Stop Creating Superhero Babies
This is going to sound callous, but I wish creators would stop adding superhero babies to their stories.
Because I hate it when the big two superhero comic companies introduce babies and young children into their stories.
Do I think that’s ever been done on a consistent basis at DC and Marvel?
There are only a few fates available for babies or little kids with superhero parents in comics.
- One, they’ll be kidnapped. That’s a certainty.
- Two, they’ll be killed. There’s a long list of dead babies and children. The carnage, it is real.
- Three, they’ll be aged up. If the first two don’t happen, the third almost certainly will.
- Four, they’ll disappear from continuity.
Truly, the best result for that teaser image of a pregnant Catwoman is that it’s either an imaginary sequence or some sort of out-of-continuity story that’s never referenced again. I can’t imagine that Bruce and Selina will actually be written as parents going forward.
Yes, yes, I know, Bruce is already a parent, several times over. Which only proves my point, considering the tragic fates of nearly all the Robins, plus a biological kid who’s part of point three.
Marvel and DC have never been interested in writing stories that have babies or young children, at least not for very long.
Instead of showing us the unique parenting styles of, say, Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne, which could be touching and hilarious at the same time, creators will inevitably reach for the “child in jeopardy” trope. I know superhero stories are long-running soap operas at heart, but soap operas must deal with actors who age and thus have to bring in the next generation eventually.
With superhero comics, it’s a long-running churn of “allow characters to grow” to “cut back that growth.” That means getting rid of kids and babies, and that leads to the unsettling fates of so many babies and young children.
Let’s look at the fates the most famous super babies, divided by category.
The Dead Babies Club
Arthur Curry Jr. (DC Comics)
He’s the founding member of the dead babies club, murdered by Black Manta by being deprived of water to breathe. This led to the plotlines that have now become inevitable: the need for revenge, the break-up of the whole family, and the continued angst for our hero. It’s a template almost universally followed by later stories.
Before Aquababy’s death, the Aqua-family had been relatively happy. Mera and Arthur were a fine couple, almost evenly matched in power. Aqualad was their friend, a near-grown sidekick. Tula—an Atlantean—was Aquagirl, and she and Aqualad were a couple. Vulko was the honorary uncle.
It’s never been the same for Aqua-family. There have been lots of gritty reboots, a hook hand for Aquaman, a divorce, introduction of yet an unknown son (but grown! but still inevitably dead!), and Arthur’s insistence on becoming a loner. This version of Aquaman has remained consistent through many of the reboots. Oh, bonus. Aqualad had a son. Yes, he died as a baby. So did his mother. (That would be Dolphin and Cerdian.)
Recently, an unmarried Aquaman and Mera became parents again, of a baby girl, in the latest issue of Aquaman.
Already, however, we’re sliding into a cliche, as Mera went into a coma to give birth. We’ll see what happens because, despite an excellent creative team, I remain pessimistic.
Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s Twins (Marvel)
Given that some comic-style shenanigans have happend to Thomas and William in later stories, I debated what club to put them in. But their deaths were pretty horrific, they stayed dead a long time, and while they came back, it was as nearly-grown adults, not as babies, so I’m putting them in the dead babies club.
So, in short, Scarlet Witch and the Vision were once married. (Yes, the Avengers movie franchise drew on that romance.) Wanda gave birth to twins, she and Vision moved to the West Coast Avengers team, and all seemed well. Until, I guess, someone got tired of writing kids. (The creative mind behind this decision appears to be John Byrne.) There is a long and excellent rundown in this article, but I’ll give the short version.
Wanda has supposedly “created” the twins out of her hex powers, a demon came and stole their souls, said the twins never really existed, and gone were Billy and Thomas. Until they weren’t gone and someone brought Billy, then Tommy, back in the Young Avengers storylines. But not as babies, oh no, as reincarnated souls in the body of teenagers. Teenagers are acceptable in superhero comics.
Lian Harper (DC Comics)
Lian was the young daughter of Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal) and the villain Cheshire. She was a happy girl and while Roy was an unorthodox father, he was a good one. But Lian was killed in the same dumb story, Justice League: Cry for Justice, that also had her father losing an arm.
