Comic book origin stories are a sacred thing. They provide the roots that define the characters we love and provide the motivations that will propel them onto further adventures that have yet to be written. And yet… origin stories change more often than you’d think. Even the institutions that are Batman and Superman’s origins have been changed. After all, when comics are around for decades, you have to change to keep up with the times.
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The current crop of DC and Marvel movies are a great example of these changes. Many of the characters that are now defining staples of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been changed from their comic counterparts. Whether it’s for the better or worse is entirely up to the viewer. But if you’re curious about the biggest comic to film changes, keep reading.
15. PA KENT (MAN OF STEEL)
In every incarnation of the Superman mythos, Jonathan Kent is the moral compass that Kal-El bases his entire persona of Superman on. Humble, compassionate and good-humored, the man who raised Superman believed in the goodness of others. He worked hard to instill those qualities onto Clark before he died, and in most versions of the story he was very successful.
In “Man of Steel,” however, Pa Kent is kind of a jerk. When Clark risks exposure of his powers to save a bus of students, his surrogate father basically chews him out for doing the right thing. In fact, he implies it would have been a better idea to let them all drown in order to keep his secret safe. This has to make you wonder… in this version of the story, why does Clark want to save anyone at all? If anything, he’d hole up himself up in the fortress of solitude hoping no one found him.
14. BATMAN/JOKER (BATMAN)
In the typical Batman origin story we’ve seen on screen several times, Joe Chill is the one who kills Thomas and Martha Wayne. The whole point of Chill is that he’s an ordinary mugger who was desperate enough to resort to crime in order to survive. The character’s situation provides the audience with a microcosm of Gotham as a whole. In essence, people like Joe Chill are exactly what Bruce Wayne is trying to prevent when he puts on the Batman costume.
Tim Burton’s “Batman,” however, takes a slightly different approach to the origin story of the caped crusader. Instead of Joe Chill, a gangster named Jack Napier kills Bruce’s parents. He’s about to kill Bruce too, in fact, when he’s called away by a friend. Thus, the future Joker is the one who led Bruce down the path to be Batman… who in turn would send Jack into a vat of chemicals, turning him into the Joker. While there’s a certain poetic symmetry to the change, comic purists thought it made the world too small.
13. CATWOMAN (CATWOMAN)
Selina Kyle, also known to many as her alter ego, Catwoman, is an exceptional thief who dresses up in a cat costume. Simple, right? And there’s very little supernatural about her. She is simply in peak physical condition and has the skill to steal just about anything she wants once she puts her mind to it. She also has a strong attraction to, and even relationship with Batman, to the point where he’s trusted her with his secret identity. They even gave into that relationship during Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” arc.
In the solo “Catwoman” movie, Selina Kyle is nowhere to be found. In her stead we have Patience Philips, a weak-willed woman who works at a cosmetics company. When she discovers that their new product is actually harmful, her superiors drown her. She’s then brought back to life by an Egyptian Cat god who grants her cat-like abilities and the confidence to discover feminism… or something? Suffice it to say that this one is a pretty big departure from the comics.
12. VISION (AGE OF ULTRON)
Originally, the Vision was an extra-dimensional police officer in stories published under Timely Comics, the company that would eventually give way to Marvel. When he was reintroduced to Marvel comics, he was the product of Ultron trying to create his own android from the remains of an android Human Torch. Ultron then sent the Vision to infiltrate the Avengers, but Vision ultimately rebels against his creator and joins the ranks of the Avengers as an ally.
In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the Vision is still designed and built by Ultron. However, the body is made out of vibranium he took from Ulysses Klaw in Wakanda. His intelligence and power also originate from the mind stone that formed the base of power for the scepter that Thanos gave to Loki. Originally, Ultron meant to download his consciousness into the Vision’s body, but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create a program based on Jarvis to upload into it instead. It’s Thor that delivers the final spark of life with a blast of lightning.
11. TWO-FACE (THE DARK KNIGHT)
Another iconic origin story belongs to Gotham’s ill-fated District Attorney, Harvey Dent. In the comics, Dent (with a little help from Batman and Jim Gordon), were going after the mob boss Sal Maroni. They make good headway at first, to the point where Maroni is on trial. Just as Dent is questioning him on the stand, Maroni throws acid on Harvey’s face, literally and figuratively scarring him for life. Dent, now Two-Face, goes on a revenge streak that leads him to being apprehended and sent to Arkham Asylum.
In Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” a few aspects of Dent’s transformation were changed. Dent is still going after Sal Maroni, but this time it’s the Joker who’s wreaking havoc. His people capture Dent and tie him up in a warehouse full of gasoline rigged to ignite and explode. Batman rescues him, but is just a few seconds too late. The blast catches half of Harvey’s face, transforming him into Two-Face.
10. BANE (BATMAN & ROBIN)
Bane was formulated as something of an alternate nemesis for the Dark Knight when he was introduced into comic continuity in the early 1990s. The prisoner of a corrupt South American government since he was a child, Bane was subject to an incredibly difficult life. He used his pain and isolation to better himself, reading as many books as he could get his hands on and developing a body-builder physique at the prison gym. When he finally escaped, he wanted to test himself against a fearsome opponent: the Batman. So, Bane lured Batman into a trap and broke his back. He then took over Gotham’s criminal underworld, because he’s cool like that.
In “Batman & Robin,” Bane is a lab experiment for an exiled mad scientist who’s trying to get grants from corrupt generals. While he is made to be incredibly strong, his intelligence is lacking to the point where he can say maybe a two word sentence on a good day. That’s certainly not the brawny criminal brain we’ve come to know and love in the comics.
9. SPIDER-MAN (SPIDER-MAN)
Peter Parker is, by all accounts, a certified genius. For most of his early career, he may not have had the resources of Tony Stark or Reed Richards, but he was resourceful enough to come up with a host of gadgets that helped him fight crime. The most iconic of these devices is, of course, his mechanical web-shooters. Peter synthesizes a certain kind of web fluid that fuels the shooters, allowing him to shoot out webbing that sticks to buildings so he can swing around New York City.
In Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man,” Peter is still pretty darn smart, but his webbing is simply another power he got from his spider bite. He now has organic web-shooters on his arms, which produce webbing the same way the mechanical ones did. The subsequent takes on the character seen in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War” use the mechanical web-shooters, though the comics did adopt (and then once again replace) the organic shooters for a time.
8. UNCLE BEN (SPIDER-MAN 3)
Ben Parker’s death is one of the only demises in comics that has never been retconned or reversed… yet, anyway. It occurs in the early days of Peter’s time with his powers, when he gets stiffed on a payout for a wrestling match and stands by while a burglar robs the guy who swindled him. That burglar, of course, went on to kill Uncle Ben. Driven by the guilt of his inaction, Peter became Spider-Man to make up for the one life he couldn’t save. For the most part, the film adaptations stayed pretty close to this version of events.
That is, it did, until “Spider-Man 3” decided to change Uncle Ben’s death to involve, at least indirectly, Flint Marko. Thus, Peter (enshrouded in the Venom symbiote, and thus made all the more aggressive) goes off on a mission of vengeance to take down the guy who apparently really killed Uncle Ben. Over the course of the film, Spider-Man learns to forgive Marko for his actions and decides to be Spider-Man again, mostly because that’s just how he does.
7. MYSTIQUE AND PROF. X (FIRST CLASS)
While her exact origins are still unknown, she spent time among Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. She was the lover of Victor Creed and the mother of Nightcrawler. She also served as an adoptive mother to Rogue, which led to an adversarial relationship for them both. Eventually, after years of fighting the X-Men, she finally joined them for a short time… before then turning against them once again. Shapeshifters, man.
In the original Bryan Singer films, it was pretty clear that Mystique had a similar mysterious origin and had very little ties to the X-Men. That all changed in “X-Men: First Class,” where they show a young Mystique as Charles Xavier’s best friend. They grow up together, but Charles’ own prejudices and lack of attention nudged her into the influence of Magneto. The following decades were filled with the fight for her soul as they persuaded her not to carry out an assassination. She eventually joined the X-Men as team leader; quite a big departure for the beguiling mutant.
6. DEADPOOL (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE)
In the comics, Wade Wilson’s backstory still has plenty of mystery, but it’s been established that he became a mercenary at a fairly early age. He eventually fell in love with a prostitute named Vanessa, but when Wade discovered he had cancer, he broke up with her and joined the Weapon X program and was given an accelerated healing factor. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), Wade was kicked out of Weapon X and sent to a facility that tortured him to the point where he was scarred. He eventually broke out and became everyone’s favorite Merc with a mouth.
In “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Wade is a chatty member of Logan’s Weapon X task force. He’s really good with his pair of swords and generally a homicidal jerk, not unlike the mouthy merc we all know and love to hate to love in the books. Later on in the film, we discover that Logan’s former boss has experimented on him and sowed his mouth shut, rendering this popular anti-hero pretty much neutered. Luckily, Ryan Reynolds famously stepped back into Deadpool’s shoes for the character’s popular 2016 cinematic reboot.
