Friday, February 8, 2019

Secret Origins Of The Super DC Heroes

Certainly the best collection of Secret Origins, bar none, was the Crown Publishers collection of origins for the Secret Origins Of The Super DC Heroes from 1976, with cover by Neal Adams, an introduction by Carmine Infantino (who was DC's publisher at the time) and a little historical text before each hero by Denny O'Neil, all of which made this an incredible package, designed to thrill youths of all ages!

Let's dive right into the stories reprinted here!

Superman...He's The Key, The Granddaddy Of Them All

Superman was the one that started it all, in Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and the one page origin they provided was reprinted here.

It had the young Superman launched from his exploding planet, to end up in an orphanage, where he exhibited extraordinary strength.  Later, he also had superb speed and incredible endurance, all of which allowed him to take up his career as Superman.

A pretty bare bones origin, to say the least, but more would be added to the legend of Superman and his history.

Carmine Infantino was said to have wanted a longer origin for Superman, so getting E. Nelson Bridwell as the writer, himself doing the layouts, with Curt Swan providing finished pencils and Murphy Anderson the inks, readers got the Superman origin presented in The Amazing World Of Superman, Metropolis Edition (1973), the 17 page origin reprinted here, lengthening that Golden Age origin, including Jor-El's fight with the Science Council to save Krypton, Jor-El and Lara's tearful farewell to young Kal-El, his landing in Smallville and being found by the Kents, being raised and taking the identity of Superboy, then watching his adopted parents pass away, leading him to Metropolis, and the Daily Planet, where, as reporter Clark Kent, he continued the neverending battle for truth, justice and the American way as Superman!

Probably the best of all Superman origins, this was expanded upon to make the story in Action Comics #500 (and even included a mention of Superboy's history with the Legion of the Super-Heroes!).

Batman...He Was Unable Not To Fight Criminals

Batman's origins were different, starting in Detective Comics #27, but not getting an origin until Detective Comics #33, with the 2 page version reprinted here the slightly altered version from Batman #1 (Spring, 1940, which also saw the first appearances of Joker and the Catwoman) with words by Bill Finger, art by Bob Kane (with backgrounds by Sheldon Moldoff), with the story of how a mugger shot and killed Bruce Wayne's father and mother, Thomas and Martha, with young Bruce dedicating his life to strike fear into criminals' hearts as the Batman.

A simple enough origin, and the basis for every origin that followed.

This origin was pretty much the origin readers saw in Batman #47 (June-July, 1947) by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Charles Paris, with a few subtle alterations, like Martha dying from seeing her husband shot (and having a weak heart), young Bruce glaring at the mugger, and the mugger being given a name, Joe Chill, with Batman hunting him down, getting final vengeance (though it was Chill's own men who killed him, having heard that Chill was responsible for creating the Batman).

Both of these origins did fit under the umbrella of the Golden Age Batman, but a much longer origin for Batman (as well as his friends) did surface later, in the Untold Legend of the Batman, which added many details added to Batman's origin from the Silver Age (like his father being a Batman, as well as Bruce's stint as Robin).

Wonder Woman...The Female Sex Is Assuming Day By Day A More Dominant Role In World Affairs

Wonder Woman herself got a special condensed version of her origin, after premiering in All-Star Comics #8, then headlining starting with Sensation Comics #1.

In Wonder Woman #1 (Summer, 1942, the tale reprinted here), the story of how Hippolyta carved young Diana from clay, raised her on Paradise Island, saved pilot Steve Trevor, and competed to go back with Trevor to the mainland to fight in World War II (and taking on the identity of military nurse, Diana Prince) was summarized by William Moulton Marston (under the pen name of Charles Moulton) with art by Harry G. Peter.

This would be the definite version of Wonder Woman's Golden Age origin, and the one that formed the basis for the many that followed.

That Wonder Woman origin more or less stuck, but Wonder Woman #206 (June-July, 1973) by Cary Bates, Don Heck and Vince Colletta (under a stunning Nick Cardy cover), added a current battle with Ares to the mix (as well as Diana Prince's job at the United Nations), as well as Hippolyta withholding some memories from Diana, of how Ares came and kidnapped her sister, Nubia, from Hippolyta, and was used as a pawn by him to have the two battle (and Hippolyta's revelation of his history to her daughter, with Nubia coming to stay on Paradise Island).

Sadly, this little era of Wonder Woman, fitting between her time as a powerless Wonder Woman and the twelve trials of Wonder Woman to rejoin the JLA (including one issue of Supergirl with Hippolyta and the Amazons) has not been reprinted elsewhere.

The Flash...You Can Do Almost Anything With Him...

Now, with the Flash, the distinctions between the Golden Age and Silver Age become clearer, as it was student Jay Garrick who first became the Flash in Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940) by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert.  Jay accidentally inhaled "hard water" and spent a year of college in a coma, before awakening with super speed (which he mostly kept secret, though he did show off for his girlfriend, Joan Williams).

