“With great power comes great responsibility” is a modern adage — sometimes attributed to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben — that applies to superheroes and parents alike. Being a father is one of the greatest responsibilities superheroes have to bear. Some carry it well, giving loving guidance to their youngsters, imparting wisdom and traditions of their families or their lost civilizations, and, in short, helping them be the best people they can be.
On the other hand, some fathers — heroes, villains and demigods alike — handle that responsibility poorly. They can’t teach their children to be better people because they’re pretty rotten to the core themselves, full of arrogance and avarice in abundant measure. Some perpetuate a cycle of abuse, terrorizing the kids in their care and filling their sons’ or daughters’ minds with hate. Some offer their children little but neglect. Some think of their children, if they think of them at all, not as people but as vessels for their ambitions to rule, be it worlds or galaxies, without regard for what the kids might want. Worst, some battle their kids physically, committing assault and battery — or even murder. Here are 15 examples of the worst of super-powered fathers in comics.
15. REED RICHARDS
Reed Richards is the cornerstone of the Fantastic Four. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961), Reed brought along his girlfriend Sue Storm, her younger brother Johnny and best friend Ben Grimm along on an ill-fated spaceflight that changed their lives forever. Reed and Sue’s wedding in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965) was a blockbuster affair, but the birth of their son Franklin in Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968) was fraught with danger. Reed journeyed to the Negative Zone to control the energies in Sue’s body.
Reed’s tendency to put science over family angered Sue enough to leave him in Fantastic Four #130 (January 1973). And Franklin’s burgeoning reality-warping power led Reed to shut down the boy’s mind lest he destroy the universe, in Fantastic Four #141 (December 1973). This prompted Sue to leave Reed again. Sue’s next pregnancy was also difficult; she miscarried in Fantastic Four #287 (June 1984). Sue’s third pregnancy, with daughter Valeria, was also difficult, and it took the aid of Dr. Doom to deliver her safely, in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #54 (June 2002).
The allegedly wise leader of Asgard may be a wise and stern ruler of the kingdom, but he’s pretty lousy at being a father to sons Thor and Loki. He’s punished Thor, ostensibly to teach him “humility” but clearly favoring him, thus fostering incessant sibling rivalry.
Odin, based on the Norse god of legend, first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #85 (October 1962), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Odin sired Thor with Gaea, and brought Loki into his household as a baby, when he was discovered as a survivor of Asgard’s war against the Frost Giants. Odin’s idea of molding Thor into a proper ruler was to brainwash him into thinking he was a human man, Don Blake. Oddly, Odin didn’t see fit to curtail Loki’s powers despite Loki’s numerous schemes to fight Thor or take over the throne of Asgard.
13. BRIAN BANNER
Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, is a monster of violent rage that has its roots in his childhood. His father, Brian Banner, was himself a battered child, and resolved not to have children. He first appeared briefly in The Incredible Hulk #267 (January 1982), in a story written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Sal Buscema. While working on a research project on clean nuclear energy in Los Alamos, N.M., Brian devolved into alcoholism and bickered with colleagues. Fired after causing an accidental explosion, Brian became certain it caused him genetic damage despite assurances to the contrary. After his wife Rebecca had a son, Brian became consumed with the belief that baby Bruce had a “monster gene.”
In Incredible Hulk #312 (October 1985), written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Mike Mignola and Gerry Talaoc, Brian batters Rebecca upon learning how smart the boy was. It’s revealed he murdered her, and assaults Bruce when he visits his mother’s grave. Incredible Hulk -1 (July 1997), written by Peter David and drawn by Adam Kubert and Mark Farmer, reveals that Bruce struck back — and Brian Banner broke his neck on the tombstone.
12. THE RED SKULL
Captain America’s opposite number, The Red Skull, didn’t want the daughter he had; he wanted a son. The Red Skull was created by writer Joe Simon and artists Jack Kirby and France Herron in Captain America Comics #7 (October 1941). His daughter, Sinthea Schmidt, first appeared in Captain America #290 (February 1984), but her origin was revealed in issue #298 (October 1984) in a story written by J. Marc DeMatties and drawn by Paul Neary.
The Skull described her mother as a washerwoman he met on the Isle of Exiles whom he had no regard for beyond her ability to bear him a child. Not caring that she died during the birth and insulted upon discovering the babe was a girl, the Skull spat on the corpse and grabbed the baby, intent on tossing her into the rocks on the shoreline — but held off. Instead, he indoctrinated her in his hate-filled philosophy, and used a machine to accelerate her growth to adulthood. However, because Sin is a girl, he never regarded her as a suitable heir.