5. ULTRON (AGE OF ULTRON)
Ultron is one of the most feared villains in the Marvel pantheon and one of the major adversaries of the Avengers. As it turns out, it was created by the Avenger Hank Pym (Ant-Man) and based on his brain patterns. Ultron quickly becomes sentient and developed an Oedipus Complex — he hates his creator and develops a fascination with the Wasp. Eventually, Ultron develops an adamantium body, making himself pretty much indestructible. Over the years, Ultron and the Avengers have had many memorable clashes.
In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” however, Hank Pym is nowhere to be found. Instead it’s Tony Stark who develops the Ultron AI, based on advanced alien code found in Loki’s scepter. The Ultron AI quickly gains sentience and takes control of Stark’s Iron Legion drones. After that, he builds his own body and proceeds to try and destroy the world by dropping a city on it. Luckily, he was unsuccessful and the Avengers destroyed him.
4. DOCTOR DOOM (FANTASTIC FOUR)
While it’s true that Doctor Doom has always been the nemesis of the Fantastic Four, his background has varied wildly between the comics and films. After his mother was killed by the demon Mephisto, the Latverian native Victor von Doom studied sorcery along with science to get her soul back. He was eventually admitted to NYU where he met Reed Richards. When one of his inventions exploded in his face and scarred him for life, Doom returned to Latveria and conquered it. He then became its ruler and made it his life goal to prove his superior intellect over Richards, conquer the world and find a way to free his mother’s soul from the netherworld.
In the “Fantastic Four” film, Doom is a successful businessman who has an eye on Sue Richards and an intellectual rivalry with the aloof Reed. He gets his powers from the same space storm that changes the Fantastic Four, only he becomes disfigured and gains electrical powers. The less said about his appearance and even more off-the-wall origins in 2015’s “Fant4stic Four,” the better!
3. JARVIS THE BUTLER (IRON MAN)
In the original stories featuring Iron Man, Edward Jarvis is a loyal butler of the Stark family. In his youth, he fought in World War II and was a champion boxer, belying his gentle and domesticated demeanor. After Tony Stark became an Avenger, Jarvis became their butler. He also sometimes acted as a baby sitter for Franklin Richards, the son of Sue and Reed. He even dated Peter Parker’s Aunt May at one point. He may not have super powers, but he’s still very much an essential part of the lives of these heroes.
In the film “Iron Man,” the filmmakers knew that any version of Jarvis as a flesh and blood butler would be compared to Alfred Pennyworth. So, they made Jarvis into an artificial intelligence that could accompany Tony on missions as Iron Man. Eventually, Jarvis would form the basis for the Vision, one of the newest members of the Avengers in the films.
2. THOR (THOR)
When Thor’s father Odin realizes his son has a serious superiority complex, he decides to send Thor all the way down to Earth without memories of who he really is. Thor’s consciousness is also put into the partially-disabled body of a medical student named Donald Blake. When Thor is needed, Donald Blake transforms into the Thunder God to punish evil. The two share an existence in Donald’s body until it’s eventually revealed that Blake was Thor all along.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe film actually follows the story fairly closely, with one major exception: Thor is placed on Earth as himself. He’s depowered, but his body is still as muscular as ever. There is one funny cameo as Donald Blake, however. When Doctor Selvig springs Thor from the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D., he claims his name is Donald Blake. After that encounter, however, the alias is discarded entirely and never mentioned again.
1. THE MANDARIN (IRON MAN 3)
In the comics, the Mandarin is to Iron Man as the Joker is to Batman. He was born in China and has shown a great deal of intelligence and martial prowess. Using a set of ten magical rings that he reverse engineered from alien technology (all with different elemental powers), he also wields massive otherworldly powers, making him a formidable foe to the touted “Invincible” one. In fact, The Mandarin’s destructive power is matched only by his technical prowess, which he often uses to disrupt Tony Stark’s activities.
In “Iron Man 3,” however, the Mandarin is anything but a destructive super genius that can stand toe-to-toe with Iron Man, at least as we are introduced to him. In fact, he’s a actually a drug addled, out of work actor named Trevor Slattery, playing a terrorist leader completely fabricated by Aldrich Killian. It turns out Killian created a figurehead for a fake terrorist organization to throw the authorities off his trail. Unfortunately, that means we may never see an actual ring-wielding nemesis for Tony in the films. Then again, in the short film “All Hail The King,” it is implied that the real Mandarin may be real after all… much to Trevor’s surprise, and dismay.
Which was your favorite or least favorite origin story change from comics to movies? Let us know in the comments!
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