Eventually adopting the identity of the Flash, he saved Joan from the Faultless Four, eventually helping to found the Justice Society of America, and being there when it ended in the 1950s (and having many stories)....then getting revived with the help of the next young man....

Barry Allen, who first appeared in Showcase #4 (September-October, 1956), became the Flash after exposure to lightning striking a wall full of his police scientist chemicals, or at least that was the story Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert gave readers.  Barry made his own identity as the Flash (based on a comic he read), and beating the Turtle to save Iris West in this first go around.

Sometime after this, Barry would help found the Justice League of America, and later, finding the original Flash, Jay Garrick, on an alternate Earth (which would eventually lead to Earth-1/Earth-2, with Barry on 1, Jay on 2), and later, so many other Earths, as well as a Crisis, but it all started with Barry and Jay, and the Flashes of Two Earths.

Green Lantern...No Evil Shall Escape My Sight

Alan Scott was a train engineer who nearly died in a crash, except that he was holding onto a strange green lantern as related in All-American Comics #16 (July, 1940) by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell.  That green lantern related its history, bringing with it power that Alan could focus after he made a ring of its metal to wear, useful against all items but wood, with Alan taking on the identity of the Green Lantern.  This Green Lantern would go on to found the Justice Society as well, having many cases with them as well as many solo cases, facing foes like the Gambler, Vandal Savage and the Icicle.

Green Lantern was a part of the team when it ended the first time, and being there for its first revival.

Hal Jordan was the man to become Green Lantern in Showcase #22 (September-October, 1959) by John Broome, Gil Kane and Joe Giella.  Hal was a test pilot in Coast City, who gets a Green Lantern ring from a dying Abin Sur to make him into the Green Lantern of Earth.  Hal uses his ring to fight crime, giving himself the identity of Green Lantern (and adding a mask to the Green Lantern uniform), with a ring that can make anything he can think of, but needs to be recharged every 24 hours, and is useless against yellow.

Hal also helps to found the Justice League of America, finds out about the Green Lantern Corps (and that he is the protector of Sector 2814), and works for the Guardians of the Universe (who know a little bit more about the beginnings of evil, as well how the magic that formed Alan Scott's ring, than they let on).

The Green Lantern Corps are the successors of the Manhunters as well. 

Hawkman...The Weirdness Seems To Be Part Of Hawkman's Appeal

Carter Hall was an archeologist researching the dagger of Khufu, when he bumped into Shiera Sanders (fleeing from an electrified railroad) in Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940) by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville.  Turns out Carter was Khufu reincarnated (as Shiera was the reincarnation of his wife, both murdered by Hath-Set....who was reincarnated at Doctor Hastor, the man behind the electrical menace).  Carter uses information he had gotten on a dig to clothe himself as Hawkman, using ancient weapons and the secret Nth Metal to make wings so he could fly.  Hawkman defeats Hastor, saving Shiera.

Later, Shiera becomes Hawkgirl and assists Hawkman with his missions.  Hawkman is also a founder of the JSA, and the only member to be involved in every JSA case in the Golden Age.

Katar Hol came to Earth as a Thanagarian policeman, with his wife and partner, Shayera Hol, pursuing the shape-changing villain, Byth, in Brave and the Bold #34 (February-March, 1961) by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert.

Using Thanagarian science (including the Absorbascon, which allowed them access to all of Earth's knowledge), ancient weapons and an ability to speak to birds, the duo took up crimefighting as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and Earth alter egos as Midway City Museum curators, Carter and Shiera Hall.  Hawkman joined the Justice League soon after its founding, with Hawkgirl joining the JLA later.  Unlike Flash, Green Lantern and Atom, the Hawks of two Earths never worked together in the Hawkman title, though the Hawkman of Earth-1 regularly worked with the Atom of Earth-1. 

Hawkgirl later took on the name Hawkwoman, then, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Invasion!, Hawk history got confusing (as this history of Hawkgirls will show).

Green Arrow...A Streamlined Robin Hood

Though Green Arrow and Speedy first appeared in More Fun Comics #73, their origin waited until More Fun Comics #89 (March 1943) by Joe Samachson, Cliff Young and Steve Brodie.  Oliver Queen was marooned on the Lost Mesa, where he met Roy Harper, a boy who had been raised by the local tribe of Indians, and the two had to work together using their archery skills against thieves who planned to plunder a local gold mine.

This Green Arrow never joined the JSA, but instead joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and had many adventures with them, as well as only with Speedy.

