Oct 09 2008
Yet Another Comics Blog argues that origin stories are mostly a distraction from the real action.
The origin is not the interesting story; it’s background information. If the information in the origin is important to the story you’re telling, then you can go back later and fill in for the reader. But don’t start with an issues-long origin…
Think of all the good genre movies you’ve ever seen. How many begin with a long origin sequence? Did Raiders of the Lost Ark start with 45 minutes of young Indiana Jones getting his PhD in archaeology? Did Star Wars begin with the origin of Darth Vader?
I disagree. A character is usually the most human and relatable during his origin story. Additionally, for most superheroes they also provide an irreplaceable opportunity to introduce the audience to the character. For example, an author couldn’t explain who Spiderman is without showing why his uncle died.
Also, Star Wars did not begin with the origin of Darth Vader, but it did explain Luke’s origin at length. Over the course of three movies we saw a farmboy grow into the savior of the universe. It worked quite effectively. I’d also venture that the first Matrix movie benefitted from Neo’s origin story. If it had started with Neo after he had been released from the Matrix, it would have been horribly confusing.
The author praises Batman but criticizes Spiderman and Superman for spending too much time on origin. But these are exceptional cases. Usually, the audience is completely new to the backstory. If so, then explaining the character’s origin is probably essential to introducing the audience to the world and/or the character.