Few scenarios are more terrifying to imagine than a parent killing their own children. The thought of anyone doing this is unthinkable to most. The horror of the situation is the basis of some of our earliest myths, the Titan Cronus eating his offspring in Greek mythology and Abraham tested by God to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis. Many villains wouldn’t dare cross this line of morality. And yet, many heroes in comics and pop culture surprisingly have.
The following 15 alphabetically-listed heroes have committed that most unthinkable of acts: filicide, or the killing of one’s own children. They’ve had their reasons. Sometimes they’ve been manipulated by forces beyond their control. Other times their children threatened their own own lives and they went too far in self defense. But whatever reason they’ve had for their actions, they cannot emerge from this tragedy as the same heroes they were before. Nobody who takes the life they created truly could. With that said — for those who are brave enough to read on — here are 15 heroes who killed their own children.
15. ELLEN RIPLEY
If you want to get technical, this list is not talking about the original Ellen Ripley, who died at the end of “Alien 3” specifically to prevent an evil alien child from coming into the world, but her eighth clone who was the protagonist of the much-maligned fourth Alien film “Alien: Resurrection.” In the film, multiple clones were created so scientists could extract the alien queen embryo that was gestating inside the original Ripley.
Clone-Ripley considers the xenomorphs in the film to be her “children,” and an alien/human hybrid known as the Newborn considers her to be its “mother.” This awkward sense of familial affection doesn’t stop her from annihilating all these perverse interstellar monstrosities, of course. The Newborn dies in typical fashion for the series, sucked out into the vacuum of space, though this particular death also involves clone-Ripley’s new acid blood powers (…there’s a reason we don’t talk much about “Alien: Resurrection”).
14. FAT COBRA
The very existence of this list is proof that being a great hero doesn’t necessarily equal being a great parent. For Fat Cobra, a warrior who fought alongside Iron Fist against Hydra, the dissonance is particularly ironic. He became an Immortal Weapon and the champion of Peng Lai Island by defeating the dreaded snake dragon Xiang Yao. How’d he gain the strength to do that? Killing all the hundreds of children who tried to kill him in revenge for being an absentee father, of course!
While he became a celebrated warrior, when he found out just what he’d done in “Immortal Weapons” Vol. 1 #1 he also became deeply depressed and sunk further into alcoholism. There’s an important lesson to be learned from this sad tale: if you’re going to sleep with hundreds of women around the galaxy, remember to use protection.
If you had a time machine, would you kill baby Hitler? What if you were one of Hitler’s parents? This was the dilemma faced by Genis-Vell, son of Mar-Vell and the third character to use the Captain Marvel title in the Marvel universe.
Genis-Vell’s powers of cosmic awareness drove him insane, and he often stood on the fine line between hero and villain. One of his greatest challenges came in the arc lasting issues #20-24 in “Captain Marvel” Vol. 5, in which he saw visions of a future where his not-yet-born son would turn evil and trigger a mass extinction event throughout the universe. Haunted by this potential disaster, he prevented this future from coming into being by murdering his son as a mere infant. The evil adult son faded away from his visions of the future, but the horror of the incident would never disappear from memory.
12. JACK HARKNESS
The occasional Doctor Who companion and protagonist of the spin-off series “Torchwood” had to sacrifice his grandson Steven in the miniseries “Children of Earth” as part of a desperate but successful effort to defeat the invading alien race known only as The 546. While not technically his child, family is family. Jack’s daughter Alice wanted nothing to do with him after what he did to her son.
Another character in “Children of Earth” also sacrificed his children, John Frobisher. Frobisher was actually played by Peter Capaldi, who’d later play the Twelfth Doctor. As for the Doctor himself, many fans have speculated on whether or not he erased his own children and grandchildren when he erased all the Time Lords in the Time War, though this has not been officially confirmed. Consider this your general Doctor Who-niverse entry!
