Something that I’ve noticed in Marvel’s announcements from Comic-Con is that they’ve got three different projects based around retelling origins in the works for the next year: Avengers Origins, the Season One graphic novels, and the storybooks that Disney are producing based on the Marvel characters. Now, putting aside the immediate snark of “Can’t they come up with any new ideas” – and that’s tough, I admit – I’m struck by the obvious idea that Marvel has that origins are where new readers need to start, if only because… I’m not sure that that’s true.
I get that origins make a lot of sense as a starting point, because – well, it’s the starting point for the character, and it allows the reader to get in on the ground floor. But, I can’t help but wonder whether that common sense formula is beginning to wear a little thin, given not only these projects, but also Superman: Earth One and the various superhero movies that are, essentially, origin stories that these new readers are, presumably, familiar with. Isn’t the “they were schlubs, something fantastic happened, and now they are heroes” arc something that readers have come to expect these days – and wouldn’t it be better to offer them something that’d surprise and impress them, instead?
It’s not true that origins are the only way into characters – I think that most current readers of comics found entry points that weren’t origin stories, and there are definitely all manner of fan favorite characters that appeared (and found success) well before their origins were revealed, after all (Hey, Cable! Good to see you, Wolverine! Not to mention Superman, of course…). Is it that modern audiences aren’t able to process the idea of not knowing how our heroes ended up that way at the very start, or that creators are overly paranoid about providing sensible jumping-on points? And, either way, is there some way that we can get away from obsessing over origin stories and start telling new stories, instead?