There are a plethora of forces that help shape the character of any individual, whether real or fictional. For comic books, the "death of a loved one" genesis has been a recurring phenomenon used to guide a character's path.
The majority of these deaths are in no way natural. In fact, they are often carried out in the most sinister ways possible to set the story in motion and create a thrilling journey worth reading till the end.
For many comic characters, the psychological trauma leads them down a path of vengeance and destruction, so much so that they have to be stopped. Others do seek vengeance, or should I say justice, but also use the pain to make their lives and those around them better.
1. The Punisher aka Frank Castle
Though his skills with a gun are superhuman at times, this vigilante is among the list of incredible Marvel heroes with absolutely no powers. He is the epitome of vengeance, and his ways are rather unconventional. So how did he become this deadly vigilante hell-bent on punishing the wicked?
What if you were told that Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, actually studied to be a priest? Many wouldn’t believe that. The only problem is, he could not bring himself to forgive criminals. So, he decided to join the army and became a US marine captain. Later on, he married a beautiful woman named Maria and had two children.
Life was turning up great for him until one fateful day when everything changed. Caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time, Frank, his wife, and children happened to witness an informant getting executed. They were subsequently shot by the gang to prevent any spread of information. Although Frank managed to survive, his wife and children were not so lucky.
Recovered and back on his feet, Frank was called upon to identify the criminals. However, this did not pan out the way he had thought as the criminals had solid alibis. A distraught Frank went back home depressed and nearly committed suicide. It was at that moment that the thought of vengeance came to his mind.
Armed with guns and a bullet-proof shirt with a skull drawing, he decided to exact revenge on his shooters and every other criminal around, thus becoming The Punisher.
2. Spiderman aka Peter Parker
“With great power comes great responsibility.” This is arguably the most prominent quote used in the Spiderman films. When Peter Parker first got his powers, he didn’t immediately become the outstanding hero known today. He instead decided to pose as a wrestler, taking down some great fighters in televised wrestling matches. His popularity grew by the day, and this led him to become an egocentric jerk. However, something happened that completely reformed him.
One day, while Peter was backstage, he noticed a thief running toward him. Although the guard was chasing him, chances were he was never going to catch him before he took the elevator. Peter, who was closer, could have stopped the thief without even breaking a sweat, but he let him run past him, pointing out that it was not his job. He further claimed that he was tired of being pushed around.
This thief would, later on, shoot and kill his uncle Ben who, together with Aunt May, had raised him like their own son. This was an eye-opener for Peter on how self-centered he had been, and from then on decided to become a real hero, stopping criminals and protecting the innocent. Although altered to some extent, Tobey Maguire's first Spiderman movie actually did a great screen portrayal of this origin story.
3. The Crow aka Eric Draven
The crow made his first appearance in the Caliber presents issue 1 created by James O’Barr in 1989. The character later got his own live-action film in 1994 titled The Crow. We will, however, focus on his original comic book background story.
The Crow revolves around a man by the name Eric Draven. His story begins to unfold when his car breaks down in a seemingly desolate location leaving him and his fiancée stranded. As Eric attempts to fix the car, they are approached by a squad of goons who offer to help them out. Eric politely declines, but the thugs seem persistent. They cross the line by approaching and teasing his girlfriend, who was in the car.
Instinctively, Eric attempts to defend her by shoving them away, but things go from bad to worse when one of the gang members pulls out his gun and shoots him in the head. He is then left paralyzed on the street and completely incapable of defending his fiancée, who is raped and battered to death as he watches.
Ultimately, Eric meets his demise while in the hospital with his final words being, “The crow said, 'don’t look.'” A year later, he is brought back by a mystical crow. He experiences a short period of amnesia but steadily regains his memory through contact with objects that belonged to him before. With full knowledge of the tragic events that transpired, Eric goes on a quest for revenge picking out the thugs who raped and killed his wife and brutally taking them out. However, he doesn’t stop there. He becomes an anti-hero, avenging the innocent by viciously killing those who prey on them.
4. Drax the Destroyer aka Arthur Douglas
While standing really still doesn’t make him invisible, Drax is, all the same, an incredibly powerful character in the Marvel comics. He was created by Jim Starlin and made his first appearance in Iron Man issue 55 February 1973. His prodigious desire to kill Thanos was openly communicated through this issue. However, to fully grasp the origin of this character, we would have to go to Captain Marvel issue 32, which came out in 1974.
In this issue, we see Drax as a normal human being by the name Arthur Douglas working as a real estate agent from Los Angeles. He has a wife called Yvette and a daughter by the name of Heather. As they are traveling home on a desert highway in Nevada, they happen to spot an alien ship above them. This ship was carrying none other than the mad titan Thanos, who was on a scouting mission on earth. The mad titan, not wanting any spread of information about this encounter, decides to blow up Author’s car, killing him and his wife. However, Heather miraculously escapes and trudges away.
Thanos’s father, Mentor, witnesses this heartless act by his son and decides to approach an Eternal by the name Kronos to try and restore Author’s soul. Kronos creates a powerful being and within it places the soul of Author. This being becomes Drax the destroyer, and they are tasked with no other purpose than to kill Thanos. Although his memory was initially erased, Drax eventually gains them back, further fuelling his unending thirst for the mad titan’s blood.
5. Batman aka Bruce Wayne
Batman is one of the most, if not the most, iconic superhero in DC’s history. He is dreaded by some and revered by others. However, his origin story is one filled with grief and sadness. Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics issue 27, but his past was never revealed until Detective Comics issue 33.
Thomas Wayne, his wife Martha, and son Bruce Wayne were on their way home after watching a movie when they were ambushed by a thug. He wanted to steal Martha's pearl necklace, and this led to a confrontation with Thomas Wayne. The thug shot Thomas on the spot and went on to shoot Martha to shut her up before scampering away.
Bruce Wayne was left terrified and shocked at what had just unfolded before him. His attempts to call his parents after the incident proved futile. Such a horrific thing to experience as a child.
Bruce Wayne would then swear on his parents’ spirits to avenge them by fighting and bringing every criminal to justice. What he needed to do required exceptional investigative skills and fitness, which he did not have yet. So he spent several years training and mastering these skills, and when he was finally ready, all he needed was a disguise. One whose mere sight would shake Gotham’s criminals to their core. As he was engrossed in his own thoughts, a bat flew into his window, and this immediately gave him an idea of making a bat his symbol, and the rest is history.