[[caption-width-right:320:Franchise/TheAvengers as explained by [[http://mattcantdraw.deviantart.com/gallery/35239567 Matt Cowan.]]]]

->''[[ComicBook/SpiderMan I got bitten by a radioactive bug]]\\
[[ComicBook/CaptainAmerica I tried an experimental drug]]\\
[[ComicBook/TheIncredibleHulk I went for a stroll on a gamma testing range]]\\
[[ComicBook/TheMightyThor I found an enchanted Uru cane]]\\
[[ComicBook/AntMan I made a serum that made me small\\
I modified the serum so it would make me tall]]\\
[[ComicBook/{{Daredevil}} I got a radioactive isotope in my eyes]]\\
[[ComicBook/GreenLantern A dying alien helped me accessorize]]''
-->-- '''Ookla the Mok''', "Super Powers"

Every {{Superhero}} has an origin story, telling how they gained their powers and decided to fight crime. It may be revealed in their first appearance, or not until an eventual {{flashback}}. But once established, it sets ground rules for which tropes are applicable to that particular superhero.

The in-story explanation may be that the ultimate source of the hero's power is magic, {{Sufficiently Advanced Alien}}s, or WeirdScience. However, the actual origin tends to boil down to one of these:

# '''Lucky Accident''': A FreakLabAccident, one-in-a-million malfunction, or what have you; e.g., [[Comicbook/SpiderMan Spider-Man]], ComicBook/TheFlash, [[ComicBook/IncredibleHulk Hulk]], {{ComicBook/Daredevil}} or [[ComicBook/FantasticFour The Fantastic Four]]. This is one of the most common superhero origin tropes.
# '''TheChosenOne''': Given powers by an [[MentorArchetype ancient and wise being]], such as an [[TouchedByVorlons alien]], one of the PowersThatBe, or a being that's a [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien combination of the two]]; e.g., Captain Marvel (who is [[IAmNotShazam not Shazam]]) or UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}} GreenLantern, or [[BequeathedPower the previous wielder handed it down]]. They were probably granted these powers because they were deemed worthy to handle them or, maybe, as part of a [[TheProphecy prophecy]]. Note that the transfer of power isn't always positive as they may now be BlessedWithSuck thanks to a GypsyCurse; e.g., ComicBook/GhostRider.
# '''Non-Human Hero''': They're superhuman because they're ''not'' human at all; e.g., aliens like Franchise/{{Superman}} or ComicBook/MartianManhunter; after all, they're [[SpaceIsMagic from space]] or they're from a mystical realm like Franchise/WonderWoman or ComicBook/{{Aquaman}} or they're deities/demi-gods like [[ComicBook/TheMightyThor Thor]]. They might alternately be [[GeneticEngineeringIsTheNewNuke genetically engineered]], a [[WeCanRebuildHim cyborg]] (inevitably involuntary and {{Angst}}ing over his [[WhatHaveIBecome condition]]), or otherwise a [[ArtificialHuman creation of science]]; e.g., WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls. In this case, expect them to be a PhlebotinumRebel.
# '''My Own Creation''': A scientist, engineer, or other makes-cool-stuff type invents something that gives them powers and uses it to help people; e.g., IronMan; or [[ProfessorGuineaPig experiments on himself]] and gets powers; e.g. Henry Pym (Ant Man/Giant Man/Yellowjacket/Goliath/Whatever he calls himself now). These types [[ReedRichardsIsUseless rarely sell their secret or use it to empower others]], usually on the basis of "I can't trust anyone else to use X responsibly" or "TheWorldIsNotReady".
# '''AppliedPhlebotinum''': Their powers may not directly derive from ''them'', but rather from using a MagicalAccessory, an UpgradeArtifact or even an ArtifactOfDoom they just happen to come across; e.g., ComicBook/TheMask. It could also be a powerful substance that renders them impervious; e.g., Film/{{Blankman}}. Naturally goes hand in hand with My Own Creation and The Chosen One and may overlap with Lucky Accident. Often invokes ComesGreatResponsibility as well as YoureNothingWithoutYourPhlebotinum.
# '''Pure Will''': A suitably motivated [[BadassNormal mere mortal]] achieves a high degree of competence in crimefighting owing to a combination of extreme training and/or scientific/engineering ability along with native ingenuity; e.g., Franchise/{{Batman}}, the second ComicBook/BlueBeetle (Ted Kord).
# '''EvolutionaryLevels''': Sometimes, they're just simply born with superpowers maybe as a result of a BizarreBabyBoom, a mere biological fluke of some kind or other mysterious circumstances. These powers could manifest at any point in their life, though many examples have them especially occur [[PubertySuperpower during puberty]]; e.g., the [[ComicBook/XMen X-Men]].
# '''SuperpowerfulGenetics''': They inherited their powers (whether the same or completely different) from, at least, one superpowered parent or ancestor; e.g., Spider-Man's daughter [[ComicBook/SpiderGirl Spider-Girl]], Violet and Dash from ''WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles'', [[ComicBook/{{Magneto}} Magneto's]] twin children ComicBook/{{Quicksilver}} and ComicBook/{{Scarlet Witch}} or the entire student body of [[Film/SkyHigh2005 Sky High]]. Tends to overlap with Evolutionary Levels.
# '''Random Selection''': Something totally random that nevertheless isn't an "accident"; e.g., any [[{{Mutants}} mutant]] character. Tends to be {{retcon}}ned into one of the others later.

