Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg Phillips and Nick Duke share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. And if there’s anything that fanboys love, it’s debating what book is better than another book or which character is “cooler.” Enter Countdown, a monthly column where Greg and Nick will give a top five list and debate the merits therein.
Nick: We’re back after yet another hiatus, dear readers. You might say we’ve become the 2015 Chris Jericho of the comics world. We don’t come back often and when we do, only a select few actually see it.
Greg: That’s right. So look for the Hard-Traveling Fanboys Summer Tour to kick off this weekend in Sheboygan, Wisc.
But until then, we’ve got a happy accident of a column. Due to an unexpected delay, this month’s edition of Countdown falls just a couple days shy of Father’s Day, and it’s appropriate for that to happen, because we’re about to count down some of the comic book characters that don’t deserve any gifts for this particular holiday.
Nick: Last year, we took a look at our favorite dads in all of comics. So what better this year than to look at the absolute worst? And one thing we’ll tell you upfront is there were approximately 256 contenders for the throne. Bad dads and comics just seem to go together like Tim Capel and wordy responses.
Greg: Yes, superhero comics in particular have not been a breeding ground for good parenting. As a freshly minted poppa yourself, Nick, what are some of the factors that go into being a good dad?
Nick: Hell if I know. From what I understand, avoiding full frontal nudity in view of the child is key.
But in general, I think the idea is to do more good than harm. Something every dad we’ll discuss today is less than stellar at.
Greg: It’s also best to avoid melting your child with laser beams from your eyes. But I digress. Let’s get this list started.
Greg’s No. 5: Deathstroke
Greg: One of the most complex and interesting characters in DC’s pantheon also happens to be among its worst dads. Slade Wilson let his son Joseph’s throat get slit, costing him his voice, just to maintain his twisted sense of honor. Instead of giving in to kidnappers’ demands, Slade chose to attack them, at which point Joseph (later known as Jericho) was badly wounded. Then, years later, Slade stabbed the same son and seemingly killed him. Granted, Joseph asked for it (no, really, he did), but still.
And then there’s Rose Wilson, Slade’s lone daughter, who Slade drugged and manipulated in an attempt to get revenge on a resurrected Joseph (Don’t ask). Rose was so maddened, she cut out her own eye in order to closer resemble her father. It’s really not hard to understand why Joseph and, later, Rose tried so hard to take Slade out.
Nick: Many were hoping the version of Isabel Rochev we got on Arrow would turn out to be Rose Wilson in disguise, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. That might be for the best however, as it’s difficult to imagine Rose working so closely with her hated father.
There are plenty of instances of “daddy issues” in comics, but the Wilson kids earned theirs the hard way.
Nick’s No. 5: Bruce Wayne/Batman
Nick: Now, if you read our Father’s Day edition of Countdown last year and somehow actually remember it, you’ll recollect that I also had Bruce Wayne on my list of best dads. My reasoning was that no matter the end result for his adopted children and biological son, Bruce almost always had their best interests at heart. His desire to be a good father is above question.
Sadly, however, intent does not always translate to action. For all Bruce’s good intentions, the fact remains that three of his four adopted sons have died as a direct result of their association with Bruce (Yes, I’m counting Nightwing’s brief stoppage of the heart as part of Forever Evil). Not only that, but having the most feared mortal man and the world’s greatest detective as a Dad tends to leave somewhat of an inferiority complex and a constant need to prove oneself.
And above all that, let’s be honest for a minute. OK, so Batman doesn’t kill. He’s above it; he doesn’t want to be just like the criminals he faces, etc. I get it. But the Joker beat one of his sons to death with a crowbar. And Batman essentially let it slide. Sure, the Joker went back to captivity, but Bruce had to know that would last about all of a month. Less pacifism, more Samuel L Jackson in A Time to Kill, please. Oh, and let’s not forget that when Bruce went down with a back injury at the hands of Bane, rather than handing the cape and cowl to his oldest son and one of his most trusted allies, he went with a guy he barely knew.
So, while I dearly love Bruce and the rest of the Bat-Family, he’s clearly one dad that probably does deserve the crappy necktie as a gift.
