Four Coloured Fathers: Comics’ 10 Greatest Dads

To lots of people, including myself, our Dad’s are our first heroes.  They are the men who take care of us, teach us and provide for us.  They are the first men we develop a relationship with and who lead us by their examples.  Dads have the ability to be  be the real superheroes of the world.  Of course, this isn’t always true.  There are lots of rotten deadbeat Dad’s out there, and in the case of comics, good Dad’s are sometimes hard to find – even amongst the heroes.  Mister Fantastic’s son suffers of insecurity due to favoritisim, Alan Scott didn’t even know he had kids for decades, Aquaman let his kid die and don’t even get me started on Norman Osbourne.  But as in real life, there are still some men that stand out as exceptional fathers.  These are the father’s that inspire and teach the comic characters that we love.  In honor of Fathers Day, let’s take a look at some of comics’ greatest Dads!

CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESNETS

FOUR COLOURED FATHERS: 

COMICS’ 10 GREATEST DADS

1.  Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks (Little Orphan Annie) – One of the richest men in the world, Oliver Warbucks is probably comic’s first prolific father figure as the adopted father of Little Orphan Annie.  However, the origins of his relationship with the eternally optimistic street urchin greatly differs from the story that became popular due to the hit Broadway musical based on the classic comic strip.  When Annie’s creator Harold Grey first started the comic strip in 1924 the concept would be that Annie would wander throughout the lives of many people, solving their problems, but always remaining a wandering orphan. She was sort of like The Littlest Hobo, but with red hair and no eyeballs.  However, fate would change the course of the strip when in September 1924 Annie was brought to the house of Mrs. Warbucks who, in an attempt to increase her status in the rich community, decided to “take in an orphan.”  By the way that is not a typo.  It was MRS. Warbucks who brought in Annie.  Bet you didn’t even know Daddy Warbucks had a wife, did you?  Anyhow, Oliver Warbucks was in the orient at the time that Annie came to live at his home and Mrs. Warbucks, a cold and heartless social climber, put Annie to work as a virtual slave.  However, when Oliver Warbucks came home he was surprised to see the little girl in his home and, having always wanted children, was instantly charmed by her spunky street sense and positivity.  Insisting that he “call her Daddy,” Warbucks halted his malicious wife’s ill-treatment of Annie and began to dote on her.  Jealous of her husband’s affection for Annie, her animosity towards the orphan grew and, when Oliver was sent on business to Siberia, Mrs. Warbucks shipped Annie back to the orphanage.  The Warbucks were not originally to be regular characters in Little Orphan Annie, but readers, heart broken that Oliver and Annie were separated, clamored for them to find each other once again.  As a result of popular demand the two found each other, but lost each other, for a second time.  Readers once again demanded Oliver Warbucks’ return and Harold Grey finally brought Warbucks back to the strip for good as Annie’s full time guardian.  As a footnote, Grey also killed off the malicious Mrs. Warbucks in a sea disaster.    A self made millionaire, Oliver Warbucks would lose his fortune, and even be killed off, numerous times over the decades, but he and Annie would stick together for over seventy years until the strip, now simply renamed Annie (I mean, she wasn’t an orphan for over seven decades) was cancelled in 2010.

2.  Walt Wallet (Gasoline Alley) -  One of America’s longest running comic strips, Frank King’s Gasoline Alley made it’s debut in 1918 as a one panel strip dedicated to men’s new found love for the automobile.  However, by the 1921 Captain Joseph Patterson of The Tribune told King that he felt that the strip didn’t have any appeal to women or children, who he felt read the comic section, and suggested that King add a baby to the strip.  There was one problem with this concept though – Gasoline Alley’s central character, Walt Wallet, was a bachelor.  Thus, on February 14, 1921 Walt went out to get the milk and found a baby on his doorstep!  Naming the baby Skeezix, which is incidentally cowboy slang for a motherless calf, Walt did the only thing he could think of doing – he took the poor baby in and raised him as his own.  The concept of Walt Wallet as a young bachelor raising a baby captured the hearts and minds of Americans instantly increasing the popularity of the comic strip.  Yet, Frank King was a true visionary and did something never done before in comics, and rarely done since.  He began to age his characters each year in real time!  As a result, America watched Skeezix, under Walt’s watchful eye, grow from a baby, to a toddler, to a teenager and eventually a man where he eventually married his girlfriend Nina Clock and become a father himself.  Walt’s life would continue to evolve as well and he eventually married his girlfriend Phyllis and they had a child of their own named Corky.  Later, in 1935, Walt was surprised again when yet another orphan, this time a girl, was left in the backseat of his car.  Walt and Phyllis raised that orphan as their own as well and named her Judy.  Throughout the decades the characters of Gasoline Alley have grown up, married, had children and grandchildren and have even died.  But ninety years later Walt and Skeezix are still together although their roles have reversed.  While the aging process was stopped for these two iconic characters years ago, Walt is now an elderly gentleman in his 90′s who often gets confused and suffers of dementia, and is taken care of by the feisty Skeezix who is now portrayed to be in his late 70s.  The pair have never parted and as long as there is a Gasoline Alley Walt and Skeezix will stay together as one of comic’s oldest father and son teams.