The trail of misery behind Slade Wilson, the mercenary Deathstroke the Terminator, includes both of his sons and his daughter. Deathstroke was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez and first appeared in The New Teen Titans #2 (December 1980). His elder son Grant had undertaken physical enhancements to follow in Deathstroke’s footsteps and assassinate the Titans, but the process failed, and Deathstroke moved to complete the contract. His son Joseph was rendered mute when Deathstroke was too slow to rescue him from a terrorist who cut his throat. Joseph became Titans member Jericho, but ultimately was possessed by the souls of Azarath. To free Jericho, Deathstroke killed him, in New Titans #83 (February 1982).
10. LEX LUTHOR
Lex Luthor’s interest in being a father far superseded his interest in being a husband. Post-Crisis, in Action Comics #724 (August 1996), Luthor engaged in a marriage of convenience with Contessa Erica Alexandra del Portenza to regain control of his company. In Superman (Vol. 2) #131 (January 1998), written by Dan Jurgens and drawn by Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein, baby Lena is born. Luthor arranges for del Portenza to be kept under sedation during and after the birth — permanently. Luthor raises Lena without del Portenza, although at one point she escapes and takes Lena along. In retaliation, Luthor sends a missile strike on del Portenza’s island retreat before he takes the presidency of the United States.
When Brainiac 13 came to Metropolis from the 64th century, the older version of Brainiac possessed Lena and aged her. Luthor traded Lena to Brainiac 13 for its futuristic technology, in Action Comics #763 (March 2000). Lena, who has the form of a teenager, appears in the crossover “Our Worlds at War,” playing Luthor off against Brainiac. By story’s end, she becomes an infant again. She has not been seen after Luthor lost the presidency.
9. THE GREEN GOBLIN
Being the son of Norman Osborn has meant nothing but harassment and abuse for his son Harry. But then, Norman learned it from his father, Amberson Osborn, a bitter business failure who took out his frustrations in drink and on his family, as revealed in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14 (1994). Norman Osborn grows up to be a hard-charging businessman, often neglecting Harry and berating him for being weak whenever they did spend time together. A failed experiment with a strength-enhancing formula stolen from business partner Mendel Stromm unhinged Osborn’s mind, leading him to adopt the criminal persona the Green Goblin.
The Goblin learned Spider-Man’s identity and terrorized him, and caused the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973). He also caused Harry a life filled with psychological issues, leading him to use drugs and become the Green Goblin himself. It was also revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #509 (August 2004) that Osborn fathered twins with Gwen.
8. RA’S AL GHUL
“The Head of the Demon,” Ra’s al Gaul” has lived for four centuries, or six, or more — even he has lost track — and has had over that span several wives and children. But only one matters the most to him: his daughter Talia. Ra’s al Ghul was created by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, and first appeared in Batman #232 (June 1971). The head of the League of Assassins, Ra’s works to restore the world’s ecological balance, intent on attaining this goal by killing most of its human population. This has brought him into conflict with Batman numerous times, whom Ra’s respects above all other adversaries. Ra’s also thinks of Batman as the best potential successor and mate for Talia, even marrying them in DC Special Series #15 (Summer 1978). For her part, Talia loves Batman, but serves as her father’s right hand only to the extent that their goals coincide.
Ra’s had another daughter, Nyssa Raatko, whom he allowed to remain in a concentration camp during World War II rather than help her, as revealed in the Batman: Death and the Maidens miniseries (October 2003-August 2004). Nyssa ultimately was killed by the League of Assassins.
An extra-dimensional demon of immense power, Trigon, created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, first appeared in The New Teen Titans #2 (December 1980). Over centuries, Trigon has sired untold numbers of children in multiple dimensions to have a successor, But most were killed in infancy — sometimes by their own mothers — to prevent the spread of his evil. However, his daughter Raven with the Earth woman Arella survived, as she and Arella were spirited away to the dimension Azarath to hide. Raven grew up with intense training to suppress her emotions, but as a teenager learned Trigon was coming to Earth’s dimension to assert his power. She formed the New Teen Titans to stop him, although she didn’t exactly tell them that.
It was later revealed, in Titans (Vol. 2) #3 (August 2008), that Trigon has three surviving sons — Jacob, Jared and Jesse — who each represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
The being known as Highfather is Izaya the Inheritor, warrior, leader and ruler of New Genesis. Created by Jack Kirby, Highfather first appeared in The New Gods #1 (February/March 1971) for his “Fourth World” saga, which presented the rival worlds of peaceful New Genesis and hellish Apokolips. Wars and incursions from Apokolips into New Genesis led Highfather and Darkseid, rule of Apokolips to broker a peace — by each trading a son to the other to raise. With such a swap, each realm pledged not to attack the other, as shown in The New Gods #7 (February-March 1972).
