It’s not the ’60s any more, the era when heroes were heroes and the bad guys were all insultingly, obviously evil. Anti-heroes have come and gone, characters have switched sides and no longer do comic books set the behavior standards for children across the world.
These ten might be superheroes, out there risking their lives for the greater good…but they’re also here to prove that justice isn’t soft. In fact, they can sometimes be jerks about it.
Here are 10 Great Superheroes Who Are Also Jerks
10. Huntress/Helena Bertinelli
Like every DC character, Helena Bertinelli has cycled through a few origins over the years, but her early life as the daughter of a mob boss-turned-superhero has more or less stuck. She quickly established herself in the 90s as one of the most 90s-ish vigilantes around, often killing for the sake of it and snapping far more bones (often necks) than your average superhero.
Her antics often caught the ire of Batman, a costumed hero known for his willingness to only cause life-threatening injuries instead of outright murder, provided he isn’t portrayed by Ben Affleck. Despite a strong moral stance and her absolute commitment to seeing justice done, Huntress has consistently refused to listen to authority since her debut, and is generally just a cold-blooded cynic at the best of times. Despite forming several friendships and her membership in the Birds of Prey, Huntress has retained her killing instinct and willingness to cross any boundary she thinks is necessary.
9. Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones arrived well after the golden, silver, and bronze age of superheroes, and despite some costumed shenanigans in her past, she is mostly known for her foul mouth, heavy drinking and career as a seedy private eye. She’s also a pretty great mother, though criminals probably can’t tell when they’re being punched through brick walls.
As portrayed in the recent Netflix series Jessica Jones, Jessica used to be less of a surly character before her manipulation at the hands of Zebadiah Kilgrave, AKA The Purple Man. This ended her career as a costumed hero and sent her into a spiral of PTSD, as shown during the Alias arc where she can’t seem to go two panels without cussing like a sailor. She would later recover, start a family and reclaim her costumed identity, cycling through a number of names and personas. Jessica still tries to do good, but for a good portion of her career still wasn’t the type to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Captain America without some stern (and completely ignored) words being said about her language.
Now the poster child for shadowy justice and super-angst, Batman wasn’t always this way. As with most heroes, his persona has taken time to develop over the years, going from a slightly-dark but still cheerful hero to the brooding bat we all know today. Nowadays he’s known as Superman’s antithesis, a superhero every bit as effective, but doling out grouchy punishment from the darkness, both feared and respected (though probably more of the first thing).
Bruce Wayne might be a flouncy playboy, but his Batman persona makes it clear that all of this charm is exuded through gritted teeth, since the Dark Knight would much rather be spending his time leaping across rooftops and dangling perps by their ankles, his true calling. Despite his characterization as the ultimate grump, Batman’s commitment to justice has made him a startling amount of friends, though that might just be because they’d rather have him on their side rather than the other way round.
Further examples of his jerk behavior include planning specific ways to eliminate the entire Justice League should they go rogue, repeatedly relying on torture and intimidation to achieve his goals and generally scowling a lot without any good reason. But it’s Batman, so people tend to give him a pass.
7. Damian Wayne/Robin
People are less willing to forgive Damian Wayne, however, on account of him being mostly characterized as a murderous, self-important brat. He’s been salvaged somewhat in recent times, but his defining traits remain: disobedience, willingness to kill and a general air of superiority that makes you wish he’d trip over his cape and break his nose, just so it’d teach him some humility.
Damian’s less-than-palatable personality can be put down to his upbringing in the League of Assassins, where he was taught about 700 different ways to kill a person but not quite so much about being a polite, respectable member of society. Essentially, we get the impression that Damian is his father, were his father not raised by both loving parents and a respectable English butler. Having been grown in a test tube (sort of) and taught to kill from age zero, the latest version of Robin has turned out to be an unbearable jerk who’s had to have the value of playing nice with others steadily beaten into his incredibly thick skull.
6. Ant-Man/Hank Pym
He might have been portrayed with the gentle gravitas of Michael Douglas in the MCU, but the comic version of Hank Pym is far from a loving husband and father. A quick glance at the comics will have you relieved that they went with Scott Lang’s version, since the original Hank Pym was abusive and prone to mental breakdowns. Possibly, this has something to do with all the derisive Ant-Man jokes.
Pym remained a morally-upstanding hero from the time he made his debut all the way up to when he unleashed a mechanical monster upon the Earth, and things sort of went downhill from there. Hank dosed himself with crazy chemicals, backhanded his wife and started brazenly attacking criminals who were already beaten, causing him to be suspended from the Avengers. His brilliant plan to worm his way back into their ranks (because they were clearly in need of his winning personality) was to build another destructive kill-bot to attack the Avengers, after which he’d beat it himself.
