It seems like every new superhero movie franchise starts with an origin story. I think that’s helpful for some people because they get to learn what makes these people so special, but for avid comic book readers (and general superhero geeks) it’s annoying. If I have to see one more Spider-Man origin story I’m going to smash my TV screen. And you know what’s worse? When the writers/directors of the movies decide to change the origin story for no good reason. This article is about cases like this.
Here are 10 comic book origin stories that were very different from the movies.
We’ll start of slow, with a twist on an origin story that makes a lot of sense for a movie franchise. Let’s talk about Jarvis, Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence butler (as most of you will know him). See, in the original comic books, Jarvis was an actual meat-and-bones, real human butler. But Iron Man already gets compared to Batman a lot, so how would it look if the very first Marvel movie featured an Alfred-like butler of the main character? It would look like Marvel is trying too hard to be DC. So, they did the smart thing and made Jarvis an AI assistant instead of a human butler.
Moving on in the vein of “studios working around limitations”, let’s talk about Venom.
In the comics, Venom is an alien parasite that bonds to a human and feeds on them (while also giving them superpowers). Originally, this parasite boded to Peter Parker and created the Venom version of Spider-Man. However, just as the movie was coming out, Spider-Man was very busy being part of the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the studio had to change the origin story and make Venom bond directly with Eddie Brock.
How they’re going to merge the stories of Venom and Spider-Man in Venom 2 is a mystery, but the end-result should be fun.
Fantastic Four & Doctor Doom
Now let’s move into origin stories that were modified because films can’t be 5-hours long (unless they’re the director’s cut version of LOTR).
In the comic books the origin stories of Doom and the Fantastic Four are two separate stories. The Fantastic Four got their powers just how you remember from the movie — because of an accident during one of Dr. Fantastic’s experiments. However, Doom’s origin story was completely separate, and contributed a lot to explaining his motivations as a villain.
What we got in the movies was the fact that Doom was the one who inadvertently caused the accident, thereby giving powers both to the Four and to himself. It turned two origin stories into one and cut about 2 hours of exposition and origin stories, but the end result is that the world of the Fantastic Four is very crowded, and it’s a little more difficult to explain why they couldn’t just get along.
The Joker (Jack Nicholson)
A similar thing happened with the origin story of Jack Nicholson’s Joker. In the original Batman comics, the Joker is… Well… He’s just The Joker. He’s a person who had a very, very bad day, and it completely changed him.
However, in the 1989 Batman movie, the Joker is actually the gangster that kills Bruce Wayne’s parents, thereby contributing to the creation of the Batman. The rest of the Joker’s story sticks to the original (an accident with a vat full of acid, a purple costume, terrorizing Gotham), but that one detail from the beginning of the film still makes the world of Gotham seem too small and the stories of the Joker and Batman being way too connected to each other.
Oh man, where do we even start with this one? In the comic books Catwoman is just a fancy jewel thief who loves cats and that’s the extent of the origin story. Oh, she eventually becomes a hero instead of a petty thief.
And then there’s those god awful films. In Batman Returns she dies and somehow gets brought back to life by a bunch of cats licking her. Suddenly she becomes super flexible and super evil. The Halle Berry film is even worse. Halle Berry experiences a “spiritual awakening” of sorts, and it gives her the superpowers necessary to defeat her foes in the film. It seems like the kind of origin story a pseudo-intellectual high-school student would come up with.
Man, both those Catwoman origin stories are a disaster. She really deserves better.
Speaking of characters that deserve better! One of the main things that makes Hulk my favorite superhero is that even though he’s a huge, angry, green monster — he has a heart of gold. Even though he SMASHES and BASHES everything in sight, he never lays hands on peaceful people and, in the end, he’s kind even in his Hulk form.
This is explained in his comic-book origin story. There, he saves a kid from a radiation blast, taking the hit himself. Immediately, you understand the positive motivations of the characters.
In the movies? Well, in both of the Hulk movies that had an origin story (I’m very bitter that Ruffalo’s Hulk didn’t get a solo movie!) all that happens is that an experiment goes wrong. Every other motivation of Bruce and the Hulk has to be explained through tedious expository dialogue later in the films. I don’t know why the writers and directors would choose to make such a good origin story so bland.
Boy, where do I even start with this catastrophe of a movie idea that somebody decided to make real?
In the comic books we have a great origin story. Hal Jordan is a fighter pilot who gets a super-powerful ring from a dying alien on one of his missions. So far—very close to the original story.
But then things veer into boring territory. Hal is chosen to get the ring because he’s a “good guy”. Hal learns about all the powers of the ring from the Guardians. Hal is suddenly a superhero thrust into a battle with a supervillain.
In the comic books everything was much more interesting. In one origin story he doesn’t meet any of the Guardians for, like, 20 comic book issues. He has to figure out the ring on his own, and that is a whole adventure in and of itself (imagine how many sequels we could get if they went with this story!). In another origin story (New Frontier comics) he can have the trait that he can never kill anyone, which would add a “moral dilemma” aspect to the movies.
But no. We got an awful, boring, formulaic movie instead.
In the comic books, the origin story of Ultron is that he’s created by Hank Pym (the first Ant-Man and the creator of the shrinking technology). Ultron sees Hank as his father figure, and then some really Oedipus-like shenanigans happen. Eventually Ultron becomes a villain and the story kinda meets what we saw in the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie.
However, since this Avengers movie came out before Ant Man was introduced to the MCU, Ultron’s origin story obviously had to be modified. So, instead of being created by Hank Pym, he was created by Tony Stark.
What’s worse (in my humble opinion) is that Tony Stark showed no character growth, and instead of learning from his mistakes, his way of beating Ultron was to give another AI incredible power and hope it works out.
Man, in retrospect, Age of Ultron wasn’t that great of a movie if you think about it.
Bane (Batman & Robin)
In the comic books, Bane had an incredibly difficult life in South America and used his pain and isolation to improve himself and become strong. When he escaped his imprisonment, he wanted to test himself against a worthy opponent (just for fun, you know?). So, he went to Gotham and broke Batman’s back.
That’s what we saw in Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, except, for some reason, Bane didn’t come from South America.
But the real price goes to the Bane from “Batman & Robin”. In that catastrophe of a movie, Bane is a scientific experiment gone wrong. He gets pumped with a super-chemical that gives him incredible strength, but the flip side is that he is dumb as a shoe and just follows the orders of his superiors. He’s no longer an interesting character with a compelling backstory. No, in Batman & Robin he’s just a walking muscle-man with a negative 20 IQ.
They really did Deadpool dirty with his origin story in Wolverine. I mean yeah, Deadpool was the result of an experiment, and there is a whole storyline of his rivalry with Wolverine, but that movie really made him into the laughing stock of the entire X-Men fandom.
In the comics, Wade Wilson’s backstory was that he was a mercenary from an early age and then when his girlfriend died of cancer he joined the Weapon X program. This might seem familiar to you if you saw Deadpool, the good version.
But then, in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie he was just a chatty mercenary on the Weapon X task force. He happened to be good with swords. And then, when Wolverine needed to be killed, they turned this lovely, chatty character into a “cocktail” of all the other Weapon X superpowers. It was bad. It was really bad. I’m so happy we can all put that behind us and pretend it never happened and live in a world where Deadpool and Deadpool 2 exist.