...each of which has its associated tropes. Any of the last seven may be {{retcon}}ned into The Chosen One. {{Supervillain}}s can also get their powers in these ways, though their accidents tend to be more unlucky, thus initiating their StartOfDarkness. Occasionally, these can be compounded across several characters with a MassSuperEmpoweringEvent.

That's how they ''get'' their powers; motivations to actually fight crime include:

* TheCape
* SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong
* OrderVersusChaos
* ComesGreatResponsibility
* BoisterousBruiser
* BecauseDestinySaysSo
* LegacyCharacter
* ItsPersonal
* LaResistance
* LetsGetDangerous
* SmallNameBigEgo
* TheAtoner
* IJustWantToBeNormal (e.g. if a scientist wants to reverse his FreakLabAccident, or if the Chosen One has a task that's possible to complete.)
* ContrivedCoincidence

Often, the hero to be gets both powers and motivation in the same event, wrapped in one neat package. They may also get a supervillain arch-nemesis to fight, motivated and empowered by that same event.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''WebComic/OnePunchMan'': Saitama was your average Japanese salaryman until one day, when he saves [[ItMakesSenseInContext a butt-chinned boy from a Lobster-Man]], which reignites his passion to be a hero. After that, he trained every day, doing 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and running ten kilometers, until all his hair fell out and he was strong enough to beat opponents with one punch.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Jack Hawksmoor of ''ComicBook/{{The Authority}}'' has a particularly odd origin: He was repeatedly abducted and altered by what he thought were aliens, who were in fact [[spoiler:time-travellers from the 70th century, in order to use him as a weapon to fight a rampaging Kansas City by bonding with Tokyo]]. ...yeah.
* {{Deconstructed}} by the post-Crisis ComicBook/CaptainAtom, whose actual origin was kept secret by the military, which "revealed" his pre-Crisis, [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]], Charlton comics origin as his origin to the public.
* Creator/DCComics' ComicBook/AmbushBug claims that his costume was sent to Earth by a scientist who predicted (wrongly) that his planet would explode; along the way the clothes were bitten by a giant space radioactive spider. Obviously, this is a send-up of both Franchise/{{Superman}}'s and Franchise/SpiderMan's origins. Considering Ambush Bug is crazy, he likely made up the whole thing.
* Subverted in ''ComicBook/KryptonNoMore'' when ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} claims she and Franchise/{{Superman}} are genetically-engineered humans and "Krypton" is nothing but a Superman's dellusion. Superman comes to believe it until he realizes several details don't hold up, confronts Kara and she admits she was cajoled into lying to him.
* DC, at one point, had a lot of heroes with the "lucky accident" origins whose accidents had been rendered laughable as [[ScienceMarchesOn science marched on]]. To reconcile this, they introduced the concept of a "metagene", a dormant gene carried by all these characters that activated in the presence of these accidents that would have crippled or killed any other person who lacked the gene, thus transforming their "lucky accident" heroes into "random selection" heroes.
* In ''[[http://johnnysaturn.com Johnny Saturn]]'', most of the superheroes (called ''[[DifferentlyPoweredIndividual metaheroes]]'') are modern versions of Greek gods. Many of the metaheroes have descended from higher dimensions, or are alien hybrids, or non-powered ''mystery men,'' such as Johnny Saturn himself.
* A running joke in Ed Brubaker's ''ComicBook/{{Sleeper}}'' is that bored supervillains like to kill time by telling third-person, slightly hokey versions of their own origin stories. These are accompanied in the story by an ArtShift to brighter colors and a more traditional panel lay-out.
* WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls origin is already established, but the comic book story "Everything You Know About The Powerpuff Girls Is Wrong" (issue #40, DC run) plays with this. The students of Miss Keane's kindergarten class offer up their own interpretations of how the girls came about, using the origins of Superman, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four as parallels.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* Parodied in ''[[Creator/PhilFoglio What's New? with Phil and Dixie]]'', in which a single hero-to-be is subjected to so many variants of this trope that he's [[DeathByOriginStory reduced to ashes]] by their cumulative effects.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/MCURewrites'': ''[[http://archiveofourown.org/works/11613921 Black Widow]]'' details Natasha Romanov's origins: from her training in the Red Room to be conditioned into a cold-blooded killing machine to meeting Clint Barton and being offered a chance at redemption.
* ''Series/Supergirl2015'' fic ''Fanfic/{{Survivors}}'' is the origin tale that tells how [[ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} Kara Zor-El]] and [[Franchise/{{Superman}} her cousin]] arrived on Earth, were raised by a family and became the first super-heroes.
* In ''Fanfic/TheVampireOfSteel'' crossover, one entire chapter is devoted to ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} and Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer exchanging origin tales after having a run-in with some vampires.
* In ''Fanfic/AForceOfFour'', ComicBook/PowerGirl retells Jimmy her origin in the first chapter.
* ''Fanfic/SOE2LoneHeirOfKrypton'' details how Asuka Langley Sohryu finds out about her powers and heritage and becomes Supergirl.
* ''Fanfic/LastChildOfKrypton'' is an origin story detailing how Shinji Ikari gained Kryptonian powers and became his world's first and greatest hero.

