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Heroes' Origins: Must Superheroes Suffer Parental Loss?

How does parental loss shape Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, and other heroes?

The Film Psychologist on YouTube takes a look at psychological consequences of losing parents for the the world's three most famous superhero orphans (Batman, Spider-Man,and Superman) in the video Parental Loss: Becoming a Superhero.

During a Dallas Comic Con, I discussed this with Stan Lee, the creator/co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and arguably the Marvel Universe itself. Artist John Romita Jr. weighed in, too. It might not include any great revelations. It was just a fun exchange worth including here. For scholarly analysis, watch the video.

Travis Langley
Source: Travis Langley

Langley: Why do the most successful superheroes tend to be orphans?

Lee: Hey, I heard that! Why do the most successful superheroes tend to be orphans? My hearing is coming back! I want that man to ask all the questions from now on.

Romita: Excellent question. Why? Why are they all orphans? You wanted to protect the family. You didn’t want anybody to have that leverage against them.

Lee: No, I’m trying to think if they are all orphans.

Romita: Well, Peter Parker was an orphan because his parents were murdered.

Lee: We never discussed who the parents were of a lot of the other characters, now that I think of it.

Romita: So which ones were orphans? Peter Parker’s parents were murdered, all right.

Lee: The Fantastic Four, I don’t who their parents were, come to think of it.

Langley: The others, it’s been established along the way. Their parents were either dead or lost in another universe.

Romita (to Stan): But you never established it. Subsequent writers would delve into the history of the characters and create that.

Lee: Yeah, and I hated that! I would have wanted to do that, but all right.

Langley: Like Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, or even Captain America. His parents were referred to as having been dead.

Romita: All right. But that’s another thing where –

Lee: We never did know who Captain America’s parents were. Steve Rogers, you never knew. Or have they established that too?

Romita: Not that I remember, no. But Peter Parker’s parents were murdered, that story was done after you were off the –

Lee: No, no. Peter Parker’s parents had to be murdered so that I could give him his aunt to live with, and I wanted him to be an orphan. I wanted Peter Parker to have a really tough life. I guess I was not in a good mood when I did that. But I never paid much attention to that. I don’t know who – But wait, Daredevil’s father was killed. That was part of his origin. Iron Man, we never discussed his parents, but I assume his father must have been wealthy too. And who else is there? Dr. Strange, God knows.

Romita: Bruce Banner’s parents, we don’t know anything about them. Maybe the father was gay, we don’t know.

Lee: You see, that question that was just asked – to you, it’s an innocent, casual question that may cause this man {John} to go back to the Bullpen, rethinking all the origins. You may have started a whole new series of comic book: Heroes’ Origins! And you won’t make a penny for it! We’re that generous.

Romita: Super Orphanage.

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