While we associate superheroes with young men and women at the peak of their abilities, the comic book industry has always been interested in telling stories about older versions of the characters. We've seen what happens when Superman, Batman, Wolverine, and others have been fighting for too long. The results often aren't pretty, although sometimes they're inspiring. In the case of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, an aging Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to once again haunt the night of Gotham City, which is under attack from criminal gangs and other evildoers. If not exactly inspiring, Batman's return is shocking and memorable. It also gave us a look at an older Superman who now served a corrupt U.S. government. He is a broken man -- not in body but in spirit -- who is still trying to figure out if he ever actually helped his adoptive planet.
Then there are movies like Logan and The Dark Knight Rises. In Logan, it's been a long time since Wolverine's X-Men days. It's the end of days for mutantkind and Logan works as a driver, a shell of his former self. It's only after a little girl named Laura enters his life that Logan is forced to become the hero he once was. The Dark Knight Rises tells a similar story for Bruce Wayne except that he's not so old but simply broken -- both by loss and in body. Here are other heroes who in old age may not look their best but may very well rise to the occasion one last time:
Through the years, we've seen quite a few versions of an older Dark Knight. Writers like Paul Pope and Frank Miller have told classic stories featuring a battle-worn and scarred Batman who is making a last stand against crime and his own mortality. The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year 100 are absolutely NOT to be missed.
But their versions of the Old Bat are nothing like this marvelous painting by artist Eddie Liu, who envisions an older Bruce with a stunning mustache and beard. He's almost got a Guy Fawkes thing going. While Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo gave us the Bruce Beard a few years back, we wouldn't mind seeing the Bat Beard.
You might call this pick of a bit of a cheat considering that there are a few real storylines featuring an older Wolverine, but you really can't argue against Old Man Logan. There are few images in comics as awesome as a graying Logan slashing at his enemies. If you've not read the seminal Marvel comic series Wolverine: Old Man Logan, you've probably at the very least seen Logan, the excellent movie directed by James Mangold.
The fan art above by Neil Nelson is yet another vision of an older Wolverine -- a decidedly more vicious take on the character that's less "worn old man" and more "fierce warrior." Someone get this guy a comic book to star in!
Aquaman gets a bad rap. Known to most of the mainstream audience as the wimp of DC's pantheon of superheroes, the King of Atlantis is best recognized as the dude who talks to fish while Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman do all the real fighting. While Aquaman has had some great comic runs over the years, including Geoff Johns' exquisite tenure during the New 52 era, it will perhaps be the movie starring Jason Momoa that will finally change the audience's mind.
For now, this drawing of an older and even dorkier Aquaman by Donald Soffritti really isn't helping the hero's case, though it is downright adorable. Let's hope that Momoa can finally put Aquaman in his rightful place as one of the toughest heroes in all the DC Universe.
17 THE PHANTOM
The Phantom is one of those pulp heroes to whom comics owe a huge debt. He pre-dates Batman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America. He could even be a big influence on the Dark Knight's own backstory -- rich, operates out of a cave, wears a skintight crimefighting suit, and becomes a superhero after the death of his father. The similarities are uncanny.
You may remember the 1996 movie starring Billy Zane, although the mixed reviews may have in fact doomed it to obscurity in the end. Either way, we think this pulpy superhero flick is underrated. At the very least, artist Lesley Vamos has commemorated the Man Who Cannot Die with this drawing of an older Kit Walker.
16 BLACK WIDOW
Natasha Romanova is one of the most intriguing female characters ever created by Marvel Comics. It's a shame, then, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't quite done the secret-agent-turned-Avenger justice. Sure, she's got the moves to fight as one of Earth's mightiest heroes but does she also have the story and character development to complement her combat skills? It's debatable.
While we wait for a potential Black Widow movie, fans have taken to drawing their versions of the character and sharing their work on the internet. This drawing of an elderly Black Widow by Alex Solis is unlike anything we've seen before.
