14 Devastating Superhero Origins That'll Ruin Your Day

List Rules
Vote up the superhero origins that just make you feel bad.

A ton of superheroes have a sad comic backstory. You can probably name quite a few off the top of your head. Batman's parents were killed in an alley. Superman's entire home planet was wiped out when he was a baby. Spider-Man's uncle was shot and killed as a direct result of Peter Parker's inability to do the right thing. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, those are all pretty sad, but they don't hold a candle to some of the other tragic superhero origin stories.

Robbie Baldwin only became Penance after being directly involved in the demises of over 600 innocent people. Graymalkin was buried alive by his father because he was gay. Jessica Cruz spent years locked in her apartment struggling with guilt and anxiety after a bunch of mobsters killed her friends in the woods. Get ready to call your therapist, because we're running through some superhero origin stories that really just bring your mood down.


  • 1
    56 VOTES

    For years, Wolverine's true origin story was shrouded in mystery. It was a fundamental part of his character. He was the inscrutable, short, angry Canadian dude who was "the best there is" at what he does... which is killing. He's really good at it, you guys. To be fair, someone with an origin story as haunting as Wolverine's has a pretty good excuse for getting all murdery with their knife-hands.

    The illegitimate son of his mother and the groundskeeper of his father's estate, Logan was a sickly child whose mutation only hit when his actual father killed the man he thought was his father in a drunken stupor. Logan took out his biological father in a fit of retaliatory rage, which caused his mother to take her own life shortly thereafter. So... everything was going extremely hunky-dory thus far. Logan then fled with his only friend, Rose, as they tried to move on with their lives. To add insult to injury, when Logan's half-brother hunted them down, the young Wolverine ended up accidentally killing Rose, as well. Because it is Wolverine's lot in life to be tormented by his past for all eternity.

    56 votes
  • 2
    50 VOTES

    Everybody thinks they know the origin of the Hulk. Big Green has been adapted to television and film so many times, it makes sense that most people would assume that. What's so hard to get? Bruce Banner + gamma radiation = "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." Bing, bang, boom. But have you ever stopped to wonder why Bruce Banner has trouble controlling his emotions in the first place? Well, we wouldn't have a comic book, for starters. At the end of the day, it all comes down to Bruce's traumatic childhood at the hands of his abusive father, Brian.

    Brian Banner was exposed to gamma radiation that altered his DNA, eventually messing with Bruce's genes, as well. If that was it, well, that would be that. Alas, Brian Banner was also a savage brute who abused his wife and child. Bruce's father even ended up killing the boy's mother when she tried to leave for good. Everything Bruce Banner is as a character - brilliant, emotional, unstable - comes from both the genetic and psychological scars from his father.

    50 votes
  • 3
    25 VOTES
    Jessica Cruz
    Photo: DC Comics

    Jessica Cruz has proven to be one of the most interesting characters DC has introduced in the past decade. She co-headlined the Green Lanterns book for dozens of issues. She was the driving force in the criminally underrated Justice League Odyssey book a couple of years ago. She got an awesome YA graphic novel in late 2021 by Lilliam Rivera and Steph C. She's even become a Yellow Lantern in the main canon. That being said, her origin is just absolutely devastating.

    One day, Jessica and some friends decided to go on a hunting trip in the wilderness. Pretty innocuous, yeah? Well, they stumbled upon some mobsters burying a body and said mobsters decided witnesses were probably bad for business, doing away with all of Jessica's friends shortly thereafter. Jessica, understandably shaken to her core by the experience, spent the next four years drowning in guilt and depression over the incident. Her anxiety was so bad, she refused to leave her apartment at all. Things would work out (as much as they could after that) in the end as she became a superhero, but she still struggles with the incident as a fundamental part of her character.

    25 votes
  • 4
    24 VOTES

    Duke Thomas

    Duke Thomas
    Photo: DC Comics

    At first glance, Duke Thomas's story appears to be that of another family caught in the middle of the never-ending conflict between Batman and the Joker. We've been hearing that old song and dance for decades, and if DC Comics has its way, we'll be reading about the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime until the end of time. But the story of Duke and his parents is just a little more tragic than your garden-variety Joker victim tale.

    Joker didn't kill the Thomases. No, he merely hit them with his patented Joker toxin and they became permanently "jokerized" in the process. "What's the big deal?" we hear you say. "His parents are still alive!" Sure, Duke's parents are still breathing, but they aren't really his parents anymore. Would a parent tell their child how much they hate them and how they'd like to kill them on repeat every time their child visits? While they bang their head against a glass wall incessantly? Duke would eventually fight crime under Batman's wing, which is cool and all, but he probably just wishes he had a normal life at the end of the day.

    24 votes
  • 5
    26 VOTES

    Blackagar Boltagon (yep, real name) had a real rough go of it for the first 20-odd years of his life. Exposed to the Terrigen mists (the source of Inhumans' abilities) in the womb, Black Bolt was granted the devastating power of a voice that could level buildings and shatter worlds. Literally, when he was born, his screams caused the structure around him to crumble instantly. 

    Completely exiled until the age of 19, Black Bolt was raised to be alone and never, ever speak. However, can we talk for a second about how funny it is to see a grown Black Bolt fully costumed up in his isolation chamber? Like, my guy, you can just wear regular clothes. People do that. For example, when the Joker is in Arkham Asylum, he isn't wearing his purple suit. Anyway, being forced to live alone and not speak for nearly 20 years sounds like a complete nightmare.

    26 votes
  • 6
    30 VOTES

    Illyana Rasputin had her childhood ripped away at the age of 6 thanks to the machinations of the evil sorcerer, Belasco. She was taken from her home and transported to the realm known as Limbo, spending years of her life there even though mere moments passed from the time she left to the time she returned. Time gets weird when you're realm-hopping, you guys.

    After years of being warped and manipulated by Belasco, Illyana returned to Earth as a 13-year-old girl with not only the mutant power of teleportation, but mastery over certain magic, as well (which explains the moniker, "Magik"). Though her time in Limbo made her a powerful force to be reckoned with, it also completely stole fundamental years of her life away from her. 

    30 votes