Greg: He’d probably just burn it like Silver Age Superman anyway. I have much more to say about Bats later on, but you brought up some great points I’d forgotten about, such as Dick Grayson’s death in the Forever Evil event and the whole Jean-Paul Valley fiasco. Argh.
Greg’s No. 4: Norman Osborn
Greg: When it comes to pure selfishness, it’s hard for anyone on this list to top Norman Osborn. Whether it’s as the Green Goblin or simply the greedy corporate mogul, Norman has managed to expertly balance being both an absentee and a manipulative father to his son, Harry. In Harry’s youth, Norman was gone much of the time, focusing his efforts on general shadiness and the growing of basketball hair.
Then came the whole “insanity” thing, and Norman’s abusive, neglectful ways ended up wearing off on Harry and turning him into the very monster Norman created: the Green Goblin. And as it turns out, Nor-man was secretly alive the whole time, manipulating Harry down a path into darkness from which he would never fully recover. While all the fathers on this list are terrible at their parental duties, few are quite as deliberate about it as old stormin’ Norman.
Nick: My only question: Where was Bernard during all this and why didn’t he protect Harry from his father?
In all seriousness, I’ll have more to say on Spidey’s greatest villain in a bit. But suffice it to say Norman’s spot on the list is well earned.
Greg: Let’s go to Bobby Lashley for a word on Norman’s parenting.
Nick’s No. 4. Oliver Queen
Nick: Yet again, another of my favorite billionaire vigilantes finds his way onto my list of the worst dads in comics. With Ollie, it’s not only that his failings as a parent have been so dreadful, but that they’ve been repeated over the years.
We’ll start with Roy Harper, Ollie’s one time sidekick and ward. Under Ollie’s watch, Roy was able to develop a secret drug habit that Oliver was completely unaware of. He was completely unaware because he was too busy spending his time sanctimoniously lecturing Hal Jordan on the flaws of his politically conservative leanings that he forgot to pay any attention whatsoever to Roy. When Roy’s unfortunate addiction was discovered, what did Ollie do? Well, the bleedingest of all bleeding heart liberals did what any kind, compassionate person would do — he called Roy a junkie, punched him and threw him out on the street. How ‘bout it?
But, Ollie would have even more parental failings in the years that followed. After unwillingly fathering a child with the mysterious Shado (I’ll let Google be your guide for those of you unfamiliar with that particular plot device), Ollie would go on to discover he had fathered yet another illegitimate child when he discovered Connor Hawke living at an ashram.
There are numerous instances of Oliver being a terrible father to both children, but I’ll highlight two: When Shado and Oliver’s son, Robert, was revealed to have leukemia, Dr. Sivana offered to cure the child if Shado killed Oliver. Rather than offering his own life to save that of his son, Oliver instead dodged the arrow which instead struck, you guessed it, Connor Hawke. Then, even after all that, Oliver allowed Connor to operate under the false assumption that Oliver had been unaware of Connor’s existence for most of his life. Well, as it turned out, Oliver had been present for Connor’s birth, but chose to flee because of his fear that the responsibility of being a parent would be too great. That’s our Ollie!
Luckily, Queen’s other two wards have yet to be maimed, psychologically damaged or otherwise seriously harmed by their adoptive father. But, if I were Mia Dearden or Emiko Queen, I’d be finding an alternate role model. Fast.
Greg: Wow. Reading that actually makes me ashamed that Ollie didn’t make my list. That’s one heck of a resume. Thankfully, the version of Oliver Queen seen on “Arrow” has yet to display any shady parenting, but given a certain seed that was planted in season two, it’s possible (probable?) we’ll be seeing the Father of the Year in action on the small screen soon.
Nick: Ha! Seed.
And hey, he may have ruined all their lives, but at least he taught them how to shoot an arrow.
Nick: And heroin.
Greg: It’s a shame Roy never partnered with Snowflame.
