisher of newspaper the Daily Sentinel by now, and prowls the streets at night as the vigilante the Green Hornet, who pretends to be a crime boss. He is assisted in these efforts by his partner, Kato. In fact, the Green Hornet identity is a family legacy, passed on from one generation to the next, and there have been multiple Green Hornets throughout the 20th century.
Billy Batson was just a young boy when he was approached by the wizard Shazam, who endows Billy with a magical gift of power: now, whenever Billy says the word "Shazam" -- an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury -- he turns into a superhuman adult being that is bestowed with the powers of all these gods. As a superhero, Billy must balance his childish tendencies with his adult responsibilities, especially as he takes on Black Adam, one of the wizard's former protégées from ancient Egypt.
David Summers is the long lost son of Scott Summers, the X-Men leader known as Cyclops. As a young boy, David was adopted by Charles Xavier, but then was stolen away by the villain Mr. Sinister, who corrupted David's mind and gave him the power to absorb other people's bodies into himself. Sinister then sold David's services to the Shadow King, and David was an X-Men villain for many years before Scott was finally able to convince his son to come back to the side of light.
Stephen Strange was a brilliant but arrogant surgeon, until one day a tragic car accident left him unable to perform even the most basic tasks with his hands. Desperate to recover the skill he was famous for, Stephen went out to Asia, where he found something else: magic. After training under a sorcerer known as Ancient One, finding humility, and becoming a mastery of the magical arts, Stephen came back to New York as a changed man, and eventually inherited the title of Sorcerer Supreme.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ninjas who follow their rat leader, Splinter, against the forces of Shredder. However, the turtles are actually not turtles at all: they are aliens from the Planet X, who crash landed in Roswell many years ago and were held in Area 51 for decades before humans April O'Neil and Casey Jones were able to free them. Now, they fight crime and eat pizza, while trying to find a rocket that can someday take them back home.
Scott Kelvin was an everyday teenager, and the son of journalist Mark Kelvin, until one day he found out that his father was actually the embodiment of the demon K'llthr'all. Horrified, Kelvin underwent experiments by his scientist mother that enhanced his strength, durability, and gave him the ability to fly. Now that he was "Invincible," Kelvin possessed the ability to take on his demonic father, and save the Earth from his demon hordes. However, he still believes that there is good in his father, and is still trying to find it.
After a stint in the marines, Frank Castle came back home and worked as the right hand man of then-Captain Nick Fury, who ordered him on specialized missions against HYDRA targets. After Castle gunned down his whole team in a fit of rage, Fury ordered a hit on him. Castle came back home, furious, and tried to kill Fury -- only to accidentally gun down his own family in the process. Now seeking repentance, the "Punisher" has become S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most devoted special agent.
Ororo Munroe spent most of her childhood in Egypt, after her parents were killed in an aircraft attack that left Ororo buried in rubble, an incident which has left her with claustrophobia to this day. As a teenager she worked as a skilled thief, but after her mutant powers began to emerge -- the ability to control the weather -- she made her way to the Serengeti, where she was worshiped as a goddess. After being discovered by Charles Xavier, she joined the X-Men.
The highly philosophical and intellectual hero known as the Question began his career as an outspoken journalist named Vic Sage. While working on a story, Sage was approached by Professor Rodor, who had created an artificial skin called pseudoderm that was toxic to humans when applied to open wounds. Despite this toxicity, Rodor wanted to sell pseudoderm to desperate developing nations; wanting to stop him, Vic decided to don a mask made of pseudoderm, and became the vigilante the Question.
Virgil Hawkins was just an everyday teenager in the city of Dakota, until his life changed when he got caught in the crossfire of a gang war. During this incident he was doused with experimental chemicals, and when he recovered, realized he had been gifted with electromagnetic powers, such as discharging electrical energy or levitating manhole covers. As a superhero, Virgil tries to manage both his hectic superheroic life and his equally hectic adolescent one, to varying degrees of success.
Damian Wayne is the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, conceived when Talia drugged and raped Bruce Wayne. Damian was raised without Bruce's knowledge, but eventually sought out his father and took the role of Robin. In the future, Bruce will retire from the role of Batman, and the legacy will fall to his son, who designs a specialized new cybernetic costume and takes on foes such as Blight, the son of the Joker, and the Penguin Gang.
Flaming Carrot is a regular man who was inspired to fight crime by the same thing that would inspire many real life superhero fans: in order to win a bet, he read through 5,000 superhero comic books within a single sitting. This actually caused him to suffer a brain injury, and this man disappeared soon afterward, only to come back as the vigilante Flaming Carrot. Though he possesses no powers, Flaming Carrot has a utility belt and a nuclear powered pogo stick.
Natasha Romanoff was an agent for the KGB, with many successful assassinations on her ledger. After being defeated by Iron Man, she realized she'd need to get a leg up on the competition, so she volunteered for a special procedure that injected her DNA with cells from an electrified black widow spider. This procedure gave her superhuman agility and strength, but also a moral conscience: she betrayed the KGB, enlisted in S.H.I.E.L.D., and became the superhero known as the Black Widow.
The son of Mystique, abandoned as an infant, Kurt Wagner was adopted by a German circus, and raised by everyone within that circus. Though Kurt's mutant genetics gave him a demonic appearance, with blue skin and a pointed tail, his career as a circus performer brought him much acclaim, since audience members simply thought he was in a costume and makeup. Kurt grew up to be a devoted Catholic, and eventually joined up with Charles Xavier as a member of the X-Men.
The "daughter" of the X-Man Wolverine, cloned from his DNA and raised from birth to be a killing machine, this girl spent all of her early childhood being brainwashed, tortured, enhanced with adamantium claws, and used as a weapon until, with the help of Dr. Sarah Kinney, she was able to escape, and took on the name Laura. Eventually, she was able to find her "father," Wolverine, and with his help was able to overcome the violent tendencies that had been drilled into her.