Batman‘s Alfred and Superman‘s Jor-El Are Super Dads Any Day of the Year” width=”560″/>
Parental drama is at the heart of most caped sagas, and today’s superheroes have some serious daddy issues. But father figures (in comic book flicks and in real life) can come from unexpected places. And as super and heroic as their children are, these dads are equal to the task. Here’s my salute to some of the best (and a few of the worst) father figures in superhero movies. They might not all be real dads, but they definitely fit the slacks… er, tights.
Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache), Batman Begins (2005)
Prior to Christopher Nolan’s reboot, Batman’s pop was relegated to rainy, tear-stained flashbacks. But Begins offers some insight into the gifted surgeon and face of Wayne Enterprises — no mere Donald Trump-esque blowhard, Wayne used his wealth and status for the betterment of Gotham City and helps young Bruce conquer his fears. That said, if he knew Bruce suffered from a fear of bats, why did he take him to a bat opera? A little insight might have prevented his whole getting murdered in the alley thing.
Jor-El (Marlon Brando), Superman (1978)
As the only sane person on Krypton, Jor-El saves his young son’s life and gives him the tools to build the ultimate tree house, aka the Fortress of Solitude. Though saddled with a dated gown that would be more at home on The Island of Dr. Moreau, Brando brings gravity to Richard Donner’s classic adaptation. Bonus points for actually returning from beyond the grave via ghostly projections that impart advice and Kryptonian knowledge to his son.
Professor X (Patrick Stewart), X-Men trilogy (2000-2006)
Though not actually the biological pop to any of the X-Men, Prof. X is the closest any of them have to a stable parental figure. (And just like your actual father, he always knows what you’re thinking.) Your real parents may call you a freak, but Xavier’s mansion is always open with comfy beds, bucolic grounds and cool teachers to help you nurture your powers. And all Xavier asks in return is that you put on some black leather and help defend human and mutant kind. Way better than taking out the recycling.
Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), Spider-Man (2002)
For orphan Peter Parker, Uncle Ben and Aunt May are the whole world. And while Aunt May makes the best flapjacks around, Uncle Ben imparts on Peter the life-changing motto, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Though Peter initially rejects him as a father figure, the guilt he feels over his death leads him to adopt Ben’s advice as a creed. Robertson is so darn appealing in the role, he keeps turning up in flashbacks. Hopefully Raimi won’t bring him back as The Vulture in the next movie.
Alfred Pennyworth, (Michael Gough and Michael Caine), Batman (1989) to The Dark Knight (2008)
Love interests, villains and sidekicks come and go, but Alfred is always there with a plate of sandwiches and a wise quip. He’s the voice of reason in Bruce Wayne’s world, encouraging his quest and telling him when he’s pushing himself too far. (If not for Alfred, Batman would just wander the streets beating on random bums.) The excellent Michael Gough was the sole saving grace of the later Batman sequels, and Michael Caine has proven to be the sole source of comic relief in Nolan’s grim Gotham.
Let’s not forget these other super dads:
Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), The Incredibles (2004) — As Bob/Mr. Incredible sheds his suburban life for superheroics he becomes a better dad along the way. Plus he lets them all wear cool costumes.
Howard Stark (Gerard Sanders), Iron Man (2008) — Seen in archival footage, the Howard Hughes-esque Stark has a profound effect on his raconteur son. Tony strives to carry on his legacy, even if his path is a tad more whiskey-soaked.
Pa Kent (Glenn Ford), Superman — Superman’s adoptive father plays a big role in the young hero’s life. His death spurs Clark to ditch Smallville for the big city, and his name is synonymous with wholesome small-town values.
And now for the deadbeat duds:
The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Watchmen (2009) — From killing his unborn child in the womb to attempting to rape the mother of daughter Silk Spectre, Comedian gives Darth Vader a run for his money as the worst father in all of scifi-dom.
Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Spider-Man — Besides being a supervillian, Osborn Sr. is also just plain creepy. He ruins Thanksgiving gatherings with his smarmy attitude and spends an inordinate amount of time talking to himself in the mirror. Not to mention he inspires his son to fly around on that stupid hoverboard thing.
Got any favorite comic book father figures? Let us know in the comments. And for more comic book news and views, hit up Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.Read More