Greg’s No. 3: Sheriff Hugo Root
Greg: This small-town sheriff from the first volume of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher has the fewest comic book appearances of anyone on the list, but in the Bad Parenting Olympics, he’s clearly deserving of a medal. In addition to just being a mean-spirited, ignorant jerk, Root doubles it up by neglecting and/or beating his only son. And by beating, I mean pummeling within an inch of his life. It all leads to his son being a stereotypical angsty ‘90s kid, which only makes Root hate the boy more.
Ultimately, his son attempts (and fails) to kill himself in a manner similar to that of Kurt Cobain, prompting Root to advise after the fact that he “should have put the thing in (his) mouth,” followed by referring to his son in profane words I won’t reprint here. Ultimately the son becomes known as Arseface, a final humiliation (well, along with another humiliation … that one hurt the worst.) that leads to Root himself committing suicide.
Nick: There’s always one of these each month, but Hugo Root is the choice I’m ashamed I didn’t think of. Excellent choice on your part, sir. Here’s hoping the upcoming television version of Sir Root is every bit the terrible human being as his comic counterpart.
Greg: To quote a great musician, poet and philosopher: “Hmm … cuh buh!”
Nick’s No. 3. Magneto
Nick: I’m fairly sure that any list of the worst comic book fathers is legally required to have Magneto somewhere on it. His laundry list of parental defects has been well documented over the decades of X-Men history, but suffice it to say Wanda and Pietro aren’t often overly fond of their father. Magneto is often violently overprotective of Wanda, and Quicksilver in particular seems to catch the brunt of Magneto’s overbearing nature and is often a source of disappointment for the mutant Malcolm X. The popular theory is that Magneto treats his children poorly because they are living reminders of his love for a human woman, something he would discourage in his followers. This makes for a great character trait for Magneto, but a poor environment to raise children in.
Greg: Magneto is arguably the greatest villain in all of comics, and part of the reason he’s so compelling, like Deathstroke, is his continual failure to be a positive influence on his children. Even when he’s gone through his occasional wild changes in character (dependent upon whoever’s writing him at a given time) he’s almost invariably manipulated, deceived or abused his kids, including Polaris.
Even Marvel appears to agree with us, as they pulled a Department of Human Resources and forcefully removed Magneto’s children from him, instead revealing they were normal humans experimented upon by our old friend, the High Evolutionary.
Nick: Speaking of our old chum the High Evolutionary, did I ever tell you about the time I went horseback riding with the High Evolutionary, but there weren’t any horses around? Well, the High Evolutionary throws a saddle on my back and rides me around Wyoming for three days. Well, wouldn’t you know it, my stamina increases with each day and I develop tremendous leg muscles. So anyway, the High Evolutionary decides to enter me in the Breeders’ Cup, right, under the name Turkish Delight. And I’m running in second place, and I’m running and I break my ankle! They’re about to shoot me. Then someone from the crowd yells out, God bless him, ‘Don’t shoot him, he’s a human!’
Greg: To the High Evolutionary!
Greg’s No. 2: Darkseid
Greg: The ultimate evil in the DC Universe (arguably, but that’s another column for another time) has a long and storied history of child abuse and neglect. From carelessly trading away Orion when he was a young boy to abusing and even murdering another son, Kalibak, the Lord of Apokolips has given a new meaning to “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Poor Kalibak (voiced brilliantly by Michael Dorn in the DC Animated Universe) just can’t seem to make his daddy proud, a sticking point for Darkseid. As such, Kalibak has been smacked around, imprisoned and even vaporized with omega beams.
It’s fitting, then, that Darkseid’s recently revealed daughter, Grail, is currently on a mission to kill him. Perhaps she feels sorry for her siblings who have suffered at the hands of the ultimate overbearing father.
Nick: Like Osborn before him, I’ll withhold my comments on the lord of Apokolips. However, speaking of Osborn…
Nick’s No. 2. Norman Osborn
Nick: Much like my previous selection, Norman Osborn is an egotistical maniac who pushed his destructive personality and world view upon his offspring, Harry. In addition to emotionally neglecting Harry during his childhood, Norman also set in motion the events that would dissolve Harry’s relationship with his best friend Peter Parker and lead Harry to a dangerous drug addiction.
