Today, we’re putting the “pop” in pop culture as we count down the top 10 dads in comics. These paternal powerhouses are protective and loving fathers to their children, forming an essential part of many famous comic book families. Super powers or not, these rad dads are heroes themselves, teaching valuable life lessons to their children and to readers alike.
Read along to find out if your favorite father figures made the list this week.
(This blog contains spoilers for issues of Saga, The Walking Dead, and Fables.)
10. Ogami Itto (Lone Wolf and Cub)
Created by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub tells the story of Ogami Itto, a man forced to take the path of the assassin after his family is murdered and he is disgraced. He is left only with his son, a sword, and his discipline as an executioner.
Set in the Tokugawa era of Japanese history and written in the ’70s, this story showcases the powerful bond between father and son, the wolf and his cub. When the child turns one, Ogami Itto gives his son Daigoro a choice between a ball and a sword — the child chooses the sword and is drawn to the path of the lordless samurai, a ronin. Daigoro outlives his father and takes what his father has taught him in order to end the violence between warring clans at the conclusion of the epic saga.
9. Marko (Saga)
Marko is a Wreath soldier whose fatherhood was considered a war crime — after eloping with Alana, a soldier from the opposite side of the war, the pair had a daughter named Hazel who truly represents their star-crossed love. Hazel has her father’s horns and her mother’s wings.
Despite his service, Marko wanted nothing but peace. He has protected both his wife and daughter from both the Landfall and Wreath armies, vicious newshounds trying to expose his child to the world, and bounty hunters of every persuasion. As the series is narrated by Hazel, we see her father for what he truly is: not a super hero, but a man trying his best in a senseless world.
8. Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead)
Now, this ranking has some spoilers for issues of The Walking Dead, so proceed with caution. Rick Grimes has been in nearly 200 issues of The Walking Dead, protecting his son, wife, and daughter against the violent hordes of zombies and even other survivors. This fatherhood was not without loss, though — Lori and Judith were brutally killed, and even still there was no certainty that the baby was Rick’s child.
Still, he has guided and ushered countless numbers of people trying to survive the new, horrifying world. And what’s more, he’s been alongside his son Carl through some of the most gruesome moments — which makes it all the more heartbreaking when Rick is shot in the chest by another survivor, and then finally shot in the head by his son, who finds him reanimated as a zombie. Rest in peace, Rick Grimes.
7. Bruce Wayne (DC Comics)
Orphaned at a young age, Bruce Wayne has been both a biological father figure and an adoptive one, providing home and family for many individuals. He has fathered his children Helena Wayne and Damian Wayne and has also been a mentor and guardian for Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, and Cassandra Cain.
Though Batman isn’t the most outwardly loving figure, he instills good values of loyalty, support, and justice in those fortunate enough to be a part of the Bat-Family. He helps them to become better, and in turn, they give him the sense of family that he once lost.
6. Luke Cage (Marvel Comics)
Luke Cage’s life was forever changed after a drunken one-night stand with private investigator Jessica Jones. When it was revealed that she became pregnant from their encounter, Luke Cage offered to start a new chapter of their lives together. Soon, they welcomed their daughter Danielle into the world, and Luke has been one of the most loving, most protective fathers in the Marvel universe ever since.
He’s fought off Skrulls to save his daughter, protected and loved her when she mysteriously turned purple (the same color as Jessica Jones’s greatest enemy), and there’s even an entire comic issue dedicated to him telling his daughter a fun and engaging bedtime story. His skin may be unbreakable, but Luke Cage is a soft-hearted, caring father.
5. Jonathan Kent (DC Comics)
Jonathan Kent, also known as “Pa” Kent, is the adoptive father of Kal-El, Superman. Based in Smallville, Kansas, Jonathan and his wife Martha were the first people to encounter the Kryptonian infant. In most versions of Superman’s origin, it was Jonathan who trained Kal-El to use his powers and to keep his identity a secret by creating the Clark Kent persona.
Jonathan is an irreplaceable figure in the life of Superman, though his presence has been changed in numerous continuities. Before the John Byrne 1986 Superman reboot, the Kents died after Clark’s high school graduation. In post-Crisis continuity, however, they remain alive into his adulthood — though Jonathan’s eventual death, caused by an attack from Brainiac, becomes one of Kal-El’s most defining moments. This loss cemented Superman’s resolve to always live by the principles Jonathan taught him. Superman even names his son with Lois Lane after his adoptive Earth father.
4. Scott Lang (Marvel Comics)
The second person to wear the Ant-Man title, Scott Lang actually became a super hero because of his desire to save his daughter, Cassie, after she became seriously ill. He stole Dr. Hank Pym’s Ant-Man suit and Pym Particle canisters to break into Cross Enterprises and liberate the only doctor who could save his child.
Even in the MCU, this love translates as fans can see Scott and Cassie’s strong relationship on full display. While many of the men who wear the Ant-Man mantle are damaged in some way, Scott Lang reforms his criminal ways in order to ensure a better life for his daughter. Cassie even grows up (and shrinks down) to become the Young Avenger named Stature, following her father’s heroic example.
3. Bigby Wolf (Fables)
Who’s afraid of the Big Dad Wolf? Bigby Wolf is the sheriff of Fabletown, who puts his life of tormenting pigs and girls in red hoods behind him after falling in love with Snow White. After a strange and magical night together, Bigby and Snow find themselves parenting a litter of seven part-wolf children.
Due to magical rules and restrictions in the world of Fables, Bigby was required to make a number of important sacrifices in order to remain with his children. He makes amends with his estranged father and even eventually dies and is resurrected while trying to ensure that his whole family can live happily ever after.
2. Ben Parker (Marvel Comics)
Also known as Uncle Ben, Benjamin Parker is the paternal uncle and adoptive father figure of Peter Parker, Spider-Man. The famous proverb, “With great power comes great responsibility,” originally wasn’t attributed to Ben, but in later stories and flashbacks it was retroactively made into one of his favorite lectures for the young Peter Parker.
Ben and his wife May were extremely protective of Peter, and Uncle Ben even fought bullies for the child on occasion. It took until his death for Peter Parker to truly understand the lessons imparted by his Uncle Ben, but to this day, he remains one of the most iconic paternal figures in all of pop culture. His is also one of the most notable comic book deaths that has never been reversed in comic continuity, leading to the rise of the phrase, “No one in comics stays dead except Uncle Ben.”
1. Alfred Pennyworth (DC Comics)
In many respects, it is the job of a father to ensure that his children grow up to surpass his own achievements and make the world a better place. While Bruce Wayne inherited a great deal of wealth and power from the passing of his father Thomas, no father figure has given a greater sense of justice, responsibility, and trust to a hero than Alfred Pennyworth.
Described as Batman’s Batman, Pennyworth is many things to our hero, including a butler, housekeeper, best friend, legal guardian, and surrogate father figure. For a hero like the Dark Knight, it is vital that Alfred serves as a spot of brightness, providing comic relief and a moral anchor for Bruce Wayne in the ever-dangerous landscape of Gotham City.
While sometimes his butler status for Bruce is played for laughs — like in The LEGO Batman Movie with the lobster thermidor — more than anything, it has always been Alfred who has provided comfort and support to an orphan in need of a protective, loving presence in his life. And of course, he provides Batman with the assurance and trust he needs in order to protect Gotham and all of the DC universe.
So, did we feature your favorite fictional fathers of the comics? Or was this just a list full of dad jokes? If we missed someone who you think should be on the list, be sure to keep the conversation going over at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!