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Marvel Superheroes With The Most Harrowing Origin Stories

Updated June 14, 2019 3.8k votes 656 voters 65.3k views16 items

List RulesVote up the most traumatizing origin stories.

The adventures of comic book superheroes are our modern mythology - fantastical sagas filled with moral lessons that are shared across cultures. Where these heroes come from, however, is not always widely known.

When it comes to Marvel Comics, the clean and easy superhero origin stories are familiar to moviegoing audiences. They translate well to the silver screen. But there are countless comic book characters whose backstories remain the exclusive domain of diehard readers. Some of these lesser-known tales are downright harrowing. Their origin stories are rife with pain, tragedy, and horror - and sometimes, all three! They can’t all be radioactive bites and WWII-era government serums. Some heroes get their powers the ugly way.

  • Perhaps no superhero better embodies the trope of the “sad clown” than Wade Wilson, AKA the Merc with a Mouth. Following a prolific career as a mercenary, Wilson finds that his body is ravaged with incurable cancer. Desperate for a cure, his search leads him to Weapon X, the shadowy section of the Canadian government responsible for creating Wolverine.

    Using some leftover DNA from Wolverine, Department K attempts to artificially, and painfully, graft a mutant healing factor onto Wilson. The experiment is deemed a failure when it does nothing more than accelerate Wilson’s cancer, resulting in his trademark skin condition. His cruel caretakers wash him out into their reject pile and place bets on when Wilson will perish in their “deadpool.” When Wilson's regenerative abilities finally kick in, he adopts the word as his nickname and viciously makes his escape from the facility.

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  • Blackagar Boltagon, or Black Bolt, is the sovereign ruler of a race known as the Inhumans. Among Inhumans, it is a ritual practice to expose select members to the Terrigen Mists in order to trigger latent mutant powers. When Black Bolt undergoes Terrigenesis, it leaves him with a voice that can crumble mountains. 

    Black Bolt is forbidden from ever speaking, which is not the best developmental path for a young individual. When he breaks the rules to stop a plot by his brother, Maximus, the results are catastrophic: Blackagar loses control of his voice and slays dozens, including his own parents. Since then, Black Bolt’s words have been few and far between, and only hurled at his enemies. 

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  • Those who only know of Drax the Destroyer from his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are missing out on the true horrors of his comic book origins. The future Guardian of the Galaxy was once a saxophone player named Arthur Douglas living an ordinary life on Earth - until Thanos showed up.

    When Thanos strikes, Douglas and his wife are slain and their daughter Heather is horribly injured. Taking pity on the family, Thanos’s father and grandfather take Heather back to their home planet to heal and raise her. They also resurrect Arthur and turn him into Drax the Destroyer with the sole purpose of hunting down Thanos and bringing him to justice. Drax has been working at it ever since. 

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  • Cable’s comic book origin is as disturbing as it is convoluted. The son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey, Nathan Summers's early childhood is as normal as could be expected under such circumstances. Everything changes when the forces of Apocalypse infect him with a techno-organic virus.

    Unable to find a cure in the modern era, Cyclops sends his son into the future for medical treatment. Surviving in a post-Apocalyptic world, young Nathan grows into the combat-hardened Cable before traveling back in time to reunite with his father and the X-Men as an old man. 

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