When seen from a hero’s perspective, the horrors committed by most villains are dastardly and can never be justified. But if you dig deeper, there lies a tortured soul beneath those ghastly costumes and horrifying face-paint. Though there are a few characters who are unabashed psychopaths, there are also a few who had it so bad that a life of crime and hatred became their sole identity. Here are 15 comic-book villains with the saddest origin stories that will break your heart.
15. Doctor Octopus
Doctor Octopus is often regarded as the greatest nemesis of Spider-Man. Immortalized by Alfred Molina in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the character’s real origin story is even sadder than the one shown in the movie. In the comics, Otto Octavius is a prodigal child born to an abusive father. Though he manages to become one of the most recognizable faces of science, tragedy strikes when his mother, suffering from empty nest syndrome, asks her son to leave his fiance and focus on his studies. During a heated debate, his mother passed away, leaving him all alone. Then, another explosion at his lab destroys all his life’s works, forcing him to choose the path of crime.
The man who broke the Bat, Bane is Batman’s fearsome nemesis who matches him in strength, will power, and intellect. Sentenced to imprisonment since his birth for the crimes committed by his father, Bane grew up in a hell where he had to fight on regular basis to survive. Later, he was treated like a lab rat and was discarded when considered as a failure. A man who was born without love and affection, Bane has only known rage since his birth.
Abused by his own father since his childhood, Jonathan Crane was the subject of a cruel experiment. Terrorized by his father, Jonathan was regularly induced with hallucinogens that evoked his greatest fears. As a result, Jonathan used the same techniques on his victims and adopted the name of Scarecrow. Years of mental abuse by his family members and peers and dozens of fear-inducing toxins drove the young Jonathan to incurable insanity which made him the way he is.
12. Mr. Freeze
As a leading cryogenics expert, Dr. Victor Fries found his true love in his wife, Nora Fries. However, Nora’s terminal illness forced Victor to find a cure to save her. But unfortunately, a lab accident drastically lowered his body temperature to sub-zero levels, forcing him to wear a cryogenic suit. His determination to find a cure for his beloved wife often puts him in conflict with Batman. In Batman: The Animated Series, the episode featuring Mr. Freeze and Batman is one of the most poignant episodes of the series, making the viewers understand the villain’s perspective.
What happens when a house cat is suddenly thrown into a life of abuse? Dextor was a common house cat adopted by a kind lady. But the cat’s life took an ill-fated turn when the lady was murdered by an unknown assailant during a robbery. Soon after, Dextor started living in the streets where he was lured by a group of teenagers. In their own twisted sense of humor, the teenagers put the poor cat inside a bag and tossed it off the Brooklyn Bridge to see if the cat survives. Just moments before his imminent death, Dextor was chosen by the Red Lantern ring since it sensed the cat’s unstoppable rage. Powered by the Red Lantern ring, Dextor became Dex-Starr and viciously murdered his torturers, and set out on a quest to find his past owner’s murderer.
Related: DC Superheroes Who Became Villains
Despite being similar to Superman in almost every aspect, Bizarro never understood why he is considered a villain. Unlike Superman, Bizarro was created, thus never having the opportunity to receive love and warmth. In most iterations, Bizarro is often created by psychopaths like the Joker or Lex Luthor. As a result, he never gets a true purpose in life, other than destroying Superman. A void filled with hatred, rage, and violence.
9. The Joker
It takes one bad day to push someone off the edge. That’s what happened to the Joker. Though Joker’s origin story has been often disputed, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke became a widely accepted origin story for the Clown Prince of Crime. A failing comic gets desperate to earn a few bucks to sustain his pregnant wife and instead gets thrown into a vat of acid. Apart from permanently disfiguring his appearance, the accident makes him insane, making him commit crimes that are unforgivable. In some instances, his sanity does emerge, but the horrors of his past force him to enter the vicious cycle of insanity.
Having killed Superman once, Doomsday is a grotesque looking monster made to kill. However, his backstory is both tragic and extremely gross. Created by a mad scientist, Doomsday created in pre-historic Krypton in an extremely harsh environment. When the first humanoid baby was released on the planet, it was promptly killed by the hellish environment. Soon after, its remains were cloned to make another baby. This process was continued till the baby was able to sustain in the harsh conditions. However, the past experiments were coded in its gene, making it hate all lifeform. At one point, the baby was left to drift in space, where it died and came back to life in a vicious cycle, just to make it an unkillable monster.
7. Doctor Doom
Born into a witches coven, Doctor Doom lost his mother at a young age and was persecuted unjustly by the ruling monarch when his father failed to save the Baron’s terminally ill wife. Soon after, Doom and his father left the place, but Doom’s father succumbed to his death in the mountains. Doctor Doom learned the ways of magic and technology and went to the United States to study. There, he tried to invent the time machine to meet his mother. Unbeknownst to anyone, Ben Grimm (The Thing) had tampered with the machine which resulted in disastrous results. No wonder, Doom hates the Fantastic Four so much.
Originally a hero, Galactus sucked up the energy from the cosmos to save his home planet and the universe. However, only Galactus survived while everyone else died. If it was not tragic enough, the event resulted in Galactus being suspended in a state of extreme hunger that could only be satiated by devouring planets.
5. Red Skull
Having lost his mother during childbirth, Red Skull was blamed by his father who tried to kill him by drowning him. If having such a rough childhood was not enough, he grew up in an impoverished village in Nazi Germany. With no one to guide him, he soon adopted a life of petty crimes to survive. And finally, he found one person who genuinely cared about him in a life filled with misery and hatred: Adolf Hitler. The rest is history.
As the first mutant, Apocalypse was abandoned by his birth parents. Soon after, he was adopted by a group of nomads. But later on, the group was slaughtered, forcing Apocalypse and his foster father to take refuge in a cave. There, Apocalypse learned about the prophecy that he would become a hero who would liberate millions from the oppressors while watching his foster father die of starvation. As fate would have it, Apocalypse never became a hero, instead becoming an oppressor filled with rage and hatred due to the wrongs done against him.
A rare blood illness forced the Nobel Prize-winning scientist to find a cure for his condition. The illness did not just affect his health, but severely disfigured his appearance which resulted in bullying by his peers. During an experiment gone wrong, the scientist was cured of his rare illness, but became a pseudo-vampire with an insatiable lust for human blood.
A famed archaeologist, Dr.Barbara Ann Minerva stumbled upon an ancient tribe in Africa that was protected by a female guardian with the powers of a cheetah. Tricked by a witch doctor to gain immortality, Dr. Minerva ingests a mixture of human blood, berries, and the leaves of Urzkartaga which made her the host with the powers of a cheetah. But unbeknownst to her, the host had to be a virgin. As a result, Barbara suffered severe pain when in human form and had an insatiable bloodlust whenever she turned into Cheetah.
If there’s any character who suffered the most, it has to be Magneto. Born as Max Eisenhardt, Magneto fled from several concentration camps only to be finally captured where he had to witness his entire family getting murdered. The young Max was also forced to dispose of the bodies in several concentration camps. Later, he managed to escape a camp along with his romantic partner. But tragedy struck once again when an angry mob burned down his home with his infant daughter inside when they found Magneto’s mutant abilities. As a Holocaust survivor, Magneto has faced persecution both as a human and a mutant, which explains his militant views, as opposed to Charles Xavier’s approach.