Lian’s never returned to continuity, though her death has kinda been erased since she’s seemingly not in existence any longer. Instead, it’s Roy who is currently dead. (He belongs to the Dead Teen Titans Club, but that’s another article.)
I listed Lian because her death was simply so senseless. You’d think a minor character like Speedy would be allowed to grow and change to become an excellent parent, and we could watch Lian grow up as well. NO! Superheroes don’t age, so I guess a baby means… death or something else…
See also in the Dead Babies Club: Mayday Parker, Cerdian of Atlantis (mentioned above), Robert Long (Donna Troy’s son), and Jai and Iris West. (Who may/may not be back in continuity, but also, in a twist, did the aged up thing before dying. Speed Force, everyone!) Also, Jane Foster was retconned to have had a baby who was killed in a car crash. So, Jane wins(?) as retroactively being given this lovely trope.
Adam Strange’s daughter appears to have the dubious distinction of being the latest member of the Dead Babies Club, via Strange Adventures #1. (Though her fate isn’t detailed.)
If you’re going to introduce a baby only to kill them, what’s the point? Hence my cry of “stop superhero babies!”
The Aged-Up Club
Jon Kent (DC Comics)
The most recent example of this trope, the son of Superman and Lois Lane was once a happy tween, but, in one of worst storylines ever, Superman and Lois turned into the worst parents ever and let Jon go off on a galactic adventure with evil homicidal Grandpa. Naturally, this did not go well, Jon was kidnapped in an alternate dimension, and aged up to be in his late teens.
No chance to see Superman being a parent, no chance to see how Lois juggled motherhood and her career. (Oh, there was a bit of that in some of the stories previous to Jon leaving with demented Jor-El, but the answer for the male creators writing the stories seems to have been to turn Lois into Ma Kent instead of allowing Lois a unique parenting style.)
Jon is out of the Superman books entirely so he can have adventures in the Legion of Super-Heroes reboot. Meanwhile, no more icky babies or children that age up Superman and Lois.
Damian Wayne (DC Comics)
Wait, you say, he’s a young teen! And he was raised by his mom and we even have images of him being a toddler. That’s pretty good in this group.
However, Damian was killed before he was even a teenager, making him a member of the Dead Club. And he also has clone brothers who were artificially aged up, but they hate him and try to kill him. So, given all that, I’m putting him in this club, but if you’d rather him in the dead superhero babies club, I won’t argue with you.
Of course, Cable! You might not be aware if you’ve only seen him in Deadpool 2, but Cable aka Nathan Summers is the son of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Madeline Pryor (Jean Grey’s clone). Nathan got infected by the techno-organic virus and was sent into the far future to save him but then had a terrible upbringing in a dystopian world…(despite some time-traveling parenting by Scott and Jean) and then Cable time-traveled back to his parent’s time.
Nathan kinda wins the prize for aging up, as he came back in time older than his dad and Jean. (Madeline being dead at the time. I think she’s still dead, but very few dead people remain dead in comics unless they’re Uncle Ben or babies.)
Daniel of the Dreaming (DC/Vertigo)
Daniel is the son of Lyta and Hector Hall of Infinity Inc. Hector was the son of the Hawks, Lyta Trevor the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Hector died, Lyta had the baby, but then she was drawn into the Sandman Universe and her son Daniel was aged up to become the new Dream. I mean, at least bonus points for the most unusual aging up in superhero comics, shifting Daniel to an entirely new imprint.
In Avengers: Endgame, Cassie is aged up because of the five-year gap. That basically parallels her comic development, though she’s been dead. And she has an unusual trajectory because she was basically allowed to grow to be a teenager at a normal pace. (It helps to be the daughter of a minor character.)
But then, as a superheroic teenager, she died. (One of the many teenagers to die, but that’s another article.) But, wait, she’s resurrected! But at the age of a middle-schooler. So… it’s kinda backward for Cassie. I blame the Pym particles.
Oh, my, Franklin.
The boy, the son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, almost deserves his own category. First off, he was the original “child kidnapped by evil Grandpa and aged-up” victim. The Wikipedia article on Franklin is hopelessly complicated as different creators keep changing how old he is and what he can do. Because, hello, it seems we can’t allow the Fantastic Four to become older to allow the second generation to come to the fore. (That’s only allowed in Kurt Busiek’s amazing Astro City.)