Now, Norman would sometimes seemingly reach out to his son with acts of love, but in almost every instance, he was revealed to have ulterior motives for doing so. A great example came during the Dark Reign era of Marvel, where Norman wanted Harry to join his Dark Avengers as a hero called the American Son. Norman uses Harry’s former fiance to convince Harry to join with the revelation that she is pregnant. However, it is eventually revealed that Norman only wanted Harry to join so he could publicly sacrifice him in an effort to gain the public’s sentiment and trust. But that’s not all — the baby in question wasn’t Harry’s. It was Norman’s. So, to sum it up, Norman knocked up Harry’s former fiance and then wanted to have him publicly assassinated. Dad of the year.
Greg: Other than impregnating his son’s former fiance, driving him to drugs and insanity, and neglecting him throughout his childhood, though, Norman ain’t too bad.
Greg’s No. 1: Batman
Greg: How could anyone be a worse father than Darkseid? Well, it’s arguable, but I’d say the guy who simply doesn’t know any better/different is worse than the guy who supposedly knows better but *still* sends his children to certain death repeatedly for years.
Let’s take a look at Bruce Wayne’s track record, shall we? He “adopts” teenage (younger in some incarnations) Dick Grayson, indoctrinates him in the philosophy behind his war on crime, puts him in uncomfortably skimpy trunks and a tunic, arms him with nothing but his wits and some makeshift boomerangs, then sends him off into battle against grown men with machine guns and psychopathic tendencies. If Roddy Piper has taught me anything, it’s to never throw boomerang-like objects at a man holding a machine gun. Luckily, Dick gets out mostly unscathed and becomes his own man, but Bruce’s domineering, unloving ways fracture their relationship over time. Plus, as Nick reminded me earlier, he still ended up briefly dying, and then Bruce forced him to lie to his friends and family by pretending to still be dead.
Do I even need to discuss “child” number two? Bruce adopts orphan Jason Todd, trains him to be the new Robin, then is surprised when he’s brutally beaten to death at the hands of his arch-nemesis. One child emotionally isolated and another beaten to death.
As if that weren’t enough, Bats decides he needs yet another young boy to become a sidekick after Tim Drake figures out his secret identity. Sure, Bruce resists the idea at first, but instead of shutting it down, he finally says, essentially, “Sure, OK.” Long story short, Tim’s father and on-again-off-again girlfriend end up murdered.
Speaking of said girlfriend, Stephanie Brown had the briefest tenure as Robin, ending up dead at the hands of Leslie Tompkins (… Don’t ask). And most recently, of course, there was Damien, Batman’s biological son and the youngest of all the Robins. Naturally, he was brutally killed in battle with supervillains.
If a father’s number one priority is to protect his children, Batman has been an abject, unquestionable failure.
Nick: All that may be true, but I can’t go with anybody but…
Nick’s No. 1. Darkseid
Nick: Darkseid is easily the biggest bad of all the big bads in the DC Universe. But, he’s also the worst father of all the bad dads in comics. Not only did Darkseid agree to willingly send one of his children.to live with his worst enemy, he then subjected the child he received in return to years of physical, mental and emotional torture, as well as years of slavery.
And if that weren’t enough, he would later use a time travel gun (because comics) to shoot and kill Orion, the son he gave away. So pretty much, in the end Darkseid is left with only Kalibak.
Anyway, the point is that Darkseid has proven to be a father that isn’t just manipulative or neglectful — he’s downright evil to his children, and shows no remorse for his actions. That enables him to beat out the numerous other contenders and take the top spot on my list.
Greg: It’s … pretty tough to argue with that, actually. Poor Kalibak. Poor, poor Kalibak.
In any event, that about wraps up this edition of Countdown. Be sure to join us next week, though, when we bring you a review of the second volume of the Batman: Earth One graphic novel series from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank!
Nick: In the meantime, let us hear your lists or your thoughts on our choices at (@gphillips8652 and @nickduke87), email (GregP@placetobenation.com and NickD@placetobenation.com) or through the Place to Be Nation Comics Facebook page.