The Most Tragic Backstories for Comic Book Villains

Graham Host
Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics DC

We’ve all heard of fearsome tales of the Joker. Been told to run from the likes of Lex Luthor and his followers. But there’s usually a reason for their sometimes unethical and mostly illegal activities. Unlike some of the heroes, the supposed villains have actually had a fairly tough time in their past, so let’s have a look as the most tragic backstories for comic book villains.


So hungry that he needs to consume entire planets to survive, Galactus is one of the most dangerous creatures in the Marvel universe. But he is also the only person in the universe to have survived the Big Bang. The last person from the previous universe, there is nobody that can relate to his lifespan or experiences. Maybe his universe was slightly bigger than ours or he came from a race of giants so he needs to feed on the planets themselves to survive. J’onn J’onzz may be the last member of his race but Galactus is the last member of his universe.


Decidedly pro-mutant, this sometime enemy and sometime ally of the X-Men is hated and feared by vast swaths of the populace. His stance that mutants are inevitable and humans are expendable has landed him in serious trouble against the government. But the young Max Eisenhardt was imprisoned in Auschwitz alongside his parents. Only he survived. After the war, Magneto worked for both Mossad and an unnamed western agency to bring Nazi criminals to justice. But when he tried to give Hans Richter to Mossad, his western handlers stepped in and killed his then-girlfriend simply to make a point. From that moment on, Magneto was born. Considering how he was treated at the hands of humans, I can understand his distrust of the paranoid and warring lesser species.

Cyborg Superman

Astronaut Hank Henshaw was aboard an experimental flight with his wife when everything fell apart. In a twisted version of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, he and his crew gained a variety of crippling powers. Hank found himself trapped as a disembodied intelligence inside machines. As his wife lay dying, Hank cobbled together a robot body and attempted to make contact. The shock of seeing her husband in such a form drove Mrs. Henshaw to take her own life. Driven insane by his experiences, Hank eventually believed that Superman was responsible and crafted a body from Kryptonian technology to get revenge. Now immortal, Hank began seeking ways to die and escape the emotional trauma of seeing his wife and closest friends die.

Mister Freeze

After an accident left his wife inches from death’s door, Victor Fries dedicated himself to finding a cure. With authorities siding against him, Victor decided that the law was immaterial to his studies and jumped over to the side of criminality. After an incident left him a widower, Freeze decided that various people had to pay and set out to correct the scales. Finding himself an adversary in Batman, the pair would clash dozens of times over the years.

Flashpoint Thomas Wayne

Okay, more an anti-hero than a villain but easily the most traumatic member of the bunch, this entry at least has a happy ending. When Barry runs back in time to save his mother, he causes a ‘temporal boom’ that changes other key moments in the DC universe. Instead of Joe Chill murdering Thomas and Martha Wayne, the bullets hit young Bruce. Taking his place as Batman would be his father and his mother going insane and becoming the Joker. Thomas has to endure losing his son, watching his wife go mad and ending up his arch-villain as the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman destroys the planet. He then finds out that his entire world was the result of another man’s meddling in time. Thankfully, he is told the true history of the world and able to save his son from a far too early grave.

Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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