* Deconstructed in ''Film/BatmanBegins'': [[{{Mooks}} Mook]] Joe Chill kills Bruce Wayne’s parents. BadCopIncompetentCop Gotham police cannot deliver justice to him. TheMafia Don Carmine Falcone gives Bruce Wayne a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech that forces him to begin TheHerosJourney, then he is trained by the [[MurderInc League of Assasins]] and outsmarts CorruptCorporateExecutive Earl to become Franchise/{{Batman}}. A possible explanation is that Gotham was a CorneredRattlesnake and it is trying to produce a superhero to survive: Notice that all of the forces oppressing Gotham were ThresholdGuardians that created the {{Superhero}} that will fight them.
* Film/WonderWoman tells the story about Diana's parentage, how she acquired her uniform and other equipment, how she received her mundane name, and how she came to be in the world of man.
* ''Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse'':
** Most of the films in Phase 1--namely, ''Film/IronMan1'', ''Film/TheIncredibleHulk'', ''Film/{{Thor}}'', and ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheFirstAvenger''--act as this for their titular characters, who are the four "super-powered" members of the Avengers, so the audience will know who they are and how they became who they are when they all come together in ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}''. ''Film/IronMan2'' is the sole exception, continuing Iron Man's story (though it does introduce Black Widow, another future Avenger, but she doesn't have superpowers and doesn't receive an origin story). As with their comic book counterparts, Iron Man is Type 4 (he made his original Iron Man suit [[MemeticMutation IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!]]), Hulk is Type 1 (lab experiment gone wrong), Thor is Type 3 (an Asgardian, whom the Norse gods are based on in this universe but are really SufficientlyAdvancedAliens), Captain America is Type 2 (was chosen to be made into a SuperSoldier by the scientist in charge of the program).
** This also holds true with other characters who are introduced in their own movies and have their own adventures before meeting others from the MCU, including ''Film/AntMan'' (the original, Hank Pym, being Type 4, and his successor, Scott Lang, being Type 2), and ''Film/DoctorStrange2016'' (also Type 2).
** The MCU version of Spider-Man notably ''averts'' this; likely because there are already [[Film/SpiderManTrilogy two]] [[Film/TheAmazingSpiderMan recent]] film series that already went into Spider-Man's origin story, the MCU doesn't bother to do so. In his first appearance in ''Film/CaptainAmericaCivilWar'', Peter has already been Spider-Man and had his powers for some time, and his own subsequent movie, ''Film/SpiderManHomecoming'', offers little more about his origin. Presumably it's the same as his origin in other versions.

