There is a thrill that runs through you as Superman soars into the sky, much the same as we watch Thor call down lightning from the skies. We love the incredible powers gifted to these heroes(and villains). Beyond what they can do with these gifts there is a deeper question.
Where do these powers come from?
The creators imagine worlds greater than ours. Worlds where greater than human beings can fly, burst into flames, even call the powers of nature their own. With the great powers also comes the origin story. For me that is an important piece of the character. Where the powers come from can help determine the stories you tell.
There was a time when it seemed like every new character was a mutant. It was so simple to just say “oh he’s a mutant” and that explained away everything. During other eras it was the fortunate accident or alien heritage. For me that is lazy storytelling. I imagine a world where there are a myriad ways that characters might develop their powers.
Here are just a few examples:
Superman is the first character that comes to mind. Born on another planet gave him his power once he reached ours. Nice and neat. They are an alien eliminates so very many questions. Of course it opens doors into what that alien civilization may be like or what other alien life forms they encountered.
Some cultures have heroes whose powers are handed down from generation to generation. While the person behind the mask may change the name and powers stay the same.
I say fortunate because lets face it most of the accidents that create superpowers would actually turn out pretty bad for the victim in the real world. In the comics world it does give us characters like Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk. Some things are just better.
Two words. Captain America. One more. Deathstroke. It is not much of a stretch to imagine this worlds military organizations experimenting on its own soldiers(not to mention enemy combatants). The added bonus is you have characters already trained for battle.
Sometimes it is a magic user, other times magical power is bestowed on a chosen one. From John Constantine to DC’s Captain Marvel to Doctor’s Fate & Strange right on to Zantana magic spells abound.
The X-Men do not have a monopoly on mutation. While most are familiar with mutants through Marvels various X-books there are other examples. Not quite born with powers, more born with the potential. With mutants it usually takes place around puberty. The Inhumans for example go through a right of passage which exposes them to the Terrigan Mists which activate an individuals powers.
From the Quantum Bands to the Blue Beetle Scarab to one of the many-colored power rings objects often transfer their power to the wielder. Whether they are alien, ancient or magic based simple objects often hide great power.
Sometimes it takes a super-genius. Tony Stark built his Iron Man-armour to fight his battles. He is not alone. Whether it is an incredible suit or a ship or even simple gadgets characters have used science for decades to help in the fight against crime. Or even just to commit crimes. Depends on where your morality lies.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. How these powers came about is just the start. That is when you start asking questions.
There should always be questions.