But Franklin is the poster child example for showing that the cyclical nature of superhero storylines practically guarantee that babies and kids will be kidnapped, discarded, or aged-up. I give Marvel credit for never quite killing him off permanently and then letting Reed and Sue have another child, Valeria, but at least parenting is baked into the Fantastic Four concept. They’re the exception that proves the rule.
And, of course, Franklin has also been the “child too powerful who may rewrite the world” club. Marvel based a whole event around that!
Honorary Mentions: Skaar, son of Hulk, who emerged from birth looking like a pre-teen; Validus/Garridan, the son of Lightning Lad and Saturn girl who became a member of the Fatal Five, then got de-aged again to a baby. (He’s no longer in continuity, see Vanished Club.) I mean, why is all this done to poor, innocent babies? Just, again, stop with the superhero babies. It ends badly for all.
The Vanished Club
These are perhaps the absolutely luckiest of children because their previous stories still exist where they were not killed. They’re just forgotten or never referred to anymore.
Helena Kyle (DC Comics)
I have no idea why creators keep giving Selina Kyle kids because she’s the unlikeliest mom in the entire DC canon. I understand the Earth-2 version and moving on with a happy life married to Bruce Wayne and raising a daughter. I love the Helena Wayne Earth-2 Huntress. (Though I’ll note that we never saw Selina do the mom thing in any detail, so that remains a constant.)
Helena Kyle isn’t Helena Wayne. The little Kyle is the daughter of Selina and Sam Bradley. Meanwhile, Sam was the son of Selina’s former lover, Slam Bradley. This was a ridiculous plotline from the start because Selina’s simply not the type to sleep with the son of someone who’s been a good friend to her and who’s in love with her. She doesn’t reciprocate, but Selina’s not cruel. Anyway, the baby was given away for adoption. And DC never refers to Helena Kyle again.
Oh-boy, do you have a few hours. First, poor May didn’t even make it past birth, as she was stillborn in Sensational Spider-Man Vol 1 #11. (Yes, we could have a whole category on superhero babies who are either stillborn or pregnancies that tragically end too soon.)
But, wait, a What If? story decided to explore the whole idea of little May Parker being alive, growing up with her parents, and become Spider-Girl. She even had her own series for a time. This would seem to be a happy ending but, well, Mayday has essentially been Missing in Action since 2010, with a few brief appearances here and there. So, good on her for not staying dead. But we likely will get no more stories about her.
Sin (DC Comics)
Sin appeared briefly in Birds of Prey as Black Canary’s adopted daughter. Almost as quickly, DC Comics decided to marry off Canary and Green Arrow but first, they disappeared Sin, as Arrow decided it was too dangerous for Sin to stick with them. ::deep sigh::
Honorable Mention: Stephanie Brown’s baby who seems to be out of continuity; Mister Miracle and Big Barda’s baby son, who may or may not exist, per the last issue of the recent Mister Miracle series.
Why Does This Keep Happening?
I have theories. But the most likely one is that superhero comics are cyclical. They never move forward in time, leaving all their characters stuck or to be rebooted. That means they are never allowed to age, become parents, and be replaced by the next generation, save in temporary or alternate reality stories.
Thus, the first things to go in reboots are the babies and children which, to be blunt, is super-messed up.
I miss Earth-2, where the second generation took the spotlight, where we sometimes saw the older heroes become great parents. I would love to see the stories of superheroes moving into parenthood and how they raise their children.
I’ll tip the hate to Jack Knight, who retired from superheroics to raise his son. So far, we haven’t heard from the Jack Knight Starman since the end of his series. Let’s keep it that way, lest the little boy be killed, written out, or otherwise vanished. (After all, James Robinson, Jack’s creator, was the one who killed off Lian Harper…)
In the meantime, creators, please stop with superhero babies. As demonstrated, even if you begin with good intentions, later creative teams or editorial decisions will undermine that.
And I’ll leave you with this clip from The Incredibles, a superhero story that embraces parenting and decided to subvert the whole “I’ll kidnap you and raise you as evil” trope: