Origin Stories

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

Whether irradiated, bitten, or sent from another world to show us the way, origin stories have fascinated us for years. This week, we pick our top five origin stories.


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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. Actually, if you’re struck by lightning once you’re at greater risk to be struck by lightning again. Largely because people who get struck by lightning tend to have significant occupational risk factors: linemen, farmers, etc. Maybe the Flash just had an improperly grounded lightning rod at the lab?

  2. OMG between the Kennedy voice and the creepy high voice that Matthew does…I think I may die.


    Not to mention good content as well…but the distractions were pretty entertaining too.

  3. I actually had a coworker ask If I was ok I was laughing so hard during this episode. Great work as always!

  4. I had to stop listening to this because I was at my job and I was totally unable to work and laugh at the same time. I was laughing so hard I almost pee on my pants. Thank you so much for that!

  5. Glad I’m not alone in laughing my tail off during this one! I was listening in bed while Hubby slept and he woke all panicked because he couldn’t figure out the noise – me stifling my giggles.

    You guys are awesome!! Keep up the great work :)

  6. 5) This is the story of a Special Ed teacher that takes his class on a field trip to the desert. On the way back, the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, so the teacher starts looking for help. On the way, he runs into an FBI agent , or should I say the FBI agent almost runs over him. Suddenly a UFO appears and tells this teacher and FBI agent that they are tasked with saving the world. The teacher is given a costume that gives him almost Superman-like powers. If only he remembered the manual. He is Ralph Hinkley, The Greatest American Hero.

    4) Imagine, if you will, a lone cop that is almost killed in the line of duty. But instead, he is rescued by a billionaire who gets him plastic surgery and a car that sounds incredibly like Mr. Feeney. And with this new face and car, he adventures off and faces many adversaries, including a baddy that looks like him with a goatee and a KARR that sounds just like Optimus Prime. He is Michael Knight, the Knight Rider.

    3) Here’s a story of a teenager that lives in a trailer park. The only respite that he has is playing a video game that was accidently delivered there. After finally beating the game, he finds out that it was in fact a test to see how good he really was and has been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. He is Alex Rogan, The Last Starfighter.

    2) You find yourself in ancient Sparta. The Spartan men are mighty warriors. But, even the most mighty of warriors can be defeated…….unless you call on the Aries, the God of War, to assist you in battle. You are then given the power of the Gods themselves, only to find out that you have been tricked into killing your own family in the hope it turns you into a better warrior. Instead, it turns you into a killing machine bent on revenge for the death of your family. You are Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta.

    1) Uh….there was this guy once that showed up on a caravan. He didn’t really know who he was. But, he was pretty good with the fighty-fighty and the punchy-punchy. And then if someone hit him hard enough, he would grow long hair and fangs and would become extra magikey. And this one time we put him in a machine and he blowed up, but not really cause this thing happened and…………what….….oh, right Orem. Sorry. I’m just supposed to talk about how he got here and not to give away the ending. Ok, I promise not to spoil the story and to visit the statue that was put up in his memory whenever we get back.

  7. Anthony Hernandez on

    5. So there are these magic balls with stars on them. Legend has it that if you collect all seven of them you can summon a dragon who will grant you any wish you want…so a teen girl genius decides she wants to collect them to wish for a boyfriend. While she’s traveling she is attacked by a strange boy living in the woods who thought her car was a monster. They then go on wild adventures in search of the Dragon Balls. There are also giant energy blasts and he occasionally turns blond.
    I like this origin story for the idea of seeking wish fulfilling artifacts sought after for reasons other than saving/ruling the world. And since this take on that scenario is a comedy, I also really like how Bulma and Goku met and the reason she was searching the dragon balls to begin with.

    4. In the 1980’s a man is born that doesn’t have brainwaves but instead produces thoughts from a random hodgepodge of signals. Because of this trait an alien race conspired to have him cryogenically frozen for 1000 years, so that his natural immunity to brainwave scrambling aliens could be used to protect the galaxy. However because nobody (not even he) was informed of this, he is simply treated as a random person from the 1980’s, wacky hijinks ensue. He is Philip J. Fry delivery boy of Futurama.
    What I like about this origin is the fact that it could simply be an epileptic tree plot trying to make sense of what might otherwise be a simpsonsesque negative continuity, but the fact that it was planned from the beginning especially in this genre makes it freaking awesome. Also the fact that it involves Fry traveling back in time from the future to be his own grandfather.

