Quick: what do Charles Manson and Captain America have in common? If you answered, "They are both mass murderers," then you are simultaneously correct and probably a bummer to hang out with. While superheroes who kill are shockingly common, and superheroes who are framed for crimes even more so, few can brag that they have committed multiple homicides. Well, not that they should be bragging about that anyway. That would be super weird.
The FBI defines mass murder as killing four or more people in succession without a "cooling-off period" between the murders. The problem there is, superheroes never have time to cool off. They are thrust from one high-stress situation to another with no time to breathe. Still, surely, we would never be able to trust our heroes again if they ever engaged in such an atrocity. Or, alternatively, we might all kind of never mention it again and sweep it under the rug. Not like that's ever happened before.
As a society, we often ignore the parts of our idols that clash with their overall image. It is, however, important to see people (and gods and monsters and Atlanteans) for who they really are - even if they've taken out their own family members. If you're ready to peel back your favorite heroes' shiny exteriors and discover the cold-blooded monsters underneath, then enjoy this list!
- Photo: DC Comics
Bastion of truth, justice, and the American way, Superman represents the pinnacle of moral fortitude. Raised with strong heartland values, the Man of Steel leads by example. He shows us that near-unlimited power must be tempered by mercy and compassion. After all, he could solve most problems by simply killing all of his enemies before they have a chance to blink. But he never stoops to that level.
Oh. Right. Except for the times that he totally does that. There are several alternate universes in which the Big Blue Boy Scout basically goes nuts and starts murdering indiscriminately (looking at you, Injustice: Gods Among Us) and he kills the Kryptonian General Zod in both Superman II and the much-maligned Zack Snyder film Man of Steel.
His hands are not clean in the official cannon either, however. In Superman vol. 2, #22, he uses Kryptonite to end the lives of Zod and the other Phantom Zone criminals. It's a pretty brutal affair, with Zoara even offering to be his sex slave for all eternity if he spares her life.
It left some deep psychological scarring on Superman, and he vowed to never kill again.
And he kept that promise... for a while. In Superman vol. 2, #75, he murders Doomsday in order to save the planet. In a world where you can't trust freakin' Superman to honor his word, who can you trust?
- Photo: Marvel Comics
Much like Superman, Captain America holds a special place in our collective psyche. He's almost pathologically obsessed with fairness and honor, and as such is often considered beyond reproach himself. He's so attached to his convictions, Steve Rogers even abdicates his position several times throughout his history over conflicts with the US government. But, we have to remember that he got to his lofty position on a bed of corpses.
Now to be fair, they were Nazi corpses. History has dehumanized the Nazis to an astonishingly efficient degree, but many of their rank-and-file were just scared German farm boys forced into conflict. And Captain America wasn't exactly offering enemy combatants questionnaires on their ideology during World War II.
As a Super Soldier, Cap had one real job: killing enemies of the state. While estimates vary as to his actual body count, Captain America definitely mowed down more than his fair share of Axis and Hydra soldiers. That's a hell of a burden for a guy who can't enjoy a nice scotch.
No. Please. Come on. Not our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! Peter Parker is widely regarded as one of the most relatable and endearing figures in the Marvel Universe. Beneath his charming and sarcastic exterior, however, lies the heart of a murderer. Or maybe multiple hearts of murderers. Spider anatomy is pretty complicated, so that's best left to the arachnologists.
While he rarely takes down multiple enemies at once, Spider-Man's got some bodies on him. Like, enough that his mask should hide a torrent of tear drop tattoos. Despite his seemingly innocent facade, Spidey has at least 18 confirmed kills and three more attempted murders to his name. Granted, some of these are accidents and he often regrets killing his enemies. "I would really rather not have done it" is not the best defense in a court of law, though.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
Wolverine - a.k.a. Weapon X, a.k.a. Logan, a.k.a. James Howlett - has been around a long time. His astounding healing factor keeps him looking preternaturally young; while he looks physically like he's in his 30s, he is probably closer to 150 (depending on the source material). What we do know for sure, however, is for the vast majority of this time Wolverine has been an unstoppable killing machine.
While his past is murky, Wolverine occasionally has flashbacks of his time as a soldier in pretty much every major conflict of the 20th century. He wasn't inviting enemy combatants over for tea. Those implied kills aside, Wolverine has murdered plenty of people in the Marvel Universe. He cut his way out of the Weapon X program (killing a gaggle of scientists), murdered all of the X-Men in the Old Man Logan storyline, and even took the life of Daken, his own son.
It's probably inevitable to lead that kind of life when one of your main superpowers is "hands that make it easy to stab people."