Oliver Queen got a new origin in Adventure Comics #256 (January, 1959) by France Herron, Jack Kirby and Roz Kirby.  Oliver Queen was a reckless millionaire who fell overboard on a yacht, ending up on Starfish Island, alone, and having to learn archery to survive.  Queen even made some trick arrows to pass the time, and ended up getting off the island when he came upon pirates, and crafted a quick disguise to allow him to use his archery to stop them (and get off the island when the authorities arrived).  This was one of many adventures of Green Arrow illustrated by Jack Kirby.  Speedy then got a slightly newer origin as well, though not until Kirby had left Green Arrow.

Green Arrow was the first non-charter member of the Justice League of America, and later became involved with the Black Canary after getting a new costume working with Batman and losing his fortune.

Introducing The Mighty Atom

Al Pratt was a diminutive college student who started on his way to super heroics in All-American Comics #19 (October, 1940) by Bill O'Connor, Ben Flinton and Leonard Sansone.  Mugged in front of his girlfriend, Mary James, Al loses the girl for a bit, but meets Joe Morgan, a homeless ex-boxer, who helps him learn the manly art of pugilism (boxing, as well other athletics).  After a year, and in much better shape, Al goes to visit his ex-girlfriend, and stops her from being kidnapped (though Mary never sees him, as she is blindfolded).  Al decides to take up the identity of the Atom, and fight for justice (having a costume with his next appearance).

Atom is a founding member of the Justice Society of America, and, later, gets actual super-strength as well as a costume change among his many solo adventures.

Physicist Ray Palmer turns himself into the hero, the Atom, starting with Showcase #34 (September-October, 1961) by Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson.  In the origin half of his tale, Ray has been experimenting with White Dwarf star material to make items shrink.  Problem is, the items become unstable after a time and explode (and Ray is unable to safely enlarge them).  His girlfriend, lawyer Jean Loring, takes him and a group of students on a nature hike into a large chain of caverns, which collapse while they are inside, trapping the group with little hope of rescue.  Ray spots a small hole, and, having accidentally brought the White Dwarf lens with him, shrinks himself to allow him to climb the smooth walls to enlarge the hole, and, while heading back to tell Jean and the kids, accidentally walks under the lens beam again, but grows this time (as cave water had gotten on the lens, bringing along some element that allowed him to grow).  Not explaining his shrinking was a success. Ray then creates a size changing uniform out of White Dwarf material, taking on the identity of the Atom.

Atom joins the Justice League after Green Arrow, and faces many foes, including ChronosJean and Ray even marry later on, after Ray reveals his identity to her, but  they later divorce. 

Shazam!...In One Thing A Sense Of Fun And The Whole Sense Of Adventure

Billy Batson was a homeless paperboy who followed a mysterious stranger into the subway in Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940) by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck.  At the end of the line, Billy met an old wizard, who said he was dying, and wanted to pass on his powers to the lad....who only had to say the wizard's name....Shazam!  Billy then transformed into Captain Marvel, who had the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.  This gave Billy the ability to fight the evil Dr. Sivana, who planned on blacking out the radio stations of the day.  Billy did this, and ended up getting a job with Whiz radio.

Billy eventually gathered a whole Marvel Family around himself, including his sister, Mary, and their friend, Freddy Freeman, and later, Tawky Tawny and Kid Eternity.  Thrown into suspended animation, they revived in the 1970s, and had more adventures on their own Earth, that of Earth-S, until the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Plastic Man...One Of The Wildest Imaginations...

Eel O'Brian was a small time hood who got pinched in a folied robbery in Police Comics #1 (August, 1941) by Jack Cole.  That ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him, as he was doused in chemicals, and, while recovering in a monestary, found he had the elastic properties of plastic.  Deciding to change his life for the better to follow the monks who had helped him, Eel adopted the identity of Plastic Man, and used his crooked knowledge to find criminals, so his super self could put them in jail.

Later, Plastic Man started working with Woozy Winks (a shifty indiviual himself) and the two stopped odd criminals for as long as Quality Comics lasted.  Later, Plas and Woozy found themselves at home at DC Comics, with a DC Special, reprinting some of their earliest work together.  The original Plastic Man later became a member of the All-Star Squadron, and, long after the Crisis On Infinite Earths, Plas joined the JLA as well (at a time when there was only one Earth).

True, there was a pretty good collection of Secret Origins in 1961, which led to even More Secret Origins, and even a seven issue run of reprints of Secret Origins (all of which included a few origins not seen here), but this 1970s tome was truly the greatest of them all!


  1. I so agree with your assessment of this volume. A friend had it when I was younger, and it was traded around among my comics-reading buddies, sometimes in exchange for multiple other comics. I "owned" it for a short time, but haven't set eyes on a copy in decades. What a great collection.

  2. I actually still have my copy, but far from mint condition, as I used it read it repeatedly in my youth. It is indeed the greatest secret origins collection of them all! Thanks for your review. I want to go back and read it again now.

  3. Was there anything like this that gave other origins, like the justice league?

    but actually like this book rather then say