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15 Comic Book Villains With Horrifying And Heartbreaking Origin Stories

Updated January 27, 2020 25.9k votes 6.1k voters 498.3k views15 items

List RulesVote up the most sympathetic and tragic supervillain origins in comic book history.

Comic villains are responsible for some of the most heinous acts in all of fiction. They commit the sorts of graphic crimes that make empathy almost impossible. They engage in criminal activity that can send shivers up the spines of readers. But behind the masks and capes and ghoulish grins lie some of the most sympathetic comic book villain origins you'll ever hear.

Because these characters were crafted in a medium bursting with possibilities, the torture they endured prior to turning to the dark side is often more physically and emotionally extreme then audiences might be used to. Some of your favorite villains were tortured for millions or even billions of years. Subject to rejection, mutilation, starvation, lobotomies and more, it’s difficult at times to determine whether the decisions they make are derived from their own will or from their circumstances. It's often heartbreaking when you really stop and think about the lives of villains in comics. 

In order to understand what fuels the hatred behind the alter egos, it’s best if we get to know them before they were baddies (if that’s even possible). The saddest supervillain origin stories often begin before they had a chance to fight back. You might be surprised to learn that several villains were abused as infants, or slated for punishment before they were born. For many of them, crime was not a choice. It was their only identity. Here are some of the most gut wrenching, cringe-inducing, and just straight up saddest supervillain origin stories in history.

Hungry for more? Take a look at some of the weirdest superhero origins

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  • Photo: DC Comics

    Bizarro is kind of a wacky f*cker. Not only is he Superman's doppelgänger, but he's also one of Superman's greatest mistakes. Since he was created, rather than born, he has no parents. This is doubly tragic, since he operates on a child's level mentally. He has no true home or purpose. Honestly, he never chose to become a villain.

    In fact, even Bizarro himself doesn't quite understand his own fate. From his perspective, he is Superman, yet the world appears to hate him. Different versions of Bizarro have been "owned" or created by menacing villains like Joker or Lex Luthor. Orphaned, outcast, and tortured throughout the majority of his appearances, Bizarro has known only pain, sadness, and confusion.

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  • Photo: DC Comics

    When a struggling comedian turns to a life of crime in order to support his pregnant wife, the end result is tragedy. Not just for the comedian, mind you, but for everyone in Gotham City. During a routine robbery, Red Hood, later known as the Joker, falls into a vat of toxic chemicals. Not only does the solution horribly disfigure his face, it also causes him to lose his mind. In his madness, the Joker goes on to commit some of the most heinous crimes known to man. Heartbreakingly, on a few occasions the Joker's conscience emerges from the ashes of his past, and the truth comes to light.

    As it turns out, it is the Joker's madness that drives him to commit these crimes. Each time his sanity is restored, the thoughts of the things he has done to people haunt him so much that he reverts back to his shattered mental state. It's a vicious cycle of insanity. 

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  • Think of your favorite outer space doomsday film. You know, the kind where a group of astronauts get together and try to save the planet from certain and complete destruction. Now imagine the hero who dives headfirst into some sort of cataclysmic disaster that will mean death for said hero and life for the rest of the Earth's inhabitants. At the end of the film, the hero dies, carving out a gallant legacy known far and wide. This is the story of  Galactus. At the end, however, there's a terrifying twist. 

    Everyone from planet Taa (Galactus's homeworld) was destroyed except for him when he tried to save the universe. Galactus sucked up the energy from the cosmos and survived, but became suspended in a state of extreme hunger for billions of years. He later learns that the only way to keep himself from starving, to satisfy the hunger, is to devour entire worlds.

    What a cruel destiny for a mortal whose dying wish was to save the lives of the people from his planet. His good deed throttled him headfirst into an eternity of swallowing worlds, murdering millions just to satisfy a hunger that never seems to go away. 

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  • Photo: DC Comics

    Doomsday, despite his menacing exterior, is really just dealing with some daddy issues. Doomsday’s father was a mad scientist who built his "son" out of the remains of hundreds of lifeless test tube children, all of whom were Doomsday’s siblings. In other words, Doomsday himself is created out of hundreds of his own dead siblings. Gross.

    At this point, you might be wondering how things could get any worse than that. Well, because Doomsday was created to be an immortal monster with an undying hatred for all living beings, he was banished from several worlds, constantly attacked since the age of two, isolated, and finally abandoned. At one point, as a toddler, he was left alone to drift in space, dying and coming back to life over and over again. Yeah, that seems like a pretty reasonable explanation for anger issues.

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