Beast Boy, Cyborg And 12 Other DC Superheroes With Devastating Origin Stories

Life can be full of all kinds of unexpected, heart-wrenching tragedies and the DC Comics universe is no different. DC superheroes often live through tragic moments on their way to becoming the admired do-gooders that comic readers know and love. Take for example Batman, who infamously witnessed the untimely death of his parents before his very eyes. However, Batman isn’t the only DC superhero with a surprisingly disturbing origin story.

The DC Comics universe is just full of superhero origin stories that would make even the toughest comic book reader shed a tear. From being treated like lab experiments to just barely escaping the destruction of one’s home planet, there are several devastating origin stories that plague the superheroes in the DC Comics universe. Here are 14 superheroes with dark origin stories that DC comic readers are still traumatized over.

1. Martian Manhunter And His Brother’s Curse

Photo: Martian Manhunter Vol. 1: The Epiphany / DC Comics

It’s one thing to realize you’re the last of your race, like Superman, but for Martian Manhunter, the finality of his existence is so much more tactile. After his twin brother was convicted of a horrific act and forced to have his mind wiped and his telepathic powers removed, he created the “Hronmeer’s Curse,” a disease that cause Martians to spontaneously combust the moment they use telepathy. 

Unable to stop his brother, Martian Manhunter is forced to watch his friends, family, and species perish in front of him. It isn’t until he’s accidentally brought to Earth that he is able to push beyond the pain of his past and start working with the Justice League to defend humanity. 

2. Beast Boy Was A Science Experiment

Photo: New Teen Titans Vol. 3 / DC Comics

He may be a fun guy to have around at parties, but Beast Boy has had to overcome some serious personal issues. While he grew up traveling with his scientist parents, life wasn’t all roses for the young Garfield Logan. His parents were abusive, something that pushed him inward as they grew colder. 

After he was infected with a deadly virus while in Africa, Beast Boy’s father injected him with a serum made from the DNA of a green monkey. On one hand, he wanted to save his son’s life, but on the other, he was testing an experimental substance and using his sick son as a guinea pig. The serum saved his life but turned him into a changeling covered in green fur. 

Beast Boy continues to have a love/hate relationship with his parents even after their passing, mostly because he thinks he could have saved them from a gruesome end. 

3. Rorschach’s Rough Childhood

Photo: Watchmen / DC Comics

Everything in Alan Moore’s Watchmen is dark: the world is close to a nuclear catastrophe, people are losing their lives in the streets, and superheroes are slaying each other left and right. However, the darkest character in the story is Rorschach. Born Walter Kovacs, he lived with an abusive mother and received regular beatings. 

When he learns his mother has been viciously slain, he simply says that it’s “good.” After he leaves a school for boys and gets a job at a garment shop, Kovacs watches the world deteriorate. And because his childhood warped him, he believes the only way to save the world from itself is to become a vigilante with a penchant for taking lives. 

4. Harley Quinn Loves To Love

Photo: DC Comics

Even though Quinn is presented as someone who’s always down to break the law, her life of misdeeds comes from a deeply ingrained love/hate relationship with her abuser, the Joker. When she was only a psychology student, Quinn created the hypothesis that the minds of people in love and those who break the law are exactly the same. 

Quinn convinces herself that her then-boyfriend is a lawbreaker and that she’ll do anything for him. She even pretends to slay a college professor, something that leads her beau to actually take the life of the teacher. She then slays her boyfriend and makes the whole thing look like he took his own life. After getting a job at Arkham Asylum, she’s immediately enthralled by the Joker, who twists up her mind and uses her to break out of the psychiatric facility.

5. Batman’s Great Loss

Photo: Batman: Year One / DC Comics

There’s no way to express the pain that’s felt when a child loses their parents. It can cause deep emotional scars that are hard to overcome, and to physically witness their horrific end is something that could break a person. After seeing a Zorro film with his mother and father, Bruce Wayne’s parents were slain in an alley during a mugging. Bruce watched the whole thing go down, something that traumatized him deeply.

Wayne is then left in the care of his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and the young billionaire fixates on the passing of his parents. The obsession pushes him to don a cape and cowl in order to put an end to the lawbreaking of Gotham. 

6. The Many Mistakes Of Constantine

Photo: John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins / Vertigo

Like many of the heroes and anti-heroes in the DC universe, Constantine’s parents passed when he was young. However, unlike most of the other characters, Constantine was directly responsible for their passing. While attempting to gain magical powers, a young Constantine conducted a spell that required a sacrifice that caused his home to catch fire, consuming both of his parents

Rather than turning his back on the occult, Constantine spends the rest of his youth dabbling in magic until he is once again involved in a spell gone wrong that damages the mind of his girlfriend. After taking two lives and ruining another, he finally buckles down and studies magic. 

7. Creating Cyborg To Save His Life

Photo: Cyborg Vol. 1: Imitation of Life / DC Comics

After being beset by an inter-dimensional gelatinous creature in his parent’s laboratory, Vic Stone was left clinging to life with little of his original body left. Rather than let him pass, Stone’s father fitted his son with an experimental robotic body. When Stone came to, he realized that he was now more prosthetic than human and told his father that he would have rather perished than be turned into an experiment. 