3.  Jor-El (Superman) – Although he never got to know his only son, alien scientist Jor-El was not only the biological father of Earth’s mightiest hero, but made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort that his infant son would have a chance to live.  One of Krypton’s most celebrated figures, Jor-El was responsible for discovering the Phantom Zone and creating the Phantom Zone projector, thus changing the judicial system on Krypton forever.  Yet the respected scientist could not convince the Kryptonian council that their planet was doomed.  Attempting to create a fleet of rockets for his family before doomsday came, Jor-El was not able to finish them fast enough and was left with only an experimental rocket that could carry his infant son, Kal-El, to the planet Earth which he had researched to know that it’d be the planet most likely to ensure his people’s survival.  When Krypton began to crumble, in his final moments alive, Jor-El placed the baby in the rocket and blasted him off to Earth.  The baby would indeed survive and have fantastic powers beyond those of mortal men, donning a red and blue costume and becoming Superman!  Thus, Jor-El’s final gift to his son was that he would live, and in return he gave Earth their greatest champion.  Now that’s a good Dad!

4.  Jonathan Kent (Superman) – Superman was lucky.  He didn’t just have one good Dad.  He had two.  When Jonathan and Martha Kent were driving home to their Kansas farm, they saw a streaking comet land in a field and, upon investigating it, discovered a baby in a rocket.  Now while most men would call the FBI to investigate, knowing his wife’s desire to have a child despite the fact that they were not able to conceive, Jonathan not only took the strange alien child home, but he hides the rocket under the barn!  Raising a toddler with superhuman strength couldn’t be easy, but Jonathan Kent taught the boy, now named Clark, numerous valuable lesson.  He told him that he was not to let other people know about his powers, knowing that if they did that the government would try to perform experiments on him and he would be constantly in danger.  He also taught Clark to use his powers for good, and not for selfish means.  Johnathan Kent, along with Martha, provided Clark a stable and loving family, teaching him the proper morals and code of ethics that would mold him into the good man he would become.  Finally, when it was time to go out in the world, Jonathan encouraged his boy to put on a costume and help others.  Clark wouldn’t be the only superhero that Jonathan and Martha would take in.  Jonathan would also prove to be a father figure for Clark’s displaced clone Kon-El and his teenage cousin Kara, aka Superboy and Supergirl.  Jonathan Kent would eventually pass away of a heart attack, but not without teaching Earth’s mightiest superhero how to be a good and honest man, and how to be human.

5.  Hiram Lodge (Archie Comics) – Hiram Lodge often gets a bit of a bad rap.  As one of the chief advisories to Riverdale’s most famous teen, Archie Andrews, Hiram often comes off being rude, grumpy and just plain mean.  However, as the father to debutant Veronica Lodge, Hiram Lodge proves himself to be an outstanding father time and time again.  Veronica is the apple of her father’s eye.  However, the downfall of this is that he has unnecessarily spoiled his daughter to the point that she is vain and has a cutting mean streak.  Yet, he wants nothing but the best for Veronica, but, in his eyes, Archie Andrews is hardly the best.  But how would you feel if a bumbler like Archie was always coming to your house, getting into zany antics, breaking your stuff and just basically being a nuisance?  You probably wouldn’t want him dating your daughter either.  But, that doesn’t stop Hiram Lodge from funding the adventures of Veronica and her friends, and providing them with a place to hang out.  And, perhaps, Hiram Lodge doesn’t dislike Archie Andrews all that much.  I mean, if he did do you think he’d let him hang out at the mansion, bring him on trips or not hire one of his corporate goons to bump him off?  Hiram Lodge might get a bad rap, but perhaps he is just misunderstood.  Just like his credit card, he is all gold.

6.  John Zatara (Zatanna) – Dad’s can teach you some great things.  They can teach you to catch a ball, ride a bike, bait a hook and drive a car.  However, for Zatanna, her father taught her how to conjure up illusions and to use her powerful magic powers.  You see, Zatanna’s Dad was none other then crime fighting magician Zatara!  Yes, Zatanna’s Dad was obviously very popular during career day at school.  Retiring from heroics so that he could raise Zatanna as a single father (her mother was from a lost race of magical beings known as Homo Magi), John Zatara began to use Zatanna as a stage assistant in his act from an early age, and also apprenticed her in magic.  The two became a close team, but it was halted when Zatata’s former nemesis, a sorceress named Allura, put a curse on the pair so that if they ever saw each other again they would both die.  Zatara fled into the night so not to put Zatanna in danger of the curse, but she went in search for her beloved father with the help of members of the Justice League of America.  Eventually she tracked Zatara down and with the help of Green Lantern, Batman, Elongated Man, Hawkman and The Atom the spell was reversed and Zatanna and Zatara were reunited.  Zatara acted as a mentor during Zatanna’s own heroic career, often giving out advice and sometimes stepping in to aid her.  However, he sacrificed his own life for Zatanna’s during a deadly séance led by John Constantine that resurrected a demon like creature.  Zatanna has communicated with the ghost of her father on numerous occasions, and continues to carry on her father’s legacy by working both as a performer and a hero, and donning a costume similar to that of her Dad’s.  But even cooler is that ZATANNA’S Dad’s made their first appearance in the legendary Action Comics #1!  Thats something worth bragging about!!

7.  Ben Parker (Spider-Man) – He may not have been Peter Parker’s paternal father, but there is no doubt that Ben Parker is one of comics’ greatest paternal figures for giving out the greatest fatherly advice in all of comic history – “With great power comes great responsibility.”  When his younger brother Richard and his wife Mary were killed in a plan crash, May and Ben Parker adopted their infant son Peter and raised him as their own.  Never knowing his real father, Uncle Ben became the only father that Peter knew, and the two shared a close relationship.  However, while Ben was a tough blue collar kind of guy, young Peter was a wimpy kid who loved science and was the victim of bullying.  Not ignorant to Peter’s plight, Ben Parker could be slightly overprotective of his beloved nephew, but continued to be supportive and encouraging to the troubled youth.  As a result, the only happiness that Peter knew was at home with his loving Aunt and Uncle while the outside world proved to be cruel and cold.  Fate would turn its head when a radioactive spider bit young Peter, and he used his new found powers for fame and glory.  Yet karma is a bitch sometimes, and when Peter, in the guise of Spider-Man refused to help stop a crook, that crook gunned down Uncle Ben on the same night.  Peter realized that if only he had stopped that crook the man who had been the only father he ever knew would still be alive.  Uncle Ben’s speech would be a hard lesson for Peter, and Uncle Ben’s death would inspire a life of heroism.  Uncle Ben’s advice, “With great power comes great responsibility.” would become a mantra not only for Spider-Man but for the entire Marvel Universe.

8.  Roy Harper (Teen Titans) – As the former sidekick of Green Arrow, Roy Harper (aka Speedy/Arsenal) has had his own share of demons to deal with including abandonment issues and an addition to heroin.  Yet a new element, as well as further demons, would be added to the character when he became comic’s premier single Dad.  The Teen Titan’s resident ladies man, Roy Harper has had plenty of women in his life.  However, during an undercover operation he fell in love, and had relations, with a deadly assassin and terrorist named Cheshire.  The result would be the birth of a little girl named Lian.  Realizing that her life was no place for a baby, she left Lian in the care of Roy.  Roy gave up heroics for a brief time to care for Lian, but when she was a toddler he returned to crime fighting with his daughter growing up amongst the superhero community.  Although he would gain criticism for allowing Lian to play with weapons, Lian would have babysitters ranging from Black Canary to Donna Troy to Ravanger.  However, tragedy would strike when Justice League villain Prometheus unleashed an attack on Star City in which thousands of innocent citizens were killed, including Lian.  It wasn’t her father’s career as a super hero that killed her, but it was the senseless slaughter of the masses.  Her death would touch the entire superhero community, and it would send Roy Harper over the edge, inspiring him to take a new approach to crime fighting in which he shoots first, and asks questions later… if the villain is still alive.  The death of a child is never easy, and Roy Harper still mourns for his little girl.