    3. The world of Spira is a world full of magic and advanced technology, but for over a 1000 years a massive creature of destruction has demolished any civilizations that grew too populace or used too much technology. The only way this monster can be temporarily abated in its destruction is for a summoner to go on a pilgrimage and gain the aid of the powerful aeons to fight against it, culminating in the final aeon which will destroy it for a period. On one of these pilgrimages a summoner and his guardian are joined by a strange man who claims to be from the city of zanarkind, which was the first city to be destroyed by the creature centuries ago. When the three go to retrieve the final aeon they learn the horrible truth that the final aeon is really the guardian of the summoner taking the form of an aeon which will be possessed by the creatures spirit after its body has been destroyed. Despite knowing this they choose to transform the guy from zanarkind into the final aeon to fight sin, and everything happens as expected. However the original guardian of the summoner remains in the living world through shear willpower and watches over the summoners daughter and finds a way to travel to the city of zanarkind to watch over the son of the other guardian, so that they will not meet the same fate as their fathers. He is Auron the undead Samurai of Spira in Final Fantasy X.
    What I like about this backstory, is that it basically tells the story of how a pilgrimage to collect the aeons is supposed to go in Spira, which is kind of what originally I wanted out of FFX in the first place. Then there’s the breaking of the cycle of control, and lastly the simple fact that Auron is a badass mentor who stayed undead through willpower alone.

    2. For centuries the powerful tailed beast have been used as weapons of war, and one day the village hidden in the leaves was attacked by the nine tailed fox. The fourth hokage fought it to protect the village but could not kill it so at the cost of his own life he sealed it in a baby boy. The boy grew up knowing nothing of this but he felt the resentment of others who did know about it. On his final day at the ninja academy he failed the graduation exam 3 times, discouraged at failing to achieve a dream he hoped would finally gain him some warm feelings from the people, he was easily tricked by a traitorous sensei to steal a scroll of forbidden techniques. When the two were confronted by another sensei the traitor explained that the new leader of the village had forbidden people to speak about the nine tailed fox being sealed in him. Afraid of the rejection from the people the boy fled, but when his sensei defended him against the traitor he returned to defeat the traitor with the Multi Shadow Clone technique. Thus began the tale of the ultimate gutsy shinobi Naruto Uzumaki.

    I love this origin story for multiple reasons. Firstly, unlike Superman (who has arguably the best adoptive parents in fiction) and Harry Potter (who has candidates for some of the worst adoptive parents in fiction) he doesn’t get parents to give him a sense of place in the universe: his initial quest is simply to have his existence acknowledged by the people. Also unlike superman (who is basically cursed with awesome that is unlocked immediately from arrival on earth and empowers him to do good) or Harry Potter (for whom discovering he’s a wizard IS his happy ending where he freely receives wealth, power, and affection.) Naruto’s curse of awesome is the direct cause of pain and suffering to himself and others, and even though he has power he has to actually work VERY hard to learn to use it, often times still getting left behind by the progress of others. In addition learning that he possesses power doesn’t change the fact that very few people care about him as person, and much of his early story is more about proving his own merits and receiving acknowledgement than being the hero that saves the day. Lastly, (Spoiler) Narutos parents are the fourth hokage and the last person to have the nine tailed fox sealed inside them. They’re a cute couple and they were competent enough that despite being ambushed they nearly saved the village without dying. However, they chose to die sealing the fox in naruto for the good of the village and for naruto himself, for me their part in the story adds something I can’t describe that helps put it this high.

