Marvel and DC comics were always “hard” on their characters. From the 1940s, both companies changed their characters to be more relatable to the fans, and most of the time, the superheroes have tragic stories that propel them to help the ones in need. The so-called Mary Sues and flawless characters were retconned, and the “ordinary” beings that can relate to “mortals” is a mantra still really present in mainstream comics.
Injuries, real-life situations, grief, death, and emotions are now the biggest part of every good superhero from the comics, and what can a superhero do or live through to be relatable to “normal” people? Their parents can die and get through strong grief that motivates them or makes them weaker in the long run. In this article, we will list the top 20 superheroes with dead parents in Marvel and DC universes. If you are interested, stay with us until the end of the article.
20. Peacemaker (DC)
Christopher “Chris” Smith, also known as Peacemaker, is far from a normal superhero. He is a vigilante who uses violent ways to achieve peace, which is the superhero’s most “normal” part. He is deeply traumatized, especially by his neo-nazi father, who killed himself in front of his son – in the S.S. uniform.
Throughout his life, the vision of Nazis and his overly criticizing father lurk in his mind long after the suicide, and Peacemaker must deal with that every day. When the Vietnam War escalated, the U.S. needed more troops, prompting Chris to enlist in the army.
Under the influence of his father in his mind, Chris slaughtered the whole village of innocent people – he was charged with 20 years in jail, and his mother, Elizabeth, died during that time. Peacemaker is such a complex and intriguing character, and his back story is the one that should be on the list of the most tragic ones in the fictional media.
19. Punisher (Marvel)
Frank Castle had a really hard life. An Italian-American vigilante is similar to Peacemaker in his ways of fighting against crime, but besides the tragic reason why he became a vigilante (the death of his wife and children), the Punisher also had parents who died too soon in his life.
Frank Castle was always an aggressive and violent person from his childhood, which prompted the notorious organization Hand to monitor him. Marvel tragically characterized the son of the Italian immigrants since his release, and he definitely belongs on this list, despite all the wrong reasons. The Punisher is still one of the most brutal characters in the Marvel Universe – for a good reason.
18. Orion (DC)
The second son of Darkseid, the dictator of the Apokalips, always had a hard life. As a child, Orion was traded to New Genesis leader Highfather for Scott Free as a part of the peace pact between New Genesis and Apokalips. Orion was adopted by the Highfather Izaya, who gave Orion a great childhood.
However, being the son of one of the strongest beings in the universe, who is also an evil dictator, Orion’s peaceful upbringing wasn’t very long. In Countdown to Final Crisis #2 comic book storyline, Orion kills his biological father, Darkseid, by ripping his heart out. The cryptic prophecy of the Source said, “When son slays father, chaos reigns.” This was the prophecy Orion eventually fulfilled, and the chaos continued to reign.
17. Dick Grayson/Nightwing (DC)
Dick Grayson was the first Robin and sidekick for Batman, all the way back in the 1940s. Dick was always a fan-favorite DC superhero who eventually moved on from Robin to Nightwing, his more popular superhero persona.
Of course, it would be odd for a Batman character to be happy without problems. Before Batman took him in as his sidekick, Dick Grayson was the youngest in a family of acrobats known as “Flying Graysons.” Then little boy witnessed his parents brutally murdered by a mafia boss named Tony Zucco after a failed attempt to extort money from the circus that employed them. Despite his tragic past, Dick at least gained another parent, Batman – Dick Grayson is considered by many authors as the first son of Batman.
16. Blade (Marvel)
Blade is a cool character in Marvel comics whose background was retconned at one point, but it was established that Blade is a dhampir – a creature resulting from a union between a vampire and a mortal human. His story wasn’t tragic like the previous entries are, but it’s still quite sad from a wider perspective. Before meeting the Avengers and other Marvel (American) superheroes, Blade traveled all over Europe to stop the vampires “infesting” the Earth.
During her pregnancy, Blade’s mother, Tara Cross, was bitten by a vampire Dr. Frost, and she perished during the birth of her son Eric. As a young boy, Eric meets a veteran vampire hunter Jamal Afari, who teaches him everything he knows. Jamal eventually takes “a fall” for Eric after mistakenly killing an innocent man and forcibly separating from his mentor and only father figure. Jamal eventually dies, and Blade has no one left. Blade continues his quest and mentors will to hunt vampires to seek revenge on the beings that destroyed his life.
