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Marvel Superheroes With The Most Harrowing Origin Stories

Updated June 14, 2019 3.9k votes 676 voters 66.5k 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.

  • A clone of Wolverine who experiences horrific experiments early in life, Laura Kinney does not have a happy backstory. Raised in captivity to become a merciless slayer, Kinney’s only bright spot in life is her surrogate mother. But that relationship only leads to further tragedy.

    One of the experiments performed by the Weapon X program involves the creation of a “trigger scent,” a substance that makes Kinney fly into an uncontrollable rage and take out everything in her sight. When she begins to rebel against her controllers, they use the trigger scent to force Laura to slay her own mother. Kinney ultimately escapes the facility to start a life on the streets. 

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  • In a way, Wolverine has two origins. The more well-known story, frequently referenced in the X-Men films, involves Wolverine's time with Weapon X. While part of the shadowy government program, the mutant has liquid adamantium forcefully bonded to his skeleton. By comparison, the first appearance of Wolverine's genetic abilities (healing factor, enhanced senses, and bone claws) is relatively obscure.

    Growing up in the late 19th century under his original name, James Howlett, Wolverine first discovers his claws and healing factor as a young man - and does so in a suitably depressing fashion. Unbeknownst to himself, Howlett is the offspring of a tryst between his mother and their family employee, Thomas Logan. When Thomas drunkenly confronts and slays the man Howlett believes to be his father, Howlett reacts in a moment of passion. He fatally pierces his biological father with the bone claws that unexpectedly spring from his hands. It’s an ugly scene, and made more confusing to the young man when the wounds on his hands mysteriously heal. 

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  • Many superheroes experience tragic origins but eventually move on to the stalwart existence of a costumed vigilante. This is not the case for the mutant known as Rogue. Rogue’s mutant abilities, which allow her to absorb the memories, powers, and even personality of anyone she comes into physical contact with, have made her life a difficult and lonely one. They’ve done so from the very beginning.

    As a teenager, Rogue was in the throes of young love before everything went horribly wrong. During her first kiss with a boy named Cody, the magical moment becomes horrific when her powers suddenly kick in. She absorbs Cody's life force, leaving him in a coma. It’s understandable that Rogue has had relationship issues ever since. 

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  • In the beginning, Rocket is indeed a raccoon - or at least, a member of an alien species visually indistinguishable from Earth raccoons. Rocket and his fellow beings live on a planet-sized psychiatric facility known as Halfworld where they serve as therapy animals. That is, until the robot therapists left in charge of the asylum gain sentience and abandon their posts.

    Rather than leaving the patients of Halfworld to fend for themselves, the robots perform genetic experiments on Rocket and the other companion critters, granting them awareness, intelligence, and some anthropomorphic features. When Rocket and his allies uncover the truth of their creation, they experience a rather understandable existential crisis. This traumatic origin informs Rocket’s personality to the present day.

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