Comic Book Origins You Thought You Knew, But Really, You Didn't! (Part II)

Continuing my series on "Comic Book Origins You Thought You Knew, But Really, You Didn't!" Here are three more amazingly popular comic book characters appearing in films and mainstream media to fill your Sunday afternoon with leisurely reading. Hit the Jump for Part II of this ongoing series.

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By E.F. "Manny" Camacho - 11/7/2013
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There is a growing readership of comic books these days, and a growing number of new fans coming out of the woodwork for the new films. Because of this emergence of increased interest I am going to continue writing pieces such as this one; which is a followup as the "Part II" states to the original article found HERE. I like writing features like this, because it gives a little more knowledge to those emerging fans, and hopefully, new readers of CBM.com, about some of these beloved characters. Call it "Water Cooler Topics" for your office with others that enjoy comics if you will.

Especially if you are part of the same mainstream, along with your friends, enjoying characters you are learning about outside of directly reading the comics. Material like CW’s previous hit Smallvile to the now popular Arrow, Marvel’s MCU to DC’s Nolanverse. There are so many outlets for our fandom; it is an amazing time to love comic books. But the truth is, the bulk of what the mainstream is absorbing, isn't coming from the comic books.

Here are a few characters I've continued listing that are increasingly popular in the mainstream that have interesting beginnings.




Harley Quin



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What many mainstream fans presume…

Harley is a dumb and ditsy comic book side-kick villainess to the Joker.

What hardcore comic book fans already (should) know…

Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel M.D. was created specifically for the (at the time) WB Network, Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Because of how popular Harley became in the series she was quickly adapted into the comic books by 1993, first appearing in The Batman Adventures #12 Batgirl: Day One. in 1994 their was a graphic novel adaptation The Batman Adventures: Mad Love that focused on her origins, also written by Dini and Timm, won an Eisner Award, and later was adapted back into animation for an episode of The New Batman Adventures.



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Part of the characters creation was inspired by the actress who would later voice her in the series, Arleen Sorkin. Sorkin was a long time friend of Paul Dini’s, and he was inspired by a scene she was in during Days of Our Lives, where she was dressed as a jester. Who says Soap Opera’s are useless!

Harley is the Jokers girlfriend and confidant for most intended purposes, even if her affections are not always returned by the Joker in kind. At least if Mr. J isn't giving her attention, she's getting it from Poison Ivy, who she appears with often in the series. Ivy also helped Harley gain her immunity to most poisons.

Harley's origins start off where she is a Dr. of Psychiatry in Arkham Asylum, where she consequently falls in love with the Joker, and aids him in his escape.

As with most comic book interpretations, versus their animated counterparts, Harley is much more violent in the comics then she is in the series. She is almost a campy comedic joke in the series by comparison, which leads to most mainstream fans not realizing she is actually quite intelligent.



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Harley has gone on to continued success in a variety of forms, from her expansion into the comics, to further storylines in animated series, even gaining a loosely adapted live television series as the main villainess on DC’s Bird’s of Prey. Harley’s history is only 21 years old, but it’s become so rich that you might have thought she’s been around for far much longer.

You can catch Harley appearing (currently) in comics; including the new 52, animated features, series, and video games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Injustice: God Amongs Us. She’s become a mainstay in comic book popular culture and is almost inseparable from Mr. J as we know him today. She’s even made various top villain’s lists for many groups like IGN’s Top 100 Villains Of All Time, where she ranks #45.




The Summers Family



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What many mainstream fans presume…

Most only know about Scott “Cyclops” Summers, less know about Alex “Havok” Summers. Most mainstream fans only recently learned about Havoc from X-MEN FIRST CLASS, unless they were children of the 80’s and 90’s. Chances are you/they may have had a clue about Havok and his father, Christopher “Corsair” Summers, who both made appearances in the X-MEN animated series. All of which appeared alongside their more popular and commonly known relative, Cyclops.

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What hardcore comic book fans already (should) know…

There is a third son, Gabriel “Vulcan” Summers, who rose to power, claiming the emperors throne in the Shi’ar Empire. He is the third son of the Summers, who was yet unborn, as Corsair and his pregnant wife were abducted by the Shi’ar, leaving behind Scott and Alex. Corsair eventually became the captain of the Starjammer a ship that was involved with many of the events that included the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy storylines. Corsair’s son, Vulcan, was exceedingly important during those GOTG storylines, specifically the comic book events War of Kings and Realm of Kings that were exceedingly important aspects of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics.


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The most popular of the Summers is of course, Scott (I think I said that already). Cyclops is all over the Marvel spectrum in any number of storylines, events, and miniseries. What’s also of note about Scott are the varied love triangles and the “product” of those love triangles. The most well known love triangle is the heavily popularized story arcs between himself, Jean Grey, and Logan (Wolverine); even if the bulk of that "triable" (persay) is all in Logan's head. As is heavily popularized in the current films. Lesser known to the mainstream are Cyclops stints with Emma Frost (The White Queen), and the cloned versions of Jean Grey.