    1. Finally, my number one might be considered a cheat or at least unorthodox, because it is not the story of how a fictional character found there place in a fictional universe, but how a real person in our universe created a fictional character. Decades ago a starving and bankrupt artist moved to California to get a new start. While he was there he was able to start up a small art studio that became successful. Unfortunately, his distributer wanted to benefit more directly from his success, so he used copyright loopholes and bribed his staff to come work for him in an effort to bully and reign control of the studio away from the artist. The artist in defiance created a new character that would be scientifically designed to be easy to work with but also imbued with personality. This combined with visionary use of new technology for the medium allowed him to create a phenomena from a steamboat cabin boy who would evolve to the point that at the end of his heyday was popular world wide and stared in a motion picture as a sorcerer’s apprentice, dreaming about controlling the heavens. Of course now adays he hangs out with final fantasy characters wearing a black trench coat and swinging key swords, but that’s beside the point. Mickey the Mouse who gave rise to Walt Disneys magic kingdom.

    What can I say, Walt Disney is one of my heros. I don’t like most super hero origin stories, they are often REALLY silly, and due to the nature of comics rarely to never see a satisfying conclusion. However a real story about an iconic character being created by a starving artist who revolutionized the entertainment industry is freaking amazing.

    This was fun guys keep doing what you’re doing, oh and one of these days could you maybe Top 5 video games?

  8. So, I know this is a bit older, but I had to work it out, and once I’d worked it out I figured I may as well post it.

    There will be spoilers in this, so be warned.

    #5: Al Jeery (The City Trilogy)
    There really isn’t much special about Al Jeery, or that’s what you’d think, it later turns out he’s immortal, but the thing that I love about him has nothing to do with any of that. His origin is really what’s most interesting about him.
    The trilogy takes place in this city, with all kinds of symbolism I’m not gonna go into, and The City is run by one guy, a crime boss untouchable at the top of his tall tower. Throughout the book this guy is mysterious and obviously in control of everything, then at the end he reveals that he was actually much more in control than anyone thought. He knew a person who, just for him and no one else, would create people, he would go to them and tell them what he wanted this person to be capable of and they would make a pair of puppets, one for them and one for the crime boss. Then the person would arrive in The City and go about doing whatever they were meant to do, if the crime boss wanted them gone he just had to destroy the puppet and they would die.
    Now, one day this crime boss went to his puppet people and he told them he wanted someone to carry on his legacy, someone who would be able to take his empire and ensure that it lasted forever, this person could never die, but neither could they leave The City, this way they would be forced to stay there and run this empire until there was no longer a city.
    Now that, to me, creates what ends up as a fairly boring character description, but a brilliant origin story, none-the-less.

    #4: Captain Jack Harkness (Doctor Who)
    There isn’t really much to say about Jack, he was a time cop, who went rogue, tried to sell a medical ship to another time cop, who turned out to be the Doctor. And then he died. And his death was so traumatic that when Rose looked into the time vortex and got the power to do anything she damn well pleased, she brought him back. But she brought him back wrong, and he was now a feedback loop in the time vortex, he was stuck in one state and whenever anything happened, he got shot or he cut himself chopping carrots, anything, a few seconds later he would return to the way he was.
    Short and sweet.

    #3: Belgarath the Sorcerer (The Belgariad/The Mallorean)
    Belgarath is very much based on your standard wizard character, albeit one who cares very little about his appearance, and has no patience nor willingness to stand on ceremony where not absolutely necessary. All of his life story, and therefore his origin as well is very drawn out.
    It begins with a boy in a town, he wasn’t much liked in the town after his mother died, as he had a bit of a reputation for thievery. And then one day he was caught with the urge to see what was beyond a hill, so he went and he climbed that hill, and he just, kind of, didn’t stop. A few years later he found himself in the middle of a blizzard with nowhere to go and, knowing he was about to die and that there was nothing he could do about it, he sat down against a rock to rest his feet. A rock that ‘just happened’ to be the door to the tower of the god Aldur. Aldur then took him in, fed him, and decided to teach him.
    After a very, very long time Garath became Belgarath, disciple of Aldur, but that isn’t where his origin ends.
    A bit later on, after there were a few more disciples one of the other gods, Torak, took a liking to a rock Aldur had been studying, and, believing himself more worthy he came and took it. Now, this was not just any rock, between a few ancient prophecies and the almost undivided attention of a god this rock had become the Orb of Aldur, or the most powerful rock in all creation. So leaving it in the hands of someone who would fight to take it was quite unthinkable and Aldur dispatched his disciples to summon the other gods.
    Now, the disciples had learned how to take on the forms of animals during their studies, and Belgarath settled into that of a wolf, which was no problem until a she-wolf took a liking to him and decided to join him on his run. They went, found their god and brought him back to Aldur and all the gods had a big talk and decided the only thing to do was to bring all the peoples against Torak and his people, which they did surprisingly quickly. Then Torak, seeing an unimaginably large army marching to kill his worshippers and take his rock, raised the orb and cracked the world. And when I say cracked the world I mean that until this moment there had been one massive continent and after this moment there were two, one with Torak on it and one with all the other gods on it. This had three immediate repercussions, it wreaked havoc for the local scenery, it made the gods decide to leave, so that they wouldn’t have to destroy the planet in a fight with Torak, and it made the rock very, very mad, so mad it set a god on fire, melted half of his face and put him to sleep for a very long time.
    And so life continued. The she-wolf eventually learned how to change shape, where she came to favour that of an owl. A while later still she left for a while, then came back as a human, called Poledra, who eventually married Belgarath and got pregnant, as often happens. Then, about eight months and a few weeks later one of the kings of the world came to Belgarath and told him that a part of the sea, which led over to where Torak was asleep with the rock, where they could steal it back. Belgarath had to leave his wife, but, long story short, they got the rock and got back to find that Belgarath’s wife had died in childbirth, but that he had two happy, healthy twin daughters.
    There’s a hell of a lot more, but I think I’ve already written enough for that one, and I think.

