9 Bizarre Storylines About Superhero’s Parents Casual Fans Don’t Know

Captain Marvel’s Mother Was A Kree In Hiding

Comic books have a reputation for going off the rails with weird storylines and retconning galore, but when it comes to digging into the family trees of our favorite heroes, things get even weirder. Parents in Marvel and DC comics are often critical characters, providing motivation, conflict, and backstory that enhance the hero’s own story…but sometimes they just confuse us.

From Thor’s real mom being the literal Earth to Luke Cage’s dad rolling with a squad of ’70s Avengers, here are 9 confusing storylines surrounding superhero parents that will undoubtedly have casual fans going down a wiki rabbit hole for the rest of the day.

9. Thor’s Mom Isn’t Frigga, But Gaea, The Physical Embodiment Of Earth Itself

Thor’s Mom Isn’t Frigga, But Gaea, The Physical Embodiment Of Earth Itself

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are familiar with Rene Russo’s portrayal of Frigga, partner of Odin and mother to Thor and Loki. In both Norse mythology and Marvel Comics, however, Frigga is only the mother of Odin’s less notable sons like Balder and Tyr. Thor’s mom, on the other hand, is Midgard itself.

Seeking to sire a son that was as powerful on Earth as he was on Asgard, Odin specifically sought out and mated with Gaea, an Elder God alternatively known as Mother Earth and a physical embodiment of the planet itself. Since then, Gaea has remained on the outskirts of the Thunder God’s life, though their paths have occasionally crossed and they remain on good terms.

8. Captain Marvel’s Mother Was A Kree In Hiding

Captain Marvel’s Mother Was A Kree In Hiding

For much of her published history, Carol Danvers was thought to be a character only circumstantially related to the alien Kree, having been blasted by their Psyche-Magnitron and granted wondrous Kree powers. Some time after taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel, however, Danvers learned that her abilities weren’t the only Kree legacy she carried.

While her father was, indeed, a human being, Danvers’s mother turned out to be Mari-Ell, a Kree warrior hiding out in the guise of an earthling. This makes Captain Marvel a human-Kree hybrid, something that has led to countless changes in her personal life. Shortly after being confronted with the truth, however, Mari-Ell had to sacrifice her life to save her daughter from a Kree sleeper agent, limiting Carol’s chances to learn of her true heritage – though she has since also discovered the existence of a Kree half-sister.

7. Professor X’s Dad (Probably Unwittingly) Worked For Mister Sinister

Professor X’s Dad (Probably Unwittingly) Worked For Mister Sinister 

Professor Charles Xavier had a difficult upbringing. Shortly after discovering his own mutant powers, Xavier lost his father, Brian, in a lab accident. His widowed mother then married the abusive Dr. Kurt Marko, Brian’s former lab partner, which brought the future Juggernaut into Charles’s life as the ultimate wicked stepbrother.

Later in life, however, Charles would discover that even his dear old dad had a number of quite literal sinister secrets all his own. Both Brian and Kurt, it turns out, were involved in something called the Black Womb Project, a mass mutant-monitoring project that – most likely unbeknownst to either man – was run by the evil Mister Sinister in the guise of Dr. Nathan Milbury.

6. Luke Cage’s Father Was A ‘Mighty Avenger’ With Blade In The ’70s 

Luke Cage’s Father Was A 'Mighty Avenger' With Blade In The '70s 

Luke Cage was born Carl Lucas, son of James Lucas, a former NYPD detective who disowned his son after Carl was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. It took decades of Carl fighting crime as a superhero before James was willing to talk to his son again, which is why Cage only recently discovered that his old man was once an Avenger.

Though he has no superpowers to speak of, James discovered the corpse of a vampire-like creature in 1972, which led to him falling in with a group of superhumans like the Blue Marvel and Blade. Together, this group dubbed themselves the “Mighty Avengers” and worked as a team until the threat of the Deathwalkers had been stopped. 

5. Mister Fantastic’s Father Is A Time-Traveling Messiah

Mister Fantastic’s Father Is A Time-Traveling Messiah

Mister Fantastic’s father disappeared during his adolescence, vanishing without so much as a note. Unlike most absentee fathers, however, Nathaniel Richards had a pretty valid excuse for abandoning his family: He was busy traveling through time and protecting all existence.