5. Iron Man/Tony Stark
Like many comic-book billionaire geniuses, Tony Stark can be kind of insufferable. He might have grown into more of a hero since his debut, but Stark will always be remembered as the future-obsessed entrepreneur with little tolerance for those who can’t keep up with his intellect. This is all apart from his raging alcoholism, which has caused him to shun his friends and angrily lash out on several occasions.
Still worse was his portrayal during the Civil War story-line, in which he was often characterized as an extremist willing to brutally apprehend and imprison anyone who didn’t see things his way, and his methods were almost completely devoid of heroism (though to be fair, this depended on the writer).
The MCU version of the character also plays up his level of snark and superiority, as well as just how irritating it can be to have to work with a “billionaire, playboy, genius philanthropist” who’s constantly trying to one-up you at every turn.
4. Professor X
Professor X began as a paragon of tolerance, a saintly mentor and the benevolent leader of a force for good. His pacifist methods were contrasted with the more extreme Magneto, though recent years have brought their personalities so much closer, they’re practically the same with very slightly different goals.
For one thing, Xavier hasn’t been shy about abusing his powers over the years, erasing memories and messing with brains on the sly while preaching the opposite to his students. When the Danger Room became sentient and desperately wanted to be free, the good Professor leapt into action by doing jack-all and letting it suffer for years, just so his students could become better at jumping over flamethrowers and avoiding wall spikes.
His many secrets begin to stack up, including a completely different team of X-Men who were all killed off (with Prof X erasing them from everyone’s memories) and the Xavier Protocols, with information on how to kill specific X-Men if they went rogue, or maybe just got on his nerves. To top it all off, his ‘dark side’ has a habit of manifesting as a malignant and terrifying entity known as Onslaught. Most of our dark sides just have us getting snippy with the barista when they take too long, so this should give you an ideas as to exactly what’s going on in the mind of supposed-pacifist Charles Xavier.
3. Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic
The greatest scientific question left for Reed Richards: what stretches further? His body or his ego?
Mr Fantastic is another long-running superhero who started off as a perfect example of leadership, family morals and all round goody-goodness before being retconned into a neglectful egomaniac. While still pretty fond of the idea of saving the world and doing good and so forth, recent years have focused more on that massive brain that seems to have squeezed out most of his scruples and concern for his family.
The Reed Richards of modern times has been shown getting just a little too excited about doing everything for the glory of science, while totally ignoring any moral implications. Civil War has him eagerly jumping on the bandwagon of superhuman registration, seemingly just because it lets him bit a big, fancy prison for wayward heroes that stretches into the negative zone, an act that put him squarely at odds with his own team. There was also that little incident where he dragged his untrained family into space and got them mutated because ‘science’, the many, many instances where he’s taken it upon himself to smack his wife and son into submission and his general habit of solving problems with big laser cannons.
2. The Scarab (Blue Beetle)
Jaime Reyes is a perfectly nice guy. Unfortunately, this is tempered by the presence of an extraterrestrial scarab attached to his spine, which gives him an array of powers but also presents a constant mental battle as the two argue constantly. Being essentially a piece of alien technology built for invasion, the scarab has a violent personality, a hair-trigger temper and (according to what we hear of Jaime’s side of the conversation) an incredibly foul mouth.
This presented an interesting contrast, as Jaime Reyes tried to control the scarab’s more jerkish and bloodthirsty tendencies. Despite forming a strong bond, the two remain separate entities: one a boy from Earth who just wants to help people, and the other a dangerously volatile piece of alien technology with a strong desire to burn the faces of people it finds irritating. The two have rubbed off on each other, but the scarab remains the most aggressive of the duo, fortunately with its blue language mostly confined to Jaime’s mind.
As the most iconic superhero ever, Superman has cycled through a number of personality changes over the years, and we’ve caught glimpses of alternate universes where his personality isn’t quite as sunny as the one we know. Still, nothing quite compares to the Superman of the comic book Gold and Silver Age, whose blatant sociopathy pretty much makes him a separate character all by himself.
Not quite the boy scout that we know today, the Man of Steel instead devoted his time to making his friends’ lives a living hell, often forcing them into bizarre situations for his own amusement and wantonly destroying public property simply because no one could stop him. One story has him impersonating Lois’ blackmailer, simply because he wants to know her dirty secret. There’s the beloved storyline with him adopting Jimmy Olsen, only to be such an awful, abusive father that Jimmy is forced to quit being his son, or when he launched Supergirl into space for revealing her identity…to Krypto the Superdog. It wasn’t just his friends; Superman once declared war on all cars in Metropolis (even the completely innocent ones), demolished an entire neighborhood because it wasn’t up to his standards, used his heat vision to turn the moon into his personal message board and just generally ripped away the superpowers of anyone he didn’t think deserved them, him being the judge and arbiter of the whole universe.
And all of this without red kryptonite. Sort of makes Henry Cavill’s neck-snapping version look like the Easter Bunny in comparison.
Any more morally-bankrupt superheroes that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.