* Literature/{{Captain Underpants}}'s origin story is told in [[ShowWithinAShow one of George and Harold's comics]] - he was born as "Little Baby Underpants" on the planet Underpantyworld, which was under attack by the Wedgie Warlords. Little Baby Underpants's father, Big Daddy Long Johns, created an amulet intended to prevent the planet's destruction from the spray starch the Warlords were using, but it ends up in his son's underwear. Big Daddy Long Johns and his wife, Princess Pantyhose, reluctantly decide to save Little Baby Underpants instead, and they slingshot him (using his underwear) to Earth, where he is adopted and renamed "Captain" by an old couple. Captain's birth parents eventually appeared to him in a dream, revealing his origins and inspiring him to become a superhero. Outside of the comics, Captain Underpants was created when George and Harold use a 3D Hypno Ring on their [[SadistTeacher mean principal]] Benny Krupp and can't properly undo the hypnotic trance as they lost the instructions. Resorting to breaking the trance by dumping water on his head, Krupp can be put back in the trance at the snap of a finger. He later gains superpowers as Captain Underpants when given superpower juice, though wearing clothes as Mr. Krupp keeps these powers dormant.
* In the book ''Superpowers'' the character telling the story directly refuses to explain what happened to give the students their powers. Partly this is to keep the information out of the wrong hands, but mostly it's to avoid an avalanche of snide letters telling him his science is all wrong.
* An odd retroactive example in the Literature/{{Leviathan}} trilogy by Creator/ScottWesterfeld turns the ''entire'' trilogy into one for a couple characters due to the ending. [[spoiler: The main characters Deryn and Alek make a career change from, respectively, a bio-zeppelin midshipman and Prince-in-exile to agents under the employ of the powerful Zoological Society. Some cryptic remarks in conjunction with the skills they learned throughout the trilogy and the experiences they've had would seem to suggest that they were recruited to be international espionage or diplomatic agents of some sort. However, we're never actually shown what the Zoological Society has planned and the trilogy is done at that point. Whatever the case, after the trilogy they are set up to become powerful and professional figures in the field of political intrigue, whereas they were competent but ragtag amateurs working off limited resources during the trilogy.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' Buffy is explicitely referred to as TheChosenOne (though, even when we finally get told how Vampire Slayers came to be, who or what does the choosing is still left vague) and fights evil mainly BecauseDestinySaysSo and, with great ass-kicking ability, ComesGreatResponsibility.
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'', meanwhile, had its main character be of non-human stock (namely, a vampire) who fights other demons because he's TheAtoner who, if he plays the right role in the coming apocalypse, might [[IJustWantToBeNormal get to become human again]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' gradually revealed the Doctor's identity and backstory over the course of the show. In 1969, "The War Games" established the Doctor as a {{Sufficiently Advanced|Aliens}} {{Human Alien|s}} called a JustForFun/TimeLord, and revealed that the Doctor stole his TARDIS. In 1973, "The Time Warrior" gave the Doctor's home planet a name: Gallifrey. In 1976, "The Deadly Assassin" introduced Gallifrey as a [[SoiledCityOnAHill once-great world that fell into decadent corruption]], and explained that the TARDIS was a decommissioned "museum piece" in a government stockpile before the Doctor swiped it. In the late eighties, showrunner Andrew Cartmel [[WhatCouldHaveBeen planned to establish the Doctor as one of the original founders of Gallifrey]], but [[AbortedArc the show went off the air before this "Cartmel Masterplan" could come to fruition]]. And starting in 2005, [[GreatOffscreenWar the Time War]] is part of the new series backstory, taking Gallifrey out of the picture and leaving the Doctor as the LastOfHisKind.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Obscure TabletopGame/D20System superhero game ''Deeds, Not Words'' lets players mix power origin, race, and class to make their own SuperHeroOrigin, with a PointBuildSystem to help custom-build to fit whatever the player wishes. Most of the origins listed above specifically correspond to power origins you can take, such as [[SuperpowerfulGenetics supernaturals]], [[EvolutionaryLevels mutants]], [[TheChosenOne avatars]], or [[AppliedPhlebotinum channelers]]. Class choice is the go-to for origins such as "My Own Creation" or "Pure Will" types, however.
