Iron Man's parents are dead. Batman's parents are dead. Spider-Man's parents are dead, and the uncle that raised him is dead (his aunt, however, lives). Superman's entire race was destroyed and in the New 52 DC reboot, both of his adopted parents are dead.

Does being a superhero mean your parents must be dead?

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    "My parents are deeaad!" – Daniel Roseman Feb 11 '12 at 20:24
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    Aunt May is the toughest character in comicdom. No she's not dead (anymore). – System Down Feb 12 '12 at 0:25
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    Hate your parents? Wish they were dead? Don't risk the police's wrath by murdering them -- become a superhero instead! Call 666-555-KILL right now! – Mateen Ulhaq Feb 12 '12 at 22:29
  • This appears to be a list question, which has already spawned many 'me too' example answers. – user1027 Feb 14 '12 at 15:33
  • @Keen: it's funny that you should comment on this question. Commander Keen's parents are alive, though they do get into danger during the story. – b_jonas Sep 29 '13 at 12:23

Beast's parents, Norton and Edna McCoy are still alive. Source, circa 2006

From the same source: Iceman and Nightcrawler.

However, it does seem that (predictably, as per Campbell's Hero's Journey) most of the main superhero parents are dead.

From that same Marvel thread:

cap - no (as in, not alive)
wasp - no
pym - not sure, assuming not
iron man - no
thor - no

Fantastic Four...
reed - no
torch and sue - no
thing - no?

cyclops - no
jean - no
archangel - no
wolverine - no
colossus - no
storm - no

spidey - no
hulk - no 

As far as the reasons, they are both archetypal, storytelling, and cultural.

Most of the mythological Greek heroes had effectively absent fathers, since they were all fathered by Zeus and he never took an active role in any of his kids' adventures. Moses was a foundling. Momotaro the Peach Boy of Japan and Ne Zha of China were spontaneous magical births, though Momotaro at least got adopted. Cinderella and Tarzan both had to grow up without their biological parents, though Tarzan ended up with a much better stepmother. That's cultural.

Archetypal - as per Campbell, a Hero's Journey must include learning to be on his own and rely on themselves. So parents have to go.

Storytelling - same reason really. You can get a lot more drama out of either having no family to talk to/rely on/be loved by, or by killing family off as part of a story.

Not really confined to superheroes:

Q: What about Harry's family - his grandparents - were they killed?
JK Rowling: No. This takes us into more mundane territory. As a writer, it was more interesting, plot-wise, if Harry was completely alone. So I rather ruthlessly disposed of his entire family apart from Aunt Petunia. I mean, James and Lily are massively important to the plot, of course, but the grandparents? No. And, because I do like my backstory: Petunia and Lily's parents, normal Muggle death.

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    I'd dispute the entry on Thor. His father is still around. – Joe White Feb 11 '12 at 21:09
  • @Joe - I think 1 parent is dead would be a "no" in the list – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 11 '12 at 21:56
  • @DVK Notwithstanding current environmental issues, Thor's mother Gaea is still alive, too. – Mark Beadles Feb 11 '12 at 23:25
  • @DVK I am actually a fan of Campbell, don't know why I never put two and two together there. (Of course, for the most part, it is worth noting that Campbell's analysis was not a direct influence on the earliest superheros. Superman and Batman both date a decade before The Hero's Journey was published.) – cwallenpoole Feb 13 '12 at 2:24
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    @cwallenpoole - Campbell didn't really invent the concept, just formalized and explained the idea. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 13 '12 at 2:47

Do The Incredibles count? The three children are superheroes too, and their parents are alive.

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Jean Grey's parents were alive during most of her career with the X-Men. (They were given a Shi'ar memory crystal of her after she apparently died the first time.) They were eventually killed by the Shi'ar, but that was quite recently.

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  • I've seen comments stating the opposite (that entire Grey genetic line aside from Rachel was killed off), but that was 2006. Did that change? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 11 '12 at 18:53
  • No, they were killed off, but that was fairly recently. They were alive during most of her time with the X-Men, which I think makes them relevant. – cjm Feb 11 '12 at 19:01
  • I believe her parents were killed in 2005, and Jean was introduced in 1963. That's more than 40 years as a superhero with living parents. – cjm Feb 11 '12 at 19:08

Some offhand:

  1. Most of the legionnaires (from the Legion of Superheroes) have at least one parent alive (notable exceptions being Element Lad, Mon-El, and Kal-El)
  2. Raven, Starfire, Kid Flash, and Cyborg of the Teen Titans.
  3. Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle
  4. Stephanie Brown (Spoiler, then Robin, then her parents buried her)
  5. Kyle Rayner (the new Green Lantern)
  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Cable (if you consider that Cyclops is alive...)
  8. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat
  9. Nightcrawler

Those are just off the top of my head, so there are several- but no iconic characters, other than Wonder Woman which is possibly what makes it seem like there are less.

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  • I'm not sure I'd count either Raven or Starfire there. Raven's mother is dead, at least in the animated series, because Azeroth was destroyed. And her father is a giant evil world-ending demon... he doesn't count on the parent-wheel. Starfire... wasn't she raised by her uncle? – Selonianth Jan 21 '14 at 19:27

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