Comic Fodder

DC Heroes: Worst Parental Figures Ever

DC. The Universe of upright and moral parents. Or should each and every member of the JLA really be answering to Child Protective Services?

For dramatic purposes, DC tends to drop some heavy stuff on the kids and related youth associated with their mainline characters. We take a look at the gallery of failures we've come to know and love about our heroes and the kids who look up to them.

Superman: He's the Man of Steel and able to lift great weights and whatnot. But Lois really shouldn't see him as much in the way of potential father material.

Kon-El/ Connor Kent/ Superboy: Dead. Sure, it was to steer clear of legal liability in the Siegel case, but the guy wound up dead. This is after Superman refused to take responsibility for his own clone and shipped him off to Hawaii and let him form a team called "The Ravers" (which... nice one, DC.) Superman would drop in to chuck him on the shoulder, but... he died.

Mae/ Matrix/ Supergirl: Let her fall into sleeping with lion-maned Lex. And, I think, she's dead, too. (Who knows... I know some people love this incarnation of Supergirl, but I always saw it as a weird pygmalion sort of thing wrapped up in comic's 90's-era mystical mumbo jumbo)

Linda Danvers: The relationship is barely there, but he wasn't exactly backing her up at any time, as I recall... But, last I checked, she was alive.

Cir-El/ Supergirl: Not sure this one ever actually existed, but she doesn't exist now. Let's chalk it up to Superman losing sight of a girl who was supposedly his own daughter in one form or another. Let us assume she, too, is dead.

Supergirl/ Kara Zor-El: Well, Silver Age Superman stuck her in an orphanage with alien strangers as his first act of paternal benevolence. As per the new series, they're 34 issues in and finally deciding she's not Superman's hillbilly, Springer-guest cousin who he pays attention to only to come by and slap her on the wrist. For, you know, taking down Air Force One and terrorizing the leader of the free world. Well done.

Jimmy Olsen: of uncertain parentage and lineage, Silver Age Olsen had a sort of father/son relationship with Superman, who adopted him upon occasion. The two spent much of the run of "Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen" finding ways to torment one another with Kryptonite, refusing a dehydrated Jimmy a drink of water, etc... Modern Jimmy Olsen mostly just stands around taking photos and shouting "Gee Whiz!". Jimmy also briefly knew Superman's identity but has since forgotten.

Christopher Kent: Zod's Phantom Zone-born son was somehow neither a product of nature or nurture, and was written to be a perfect angel with powers, and for that, Johns may have misstepped (especially when we had Damian running around in the Batbooks). Ultimately, Superman fails Chris, letting him get sucked back into the Phantom Zone. It is difficult to believe anyone with actual paternal feelings wouldn't be mounting expeditions to retrieve the kid or somehow find him. But not Clark. He just decides this is the natural order of things.

Of course, DC has mis-givings about saddling Superman with a son after the audience for Superman Returns was pretty vocal that they weren't nuts about "Jason Lane". At least they didn't wish Chris Kent dead, as many did for Lane. They just stuck Chris in narrative cryogenics until they could think of what to do with the squirt.

Wonder Woman: Oy. Just by virtue of sharing air with Wonder Woman, people seem to run into trouble. This isn't including the Mindy Mayers or how the entire Amazonian civilization seems to have been thrown into upheaval just for being associated with the lady.

Silver Swan/ Vanessa Kapatelis: Vanessa was the daughter of Wonder Woman's friend and landlord, Julia Kapatelis, in the Perez re-boot of Wonder Woman. After a tight, sisterly relationship, Wonder Woman moved on, and Vanessa did not. Apparently this led to Vanessa freaking out and signing up to be the next Silver Swan. Already a deadly villain, now Wonder Woman didn't want to smack her around too much, as this was her former roomy. Vanessa has now had radical surgery to become Silver Swan and un-become Silver Swan. And is pretty messed up.

Martin Garibaldi: Son of one of Diana's embassy staffers, turned to stone when he looked at a gorgon gunning for Diana. Sure, Diana cured him, but, holy moley, was that a hassle.

Cassie Sandsmark/ Wonder Girl: for someone without her own title, this is the most depressed little girl in the world. One wonders how much happier she'd have been if she'd steered clear of Wonder Woman altogether. Plus, when she does see Wonder Woman, she sort of gets shouted at. A lot.

Donna Troy: Sure, it's technically Diana's sister, but that doesn't mean the poor girl hasn't died, like, fifteen times.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective is a sure-fire case for Child Protective Services if ever there was one. If anyone ever loved throwing minors into the line of fire, it's the Dark Knight Detective.

Dick Grayson/ Robin: Say what you will about All Star Batman and Robin, but Miller gives the only likely reason Batman would have ever really employed a 12-year old side-kick in his war on crime. He's a delusional ego-maniac who has grabbed a kid suffering from Stokholm Syndrome.

It's a miracle the kid, dressed as a pixie, made it out alive. Not so much a mystery that he never had a chance at a normal life and failed to see the opportunity for blowing through whatever blackmail he surely could have held against Bruce.

