With Father’s Day here, I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the greatest fathers in comic book history. Like real life, the lives of comic heroes are complicated (often more so) so I’ve chosen to include not only biological fathers but also adopted and surrogate fathers in the list. The criteria was simple… if you’re a good dad, you were in contention. So… away we go!
10. J. Jonah Jameson
J. Jonah Jameson has been a thorn in the side of Peter Parker since his first appearance in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #1 (1963). But, say what you will about good ol’ J.J. Jameson, the man does love his son, John. In fact, it’s because of John that Jameson wrote his first scathing article against Spider-Man. When John was beginning his career as an astronaut, Spider-Man had to save his capsule from crashing to Earth. J. Jonah thought the rescue was a publicity stunt meant to upstage his son’s great accomplishments and a legacy of hatred for Spider-Man was born… all because of the pride and love for a son.
9. Rick Grimes
In a zombie apocalypse, the world is thrown into relief and the true nature of a man is brought to the forefront. Rick Grimes of Image Comics’ ‘The Walking Dead’ has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations. As the world around him collapses further and further into chaos, Rick has lost nearly everything in his life… except his son Carl. Now Rick’s main purpose in life is to make sure that Carl has the best life possible under the circumstances and, as fans of the comics will attest, Rick makes some tough choices to keep Carl safe and happy.
8. Reed Richards
If you’ve read any ‘Fantastic Four’ comics in recent years, you might question my adding Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards to this list. He’s often portrayed these days as a cold and distant dad, husband, and friend to the rest of the Fantastic Four. But, long time readers, will know that Reed has done a lot for his family, both biological and adopted as part of the ‘Future Foundation’. He may get absorbed in his experiments from time to time… heck! make that a lot of the time… but despite his flaws, he comes around and is there when his children need him.
Superman’s birth father, Jor-El tried to warn the Science Council of Krypton of the impending devestation facing the planet. When Jor-El was threatened with banishment to the Phantom Zone if he revealed the danger, he instead decides that, with the planet doomed, he will at least save his infant son, Kal-El by sending him on a rocket to Earth. Through the ages, Jor-El has been portrayed with wildly varying characterizations in both the comics and in film/television, but one thing has remained true. The man loved his son so much that he made one of the toughest decisions that a father will ever make… he let his son go on a glimmer of hope.
6. Buddy Baker
Most costumed superheroes don’t have time for a wife and kids. The rare few that attempt it often find either their family or their duties suffering for it. But Buddy Baker (aka Animal Man) is one of those rare heroes that just has fatherhood in his genes. First appearing in 1965’s ‘Strange Adventures’ #180, it wasn’t until Grant Morrison revamped the character in the late 80s that Animal Man really came into his own. Morrison brought Buddy’s wife, son, and daughter to the forefront of his adventures. Now in the New 52, Baker’s family is once again at the center of his story… as it is with any father.
5. Jim Gordon
James Gordon came to Gotham City as an honest cop in ‘Batman: Year One’. Since then, he’s gone on to become the Police Commissioner and continues to keep Gotham safe and honest. But it’s his role as a father where Gordon really shows his strength. When his adopted daughter Barbara told him that she’d been Batgirl for decades, Gordon simply replied that he’d known all along. It takes a lot of strength to let your children follow their own path, especially when it’s one that might put them into uncomfortable situations.
4. Jonathan Kent
Superman is often described as a big blue Boy Scout. He’s the epitome of high morals and doing what is right, no matter the consequences. But where did this sense of justice come from? A small town farmer who found an alien infant in a field and raised him as his own, Jonathan has proven to be the model of a great father. He taught an alien with nearly godlike powers what it means to be good and to care for those who aren’t able to defend themselves. In the various DC continuities, Jonathan has been killed off at various times in Superman’s history but, regardless of which version you read, he is a perfect example of a great father.
3. Bruce Wayne
As any father will attest, it’s not what you do when you have a perfect well-behaved child that proves your worth… it’s how you react when one of your kids goes completely off-track and into uncharted waters that you learn the real sacrifice of the life. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) has raised three adopted sons (and is currently raising his biological son), each one has taken on the mantle of Robin. The second Robin, Jason Todd, was a head-strong lad who grew up on the streets. Jason had a difficult time in his role as Robin yet, even after Jason was killed, resurrected, and turned into the violent Red Hood, Bruce has refused to give up on Jason. Now, with his biological son Damien Wayne, also a Robin, Bruce is struggling with another troubled child who is testing his resolve but Bruce is proving himself to be one of the best fathers in current comic continuity.
2. Uncle Ben
“With great power, there must also come… great responsibility.” That single line is the basis for everything that Peter Parker has become and is one of the most quoted lines in all of comic-dom. Peter’s Uncle Ben (who raised Peter after his parents disappeared) was killed shortly after Peter acquired his Spider-powers but, in their time together, Ben managed to instill a sense of right that has made Spider-Man one of the greatest superheroes of all time. It’s just sad that it took Ben’s death to drive that iconic line home for Peter.
1. Alfred Pennyworth
Combine the love and acceptance of Jim Gordon, the patience of Bruce Wayne, and the guidance of Uncle Ben into a single character and you get Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth. Originally, Alfred was just the Wayne family butler but, in the modern incarnation of Batman, Alfred was made the legal guardian of young Bruce Wayne after the boy lost his parents. Alfred watched the young boy become obsessed with stopping crime in his home city of Gotham, forgoing anything resembling a “normal” life. The steadfast Alfred watches every night as Bruce goes out as Batman and faces sociopaths like the Joker, often returning home covered in scars, riddled with bullet holes, or sporting broken bones (and on occasion all three). Upon Bruce’s return, Alfred patches Bruce’s wounds, gives him a nice cup of tea, and offers his advice on the latest case. He is a beacon of sanity in the world of the Batman, as any father should be for their children.
Honorable mentions: Cable, Mr. Incredible
So who would you have included (or left off) on your list? Comment below and let us know! Read Jason’s list of the Top Ten Worse Dads In Comics.