Happy Mother’s Day! In addition to all the great mothers out there in the real world, there are tons of them in pop culture that carry the parental load while dealing with supervillains, catastrophes, and whatever assorted tasks come their way. Superheroes have it tough but sometimes their hardest work is at home or, if the writers feel malicious, on the battlefield with their own progeny. Here’s a look at a handful from the world of comics and superhero celluloid who deserve a little appreciation:
Sue Storm is one of the most iconic superheroines in the Marvel universe. Between feats of heroism and bouts of world-saving, Sue Storm and Reed Richards try to lead normal lives, including raising a family together. Their first child, Franklin, was named in honor of Sue’s late father. Due to the altered DNA in both Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, Franklin was born with mutant powers beyond Omega-level. Although she became pregnant a second time, radiation exposure from the Negative Zone resulted in a stillborn. After this, Susan Storm has one of the more traumatic stories in comics. Following the nightmare of her second pregnancy, Psycho-Man would manipulate her into becoming the villain Malice, a persona that would rise to torment her until her future adult son absorbed Malice into himself. Adult Franklin, operating as the hero Psi-Lord, would later reveal that he used his abilities to move his stillborn sibling into an alternate future where she would survive. Following an ordeal with Abraxas, the child would be restored to a healthy pregnant state inside Sue. Despite a difficult birth, Doctor Doom helps to deliver a healthy baby girl.
For Sue Storm, it’s not her powers that make her a hero. Any lesser person would have broken dozens of times under the strain placed upon her and her family but the Invisible Woman shoulders burden after burden and continues to seek justice. Even when she is forced to leave her children behind to join Captain America for the Civil War, she knows that she has left them with the one person who will protect them like she would: her husband. After the events of the Registration Act, the Richards family ensure that others will maintain the Fantastic Four as they mend the damage between them. (Graham Host)
Selina Kyle had a daughter with Slam Bradley’s son following the events of Infinite Crisis. Using her child as a reason to retire, Catwoman was trying to find peace for once in her life. Over the next few months, she comes to realize that her past and lifestyle won’t allow for the safety of a child. Batman helps Catwoman fake the death of both the child and herself. Following that turn of events, Catwoman’s child is placed with an adoptive family and Catwoman returns to her leather clad antics.
In the Earth-2 Universe, Selina Kyle’s daughter Helena grows up to be the Huntress. A retcon changed that into Robin. Another retcon, then another and another turned DC’s Multiverse into a hot pile of garbage. The lesson to be learned is that Catwoman is a mother. She’s not the best mother, but she has what counts. (Troy Anderson)
While Mystique from the X-Men comics isn’t going to win any awards for being a good superhero or a good mother, she does manage to bring a complexity to both that many other characters do not. Raven Darkholme is a selfish character, driven by complicated motives (including the prophecies of her close friend, Destiny). She has been a mother three times over in the comics continuity: first to her human son, Graydon Creed, then to mutant Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), and later as an adoptive mother to the troubled Anna Marie (Rogue). Her relationships with her children are strained at best, as she abandoned Nightcrawler shortly after his birth and disowned Creed after discovering he wasn’t a mutant.
Despite her complete lack of maternal instinct, Mystique ended up actually caring for Rogue and became deeply protective of her. Even after Rogue had joined the X-men and distanced herself from her adoptive mother, Mystique tried to do what she thought was best for her “daughter”. In one story arc, she even infiltrates Xavier’s school as a new student in order to try and seduce Gambit, as she believes his relationship with Rogue is harmful.
Mystique’s interactions with Rogue pushed her to become a more three-dimensional character, capable of empathy when previously she was entirely callous. She even allows Rogue to join the X-men because it is what her daughter wants, despite the fact that she resents Xavier and all that he represents. Mystique is a complicated superhero(ish) momma, and that’s what makes her great. (Danielle Ryan)
Middle age is a rough time for anyone, but imagine having to deal with your midlife crisis while raising a bunch of superpowered kids. Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl does all that and more in Disney/Pixar’s wonderful riff on the Fantastic Four, The Incredibles. What makes Helen a great superhero mom is her devotion to her children, but also the fact that she can throw down with any supervillain menace the world throws at her. She also never comes off as larger than life; there’s a fantastically human moment where Helen catches her reflection after beating up a bad guy and sighs at how much weight she’s put on. For all of her superheroics, she’s just as self-conscious as you and me. Add to the mix that she strongly supports her husband — but isn’t afraid to confront him when he’s wrong — and you’ve got a superhero mom that anchors her family with strength and resolve. (Drew Dietsch)
When it comes to superhero moms, there’s no one quite like Sally Jupiter. Born Sally Juspeczyk, she emigrated from Poland and joined the Minutemen, and became the global sex symbol known as Silk Spectre. Her time in the Minutemen introduced her to the crime fighters that would help her shape the world as we saw it in Watchmen.
But as a mother, Sally is a troubling figure. Though her daughter Laurie wasn’t initially drawn to a life of costumed adventuring, Sally helped mold Laurie into the next Silk Spectre. What Laurie didn’t know was that her father wasn’t the man she knew. It was actually Edward Blake, a costumed fighter called The Comedian, who make unwarranted and violent advances on Sally during their time in the Minutemen. This gives Laurie one of the best and most heart-wrenching arcs in the entire comic, as she realizes that her mother’s past decisions and desires are more complicated and human than she had ever considered. Sally Jupiter may not have been a good mother, but she’s an incredibly well written and multifaceted one. (Travis Newton)
Maggie Power was introduced into the Marvel Universe via her children. Debuting in the first issue of Power Pack, Maggie got swept up in an alien conspiracy involving her husband’s scientific discovery. The Snarks and Kymellians came to Earth to steal/fix Mr. Power’s plans for an antimatter energy conversion tool. The Kymellian “Whitey” was injured protecting the family and bestowed powers upon the Power children with his dying breath. But, what does this mean for Maggie Power?
Marvel comics usually find a way to incorporate the parents in a title involving kids in a variety of ways. What makes Maggie so atypical is that she was always presented as a concerned parent that kept her mind out of most superheroics. This didn’t stop her from having two mental breakdowns, being kidnapped by aliens and having her mind wiped to keep her kids’ identities safe. But, that’s comics. (Troy Anderson)