Barbara Gordon/ Batgirl/ Oracle: It's tough to say that Barbara's fate as a wheelchair bound computer whiz had anything to do with Batman. After all, the events that led to her injury were pretty par-for-the course random happenstance as occurs in any Gotham domestic setting. But if the events of "The Killing Joke" are accurate, let's go ahead and blame Batman and overzealous security for the creation of the Joker, and the subsequent death/ injury toll on Gotham.

Jason Todd/ Robin/ Red Hood, etc..: Well, getting clubbed to death by a crowbar and then blown up isn't exactly the ending Jason Todd probably believed he was getting when he put on the green booties. Anything that has occurred to the character since his re-Birth, however, I place squarely on the shoulders of DC editorial's bad judgment.

Tim Drake/ Robin/ Future therapy patient: No sooner does this kid meet Batman than his mother dies in a "only in the DCU" type happenstance in the Carribbean. Dad lives on as vegetable for a while, gets better, gets killed by Captain Boomerang. His best friend is killed in a continuity-bending machine, and his ladyfriend is seemingly beaten to death by a vicious gangster.

This kid's life is pretty messy. He so, so needs professional help...

Batgirl/ Cassie Cain: Rather than seeking serious professional help, Batman did what he always did when Shreck was editing the books: he used and abused a side kick. Batgirl's origin should have left her a maniacal lunatic, and when the logical direction for her background played out in OYL, somehow readers were appalled and insisted on the ridiculous "maybe she was drugged!" answer. Which, you know, made no sense.

Rather than having her run around in a gimp outfit with ears stabbing people, Bruce Wayne should have seen to it that she (a) learned to speak in complete sentences, and (b) got some sort of trade or technical skills that wouldn't rely upon her stabbing people. But, mostly, got professional help.

Damian al Ghul: I don't even know where to start with this kid, but I sorta liked how Bruce handled the little miscreant once he saw the damage he was capable of invoking.

The Flash: The master of speed doesn't have the lengthy record of violations, but it ain't all gravy

Wally West: Barry's little pal was, after all, hit by lightning. Sure, it landed Barry a side-kick and gave the DCU a hero, but... he got hit by lightning.

Bart Allen/ Impulse/ Kid Flash/ Dead Flash: Phew. Where to start? Barry's grandson was born with a genetic disorder that aged him too rapidly, forcing Bart to grow up in a virtual world with no sense of real danger. Hurled back through time, Bart suffered from speed-force magnified ADHD. Rather than try to raise his relative, Wally dumped Impulse on Max Mercury, who was sort of permanently grouchy with Bart and seemed to deal with the kid as a burden.

A few issues into Titans, Bart was shot in the knee.

And, of course, the miserable "Fastest Man Alive" hullabaloo in which he was aged (again), de-virginized at roughly the age of four, and then was brutally murdered.

I don't think you can point to Wally or Barry exactly on this one, but Wally's relationship to Bart for the entire existence of the character couldn't have helped.

Jay and Iris West: If anyone has a bone to pick with Waid, it should probably be the poorly thought out management of the West twins. Like Bart, aged too fast. Raised on an alien planet, and now a narrative albatross for all future writers for Wally. We saw DC take a stab at killing ONE of them off, and then rescind the idea. But I'm not sure that Wally's involvement of his kids in his superhero shenanigans (what with them, technically, being about two years old) is a sign of good things to come.

Green Arrow:

Speedy/ Roy Harper: Hooked on speed. Well done, Ollie. And way to not notice, Hal. But, yeah, this is on Ollie.

Yes, Roy wound up fine and has gone on to raise his own daughter in a manner which defies all other DC Hero stereotypes (with a daughter that is, perpetually, about 3). But, yeah, the sidekick was shooting up goofballs, which may mean Ollie took his eye off the ball as the elder part of the superheroic duo.

Speedy: I think she's okay, isn't she? I don't read Green Arrow/ Black Canary. She's actually in a better place than where Ollie found her, so maybe that counts as a win.

Connor Hawke: Blessed with an improbably macho name, Connor as Ollie's actual son, struggled with the "death" of his father, and then was mostly dead recently.

Red Tornado:

Young Justice: Reddy was the parental figure with the least enforcable authority in recent memory. Of course, Young Justice also ran off and did whatever they felt like all the time, while the JLA, the parents of the characters, and everyone else assumed the Wind Elemental/ Robot would take care of their kids.

There's an analogy for the public school system in here somewhere.

And poor Reddy has a daughter, who will, no doubt, meet some horrible fate if DC Editorial has anything to say about it.

So who else should be called on the carpet for their poor management of the youth of the DCU? It's not just that some of the young folks who come into their charge die/ get maimed/ go through serious emotional trauma. It's that the only one of them to raise a child correctly is Red Arrow, the former junkie.

Who did I miss? Help me out here!

Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

Come on, I can take it.


Ryan is an Op/Ed columnist for Comic Fodder. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas where he manages the long running blog League of Melbotis.

He likes Superman.

You can reach Ryan (aka: The League) at