As the Caped Crusader's first sidekick, Dick Grayson has always held a special place in the Batman mythos. He's gone from Robin the Boy Wonder to Nightwing to super spy to wearing the cape and cowl himself. In fact, it's when Dick decides to embody the dark figure created by his mentor that we get some of the most interesting stories about this decidedly more lighthearted character.
Dick Grayson is set to once again don the cape and cowl in the upcoming Batman #51 by Tom King and Lee Weeks while Bruce Wayne is away on jury duty. While we could totally see a day when Dick might become the Batman full time, artist Miguel Oropeza has envisioned the Boy Wonder growing old as Nightwing.
While Superman has been around since 1933, he never seems to grow old (unless you count stories like Kingdom Come). But Superman has still died a few times in the line of duty, whether it be in the famous "The Death of Superman," Grant Morrison's brilliant All-Star Superman, or his more recent demise at the end of the New 52 era.
What would it be like to see Superman reach old age? Artist Eddie Liu paints his vision of an elderly Man of Steel. Liu is really fond of giving superheroes cool facial hair. The Man of Steel has clearly aged well.
13 IRON MAN
Robert Downey Jr. has been gracing the big screen as Iron Man for the past 10 years, a tenure that's not to be taken lightly, especially in a superhero role that's both demanding physically and the sheer amount of movies he's appeared in. The question now is: how will Downey Jr. make his exit from the MCU?
Old age is probably not an option for Tony Stark. As we saw in Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man took the "one-way trip" to face off against Thanos. While he survived his initial encounter with the Mad Titan, there's no guarantee that he'll fare as well in the sequel. Still, artist Alex Solis has envisioned the hero in old age. It's sort of grotesque, but equally as brilliant.
12 PUNISHER (... KIND OF)
The Punisher is not a guy you'd ever expect to make it to old age. Like other vigilantes such as Batman, Punisher's crusade against the criminal scum that stalk the streets of New York City can only really end one way: violently. There probably won't be a peaceful death for Frank Castle.
While artist Andreas Englund doesn't outright declare this incredible piece of an aging superhero as Punisher fan art, it's pretty clear that it's at the very least inspired by the vigilante, with the skull symbol and the gun at his hip. Castle was also fond of tights back in the early days.
11 CAPTAIN AMERICA
The leader of the Earth's mightiest heroes has become one of the most beloved big-screen characters of the last decade. A big part of that is Chris Evans' excellent portrayal of the Nazi-punching, curse-word-hating superhero. With quite a few movies under his belt, Captain America has solidified his place as America's premier superhero.
Of course, Avengers: Infinity War saw him suffer a big defeat against Thanos, as the Mad Titan managed to collect all of the Infinity Stones and erase half of the universe's population. How will Cap save the day now? Alex Solis' elderly Cap sure doesn't look up to the task.
The Man Without Fear has certainly seen better days. Donald Soffritti's illustration of an older Daredevil in a much more precarious situation than the usual ninja-fighting hijinks. Daredevil now needs a guide dog to lead him down the street and his costume has certainly fit him better. Soffritti's also drawn Elektra in a similar state and she's not fared much better.
Daredevil has returned into the public consciousness of late after appearing on three Netflix shows, including two seasons of his own solo series and The Defenders team-up series. The Man Without Fear is certainly here to stay and is hopefully not growing old any time soon.
9 GREEN LANTERN
Green Lantern is a generational character. Depending on what era of the character you grew up in, you probably associate Green Lantern with one person or another, despite there being literally thousands of them. For kids growing up in the late '90s and early '00s, fans probably most associate Green Lantern with John Stewart from the Justice League cartoon.
Frederic Pham Chuong envisions an older Hal Jordan, the second character to wear the green power ring after Alan Scott in the '40s. Hal famously became a villain named Parallax later in his life, but he got better. DC has returned to the status quo in the last few years and put Hal back in the role of Green Lantern.
8 WONDER WOMAN
The fact that it took Wonder Woman so long to appear on the big screen only made Gal Gadot's excellent solo film all the more satisfying. The 2017 movie introduced the origin story of the Amazonian warrior who would one day become one of the leaders of the Justice League.