* ''[[TabletopGame/ProseDescriptiveQualities Truth & Justice]]'' encourages players to outline their character's Origin, but it doesn't automatically have any kind of mechanical relevance - it's there for the GameMaster to mine for plot ideas. A player can choose to make it matter mechanically by basing their Weakness on their powers (such as a Superman character listing "Kryptonite"), or if the player takes a Meta-Power for their character, a package of shared powers and vulnerabilities based on that Origin.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/CityOfHeroes'', the above 5 origins are organized thusly: Magic, Kheldian/Natural, Science, Technology/Natural[[labelnote:*]]Natural can be "[[BadassNormal you're just that tough]]" OR "this is normal for your species"[[/labelnote]], and Mutant.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* "One day, at the scene of a fire, the cop found the perfect fireman axe. That was the day he became... ''Webcomic/AxeCop''." Yes, that's his whole origin.
* Parodied in ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob,'' when [[WeirdnessMagnet Bob]] ends up randomly stumbling through five different super hero origins in the space of a few minutes (alien ring, radioactive spider bite, cosmic rays, sadistic Canadian scientists, etc.), resulting in his becoming so powerful that he can barely move without destroying his surroundings.
* Webcomic/CiemWebcomicSeries. Stan Flippo was experimented on by aliens, who fused his genes with those of a mutated centipede. His ''[[LamarckWasRight daughter]]'' gets superpowers.
* The current story arc of ''Webcomic/M9Girls'' is their origin story: the Girls get their powers at the scientific job they are working as interns.
* Elliot of ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'' [[http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/File:MPost20657-e22115fa0c_o.jpg reminds]] why most try keep their origin secret.
* Appears in [[http://www.mezzacotta.net/postcard/?comic=6 this]] ''[[{{Webcomic/Mezzacotta}} Comments on a Postcard]]'' strip. Allegedly.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''[[{{WebOriginal/Takotsubo}} Takotsubo: The story of a superhero]]'' is a {{Deconstruction}} of this: Cord Cai is an unassuming Asian-American young man, [[TheAtoner who's trying to be good]] after a life of street gangs and homophobia. After his fiance Roland gets shot, the police barely manage to help, and Cord [[InterruptedSuicide attempts to jump off the Golden Gate, but gets spotted and taken to the hospital]]. Desperate for justice, Cord tracks down the murderer... [[BestServedCold and then shoots him.]] And then ''[[GenericEthnicCrimeGang starts a gang]]'' instead of becoming a superhero, [[TragicVillain because he thinks he's not good enough to get out of the streets.]] Of course, this will clearly be a {{Reconstruction}} since his alias is ''the TinMan,'' his gang works with the police [[NeighborhoodFriendlyGangsters to clean up civilian crime]], and the story's tagline states that this is ''"[[YouAreBetterThanYouThinkYouAre the story of a superhero.]]"''
* Several episodes of WebOriginal/SocietyOfVirtue including "Choices", "Adopted Son" and "The Impressives"

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' lays it out in the OpeningNarration before every episode. All together now:
-->'''Katara:''' Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the [[ElementalNation four nations]] lived together in harmony. [[MemeticMutation Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.]] Only the [[TheChosenOne Avatar]], master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the [[LegacyCharacter new Avatar]], an [[BlowYouAway airbender]] named [[TheHero Aang]]. And although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.
* Interestingly, both Metro Man (a {{Superman}} {{Expy}}) and his arch-nemesis WesternAnimation/{{Megamind}} have the same initial origin mirroring Superman's - they're both from neighboring planets that were sucked into an UnrealisticBlackHole. The difference is, Metro Man looks human but has Superman's powers. Megamind has a large cranium, is completely blue, and is devilishly smart (he can also survive a MegatonPunch but otherwise has no powers). Also, while Metro Man was raised by loving, rich parents, Megamind was raised by (also loving) convicts in prison.