Comics Creators

Who do you think is the most tragic hero?

…hm, Spidey? In my humble and modest opinion, that’d have to be the world’s most famoust web-slinger. I mean, sure, Batman’s parents are gunned down in front of him, Robin dies in his arms, Punisher watches his family die, Wolverine due to slowed aging is forced to look people he loves dying, Superman is an alien, etc.

But Spiderman?
I read yesterday The Night Gwen Stacy Died (which is possibly his fault) and it really makes me wonder how harsh the life has been toward Peter Parker. And this is probably corroborated by the fact I always looked upon him as smooth-talking, good-humoured, friendly neighbor. Hence, the effect of losing loved one is probably stronger to me. During these few moths I’ve been reading the first four Essentials of Spiderman and it is here that all his major tragedies occured. First Uncle Ben, then Captain Stacy (collected with TNGSD storyline), then Harry started doing drugs, and then Gwen. Not to mention that he always has to balance his life as Peter Parker and Spiderman back and forth. Public doesn’t like him, his Aunt May is in fragile condition. Somehow, all important aspects of his life happened then, and if let’s say, Batman’s life is driven by the tragedy, then Spidey’s defined by the tragedies. Moreover, I felt he suffered just because of his Spiderman persona.

What do you folks think?


Yeah, it’s Spidey. :slight_smile:

Harry Potter.

Comics wise it might be Black Widow.


Keanu Reeves.


Punished and it’s not even close. Watching your wife and children be killed right in front of you is horrific.


Superior Spider-Man by far. This is Octavius actually being his own arch enemy. He goes from having a ravaged body to being able to achieve everything he ever wanted…but it’s only possible if he runs around being Spider-Man. And Peter Parker. And of course it eventually ends, and who benefits? His arch enemy. It’s kind of the ultimate tragedy.


It’s hard to say though, because as a kid you’re much less able to deal with that trauma I think, and your whole world is your parents.

Having billions probably puts him out of the running, but I do feel having your parents killed in front of you as a child, especially a sheltered child, has to be the most traumatic single event of the bigguns. Could only be worse if he accidentally killed them himself, I think (something Morrison played with in a different book)

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Are you talking about Batman?

I think Batman’s story is initially tragic, but it ends up being a story about using those bad feelings to fuel a more positive course of action and do something about the problem, and Bruce finding meaning in that. So there is positivity there.

Spider-Man not only has his initial tragedy (for which he shoulders a huge amount of guilt), but keeps getting hit by tragedies on a regular basis, fuelling guilt that never leaves him.

Combined with his generally depressing home life and love life, it ends up being a story about a person who keeps trying to do the right thing even when nothing goes right for him, and who can never catch a break even when he’s giving his all to be as selfless and responsible as possible.

As a reader I think you can draw a lot of strength from that, but the character himself is inherently tragic. As he needs to be for his story to work. It’s no coincidence that the best and most famous Spider-Man storylines are rooted in that kind of tragedy.

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You got Batman from THAT?? I’m talking about OPEN WINDOW MAN, Dave, as should have been obvious to anyone of culture and grace.

(I kid :slight_smile: )

Yeah that’s one generous way of looking at it, certainly it was the thesis to the first part of Morrison’s run and, brilliantly, one of the notes that Mieville hit with open Window Man.

I just think that taken as an origin, that’s a more tragic moment than anything that can happen to an adult, because the vulnerability is so much greater.

I hear you, but surely we could make a significant argument for almost any hero, right? Batman losing Jason for instance, the crippling of Barbara, the complete destruction of Gotham for a while, the breaking of his own back and subsequent crippling, the time he was broken in the Starlin arc.

Totally, although from the outside it seems like a lot of that has been lost in the last 10 years.


Yeah, I’m talking more about the classic take on Spider-Man - from the few times I’ve dipped into the current books over the last decade or so it seems like they’ve dialled down that mopey quality. As did the most recent movie.

I defintiely feel there is an argument that the Punisher is one of the more tragic of the major players because he clearly lives within that tragedy regularly, his whole being is shaped by in it in a very unconstructive way, a very self destructive way. He’s a walking trauma, certainly he has untreated PTSD (i’m talking about the platonic version I guess, I haven’t read anything but MAX).