Highfather took in Orion, Darkseid’s second son, with the aim of taming his rage and making him a loyal defender of the New Genesis realm. In exchange, Highfather’s son Scott Free went to Apokolips, which didn’t do much for their relationship.
Highfather’s son, Scott Free, definitely got the raw end of the deal in the trade that sent Orion to live in New Genesis. Scott Free got to grow up in Apokolips — a realm whose leadership was dedicated to crushing the spirits of all its inhabitants, save for the brutal Parademons who keep the lowlies in line, and the Female Furies who keep them in line. Scott was promptly handed off to Granny Goodness and trained in Granny’s “Orphanage.” The trade that sent Darkseid’s son to New Genesis and Highfather’s son, Scott Free, to Apokolips was hardly even. Scott undoubtedly got the raw end of the deal, being sent to a lifetime of physical abuse in “Granny Goodness’s Orphanage.” However, Scott’s spirit would not be broken, and he became the escape artist Mr. Miracle, debuting in Mister Miracle #1 (April 1971).
Needless to say, Darkseid doesn’t care for Mister Miracle anywhere near as much as Highfather came to care for Orion. Darkseid barely even acknowledges his other son, Kalibak, who has developed a deep-seeded desire to prove himself worthy of his father’s lineage, something shown pretty much every time he takes on Orion or the Justice League in battle.
Sabretooth, whose true name may or may not be Victor Creed, has lived a life of rage and bloodlust. Created by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne in Iron Fist #14 (August 1977), Sabretooth has been a long-running antagonist of the X-Men and of Wolverine in particular. Early appearances indicated that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father, and would go out of his way to battle him just to prove his dominance. It started with the time Sabretooth came to the Blackfoot Indian community where Wolverine was staying on his birthday and murdered Wolverine’s lover, Silver Fox. Sabretooth began a tradition of tracking down and battling Wolverine on subsequent birthdays — and killing other women he was involved with. It was later revealed that Sabretooth is not Wolverine’s father.
Sabretooth is the father of the anti-mutant terrorist Graydon Creed, conceived while Sabretooth was on a spy mission in Germany and having an affair with Mystique, who also was in disguise and who also abandoned the boy.
Omni-Man came to Earth posing as a hero, but came as an advance scout of an invasion force from the Viltrumite Empire. Created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker, Omni-Man first appeared in Invincible #1 (January 2003). He lived on Earth under the guise of Nolan Grayson, married a human woman named Debbie and had a son named Mark. When Mark began exhibiting the superhuman strength and other powers of his father’s people, Omni-Man helped him develop his own superhero guise, Invincible.
After various adventures, Omni-Man revealed to Invincible his true mission as a conqueror, and invited Invincible to join him, in Invincible #12 (April 2004). When Invincible refused to participate, Omni-Man fought him in a battle that shattered a city and took them around the world, through mountains and into the sea. Fortunately, Omni-Man held back from making the killing blow.
2. (DON’T CALL HIM) FU MANCHU
Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, grew up loyal to his father — Zheng Zhu, the ancient Chinese scientist and mysticist bent on conquest of the Western World. The character, then known as Fu Manchu, was licensed to Marvel in the early ’70s; with the lapse of the license, the name “Fu Manchu” is now said to be one of many aliases. Shang-Chi and Fu Manchu first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973), retitled Master of Kung Fu with issue #18.
Fu Manchu trained Shang-Chi since age 3 to be a fighter, and sent him to kill longtime adversary Dr. John Petrie. Petrie’s ally, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, revealed to Shang-Chi Fu Manchu’s full history of murder and oppression. This prompted Shang-Chi to switch sides and Fu Manchu to seek Shang-Chi’s death for his defiance — again and again.
The feral X-Man Wolverine has had multiple children over the decades of his life, born from liaisons with different women here and there. He also has killed multiple people over the decades of his life, before, during and after his days in the Weapon X program and as an X-Man. This inspired the formation of the Red Right Hand, which first appeared in Wolverine (Vol. 4) #1 (November 2010). Its members are people obsessed with sending Wolverine’s soul to hell for killing their relatives and loved ones.
In Wolverine (Vol. 4) #10-#14 (August-October 2011), he faces off against the Red Right Hand’s enforcers, the Mongrels — Gunhawk, Fire Knives, Shadowstalker, Cannon Foot and Saw Fist. He slays them all, only to learn they were his sons and daughters. Worse, the Red Right Hand commits suicide to prevent his getting revenge.
Which comic book father do you feel is the worst? Let us know who in the comments!