Monday, July 11, 2011

The Fate of Fathers

For Father's Day this year, my sons both made me cards. Khristian, a comic book fan who knew what his dad liked, drew me a card that said "Spending Father's Day with my dad..." and on the inside was a crying Batman that said, "Something I can do that even Batman can't!" It made me smile and gave both of us a fun afternoon of figuring out what other heroes had a similar problem.

Did you ever stop to realize how many superheroes are fatherless? It seems like a requirement before you put on the spandex!

Here's what we're talking about:

Peter Parker 

Though the fate of his real father is kind of convoluted (spies? Maybe, maybe not), let's look at the man who raised him: Uncle Ben. Here was this kindly old man who gave us the single most famous line of advice in comic book history ("With great power..."), and how does he end up getting repaid? Shot dead by a burglar in the first issue! Of course, that's a better fate than being run down by a car like a stray dog as he was in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark". Still, that single act changed the carefree direction Peter had taken with his powers and turned him into a superhero.

Tim Drake/Robin 2

This Robin (later Red Robin) actually started out with a fairly decent father relationship. His dad tried, if nothing else, to keep an eye on his son. Even when he eventually found out his little boy was fighting crime with Batman, he kept it cool even though he made it known often that he didn't like it.

Though the relationship had some very rough spots, it ended in a horribly painful way with Tim screaming into the phone for his dad while Jack faced a very out-of-shape Captain Boomerang in Identity Crisis.  In the end, the kid became an orphan with his dad dying in his arms. Captain Boomerang came back in Brightest Day, Tim's father did not.


Can there be any doubt that his father's death was pivotal in this character's development? His all-consuming battle with criminals everywhere began with Crime Alley and hasn't stopped since.

In later years a miniseries called "The Untold Legend of the Batman" would show how Bruce's father was actually the first one to put on a Batman-type costume at a costume party just before they died, which Bruce would later say gave him the subconscious push for his own costume design.

In a very cool twist, the Flashpoint Batman series allowed Thomas Wayne to survive the mugging encounter, with young Bruce dying. In essence it gave us a new angle on the old Batman myth. Apparently, that moment in Crime Alley was destined to create a hero.


This guy wins the big prize because he lost not just one dad, but two! And not only that, but Pa Kent has died more times than Aunt May so Supes just keeps getting gut punched reboot after reboot!

Originally sent to Earth from Krypton by his biological father, Jor-El, Superman only later learned how his father had sacrificed his own life to save his son. Fortunately, the Kents found young Kal-El and he was assured a happy life forever.

Nope. Pa Kent has died in the comics, cartoons, Smallville and even the movies. No matter how many times he comes back, it seems the writers are determined this man must stay dead for Clark to carry on as a superhero.

Dick Grayson/Robin 1

A circus acrobat...what could be safer? Well, if the mob moves in on your circus, accidents can happen.

Dick and his parents made up the Flying Graysons, a trapeze act that was the hit of the circus. Unfortunately, one night the wires broke and Dick joined the ranks of superhero orphans. Robin was brought into the Batman comics because they were trying to reach a wider audience, and it actually worked. Soon every major hero seemed to take on a child sidekick (Captain America had Bucky, Captain Marvel had Captain Marvel Jr., Sandman had Sandy, etc).


Jack Murdock was a fighter who ended up on the wrong side of some gangsters by not throwing a fight. As a result, they killed him all kinds of dead while his blind son could do nothing to help him. Later on, Matt Murdock would put on the red spandex (or red leather if you saw the movie) and fight crime to avenge his dad's wrongful death.

While by no means a saint, Matt's father showed true character in his death, which is sort of an underlying theme throughout most of the fathers' deaths on here. There was some sort of selfless act that caused it.

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan's dad was a test pilot for Ferris. That meant he got to fly a lot of unstable planes because he was the best pilot there was. See the possibility of problems here?

His dad was a test pilot. Hal himself would grow up to be a test pilot...for the same company. Sounds a little crazy, I know, but it led to him being considered fearless enough for a green power ring when the time came for a new Green Lantern.

The death of Hal's father left a gaping hole in his life, and it motivated him to do some crazy stuff before he got the ring. Even after the ring, though, his father's legacy continued to push him to be a better man. Though we barely even saw the man, his "blaze of glory" moment reverberated through the DC universe for decades.


Dr. OTR said...

People have long noted that Disney films, too, have the same "father must die" attitude. (Think Bambi, Lion King, etc.) I guess it's an easy trope used to establish motivation and character development.

Incidentally, Tim was Robin 3, not Robin 2. (Unless you don't recognize Jason as a true Robin?)

Brian Reaves said...

Believe it or not I actually remembered Jason Todd, but just did some really bad math putting Tim in the lineup, I guess. :)

César Hernández-Meraz said...

Everett Thomas, Synch, from the Nineties comic from Marvel, Generation X, is a 16 year-old hero who came from a very decent family.

He was instantly likeable. He forgave his wrongdoers. He helped the weak. He was brave even when he could be seen as powerless (his power to get in synch with other mutants and copy their powers left him with no powers of his own if no other mutant was around).

This comes from the education his parents gave him. Their parents made a habit of adopting kids, and they did not mind adopting kids from any ethnicity (they were an African-American family). He learned from them what it means to care for others.

Of course, he is the one who sacrificed himself to save the others when the school was attacked and a bomb was about to explode...

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