Are origins needed?


I’ve written a bunch of books. I have ten in a series that I’d planned for at least fourteen parts. Did I start with the beginning?

No.

I started with the second book. Why? I knew who my characters were. I wanted to get into the tale, get the action set up with out the preliminaries. I eventually went back to write the first book, with more characters that, since I’d established the main cast in the one I’d already written, I was free to kill off in interesting ways.

Look at Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies or the Nightmare on Elm Street redux. Both movies, while reasonably well done, make the main antagonist into something the originals never did–they make them sympathetic. I don’t WANT a sympathetic Michael Myers. I know Freddie’s backstory, but do I need to see it? I don’t think so. In a horror movie like that, the antagonist should be like Myers was in the first movie–mysterious, almost a force of nature.

Superman has become almost Arthurian in that almost everyone knows the basics. I have to admit, I didn’t care much for Man of Steel, partly for trying to explain/humanize Zod and partly for its eyecandyness. I can watch a long movie and not lose interest. Superman used to be one of my favorite heroes. Now, I thought the changes made to Jonathan Kent were interesting, but other than some pretty effects sequences, nothing happens that the Christopher Reeve movies didn’t do better. Now, if there’d been more story development time spent between Zod and Superman instead of the Krypton and Kansas scenes, it could have been so much better. The movie did make Superman feel more alien, but from the time he was very young, he was raised HERE, so the alienosity seemed misplaced.

Can I share a secret? Out of the Marvel X-Characters, Wolverine was never my favorite. Sure, I like the Canucklehead, but I also found Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Colossus more interesting, not to mention Kitty Pryde. One of the things that made them appealing is they could’ve been me. Except for his intense need for Vizine, Scott Summers isn’t much different from most people. Piotr, when not imitating his mother’s silver, is still pretty big but fairly gentle. That’s something I have some experience with. They’re relateable. Logan, remember Logan? He’s as different from me, and most people I suppose, as you can get. There was also a sense of mystery about him. Now that Origins has come out, not to mention the first Wolverine movie, some of that was lost. Snake-Eyes was in the same boat. You weren’t sure why he was masked, why he didn’t speak. Issue 26 changed that, but there was still some mystery since you were never sure what he was thinking and obviously there wasn’t any dialogue coming out of him to clarify anything.

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~ by Sean on February 25, 2015.

4 Responses to “Are origins needed?”

  1. The interesting thing with origins is that it’s almost entirely a superhero thing, and then pretty much just in comic books or live action adaptations. Almost no other genre feels the need to do them., and most other genres in entertainment simply hit the ground running.

    Take your average cop show for example. They start with pretty much everything already in place, with everyone doing their thing, and with all the relationships already established. The closest you get to an “origin” concept is the first episode introduction of the new guy to act as the viewer’s guide.

    Nightmare on Elm Street gave us an origin in a way, we learned about Freddy as we went along, but he had been around already. It wasn’t the start of the character in the way we get Superman’s origin or Spider-Man’s origin every time they reboot or restart the series.

    Star Wars was huge culturally. Everything was already in play when we started with (now) Episode IV. When did the thing get bad with regards to quality? When they decided to tell the origin of one of its most popular villains.

    I’d love to see a live action superhero team series start in the same way that most cartoon shows started back in the day. Everyone was there, everyone had an enemy, and you just fell into it along with everyone else. It would be kind of like Batman from the ’66 TV show. They never bothered with origins on that thing. People showed up and you just kept up and went along with it.

    I remember an old Bumpkin Buzz cartoon from the CBG days where he made fun of the modern comic book fan’s obsession with every detail of every character’s origin story VS the relatively sparse, five panel origin story that some heroes had back in the day. It got to the point, after rewrite after rewrite, where the obnoxious fan is complaining that there’s was still an unaccounted for 3 minutes on ‘X’ day of the origin story before the character sticks his head out of the book and screams at the fan that, if it was all well and good with him, he was in the bathroom and would like it kept out of the story.

    I think there’s too many of those fans around these days. Worse, I think a lot of them grew up to be writers.

  2. I don’t know that I can agree with one part of what you said, Jerry. The exclusivity of comics doing origins? Look for a minute at, like you said, cop shows. if any explanation was necessary, usually there’d be an announcer doing VO at the beginning. Now? There’s something that sets the officers or detectives apart, some dialogue to establish the pecking order, the action, and the denoument showing that SOMETHING has taken place to anchor these characters together. Look at the Brady Bunch, for example, versus Friends. The Bradys are explained in the theme song. The Friends group is in the coffee shop when someone comes in wearing a wedding dress–both establish early, one in song, one in action.

    Fanboys, and fan bases in general, are part of the problem with doing movies from books or comics. I’ve said before how much I would’ve loved to see what Jackson could do with the Tom Bombadil sequence in Fellowship. Do I decry the very exsistence of the movies because ol’ Tom and his jolly hat are absent? No, but I know people who do. Are studios so hung up on, like on PAD’s blog, what happens on AICN or IMDB that they structure movies around what they read? Or do they start with a good movie and then go from there? No one from any studio’s paid me for a script yet, so I don’t know. The one thing I have out there DID get changed from the original, but only because what was originally a teleplay bacame a comic book and one of the characters leaves at the end.

    • I didn’t say it was exclusive, I said that “it’s almost entirely a superhero thing.”

      Superheros and comic books seem far more into doing the origin from scratch from issue #1. We seemingly have to go from normal guy to accident to powers to meaningful suit design to heroic act to name. Practically the only time we don’t see that is when a character is introduced as a mystery character or an out of the blue character in a comic, and then the rush is on to know their origin story.

      The Brady Bunch origin is more in line with the old school origins that the fictional fan in the Bumpkin Buzz cartoon found quaint and passé in the “Explain Everything!” mindset of the 1990s. It’s like the “relatively sparse, five panel origin story that some heroes had back in the day” that you might find as the first page of the story.

      “Superman, a strange visitor from another planet, was raised by Ma and Pa Kent until one day leaving for Metropolis and becoming known to the world as Superman!” This would be said in four panels of art showing a quick backstory, but, even if it was his origin, it was almost more in line with a “for those who came in late” type of deal. Nowadays we get 1 to 3 issues for an origin, and fans complain when they feel like something was left out.

  3. Sorry, I misunderstood. That’s what happens when I try to be intelligent at 3 in the morning.

    You know what, though? There could be a decent series built around a character who’s a complete mystery. Everyone will be aware of the character, but the story would be built around their reactions to what the character does, and hints and clues to the character’s identity. People wouldn’t even really be certain as to the what the guy calls himself.

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