Spider-Man for all the tragedy has a fundamentally empathetic, positive relationship with the world. He may well have had a lot of knocks, but he still sees the world as a good place, people as fundamentally good. Much more Superman in that sense, which to me makes him less tragic than Punisher and Batman under Frank Miller (who is deeply psychotic)

Probably Daredevil also has a foot in the game.

Mr Immortal. He just wants to end it all, man. His girlfriend is dead, his previous girlfriend is dead. Why can’t he just be allowed to die too?

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Yeah, I wanted to put that in my initial post, but I didn’t. Dan Scott has never been my favorite Spiderman writer, and that case with Doc Ock perfectly illustrates that. After all shit Peter goes through, Octopus swaps the bodies, while Peter dies and that’s it?! Pretty much hardcore. No wonder that DS received death threats after this.

And Dave perfectly summarizes my feelings. Spiderman is hit back by tragedy after tragedy, trying to good but constantly being pushed back, both physically and psychologically. True, these occured mostly in his earliest adventures, (if you don’t count whole thing with already mentioned Dr. Octopus. Or wiping memory of his marriage with MJ, for the life of Aunt May, caused by Mephisto).
It, I believe is perfectly stated in my JM Straszynsky’s run (btw, one of my favorite runs ever for any character, though I hated Gwen Stacy affair with Norman Osborn)
It shows Spidey going home, tired. I’ll quote him:"
Hello, God… This is Peter Parker. Can I ask a favor? I know I’ve been your personal cat toy for the last few years…but can we not do that to me again for a while? Not real long, I know the odds on that are about zero…but just for a little while. Say…fifty or sixty years? I mean, that’s not long in your terms, right? Just kidding, God… Just kidding. But I’ll bet you knew that, didn’t you?"

But after reading these early stories, I don’t think I’ll ever look at the Spiderman the same way ever.


Jim Gordon.

Poor Peter Parker and his loving Uncle & Aunt, his comfortable home and his budding college career in the subjects he’s passionate about. Oh, and his Amazing super powers.

Poor Bruce Wayne with his ever present father figure, his billions in the bank, his network of supermodel girlfriends and his numerous charities which provide acclaim among everyone in Gotham.

Poor Frank Castle surviving his multiple tours relatively injury free and his taste of happiness for a few years with his perfect nuclear family.

Natalia Romanova was abandoned at birth, raised in loveless cruelty where every single day she was subject to training and abuse. Her only option in life was to become a heartless killer. She has no family. All her friends as a child were turned into her enemies. Lord knows how much she was sexually abused. She’ll never have kids. Her teammates never really trust her. She has enemies amongst the worst criminal networks on the planet. She goes from empty relationship to relationship with men only interested in her beauty and not her soul. The walls surrounding her heart are cast iron. She’ll never ever even have a taste of normal life or feel love. She was broken as an infant, clearly brilliant but never allowed to become what she’d have liked to have been.

And she has the least power of everyone on the battlefield in every fight she gets into. Every single time her mortality is more at risk than anyone else’s.


Seriously? No Rouge, Miracle Man or V?
I’d say that Chamber from Generation X is more tragic than Spidey. How bad would you feel if the first time you used your power it blew half your face off?
Hell, you can argue that Deadpool is more tragic than all those others combined. He was forced to kill his own parents

Her hair looks amazing though. Swings and roundabouts.


That’s a great description, but without a strong, concerted presentation of any of that, it’s hard to keep her in the running. I’ve stated elsewhere that it’s damn inconceivable that she has hardly been promoted (featured in low profile series is different) in the decade or so the movies have featured her as one of the key superheroes in the Marvel landscape. Everything you state would make her very easily a prototype Marvel character. Hell, even Spider-Woman has routinely gotten bigger pushes. Spider-Woman! Someone seriously needs to tell Marvel that just because someone has a story or a quirky character they want to spotlight, they still need to keep their priorities straight.

What someone said about Spider-Man above is essentially why I can’t see him as tragic. As Spider-Man he’s the happiest character in comics. Tragedy is just something he processes. You’d have to look for people tortured by their powers to have their sad stories actually mean something.

Ben Grimm was the original tragic hero; while his teammates got fantastic powers but looked normal, he turned into a hideous Thing. His self-loathing was a major part of the storyline in the earliest Fantastic Four issues.


Er, I don’t know how to break this to you…