Kratos, the demigod protagonist of the “God of War” video game series loosely inspired by Greek mythology, is firmly in the “anti-hero” middle ground of the hero / villain dichotomy, though he’s slipped closer and closer towards straight-on villainy as the series has progressed. As sociopathic and violent as many of the gods and monsters he fights, he’s nonetheless humanized by his love of his wife Lysandra and his daughter Calliope.That’s the same wife and daughter he slaughtered in a blind rage while being manipulated by Ares, the original god of war.
In the upcoming “God of War” game, Kratos has another child, a son named Atreus. It has not yet been revealed who the kid’s mother is, or if he’ll end up in a similar tragedy to the rest of Kratos’ family. You can find out when the new “God of War” is released on the PlayStation 4 later in 2017.
Superhero comics have quite a few makeshift families, outsiders who come together as partners and sidekicks and mentors but forma tight familial bond. One of the original 1950s comics series focusing on the Captain Marvel rip-off Marvelman (later renamed Miracleman to avoid legal troubles with certain obvious parties) was titled “Marvelman Family.”
When people talk about Marvelman today, though, they’re almost always talking about the darker, deconstructionist reimagining of the characters by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, with art from Gary Leach and Alan Davis. In this series, the Silver Age adventures are retconned as virtual reality, and in the “real” world the Marvelman Family falls apart. Kid Marvelman becomes a supervillain, wrestling control away from his innocent host body Johnny Bates and fomenting a deep hatred of his former mentor Marvelman. In issue #15, Johnny has to die at Marvelman’s hands in order for the menace of Kid Marvelman to be put safely at bay.
Orpheus’s death at the hands of his father Morpheus (Dream of the Endless) in the “Brief Lives” arc of “Sandman” is the only instance on this list where the death of a child came at the child’s request. Orpheus had already spent millennia cursed, living as a severed head, and demanded the assisted suicide in exchange for giving Morpheus information about Destruction’s whereabouts.
In a twisted way, this mercy killing was the closest this family had been in some time. When Morpheus couldn’t revive Orpheus’ bride Eurydice, Orpheus cut himself off from his father. When Orpheus was cursed, Morpheus sent others to protect his son but couldn’t take it upon himself to repair their damaged relationship. Guilt over Orpheus’s life and death contributed to Morpheus dying in “The Kindly Ones.”
Mystique’s status as a “hero” or “villain” fluctuates a lot, yet traveling back in time to kill her son Graydon Creed in “X Factor” Vol 1 #130 was — oddly for a filicide — not really a “villain” moment. Graydon was the leader of the anti-mutant terrorist organization Friends of Humanity, and in the future the organization was responsible for killing Trevor Chase, the grandson of Mystique’s lover Destiny’s grandson.
Graydon later came back as a superpowered corpse reanimated by Bastion, a villain with his own twisted past (and future). He was then killed again in a fight with the X-Men in “X-Force” #28. Whether on the side of Magneto or of Xavier, at least mutants can all come together in agreement on this fact: Graydon Creed sucked.
In the first “Dark Tower” book, “The Gunslinger,” the source material for the upcoming film releasing on August 4th, Roland the Gunslinger is faced with a choice between saving the Tower and saving Jake, a boy he loved as though he was his son. Perhaps surprisingly to some readers, he chooses the Tower. While Jake manages to survive, at the very least this could be considered serious negligence.
In the final book, simply titled “The Dark Tower,” Roland has to deal with his actual son, the half-demon Mordred. Mordred’s sole mission was killing his father. To put it lightly, he didn’t receive as much love from Roland as Jake did and was none too pleased about it. Facing off in the book’s climactic battle, Roland kills his demonic spawn.
6. SCARLET WITCH
If you create lives by warping reality, does returning reality back to normal, thereby eliminating them from existence, count as murder? Feel free to debate this matter in the comments, but we are going to count it here. Artificial or not, life was snuffed out by the creator of it.
Billy and Tommy Maximoff, children created during the “House of M” event as magical constructs by Scarlet Witch and The Vision as replacements for their real kids who were murdered, were more than just illusions. Due to containing life essence from Mephisto (the Marvel universe’s Devil, who comes into play again further down this list), these kids had souls, and losing them deeply hurt Wanda. In “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade” #6, it was confirmed their souls were reincarnated into the twin superheroes Wiccan and Speedy.
Following the “Infinite Crisis” event, the three issue miniseries “Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre” found God’s Spirit of Vengeance (not to be confused with Marvel’s Ghost Rider) merging with a new human host: Gotham police detective Crispus Allen. In the third and final issue, the merging of identities took a dramatic turn in which Crispus Allen had to kill his son, Malcolm.
Crispus, revived from the dead, was supposed to bring his murderer Jim Corrigan to justice. Malcolm took the matter into his own hands, shooting and killing Corrigan. The Spectre had to pass judgment on Malcolm, who died in his father’s arms. Understanding that The Spectre’s job of judgment is not the same as condemnation, Crispus had fully accepted the responsibilities of the metaphysical merger.
Mention the words “One More Day” to almost any Spider-Man fan and you’re going to be greeted with groans at best, screams of frothing rage at worst. Give or take a Broadway musical disaster, it’s generally considered to be Peter Parker’s lowest moment. To recount why this story is so hated, the plot involves Peter making a deal with Mephisto to alter the timeline.
He did this to resurrect his Aunt May back to life, but in so doing, erased Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane, her knowledge of his secret identity, and the existence of their would-be daughter. While the abstract nature of the varying timelines prevents this from being the cruelest example of filicide on this list, it is perhaps the most out of character for the hero in question, and this 2007 story arc is loathed for a reason.
3. STANNIS BARATHEON
What is a character as pathetic as Stannis Baratheon doing on a list of heroes? Honestly, when dealing with morality as murky as that in “Game of Thrones,” simply not being Ramsay Bolton is good enough to make a semblance of an argument for being both a hero and relatively super. Debate the categorization if you wish, but what can’t be denied is that the blood sacrifice of his beloved daughter Shireen is one of the first scenes that come to mind when thinking of parental sacrifice.
Even by the grisly standards of “Game of Thrones”, that scene was incredibly disturbing (it was ranked as the series’ fourth most scream-worthy moment on this site), and the shock was universal among viewers. It was one of the first scenes that hadn’t played out in any of the books published so far, so even the “Song of Ice and Fire” book fans who had known about the Red Wedding and most every other major twist up to that point had their hearts ripped out.
This entry is technically cheating because Superman’s son in the alternate universe video game spin-off comic “Injustice: Gods Among Us” was never actually born (and please, don’t get into THAT debate in the comments — or do, we don’t mind). However, the circumstances of why the son was never born are horrific enough that they deserve to be discussed on this list.
Under the influence of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, Superman believed he was killing Doomsday. He came to his senses when he noticed “Doomsday” had two heartbeats. One was his unborn child. The other one? Lois Lane. Superman was tricked into killing his pregnant lover. On the scale of terrible things that can happen in Superman’s world, that’s at least as terrible as Lex Luthor stealing forty cakes. And that’s pretty terrible. Somehow, this shocker was only the fifteenth most chilling death in the “Injustice” series, which is saying a LOT about that series.
Even though this isn’t a ranked list, it would still be fitting for Wolverine to be number one if it were. While Fat Cobra technically has the highest child body count around these parts, Wolverine has killed his kids in more different scenarios, and coming from a much more beloved and developed hero, it’s all the more intense.
In “Uncanny X-Force” #35, he drowned his son Akihiro, also known as Daken, in an intense confrontation. Daken later came back to life (death is rarely permanent in comic books), but other children of Wolverine haven’t been so lucky. In “Wolverine” #13, Wolverine killed Gunhawk, Shadowstalker, Fire Knives, Saw Fist, and Cannon Foot, the five assassins known as The Mongrels. He was not aware until afterwards they were all his children. That’s six filicides. If you were to include his “Age of Apocalypse” counterpart Weapon X’s murder of his daughter Kimiko, that’d be seven, but that might not be fair. Weapon X is just an a-hole.
Can you think of any other times parents shuffled their children off of a fictional mortal coil? Let us know in the comments!
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