Marvel Superheroes Whose Parents Aren't Who You Think They Are

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Vote up the Marvel heroes with the most surprising comic book parents.

In the world of Marvel Comics, with its centuries of superheroes and frequently passed mantles, the concept of legacy is obviously a very important one. That includes family legacy, and there’s no shortage of superpowered Marvel families out there to choose from. But even the most direct, familial lineages aren’t always what they seem, and sometimes one’s assumptions about their favorite superhero’s most basic origin point prove to be completely false. 

Anyone can check out an online wiki to find out who any given character’s canonical parents are. But actually understanding the truths revealed there can often require years' worth of comic book context. A good rule of thumb in the Marvel Universe is that nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems - and that includes parentage. 

  • For the first several decades of his comic book existence, Wolverine was known only as “Logan,” and his general lack of memories prevented anyone from digging any further into it than that. A subsequent miniseries revealed his true origin and the real name on his 19th-century birth certificate, which was James Howlett. Despite that, however, John Howlett did not turn out to be Wolverine’s actual father.

    Wolverine’s mother, as it turned out, was having an affair with the family groundskeeper, a gruff and dangerous figure named Thomas Logan, and James was the result of that affair. When it all came to a head, Thomas burst into the Howlett home one night and murdered John in cold blood. An enraged young James popped his claws for the first time and buried them into Thomas’s chest, accidentally slaying his biological father. 

    James fled his household shortly thereafter, taking the name “Logan” with him, along with his first in a long series of bitter memories. His half-brother, Dog Logan, would join him on that trip and - through the magic of time travel - in the future, as well. Years later, Wolverine would briefly reunite with Thomas... in hell.

    8 votes
  • If there’s one singular relationship that defines Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s the one he shared with his father, Howard Stark. In fact, the absence of both of Tony’s parents plays a large role in shaping him into the character that film fans know and love today, and the same is more or less true of comic book Tony, as well - with one important caveat.

    Howard and Maria Stark are not Tony’s birth parents in the pages of Marvel Comics.

    To make a long story much shorter, Maria’s first pregnancy was fraught with health complications, so Howard made a deal with an alien robot to ensure that their child was born healthy. The alien robot held up its end of the bargain but left a genetic “kill switch” within the child. Howard discovered and overrode the deadly feature, but doing so caused baby Arno to be born with several debilitating illnesses.

    In order to avoid revenge from that alien robot, Howard and Maria decided to raise Arno secretly in a state-of-the-art medical facility - and to adopt a cover-up child to maintain appearances. That child was Tony.

    Tony wouldn’t discover the truth of this until years after Howard and Maria’s demise. He would go on to learn that his birth mother was Amanda Armstrong, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a rock star cover identity, and that his father was another agent named Jude, one who betrayed the organization for Hydra. After Amanda was forced to eliminate Jude, she gave up their child for adoption, though she’d reconnect with Tony after he learned the truth. She'd eventually join his Stark Industries support staff.

    9 votes
  • In any continuity, Peter Quill has daddy issues. His problems with Ego the Living Planet were certainly grand in their scope and scale, but his comic book father might just be a bigger jerk, all things considered.

    J’Son of Spartax is just that unpleasant.

    Despite his romance with Peter’s human mother, J’Son developed a pretty hefty prejudice against the people of Earth, whom he frequently refers to as “backwater apes.” His hatred would lead him to strike out against Earth and betray its heroes on numerous occasions. As the hereditary ruler of the Spartax Empire, J’Son used to spend most of his time engaging in cosmic conquering campaigns and violently oppressing his space colonies - but then his son grew up to be a Star-Lord and eventually ousted J’Son alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Without his empire, J’Son became a space gangster of sorts, operating under the name “Mister Knife" and continuing to harass Quill and the Guardians. Then, he got caught up with a space cult, lost his mind, and hasn’t been heard from much since. 

    Ego the Living Planet does exist in the pages of Marvel Comics, too, but he’s not related to Star-Lord in any way - nor is he a Celestial. 

    8 votes
  • The Thor of the MCU has a lengthy, but fairly uncomplicated origin story. His dad was Odin, the Norse All-Father, and his mother was Freyja of the Aesir, Odin’s long-term bride.

    But as is almost always the case, the comic book history is significantly more convoluted.

    Originally, it was revealed that Thor’s birth was the result of a dalliance between Odin and the primordial Earth Goddess Gaea - which is in keeping with the old Norse traditions. For decades, Thor thought this to be true, although he only rarely interacted with Gaea and mainly thought of Freyja, who raised him and Loki, as his “real mom.”

    Recent revelations, however, have turned even that parental twist on its head. Thor, as it turns out, is actually the result of an entirely different ancient affair between Odin and the Phoenix Force, which at the time had bonded with a prehistoric mutant named Firehair.

    The essence of Firehair remained within the Phoenix Force for the eons that followed, and it was eventually she herself who made the truth plain to Thor - though the God of Thunder has yet to fully come to terms with it all.

    7 votes
  • 5
    5 VOTES

    Shang-Chi’s Father Has Been Known As Fu Manchu And Zheng Zu, But Never Xu Wenwu - And Certainly Not The Mandarin

    Shang-Chi wasn't always a household name, but a major motion picture will change that in a hurry. Now, everyone is talking about him, and in particular his fraught and complicated relationship with his father. 

    But who is Shang-Chi’s father? The answer can vary wildly depending on whom one asks - and when. 

    Originally, Shang-Chi was introduced in the pages of Marvel Comics as the rebellious son of Fu Manchu, a racist caricature of the pulp era to whom Marvel had temporarily secured the rights. When Marvel lost those rights - and the ill-conceived nature of the character became too obvious to ignore - Fu Manchu was shifted into a series of other identities, finally settling on the name “Zheng Zu.” 

    Under any guise, the character has never gone by the name “Xu Wenwu,” which seems to have been made up entirely for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. And although the “real Mandarin” has a long and storied Marvel Comics history, he’s a completely distinct and unrelated character who has only ever rarely crossed paths with Zheng Zu. 

    The fraught and fight-filled relationship between father and son, however? That stays about the same no matter the medium.

    5 votes
  • The Black Panther of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a wonderful relationship with both of his parents. When he was younger, T’Challa was guided and molded by King T’Chaka to one day take over the regency of Wakanda. But after T’Chaka’s demise, it was his mother, Ramonda, whom King T’Challa relied on for support.

    The situation is very much the same in the annals of Marvel Comics, with one key distinction. Ramonda - though still incredibly supportive and loving - is T’Challa’s stepmother. His biological mother, and T’Chaka’s first wife, was a Wakandan scientist named N’Yami. She perished a week after T’Challa was born due to the lingering effects of a Hydra onslaught.

    Years later, T’Chaka would remarry. He and Ramonda would then produce Shuri, sister of T’Challa and one-time Black Panther. 

    4 votes