15. The Flash (DC)
The Fastest Man alive is one of the most prominent superheroes in the DC universe, and his story is quite known to wider audiences, especially after the CW TV show called The Flash. Barry Allen has immeasurable power, and his speed can literally take him through time.
Since his first appearance, Barry went through a lot in his life – besides his wife Iris West being killed in one comic book storyline, Barry found out that his mother was killed by Eobard Thawne (Reverse Flash) in their home when he was really young. His father, Dr. Henry Allen, was accused of the murder of his wife, Nora, and was sent to prison. The Arrowverse version of the character, The Flash, loses both of his parents.
14. Iron Man (Marvel)
Tony Stark is a resident playboy of the Marvel comics. He didn’t change that much since his first appearance in the comics, but various storylines added something fresh to his character. He could be compared to Bruce Wayne from DC, but Tony was always a character who would double down on everything he did in public. He is mostly the same when acting under the Iron Man persona, but Tony is most endearing.
His parents are Howard Stark, a famous genius and inventor, and Maria Stark, who loved her son immensely. However, the Starks weren’t Tony’s biological parents – the S.H.I.E.L-D. Amanda Armstrong and Hydra agent Jude are Tony’s birth parents. Mary Stark loves her son, and Howard is more reserved; it devastated Tony when his parents were killed in a car crash.
13. Aquaman (DC)
The ruler of Atlantis in the DC universe has a really interesting backstory. He was born to a human father, Tom Curry, and the Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna, who met Arthur’s father during the vicious storm. After his birth, Artur stayed with his father in the lighthouse while his mother returned to Atlantis to rule her kingdom. Tom Curry taught his son everything he knew and made him enjoy the Human World before his inevitable journey to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis.
During the attack on the lighthouse, Tom Curry had a heart attack trying to protect his son, while Atlanna disappeared, saving her son Artur and his friends. After her “death,” Artur Curry, known as Aquaman, became the new ruler of Atlantis.
12. Deadpool (Marvel)
Despite being a comic relief of Marvel comics, Wade Wilson as Deadpool is far from easygoing. He is a tragic character with many mental health issues that mostly stemmed from his hard childhood. His origin story was never outrightly established, and Wade himself can’t remember half of it. His Fourth Wall-breaking prowess confuses writers all the time, but the canon storyline, The Butler, tells us that Deadpool’s parents are alive and well, living in Canada.
However, Deadpool falls under Butler’s influence and orders Wilson to kill his own parents. He does the deed and unknowingly kills them, adding to his tragic background.
11. Tim Drake/Robin (DC)
Another tragic character on this list is Timothy Drake. He first encountered Batman and Dick Grayson while they were in action-fighting crime. He found out about Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s real identities and showed his great detective skills, which impressed Batman.
Of course, not everything went well for Tim, whose father was killed by Captain Boomerang, and his mother died before his father. Tim Drake found out pretty fast that he was being Robin is dangerous territory for anyone, but he still decided to use his skills to help the ones in need.
10. Wolverine (Marvel)
Wolverine is a badass character who became a fan-favorite since his first appearance. His brooding and sometimes aggressive temperament got him in a lot of trouble, which mostly cost his opponents.
James Howlett was born in the 19th century to Thomas Logan, an abusive and alcoholic man who had an affair with Elizabeth Howlett. James had a mutant gene, the claws, that his mother Elizabeth hid from her husband John, Sr. One day, James’s biological father, Thomas Logan, infiltrated the Howlett home and killed John Howlett and Elizabeth, which activated young James’s mutant gene, with which he killed his abusive father.
9. Superman (DC)
Clark Kent has live parents on Earth, but Kal-El’s biological parents from Krypton are dead. We all know Superman’s origin story – just before his planet Krypton was destroyed, Kal-El’s parents Jor-El, and Lara Lor-Van, sent their son to Earth to save him.
When the space pod landed on the Earth, it landed in Smallville, Kansas, where Jonathan and Martha Kent discovered the baby – the couple named the alien boy Clark Kent. Despite having live adoptive parents, Clark discovers his origins and circumstances around his arrival on Earth and mourns his people. Shortly after, Superman was called The Last Son of Krypton.
8. Storm (Marvel)
Another X-Man on this list is Storm, one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel comics. Storm is one of the coolest characters in the Marvel comics, but her backstory is quite sad.