Cyborg’s creation harkens back to the fear of science present in the 1950s and the Victorian era. He’s presented as both a Frankenstein’s Monster and the proof that, with the right tools, a person can turn themselves into a god. Thankfully, Cyborg chooses to join up with the good guys. 

8. Becoming One With Swamp Thing

Photo: Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 2 / Vertigo

Swamp Thing’s origin is fitting for his terrifying frame. Like the Universal Monsters before him, his creation lies in the hubris of science and the sick ironies of life. There have been a few different Swamp Things over the course of history, but the most prominent is Alex Holland, a scientist who was working in a secret lab under the swamps of Louisiana

After he and his lab are blown to kingdom come by thugs, Holland is doused in chemicals that put his memories into the surrounding plants. When the undergrowth of the swamp coalesces into a humanoid, it believes itself to be Holland when, in fact, it’s just living with his memories and emotions. 

9. Talia al Ghul Following In Her Father’s Footsteps

Photo: Batman: Son of the Demon / DC Comics

Not everyone turns out like their parents. Although, if your father was a warlord hellbent on the destruction of the world, it’s likely you’d pick up some of his traits. Talia al Ghul goes back and forth from being a goodie to one of Batman’s primary antagonists, but more often than not, she does the right thing. 

Her childhood was spent training to take over her father’s organization, even though he absolutely despised her for being a woman.

In spite of her father lacking faith in her, she excels at every task that’s thrown at her. Even though she proves to be a worthy heir, it can’t be easy to know that the one person you truly love absolutely hates your guts. 

10. Slowly Transforming Into The Raven

Photo: The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 / Vertigo

Not everyone is meant to be a main character, and Matthew the Raven proves that even across multiple lives, our fate is often set. This spooky bird began his life at Matthew Cable, a sometimes friend to Swamp Thing and the Doom Patrol. Although he initially worked as a government agent, he quickly gained horrific powers that made him the target of a demonic presence that took over his body after he suffered life-ending damage. 

After the demon is exorcised from his body, Cable manages to survive for a while until he quite literally begins to fall apart and goes into a coma. After a machine malfunction leads to his end, Cable wakes up in the land of sleep and is turned into the familiar of Dream, a position he holds throughout the entirety of Sandman

11. The Tragic Life Of Jason Todd

Photo: Batman / DC Comics

There are a few origins for Jason Todd, the boy who would become Robin, the Red Hood, and Wingman. While his most well-known beginnings are as an orphaned circus performer, his post-Crisis origin is truly dark. Gone are the loving parents who Todd has to watch perish at the hands of Killer Croc. He was instead given a mother and father who don’t care if he lives.

After Dick Grayson is fired as Robin, Batman catches the young Jason Todd trying to swipe the hubcaps off the Batmobile. He chases the boy to his derelict home where he discovers that Todd’s father is in prison and his mother is a drug addict he supports through petty theft. Batman takes an interest in the boy and enrolls him in a boarding school that turns out to be a university that trains children to be lawbreakers. After that, Batman takes Todd under his wing and trains him as his new Robin. 

12. Bringing Deadman Back To Life

Photo: Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection / DC Comics

Before he lost his life, Boston Brand was a high flying trapeze artist who took his friends and family for granted while he rolled in the wealth that only a life in the circus can bring. Unfortunately, he was slain by an assistant mid-act. But rather than pass into the great beyond, Brand was given a task in the afterlife. 

After he passes, the god Rama Kushna turns Brand into Deadman (his performance moniker), a spirit with the ability to possess any living person and use their skills. However, his life, or afterlife, is dedicated to solving his own slaying and making sure that no one else suffers a similar fate. 

13. Superman Being A Lone Survivor

Photo: Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 / DC Comics

It’s one thing to never know your parents, but to never know the planet on which you were born is an entirely different can of worms. As a baby, Kal-El was stuffed into a rocket and sent careening away from his home planet of Krypton just as it was tearing apart. For a long time, this meant he was the only surviving member of his race. 

Even though everyone feels different as a young person, Kal-El really is different – he’s literally from another planet. Thankfully, he is raised by a pair of kind-hearted Kansas-dwellers when he comes to Earth and becomes the planet’s strongest Boy Scout, something that doesn’t endear him to surviving Kryptonians when they eventually show up.

14. Forever Stuck As The Blue Devil

Photo: DC Comics

When people lose their bodies, they lose their sense of self, and it’s hard to remain the same person. The man known as Blue Devil has been fighting to understand who he is since 1984. Born a devout Roman Catholic, Daniel Cassidy was a stuntman with technical know-how that afforded him the ability to make fantastic tools and even build a giant blue demon suit for his role in the film Blue Devil

When a demon crawls out of its island hiding place during a film shoot, Cassidy fights the creature back to its dimension, but not before he’s blasted with an energy that binds the suit to his body, effectively turning him into the creature that he hates.