While Reed Richards was still young, his father was approached by representatives of an ancient order called the Brotherhood of the Shield, forebears of the modern-day S.H.I.E.L.D. His adventures with them brought him into contact with intellects as diverse as Howard Stark and an immortal Leonardo da Vinci, and they also resulted in him being catapulted through time. At one point, Nathaniel ended up in the 30th century, where he brought about an era of peace as “The Benefactor” and accidentally inspired the transformation of his own descendent into the time-traveling omni-villain Kang the Conqueror.

After decades lost in the timestream, Nathaniel was able to reunite with his son and his ever-expanding family, and he remains an important, if unreliable, ally of the Fantastic Four. 

4. Superman’s Father Survived The Explosion Of Krypton

Superman’s Father Survived The Explosion Of Krypton

Most would consider Pa and Ma Kent to be Superman’s parents, with his biological mother and father having famously perished alongside the rest of their people when the planet Krypton exploded. More recently, however, the Man of Steel made a disturbing discovery – not only did Jor-El survive Krypton, but he also went on to manipulate the DC Universe from behind the scenes for decades.

Crossing over from the Watchmen universe, Doctor Manhattan apparently plucked Jor-El from the moment of Krypton’s demise – an act designed specifically to mess with Superman – and brought him to Earth, where Jor-El took up the name “Mister Oz.” From there, he attempted to police the various timelines of DC continuity in a way that would ultimately benefit Kal-El and his family, though the two have come into conflict as often as they’ve worked together since the revelation. 

3. The Red Skull Slayed Spider-Man’s Parents

The Red Skull Slayed Spider-Man’s Parents

Unlike most superheroes with deceased parents, Richard and Mary Parker don’t play an enormous role in the superheroic backstory of their son Peter, save for the fact that their demise led to his being raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the latter of whom did inspire his origin. It wouldn’t be until well into his career as Spider-Man that Peter would discover his mom and dad’s deep connections to the world of caped crusaders.

Peter had grown up believing his parents had perished in a plane crash, and that much is true. Beyond that, however, Richard and Mary had met and married while serving as CIA agents, and a few years after the birth of their son – and a secret daughter, Teresa – they were sent on a mission to infiltrate an Algerian spy ring. It turned out to be run by the Red Skull, who discovered that the two were undercover and then orchestrated their demise as revenge. He also attempted to frame them for treason, though Spidey was later able to conclusively clear their names. 

2. Nightwing’s Parents May Have Been Grooming Him To Become An Assassin For The Court Of Owls

Nightwing’s Parents May Have Been Grooming Him To Become An Assassin For The Court Of Owls

When Batman uncovered the existence of the Court of Owls in Gotham City, it led to a series of other unpleasant revelations – including one that had some serious implications for his ward, Dick Grayson.

Records kept by the court made it clear that they had long been using Haly’s Circus as a training ground for future Talon assassins, and that they had marked Dick as their next candidate while he was a child. Though this would seem to indicate that John and Marie Grayson, or at the very least their employers, were raising their son to be an assassin, they perished in a trapeze accident before the truth could come out, leaving young Dick to be adopted by Bruce Wayne and saved from a life as an immortal enforcer.

1. Iron Man’s Parents Were NOT Howard And Maria Stark (He Was Adopted For Truly Bizarre Reasons)

Iron Man’s Parents Were NOT Howard And Maria Stark (He Was Adopted For Truly Bizarre Reasons)

For most of his existence, whether in the pages of Marvel Comics or on the big screen, Tony Stark has been defined by his relationship with his parents, and in particular his domineering father Howard Stark. That’s what made the revelation that Tony was adopted such a shocker when it happened, with the reasons behind the adoption only adding to the extreme sense of dissonance experienced by readers.

As it turns out, Howard and Maria Stark had made a deal with an alien intelligence to save the life of their unborn son, but when Arno was born severely immunocompromised, they decided to renege on the deal. In order to trick the alien entity, they put Arno into hiding and adopted another child, Tony, to serve as a “decoy” – raising him without any knowledge of their biological son’s existence.

As Iron Man, Tony would eventually discover the truth, reuniting with Arno and then tracking down his own biological parents. His mother was rockstar turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Amanda Armstrong, who had to give Tony up for adoption when it turned out that his father, Jude, was secretly working for Hydra.