Due to the budding comic book industry’s unremitting demand for novel ideas while trying to keep pace with popular heroes like Batman, Superman and Captain America (with a lack of understanding of the medium thrown in), not every new super hero hoped to match the grandiose origin stories of those seen in the works of top-tier publishers. It was moments like these when creators were hard-pressed to deliver something fresh that they tended to think far outside standard convention and prove that maybe there is such a thing as being too original — or that there’s no shame in “borrowing” from other works granted you throw in a half-assed tweak or two. The end result? Origin stories that skate that fine line of being hilarious… and outright embarrassing. Read on for seven insane Golden and Silver Age hero origins!
7) Mr. Satan
This litany of uncanny similarities is endless, but, to the creators’ credit, they at least had the decency to save face by coming up with a truly unique origin story: none at all. Whether it was pure laziness or the fact Mr. Satan’s run within the pages of Zip Comics was — for self-evident reasons — short-lived, the character’s drive to combat criminals was never explained; it was chalked up to Mr. Satan fighting crime on the kind of whim people with way too much time and disposable income have. In addition to that, the guy bought his costume from a store without so much as worrying that the cashier would link Mr. Satan to that one customer who bought the purple devil outfit.
6) The Zebra
Adding a red cape and yellow gloves and boots — gotta admit that they do compliment the black and white stripes — Doyle, now the Zebra, manages to escape his confinement and make good on his vengeful vow dressed like the Hamburglar. But you’d think that after apprehending his enemies and clearing his name he’d opt for a costume that doesn’t make him look like an escaped convict. Nah, the suit’s just so comfy you forget all about the associated stigma.
5) Press Guardian
By now you can no doubt see the underlying motive in Perry’s decision to become the Press Guardian: daddy issues. Why else would he be fighting crime dressed as a news reporter if not to prove he’s both a man’s man and ace journalist (both areas Perry’s father felt needed some work); Press Guardian is basically the physical embodiment of his father’s ideal. So are we looking at the saddest super hero with the most depressing origin story in the history of comic books? Quite possibly.
4) Red Rube
Copying the origin story of Captain Marvel virtually verbatim, MLJ’s Red Rube was in actuality a boy named Rueben Rueben (?) that stumbled upon an old castle haunted by the ghosts of his relatives. Imbuing Rueben with their powers and extraordinary talents, he was able to transform into the kind-of-racial-slur-sounding hero Red Rube by shouting the pejorative statement “Hey Rube!” The difference between Captain Marvel and Red Rube is that — aside from the former’s publisher not experiencing a case of venomous bigotry — Cap M is given the powers and abilities of history’s greatest gods and heroes, not his own family! Think about it, what if Rueben’s legacy wasn’t so fantastic? What if, instead of super powers, he was given his family’s worst traits like morbid obesity, susceptibility to gallstones or IBS? Family’s great and all, but to hold a part of each of them within us is something we’d all pass on.
3) Scarlet Avenger
Right there we have our motivation, but apparently the creatives behind Kendall’s story felt that this clearly wasn’t enough drive. In addition to losing his family, Kendall is also robbed of his ability to smile as a result of the crash. Our suspension of disbelief can only go so high, so to say that the immense physical trauma of the plane crash was localized entirely in his facial muscles is nothing short of insane and superfluous given that the death of his wife and son was motivation enough. If his being unable to smile was due solely to his tragic loss and anger towards criminals, now we have something, but for the Golden Age, that makes way too much sense — and the kids hate that!
2) Dell Comics’ Dracula
A far cry from the undead blood-drinker, Dell’s Dracula was actually a scientist and direct descendent of the original Count Dracula that gained vampire-like powers upon consuming, quite literally, bat juice when trying to create a serum that would remedy brain damage. How the creators were able to link brain damage to vampirism is anyone’s guess, but that’s about as epic as this story gets. Upon gaining the ability to turn into a bat, among other vampire powers, the doctor vows to become a hero not only to protect the innocent but to clear his family’s dark legacy… by donning a costume reminiscent of the same exact creature the world feared and despised in the first place. With an origin like that, is it any surprise Dracula only lasted three crappy issues?
1) Fighting American
Nelson Flagg’s brother and TV news commentator, Johnny, is killed by communists for his inflammatory opinions about the said group. Wishing to avenge his brother’s death, Nelson undergoes a ghoulish procedure that transfers his mind and soul into the lifeless corpse of his brother, awakening as Fighting American. Not dismissing the contributions of Joe and Jack by any means, you have to admit that these two could have come up with something other than a legally dead body springing back to life to kick communist ass so hard they turn capitalist. Then again, maybe the two did see how asinine their creation was when the series took a more comedic route after the very first issue. Beats having a crappy hero that’s supposed to be taken seriously.