So I think we have all picked up on a recurring theme that goes on in superhero origin stories. Dead parents. From Batman to Spiderman, a lot of our favourite heroes have dead parents. Even those that initially didn’t have dead parents, have had their origin story changed so that they now have dead parents.
I understand the need for having a tragic back story to present motivation and a compelling story to a character, but is it necessary to create a fascinating hero? Recently in Dc’s New 52, they changed Superman’s past a bit. Now we all know that he already had dead parents in the form of his Kryptonian parents, but his Earth mother, Martha Kent, used to be a big part of Superman’s life, because she was well, actually alive! Pa Kent usually ended up dying in Clark’s life throughout the different iterations of Superman’s story, usually from a heart attack (and now tornadocide), but Ma Kent used to make it out unscathed. Now in the New 52, they are both dead. From a car accident. I don’t like this. I like that Clark had Ma Kent’s guiding wise words throughout his Superman career. It seems as though the people over at Dc knew some readers found Superman boring, and they also knew how popular Batman was, so they were like hey! let’s give him some dead parents as well.
Another example is The Flash. Before Geoff John’s revamp of Barry’s origin, he didn’t have quite the tragic back story, with both of his parents still being alive. In fact Batman once said “Barry is the kind of man that I would’ve hoped to become if my parents hadn’t been murdered”. So there he was, a good guy with a non-tragic back story. Then during The Flash: Rebirth story, his origin was dramatically changed. In his new origin his mother was murdered, and his father was wrongly convicted for this murder (the same origin we see in The Flash tv show). This of course leading him to become a forensic scientist so that he could solve his mother’s murder, and set his father free.
It’s a great origin story, don’t get me wrong. But there is something beautiful about a normal guy, with a normal childhood, having ‘greatness thrust upon him’ and using that greatness to become a force for good, because he is just an inherently good person. And he was still a great character before his new origin story. I am just glad that when they did change his origin story, they didn’t make him all dark and broody/Batman like. So he was still very much the same character, just with new motivations this time.
It’s been good to see the Marvel (Disney) movies, explore the characters with different origin stories. I love Spidey and Bats but I’m over the same rehashed origin story being told over and over again. The Marvel cinematic universe focused on different motivations for their characters. Thor wanted to prove himself to his (alive) dad. Iron Man wanted to prove himself to well himself. Captain America wanted to prove himself to his country. The point being is that there are other motivations these characters can have other than dead parents.
So lets not rush to kill off all the parents of our beloved superheroes please. Of course these characters will always be exploring the idea of nature vs nurture. Are people born inherently good or bad? Or are our values and ideals purely instilled to us from our surroundings. It’s important that these character origins explore both sides of this idea, not just one.
So what do you think? Do you think tragic origin stories are necessary for superheroes? Let me know!
Categories: comic books