9.  Pat Dugan (Stars and STRIPE) – Pat Dugan didn’t know what he was getting into when he married divorced Mom Barbara Whitmore.  Moving Barbara and her teenage daughter Courtney to the small town of Blue Valley, Pat tried to be a good Dad to his new daughter.  However, perhaps he tried just a little too hard.  Defiant, moody and unhappy with being relocated, Courtney fought Pat every inch of the way.  But when unpacking some boxes, Courtney discovered that Pat had a secret.  Back in the 1940’s Pat was a hero called Stripsey,  the adult sidekick of superhero The Star Spangled Kid and had been a part of both The Seven Soldiers of Victory and The All-Star Squadron before being displaced in time and rescued by the Justice League.  In an attempt to piss her stepfather off, Courtney donned a modified version of The Star Spangled Kid’s costume, as well as put on his cosmic belt, originally developed by the Golden Age Starman, and attended a school dance with a World War II theme.  But when the dance was attacked by terrorists (gotta hate when that happens), Pat revealed that he has his own surprise – a robotic battle suite he called S.T.R.I.P.E.  Teaming up to defeat the attackers, Courtney continued to fight crime in an attempt to annoy Pat, and Pat continued to aid Courtney as S.T.R.I.P.E. in an attempt to make sue that she didn’t get into too much trouble.  Yet, despite her initial moodiness, Courtney is, deep down, a good girl and Pat is a remarkable father figure who is looking for a second chance to be a good father.  Eventually Pat’s biological son from his previous marriage, Mike, came to live with the family after getting thrown out of military school in which his mother enrolled him against his will.  Bitter that Pat allowed Courtney to be the new Star Spangled Kid, Pat eventually revealed to Mike that he has always intended him to pick up the mantel of Stripsey and follow in his old man’s footsteps.  Later, Barbara and Pat have a child of their own, giving Courtney and Mike a little sister named Patricia.  Despite their initial issues, Courtney and Pat become incredibly close, especially when Pat helped Courtney deal with the death of her biological father, who perished while working for the Royal Flush Gang.  In regards to Courtney Whitmore, Pat Dugan proves that any man can father a child, but only a few are good enough to be a Dad.

10.  Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead) – Rick Grimes has possibly one of the hardest jobs of any father in comic history.  As a leader of a band of survivors in a world crawling with zombies, Rick Grimes must raise his son Carl in a dangerous landscape, help his boy understand a world no longer familiar to him, and keep his son alive.  Waking up from a coma to an America overrun by zombies, police officer Rick Grimes went in search for his wife Lori and son Carl.  Eventually finding them amongst of group of survivors, Rick was reunited with his family and discovered that his wife is pregnant.  However, thinking her husband to be dead, Carol was sleeping with his former partner Shane.  Eventually Lori gave birth to a daughter named Judith, and despite the fact that Rick was unsure if the baby was his or not, it didn’t matter to him and he instantly accepted the child as his own.  Sitting his son down for a man to man talk, he told Carl that it would be up to him to protect his new baby sister.  But there are very few happy endings in The Walking Dead and tragedy would eventually strike when the group of survivors were attacked by another group of survivors lead by the evil Governor.  In the attack Lori and Judith were killed before Rick and Carl’s eyes.  Now on their own, the bond between father and son only increased.  The only family that they have, Rick doesn’t bullshit his kid and treats Carl like an adult.  Despite the fact that Carl is still a child, Rick gives him a gun, teaches him to shoot it and tells it to his kid straight.  He doesn’t reassure him by telling him that everything is going to be okay because he is unconvinced himself.  However, he does tell him that he will always do his best to keep him safe.  That’s all he can do.  When Carl takes his gun in hand and becomes judge, jury and executioner to a deranged member of the group, Rick doesn’t blow Carl’s cover and realizes that the new world they live in is full of shades of grays.  Now, despite the madness around him, the welfare of his son is all that is important to Rick.  In recent events, when Rick and a group of survivors, including Rick’s new lover Jessie and her son Ron, were attempting to escape a walled community overrun by zombies, Jessie would not let go of Carl’s hand as she and Ron were swarmed.  As a result Rick took a hatchet and cut off Jessie’s hand, sacrificing her for Carl’s life.  Now that is what I call making sacrifices for your kid!  Tragically, in the same attack Carl is shot through the face by a stray bullet and despite sever personal losses, Rick doubles back to get Carl medical attention and bravely went back into the open to fight a swarm of zombies as a doctor worked on Carl.  With the help of other members of the community, Rick beats the zombies as Carl fought for his life.  Rick and Carl’s story is still unfolding, but any father that is willing to battle zombies for his kid’s survival is pretty hard core.

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