Over the past several years, there has been a clear demand for a more serious, grounded, and darker twist on the superhero genre. And it certainly seems like that demand has been met by such films like The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and in many regards, the first Iron Man. Yet despite this desire for a more realistic superhero film, Marvel Studios has been very cautious about taking itself too seriously. It is, after all, making movies based off comic book characters with inherently ridiculous plot lines and powers.
Marvel has proven to be extraordinarily skilled at keeping a relatable environment for its movies while being utterly fearless about the lore and backstories of many of its characters, no matter how bizarre or ridiculous. An origin story is a sacred thing for comic book characters, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has introduced more than one character with an extremely unconventional one. Here’s a look at some of the characters the studio has or soon will introduce into the MCU that have totally bizarre origins.
1. Rocket Raccoon
Guardians of the Galaxy is a beautiful display of the weird and grotesque when it comes to origin stories in the MCU. Quite possibly the best example of this can be seen in one of the movie’s lead antiheroes, Rocket Raccoon. A genetically modified, cybernetic, hyper-intelligent, talking raccoon is bound to have an origin story cemented in strange.
First of all, he was deliberately named after the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon” (one of his first appearances was in The Incredible Hulk No. 271, which was titled, “Now Somewhere In the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Named Rocket Raccoon”). Beatles references aside, there is enough weirdness to Rocket’s backstory. Rocket first shows up as the chief law enforcer and protector of a planet for the mentally ill, where the population was taken care of by genetically modified, anthropomorphized companion animals.
After events unfold that allow Rocket to cure all the patients on the planet, him and the rest of the animals leave to explore the universe. Rocket ultimately learns that he was experimented on and made the way he is by a cosmic being known as the Stranger for purposes unknown. Whatever his intent, Rocket’s creation and initial responsibilities don’t add up to the typical superhero origin story that is common today.
2. Doctor Strange
Back on Earth there was once an extremely talented neurosurgeon who was destined to become one of the planet’s greatest protectors. Tragedy struck in the form of a car accident that stripped Doctor Stephen Strange of his steady hands, ultimately ending his medical career. Strange exhausts his resources by traveling the world to look for anyone who can heal his hands and restore his old life.
While on his journey, Strange stumbles across a recluse who turns out to be Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme (a title given to the most powerful and knowledgeable practitioner of the mystical arts on any given planet). During his time with the Ancient One, Strange ends up saving the hermit’s life from a betrayal by his disciple. This unselfish act is enough to convince the Ancient One to teach Stephen the mystic arts and to ultimately train him as Earth’s next Sorcerer Supreme.
In a genre where horrifying lab accidents somehow consistently and conveniently yield wonderful superpowers, Dr. Strange’s origin story acts as a beacon for unconventionality: Learn magic from a hermit in the middle of nowhere.
Thanos sets himself apart from others on this list by being the only one who is objectively a supervillain. And “supervillain” may be somewhat of an understatement. Thanos is the “Mad Titan,” the “Avatar of Death,” and as such, he has an origin story that’s worthy of his insane titles.
Though he was born to godlike parents known as Eternals, he is predominately Deviant, the ostracized evolutionary cousin of the Eternals. Both Deviants and Eternals are considered a super-human branch of humanity that were born when outside forces first granted and encouraged higher intelligence to humanity. While both are granted long life and uniquely powerful abilities, Eternals had the benefit of objective human beauty, while Deviants were left being horribly mutated or disfigured. Thanos was cursed with the Deviant gene when he was born to his Eternal parents.
In the 2013 series Thanos Rising, it’s revealed that the very moment Thanos was born and put into the hands of his mother, Sui San, she had the overwhelming urge to kill him. Maybe something like this sticks with you, maybe it doesn’t, but if you’re looking for reasons why Thanos may be a death-obsessed nihilist, “mommy issues” can top the list.
Thanos’s obsession with death really comes into its own when he falls in love with the physical embodiment of it, Mistress Death. His love for her becomes so great that he murders his entire family all in her name. Thanos begins his murderous rampage throughout the universe, starting with the destruction of his home world, Titan, just to try and impress his Mistress Death.
4. Black Panther
Black Panther’s story seems like one audiences are used to hearing: A young boy with a happy life is forever changed by the death of his parents and therefore must put on fancy tights and fight crime (it says a lot that this sort of story is considered normal in the comic book world). Black Panther, also known as T’Challa, is set apart by his heritage.
T’Challa is the king inherent of the fictional country Wakanda, a technologically obsessed nation in northeastern Africa. The Black Panther is not just some moniker created by T’Challa after witnessing the murder of his father because it sounds cool or intimidating. It is a ceremonial title given to the ruler of Wakanda that must be earned by defeating warriors of the country’s various tribes.
Once the title was achieved, T’Challa worked on establishing his prominence in the superhero community by inviting over the Fantastic Four and wiping the floor with each and every one of them. This was later forgiven, as it was all just a test to see if the Fantastic Four would make a reliable ally. Black Panther worked with various other heroes off and on until officially being inducted into the Avengers.
While Avengers: Age of Ultron may have a Pinocchio motif for Ultron, the robot who just wants to become a real boy — and destroy the human race — this theme might be better applied to Vision rather than the longtime nemesis of the Avengers. In the comics, Vision was created to be a servant with the purpose of destroying the Avengers. But Vision rebelled against his intended purpose and betrayed his creator, Ultron, ultimately saving the Avengers. As an added bonus of oddity, he was originally created using the body of Human Torch, who was then also an android.
It is later discovered that the creation of Vision was all part of a plan made by the time lord Immortus to have Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, fall in love with the android in order to ensure she would never have children that could inherit her reality-altering powers. This plan fails miserably due to Scarlet Witch using her aforementioned powers to warp probability and have twin boys with the android known as Vision.
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