While comic books haven’t always been known to include a diverse cast of characters, there seems to be an outsized amount of amputee superheroes. However, it’s doubtful that the trend of comic book characters with missing limbs has much to do with inclusivity - instead, it’s almost certainly a result of how dramatically dismemberment comes across on the page.
Whenever a writer wants to reach for an extremely bleak and hopeless moment for their superhero of choice, they can always choose something that costs that character a literal arm and a leg. The very nature of comic books means that, unlike in the real world, any such injury can always be reversed whenever necessary - and, in the meantime, high-tech robotic prosthetics are readily available to anyone who wants one.
Bucky Barnes, known best as the Winter Soldier, was thought to have perished in the same WWII incident that put Steve Rogers on ice, and he remained missing in action for decades thereafter. In 2005, Barnes returned as the Winter Soldier, but it wasn't until Captain America Vol. 5 #11 that the true story of his survival was told.
As it turns out, Barnes was horribly injured defusing a booby-trapped plane aimed for America - resulting in his left arm being blown right off his body. He lived through it, only to be captured by the Soviets. They revived him and gave him a new metal appendage, but they also placed him in suspended animation and brainwashed him into serving as their personal assassin throughout the Cold War.
Cable is an interesting case when it comes to lost limbs because, technically speaking, he still has all of his appendages - just not in their original form. The incident that costs him his limbs, which occurs in X-Factor #68, also happens long before Nathan Summers comes to be known as Cable.
Born to Scott Summers and a clone of Jean Grey named Madelyne Pryor, baby Nathan becomes highly sought after due to his genetic gifts, leading him to be abducted by Apocalypse. When the would-be mutant messiah fails to take control of the child, he instead infects Nathan with a techno-organic virus that slowly replaces all of his flesh with advanced machinery.
Left with no other option, Cyclops sends his son into the future to be raised in an era where his condition can be treated. Nathan eventually returns as Cable, a seasoned warrior and powerful mutant, yet he must use much of his power to keep the techno-organic virus in check. By the time Cable reaches adulthood, the virus has transformed large portions of his body, including his entire left arm.
In more than a millennium of existence, Thor has been through a lot, and that includes some serious maiming - despite his godly durability. Several possible future versions of the Odinson have depicted him as becoming the king of Asgard, but having lost an arm and an eye along the way. In Thor Vol. 4 #1, one of those futures comes to pass.
During a period of time in which he thinks himself unworthy, and has been replaced as the wielder of Mjolnir by Jane Foster, Thor battles with Malekith the Accursed - and it does not go well. Malekith manages to get his hands on Thor’s replacement weapon, the mighty ax Jarnbjorn, and with one fell swoop removes the god of thunder’s left arm at the bicep.
Thor is soon after equipped with an uru prosthetic, something he can still be seen wearing thousands of years into the future - indicating that he’ll never get back the original article.
- Photo: DC Comics
No character in the history of comic books (perhaps aside from characters with a healing factor, like Deadpool) have made as much of a habit of losing their appendages as poor Aquaman. His first brush with dismemberment comes in Aquaman Vol. 5 #2, in which Arthur Curry holds the villain Charybdis underwater so that he can be consumed by ravenous piranhas. In the process, they eat Aquaman’s left hand right down to the bone.
At first, Aquaman uses a massive and intimidating hook as his replacement, but that only lasts until Aquaman Vol. 6 #1, when he obtains a new magical water hand from the Lady of the Lake. He keeps that one until his demise and subsequent resurrection years down the road, after which he regains his own extremity.
However, that only lasts until Brightest Day #19, in which Black Manta chops his hand off again. This time, Aquaman goes right back to the hook, and sticks with that until his continuity - along with all of his body parts - is completely reset, along with the rest of the DC Universe.