Unlike Alex Solis' illustration, Wonder Woman doesn't really age in the DCEU. While she began her fight against evildoers during World War I, she'll next pop back up in the '80s as a totally radical version of herself. We just can't wait to watch her next adventure on the big screen.
Where Batman goes, Robin the Boy Wonder follows. Even if the destination is old age! Well, at least when it comes to this Donald Soffritti illustration. Robin never really grows old since young characters tend to move on from the sidekick role once they're old enough to go their own way.
Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake have all moved on one way or another from the Boy Wonder. Even stories about an older Batman feature a younger Robin, such as in the case of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which features young Carrie Kelly as the new, glasses-wearing Boy Wonder.
Thor has had a tough go of it as of late. He lost an eye and his hammer in Thor: Ragnarok and was unable to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. The God of Thunder was one of the few heroes left in the universe after the Mad Titan erased half of all life. Hopefully, Thor will be able to rise to the occasion and save the day in the sequel.
Artist Sabir has drawn a sketch of Old Man Thor, who looks a lot more like Odin with his gray beard and hair. Of course, this image is reminiscent of Old King Thor, who absolutely wrecked his enemies in the end of days. Sabir's Thor seems a bit more friendly, though.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is getting a relaunched series this month with writer Nick Spencer (the guy who recently brought you Hydra Captain America) and artist Ryan Ottley. The new Amazing Spider-Man #1 ushers in a new era for the character, who's been written for the last decade by Dan Slott.
With Marvel's Fresh Start relaunch, the veteran Spidey creator is finally handing over the keys to a new creative team for all-new adventures. One version of Spidey we probably won't see in Spencer and Ottley's run is this elderly version from Alex Solis. Old Man Spider-Man could be an interesting angle, though... and we're not talking about Spider-Man: Reign.
Cyclops has been around since the very beginning of the X-Men. Part of that very first class at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, he donned the yellow and blue X-Men tights in that very first issue written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. Scott Summers has been a staple of X-Men comics ever since.
Artist Matt Timson imagines an older Cyclops, one who has experienced many strange adventures, faced many threats to mutant society, and lost loved ones -- such as his beloved Jean Grey (depending what continuity you're following). Battle-worn and with a shaggy beard, Cyclops shows that he's as tough as ever, even if he's balding a bit.
Rogue can take the powers of anyone she touches, an ability she sees as a bit more of a curse than a gift. The early X-Men movies were all about Rogue coming to terms with her powers as she befriended the other young X-Men, the rebellious Wolverine, and fell in love with Bobby Drake, who is better known as Iceman.
In the end, Rogue chose to give up her powers in the ill-advised X-Men: The Last Stand, but the less said about that the better. We have to wonder if an older Rogue would have managed to master her powers to the point of being able to touch others. The way Lesley Vamos draws her, it doesn't look like it...
This illustration by Alex Solis proves that the Incredible Hulk will always be mad, no matter how old he is. The dude will always be able to smash his way through walls and smash his enemies with a rage-fueled fist. In Solis' quirky superhero universe, it seems that the Hulk fares all right in old age.
The Hulk has had quite a few status quo changes of late in both the comics and movies. Amadeus Cho became the new Hulk after Bruce Banner lost the ability to transform into the big guy. Meanwhile, in the MCU, Bruce spent some time in outer space with Thor before returning to Earth, only to discover that he could no longer transform.
1 THE FLASH
The fastest man alive is known around the comic book world for his speed, youth, his positive attitude in even the darkest of situations, and his spry step. Whether it's trying to stop Gorilla Grodd from unleashing his latest plan to take over the world of man or racing Superman to prove who's faster, the Flash tends to have a smile on his face.
Alex Solis' Old Man Flash isn't quite the man he used to be. In fact, the Scarlet Speedster has seen much better days. Unable to walk all on his own anymore, the Flash depends on a walker to get him through the Speed Force. It may be time to hand over the suit to Wally, Barry.