Ororo Munroe is the daughter of a Kenyan tribal princess and an American photojournalist, who lived in Cairo, Egypt. Unfortunately, Ororo’s parents died when a plane crashed into their home, and the young girl was left alone on the streets of Cairo to fend for herself. She would later be approached by Charles Xavier, a leader of the X-Men, and Storm’s life would gain another, greater purpose.
7. Martian Manhunter (DC)
J’onn J’onzz, also known as Martian Manhunter, is one of the strongest DC characters in the comics. His origin story is interesting and really tragic. He was born on the planet Ma’aleca’andra to Green Martians known as M’ryrnn, and Sha’sheen.
J’onn had a twin brother Ma’alefa’ak, who was born with mutant powers, and from the beginning, he showed “evil” tendencies. Ma’alefa’ak grew to despise the Martian culture and proceeded to kill his own mother. J’onn J’onnz’s brother killed his wife and daughter as well, which made the Green Martian mad. J’onn later relocated to Earth, where he found a new purpose.
6. Hulk (Marvel)
Bruce Banner is a genius scientist whose inventions were always regarded highly in his community, but the invention of Gamma rays changed his life forever – he became a Hulk.
Before becoming a respected scientist, and an Avenger, Bruce Banner had a really hard childhood. Bruce was born to Dr. Brian Banner and Rebecca Banner. Bruce’s father neglected young Bruce and even killed Rebecca in front of his son when they tried to escape the abusive father.
Dr. Banner ended up in the mental institution for fifteen years until Bruce decided to let him back into his life. Unfortunately, Bruce killed his father in his Hulk form and forgot about it. However, Brian was resurrected during the Chaos War and used as a “pet” for the One Below All evil entity, which dragged his soul to the Below All dimension.
5. Hal Jordan/Green Lantern (DC)
Hal Jordan, the first human ever inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, had a turbulent life. Before he was inducted into Green Lantern Corps, Jordan led an ordinary life in the Coast City. He aspired to become a test pilot like his father, who died in a plane crash when Hal was really young. Despite the tragic death of his father, Hal decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pilot himself.
Before the Flashpoint, Green Lantern was sent by the Green Lantern Corps away from the Earth and failed to stop Cyborg Superman and Mongul from destroying his hometown, Coast City. All his family and friends died in the destruction, and Hal Jordan went insane – he became Parallax and almost destroyed the whole universe. After Flashpoint, “only” Hal’s father died while his mother was still alive. Still, the Parallax storyline was extremely impactful on Green Lantern’s story.
4. Black Bolt (Marvel)
Blackagar Boltagon is a leader of Inhumans and one of the coolest characters in Marvel comics. His origin and powers are really unique but also extremely tragic.
Black Bolt was responsible for the death of his parents unintentionally. He always showed the potential for great power, which escalated when his brother Maximus wanted to betray his people and create a union with Kree. Black Bolt needed to act and used his forbidden power, his quasi-sonic voice, with destructive force. He destroyed the ship, which crashed into the Earth, and killed his parents, Agon and Rynda.
Since then, Black Bolt has never spoken again.
3. John Constantine (DC)
The Hellblazer has multiple titles – a working-class warlock, an occult detective, and a con man from Liverpool, England. Constantine is characterized as a hard and anti-social man who will do anything to achieve his goal. He deals with magic and the creatures from Hell subtly infiltrating the Earth.
Constantine’s mother, Mary-Ann, died during the birth of John, and his father, Thomas, an abusive man, died later in his life when John Constantine botched a curse and made his father weak. Thomas probably deserved it since he was responsible for Mary-Ann’s death, whom he forced to abort the babies in her womb.
2. Spider-Man (Marvel)
We all know who Peter Parker and Spider-Man is – a teenager from Queens who was bitten by a radioactive spider and became the superhero we know and love. His origin story is also quite known, and Uncle Ben and Aunt May are Peter’s most important people in his life.
However, Peter’s biological parents, Richard and Mary Parker, were CIA agents who were killed on the mission by Red Skull. The villain then frames Peter’s parents for treason; however, Peter eventually finds out the real truth.
1. Batman (DC)
Finally, the most notable (probably the first) orphan in the comics is Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman. Martha and Thomas Wayne were a rich and prestigious couple and part of the notable families in Gotham City. One night, Waynes were headed home after The Mark of Zorro Play in the Monarch Theatre.
However, a mugger, Joe Chill, attempted to rob the family at gunpoint, leading to the criminal panicking and killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, leaving Bruce alone. The event propelled the “birth” of Batman, a detective and pursuer of justice in the criminal-ridden Gotham City.