DC Universe: Origins

DC Universe: Origins is a wonderful idea that could have used some improvements in the execution.

DC Universe: Origins cover
DC Universe: Origins
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The book collects a bunch of the two-page character introductions first printed in the weekly series 52 and Countdown. Unfortunately, this slim volume is very hard to browse. It’s 160 pages, so almost 80 profiles, but the paper is so thin that it’s hard to flip through and find what you’re looking for — the pages stick together, they’re hard to turn, and they feel like they’d be easy to damage. More problematic: there’s no table of contents, so no list anywhere of which characters are included.

Each origin has its own credit box, which is a good idea (no flipping back and forth to find out whose art you’re looking at), and the creator selection is excellent. Most are written by wonks Mark Waid or Scott Beatty, and classic artists were used on great character choices. Brian Bolland on Animal Man and the Joker! Howard Chaykin on Black Canary! Doug Mahnke on Bizarro! Walt Simonson on Desaad! (Love his New Gods!) Bruce Timm on Harley Quinn! Kyle Baker on Mxyzptlk! George Perez on Nightwing! There’s a pleasant diversity of art styles, but all are readable.

Each character also has a small “Powers and Weapons” text box and a list of Essential Storylines, nice touches. I did wonder about some of the inclusions, mostly when it came to villains. Were characters like Amazo, Black Manta, Circe, General Zod, and especially Monarch included because they were playing roles in some of the crossovers of the time? They don’t seem major enough otherwise. And the blue Starman? Was it really necessary to include him?

This book was promoted as “perfect for new fans”, which explains the three pages of trade paperback ads at the back. I’m not sure it’s the best starting point — it’s somewhat disjointed and necessarily abbreviated — but it’s not a bad reference, although with just a few format improvements it could have been a great one. Then again, how long do origins stay in continuity these days? Maybe they knew they weren’t creating a book to last for ages.

One last note: the two characters that drew my eye strongly on the book’s cover were Aquaman and Flash. Guess who don’t have origins included in this book?

9 Responses to “DC Universe: Origins”

  1. Rob S. Says:

    Oof. That’s a nice enough piece of art that it probably would have been worth it to commission those two origins (essential ones, really) just for the collection.

  2. Hovy Says:

    The blue Starman was included since James Robinson is writing him again in JLA.

    And I’m surprised DC didn’t commission origins for Aquaman, and especially the Flash. I know they did a few extra to round out this collection (Batwoman, Beast Boy, Black Lightning, Cyborg, etc.), so that is an odd oversight.

  3. Bob Says:

    I have to figure that Flash and Aquaman are missing because at this point they really aren’t sure what the origins of Flash and Aquaman are. At least not in a form that can be summarized in two pages…

    But yeah, kind of dumb when they figure so prominently on the cover.

    The lack of a table of contents is disappointing, but fortunately the internets sometime provide when publishers fail to.

  4. Johanna Says:

    KC said that he thought that they did a Flash one, but maybe it just wasn’t selected for this collection for whatever reason (no longer in continuity? not updated? as Bob speculates).

    Aw, you mean I have to print out a webpage and stick it in the book? How retro! :)

  5. Jer Says:

    I have to figure that Flash and Aquaman are missing because at this point they really aren’t sure what the origins of Flash and Aquaman are. At least not in a form that can be summarized in two pages…

    Since Barry Allen is back as the Flash I’d find that hard to believe for the Flash at least. “Police scientist gets hit by lightning in his lab, gains super speed, and fights crooks who dress like the Pied Piper or use freeze rays to rob banks” is pretty much a summation of 20+ years of Barry Allen Flash comics in a single sentence. The hard part would be stretching his origin story to fit two pages. It’s a bit easier than trying to explain Wally’s “there was a Flash and I was his sidekick and then he died and now I’m the Flash” origin, and a lot easier than Bart’s “There was a Flash and he was sent to the future, and I’m his grandson and I was sent back into the past and artificially aged to be the not-really-a-sidekick sidekick to the guy who took over as Flash for him after he died, but then HE was sent to the future and I was artificially aged again into adulthood and now I’m the Flash” origin.

    Aquaman, on the other hand – that’s probably a good guess. I don’t know if anyone is quite sure what to do with Aquaman these days (outside of the guys who write the Batman Brave and the Bold cartoon, where at least they have a vision for the character, even if he sometimes feels more like Marvel’s Hercules than Aquaman…)

  6. Julia L Says:

    I can see why most of the villains were included mostly. At the time the origins were coming out, Circe was the big supervillain in the rebooted Wonder Woman series. Amazo was the villain in the new Justice League. Zod’s the major player in the Superman storylines. Monarch cropped up in Countdown. All but Black Manta were featured heavily in the comics.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for providing that context, Julia. Makes sense now that you explain it.

  8. Bob Says:

    Can’t seem to find any Flash origin done in this format in any of the usual places where those things ran. Flash has been in flux for so long that who knows which character they’d have done. I think best to stick with Jay Garrick…

  9. Johanna Says:

    Well, it wouldn’t be the first time memory failed us. :)




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