Taxonomy of Superhero Origin Stories

When my son was little, we once  discussed superhero-origin stories and of they all seemed to fit into a surprisingly few buckets.

Years later (ie, a few weeks ago), I thought about this taxonomy again and came up with some additional examples and have included them all in this post.

As time goes on, I’ll add examples of the heroes from each category  to this post and I’m sure that I’ll learn of other types of origin stories.

Content strategists, librarians, taxonomists, fellow recovering comic book geeks anybody else, what have I missed?

If you are a superhero, which of the following are true?

  1. You are member of an alien race. 
  2. You are a descendant  of Amazonions or Atlantians.
  3. Your filthy rich parents left you their company and you built crazy-good tactical gear.
  4. You studied magic or witchcraft. 
  5. You were subjected to a secret experiment in the military or a prison (you were wrongly convicted, of course). 
  6. You got a snoot full of radiation (from direct exposure or you were bitten by an irradiated spider). 
  7. You are a Norse, Greek or Roman god. 
  8. Your powers are derived from a magical potion, or secret-formula pill.
  9. You have been granted superpowers by a wizard. 
  10. You were given an emerald energy ring by a mortally wounded alien.  
  11. You were in an industrial accident (which of course was triggered by a lightning strike).
  12. You are good at math, and for some reason a mathematical formula gave you super-speed.  
  13. One or more of the above is true for one, or both, of your parents. 
  14. You were assembled from Vibranium parts.
  15. You inhaled hard water vapor after you spilled chemicals in your lab while you were distracted….because you were smoking a cigarette.
  16. Your doctor father treated your cobra bite with a blood transfusion from a….mongoose. 
  17. You are a descendant of  Norse, Greek, or Roman god.
  18. You teamed up with on the hereos from category  Number 3.
  19. You are the offspring of a demonic being.
  20. You are a time traveler with common tech from YOUR era.  
  21. You are a sentient computer. 
  22. You are the clone of a super being.  
  23. You have mutant genes because you have a parent with superpowers, or one of your genes mutated on its own…..because DNA. 

Example 16 was provided by taxonomist, beer expert, archeologist, etc., Lisa Grimm. Examples 17-23 were provided by my Dot-Com Era colleague Todd Hill.

(I’m still researching true origin story of Arm Fall Off Boy though my current theory is that it begins  with members of the creative team saying, “I’m so tired of working weekends. I really hate this job and I’m going to submit this POS concept just to beat my deadline.” )

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