Anyone in the superhero business seems terrified of the idea that we may not know where these characters came from. They have to constantly reshoot origin stories, and you can be sure that the first film of every character is going to be a lengthy, often tiresome explanation of where these powers came from.
It makes sense if you're playing to the lowest common denominator; there's a fear that viewers may be new to the character, or that they won't accept these abilities without a long, drawn-out explanation of their genesis and limits. Don't worry, they're going to lose their powers for at least a bit during the second or maybe third film, but we can't just start with a hero. We have to show where they came from, over and over.
This is an edit New York Magazine put together for the launch of Gotham that shows just how many times this scene has been filmed or animated. Here's a hint: It's a lot.
Surely anyone who goes to see Batman v Superman knows that Bruce Wayne's parents were killed, right? There's really no reason that Zach Snyder needs to reshoot that and take up precious minutes in a huge tentpole to go over tired ground with...
Son of a...
Stop this, stop this, stop this
Characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man exist in the popular consciousness. We know who they are and where they came from. Children just accept that these characters have powers, that's fine. There's no reason to continue to go over these origin stories, especially when they've been shown so many times across so many movies and television shows. We get it.
One of the few series that has successfully kicked the origin habit, and is widely considered to be one of the best characterizations of Batman, is the original Batman: The Animated Series. The show ran for three years in the mid-90s and 85 episodes were created. If you haven't seen it, you are in for such a treat. If you have seen it, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The show's bible, the document that laid down the rules for the show, was put online a few years ago, and it's a wonderful look at what made the show so special. I'm going to highlight a few sections, because the series had no patience for going over tired ground.
His origin is "known to all." He's already seen as a huge player in pop culture. The writing here is sharp and to the point: This is stuff we know. The team working on this show doesn't need to do much heavy lifting to get the audience on its side. That work has been done. The next section is just as good.
This is the strongest advice in the entire bible. There will be no stories about his origin. You are to "flush" any ideas you had along those lines if you're a writer for the show. It's not the Batman they're doing "TODAY." The bible is confident about the fact that we don't need to repeat these things over and over.
Keep in mind this was long before the origin story had been beaten into the ground, and the team behind the show still knew they didn't need to repeat what everyone already knew.
The result is a show that dealt with the character of Batman in perhaps the most adult and "realistic" way of any of the non-comic interpretations. They didn't repeat the same thing over and over, and in fact going back to the original was against the rules.
More television shows, movies and online series need to do the same thing, and let's hope they have the same result. Everyone needs to kick the addiction to origin stories, I promise the hangover won't even be that bad.
Batman: Officer Down mission