I’m going to go ahead and let you know how this article is going to end. In short, it doesn’t really have one. Where my usual op-eds have a point to drive to or a proposed solution to whatever problem we’re discussing, this one is just pointing out a comic book storytelling trend. I’m not even sure if it’s a real “problem” either. It’s just something I’ve noticed.
A vast majority of super heroes have major father issues. That is not an opinion but a statement of fact. It’s not a part of their character that points towards them having daddy issues (though that is admittedly a truth as well), it’s literally written into their backstories.
I feel that Spider-Man is actually a good character to start this discussion with. The death of Uncle Ben is the catalyst by which Peter Parker became Spider-Man, and his “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra is the compass by which Peter makes many of decisions. Now you may be thinking “daddy issues, but Ben wasn’t his dad.” Yeah, but Uncle Ben was his father figure. For all intents and purposes, Ben was his dad. No, I don’t think all that stuff with Peter’s parents being spies or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or whatever has any bearing on this. Furthermore, the eternally youthful Peter Parker has seemed to try to fill that void with a number of male authority figures, not the least of which have be Curt Connors, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers. Even Captain Stacy, Robbie Robertson, and Ben Urich have arguably taken up that space at moments too.
Superman is special, because he gathered two daddies to have issues with. Jor-El and Johnathan Kent have both given Kal-El reasons to wring his hands and contemplate what kind of man he should be. This is especially true in newer comics where Jonathan Kent is dead.
Batman manages to have a similar situation with Alfred Pennyworth and Thomas Wayne. Yeah, Bruce lost both of his parents, but, whenever he singles his parents out, it usually turns out to be Thomas over Martha. Thomas is who he is trying to live up to while Alfred is the father he often ignores. This of course does not count Zack Snyder’s infamous “Marthaaaaaa” incident.
The Flash is admittedly unique because he manages to have mommy and daddy issues. Barry lost his mother to a random killer/Professor Zoom, and his father was blamed for the incident.
Thor Odinson may indeed be the king of daddy issues because All-Father King Odin Anthony Hopkins bounces between being the voice of reason and a complete freaking madman. Thor has to live up to his legacy while often having to go toe to toe with him.
Tony Stark has had to live up to the legacy of Howard Stark. Rick Remender added a drunken father backstory to the childhood of Steve Rogers. Hal Jordan’s dad was also a stunt pilot. The Robins and Terry McGuinness are a legacy of daddy issues, all of which grow to hate/emulate big daddy Batman. Clint Barton had a drunken and abusive father. Luke Cage disappointed his dad by getting into the gang world. Danny Rand’s father was obsessed with K’un L’un and ignored little baby Iron Fist. Oliver Queen has a philanthropist father to live up to. Roy Harper was abandoned by Green Arrow in his hour of need. T’Challa had a celebrated king father in T’Chaka. Guy Gardner had a celebrated police officer father that was abruptly replaced with an abusive and drunken father in the most recent issue of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Arthur Curry and Black Manta gave each other father issues by killing each other’s dads. Bucky Barnes has some arguable daddy issues while trying to live up to Captain America. Sam Wilson has debatably the same thing going on with Steve as well as his own pastor father. Bruce Banner had a drunken and abusive father that he beat to death. Logan had an angry adopted father, a malicious biological father, a begrudged father in Charles Xavier, weird daddy/brother problems with Sabretooth, and then there’s whatever you call the story with Romulus. Johnny Blaze literally sold his soul to save his father. Matt Murdock has always taken the lessons given by Battlin’ Jack Murdock to heart. Star-Lord has his jackass emperor father, J’Son. Flash Thompson’s father was a mean drunk. Eddie Brock’s dad thinks he’s a bum. Helmut Zemo’s father was an actual Nazi war criminal. Slade Wilson has three kids that hate him as well as a super-powered megalomaniacal father of his own. Obsidian and his father, Alan Scott, never saw eye-to-eye. Vision was created by Ultron, meanwhile Ultron hates his creator, Hank Pym. Genis-Vel and Noh-Varr are offspring of the legendary hero, Captain Mar-Vell. Daken is the son of Wolverine. Scott and Alex Summers both thought their dad was dead when he was in reality the space pirate known as Corsair.
Hell, women aren’t exempted from this. I could go on for days about the myriad of psychological implications of the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker, and daddy issues are a part of them. Carol Danvers has always tried to live up to the legacy of Captain Mar-Vell too. Jessica Drew had a pretty warped father who may have also been Hydra. Katherine Kane had a strict military father. Barbara Gordon is constantly being pressed in different directions by Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Needless to say, Laura Kinney will always have daddy issues from Wolverine too. Raven’s dad is an actual Demon. Gamora and Nebula were raised by Thanos.
Again, I’m not sure if there’s a point to all of this. It’s merely a pattern I’ve noticed. I will say there is a potential for storytelling ruts and repetition in the pervasiveness of this trend. It does say something about the mentality attributed to the super hero ideology as well as some assumptions about the audience that consumes these comic books.
Anyway, until next time, keep reading comics!