    #2: Daredevil (Marvel Comics)
    For this one I dipped into my comic book knowledge, Daredevil, the kid who jumped in front of a truck and took radioactive goo to his eyes! Then a strange, kinda creepy old guy took him in and trained him how to use his blindness to his advantage. And then his dad died and his life kinda went downhill from there, in one version of it.
    But what I like about his, over all the others I could have chosen, is that there isn’t really anywhere else his life could have gone, yet he still managed to choose to be a superhero. For one, even if he hadn’t been blinded (following the Man Without Fear origin) he still would have been one of the only two who could have been a member of the Chaste, and it’s likely his father still would have died, so he still would have been rejected by Stick, but that’s not what happens, he does all of this with the disadvantage of being blind, and does it a damn sight better than some others could have. And that’s kinda brilliant.

    #1: Brom (The Inheritance Cycle)
    Now, first off, don’t get me wrong, this series has a lot of problems with it, but I think the idea behind Brom’s backstory/origin is insanely brilliant.
    Now, Brom was a dragon rider until his dragon died, he survived the fall of the order, he killed one of the biggest, baddest villains there was after getting his wife pregnant and he turned out to be the main character’s father. But that’s only important in passing, and to emphasise what I say next.
    There is one character in the series who goes around doing impossible things, being zany and telling fortunes, and the fortune she gave to Brom was that in all of his life he would only ever do one thing well.
    He was a dragon rider, but his dragon died. His best friend became the evil emperor’s right hand man. He set up a rebellion to kill said evil emperor and reclaim what dragon eggs there were, killed the right hand man, got one dragon egg and left. His son became a dragon rider, Brom died half a book later.
    But then, you get a different perspective on it, and that perspective can be summed up as: ‘Which one?’ Which, out of the various great things, was the ‘one thing he would do right’?
    He was a human dragon rider, a great honour in itself. He kept the knowledge of the dragon riders alive to pass it on to Eragon, despite an entire empire trying to kill him. He killed one of the most powerful evil men in the world and reclaimed one of three dragon eggs in existence. He showed a woman who has almost never been more than a cold-hearted killer the love and warmth that allowed her to break free of the grasp of the evil emperor’s mind control. And when it counted, he taught his son enough that, when Brom died to save him, Eragon had all the knowledge he needed to get to the rebellion and, ultimately, kill the evil emperor.
    And that is the thing I love most about the entire series, the set up, first thinking this guy’s pretty cool, then almost being forced to ridicule him, and see him as a complete failure, and finally being shown just how freaking brilliant this guy has been throughout his life, despite having been told with certainty by a true fortune teller, who is never wrong, that he would do almost nothing with his life.
    I will admit I stretched the term ‘origin story’ here, but I took it to mean ‘his life building up to when we first see him’ and, with the exception of teaching Eragon, all of this has been.

    So thank you, and goodnight.

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