Most popular of the Children is Cable, Nathan Summers, who is the future son of Scott and Jeans clone, Madelyne Pryor. I suspect with all of the hoopla over X-Men these days that even the mainstream may have an idea about Cable (possibly). Whether they know about him or not, I'd fancast him with either Stephen Lang, or Max Martini, but that's just me!

The Diversity in the characters in this family are quite complex. Vulcan was introduced in 200, in X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1, so only those who are up-to-date readers would know he exists. However, we may potentially be seeing a lot more of these characters in the future if they're going to get any connection to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy films. There also seems to potentially be a retcon occurring with the upcoming Days of Future Past film. Chances are we'll get Cyclops back in this and other future X-Film incarnations.

If you want to read about Cyclops earliest appearance and his early origins in marvel comics, you have to go back to 1963 with X-Men #1


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Joker



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What many mainstream fans presume…

Depends on the film these fans have seen, if their general knowledge is coming from the Nolanverse, they may figure he’s a sociopathic maniac. Most may have, also seen or gone back to see, the original Burton Batfilm, giving most of these mainstream fans the idea that the Joker is a criminal, named Jack Napier, and that he killed Batman’s parents.

Any mainstream fan that grew up throughout the 80’s and 90’s may have also gained some perspective from the various animated series and features of the time, but may not have kept up with the comic as they grew up.

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Generally, what I’ve observed in mainstream fans is that most believe Joker was originally a plain generic criminal that killed Wayne’s parents, through various twists of fate, Batman ended up turning this criminal into the green and purple clown prince of crime we all know and love. This is pretty much in line with the Burton variation of the origin. Anyone that grew up prior to the 80’s will have had few references outside of reading The comics. The earliest references mainstream fans would have had, without reading comics, would have been the animated series of the time; like the Superfriends, and the original 60’s Adam West Batman. Adam West's Batman was a series so campy, to call it ridiculous isn’t a far stretch of the imagination (even if we all loved it), and wasn't much of a serious take on any of its characters. There were also the early radio serials the older fans would have listened to; most of those fans (who are much older now) would've read the comics, and would fairly know the origins of this green and purple madman. So chances are if you grandparents read the comics when they were young. They know more about the Joker then you do...Fancy that!


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What hardcore comic book fans already (should) know…

While the animated features and series are not always the best sources to present the origins of characters evolved from over 60+ years, sometimes they contain context clues. A few entries in the Batman series and features have "trophies" displayed in the Batcave. One of those trophies is a simple Red Hood. Representing the original criminal identity of the Joker, before becoming the laughing and murderous epitome of comic book villains recognized today.

The Joker originally was a Lab tech who wanted to make a big score and disappear with his millions. He dawned a Red Hood and made his attempted robbery of $1,000,000 before Batman intervened. An eventual result of his encounters with Batman; he dove off a catwalk and landed inside a large vat of chemicals, in a wild attempt to escape. The red hood he wore had a breather on the inside of it that let him swim through the chemicals and escape through a drain pipe. The results after are what we all know as the Joker.

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Batman never discovered Jokers true identity and while all of this information is pre-crisis (Earth-One), the New Earth Joker also has an unknown identity, and had a storyline that included the pre-crisis red hood identity concept. However, New Earth Joker was always essentially the Joker, although the character himself likes to baffle readers in his own words with variations of his own beginnings. Much of those beginnings for this version of the Joker mirror the Earth-One version, with the difference being he didn't jump into the vat of chemicals to escape. The character states in the comic he either tripped or Batman pushed him in.

Even though Burton added an identity, threw him in with Grissom and added a "Chicken or Egg" concept by having Joker be the murderer of the Waynes. Burton was still pretty close to the mark with Joker's origins.

There are countless ways to get your fill of the Joker, in virtually all popular media involving comics. Most notably (and recent) are a few amazing video games. Batman Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Gods Among Us, and even the older Mortal Kombat vs DC fighting game; to a variety of animated features. However, two of my favorites featuring the Joker are Batman: Under the Red Hood, and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. If I'm honest, I'll admit that I still love to play an old NES game called Batman: Return of the Joker which was a fun old school way to experience some of his antics.




With the ever growing audience flocking to comic book movies everywhere, we can almost say we're experiencing a new golden era in the fandom, and it's our job to help these new fans remember the roots of these amazing characters which we all love. So share your knowledge, comment, tweet, and pin. I'll be posting more of these types of articles in the future. Part III is just around the corner. Follow me @EmanuelFCamacho, join in on the conversation.
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