We've already told you about 15 villains who are crazier than the Joker, but madness is a fairly common trait among villains. After all, it takes a special kind of lunacy to want to take over the world or go on a killing spree for the sheer joy of it. On the flip side, it could be argued that it takes an equally special kind of insanity to decide to put on a costume and stop said madmen from taking over the world. With that in mind, we've complied a list of the 15 heroes that even the Joker might think need a stay in Arkham Asylum.
Since we are discussing characters with histories of insanity, some of these people are closer to anti-heroes, and plenty have done stints as outright villains. But for the purpose of this list, we're defining "hero" in the loose sense of anyone who has spent the majority of their career on the side of the good guys. Some might have done some rather awful things, but as long as they are, for the most part, considered heroes, we are going to include them here.
Here are 15 Superheroes Crazier Than The Joker.
We’re sure we can all agree that superpowers are totally awesome. But one of the downsides to having superpowers is that they can be a bit of a pain to control, especially when you’re just starting out. Just ask Rogue or, better yet, ask fellow X-Man, Legion.
David Charles Haller is the son of Professor Charles Xavier, better known as Professor X. Like his father, he is a mutant, but unlike his dad, he’s kind of bonkers. He suffers from an extreme version of multiple personality disorder and has more than a 1,000 different personalities. His many different personalities are also the key to controlling his powers, as each personality has its own ablities. Unfortunately, not all of those personalities are good. One, for example, is a terrorist. Another is a demonic creature that feeds off of love. On the bright side, his wide-range of powers might make him the most powerful being in the Marvel universe.
Keep an eye out for this for this looney bin-confined hero on his upcoming FX series, which is set to debut early next year.
Definitely one of the odder entries on this list, Freakazoid was the creation of one of the men behind DC’s animation renaissance, Bruce Timm. Originally Timm meant for the series to be a standard superhero show with some comedy thrown in, but producer Steven Spielberg wanted a comedy series. Eventually, the team behind Animaniacs was brought in, since Timm wasn’t sure he could do a pure comedy.
The Animaniacs influence can be clearly seen in Freakazoid -- both the show and the character. Totally unpredictable, Freakazoid is utterly and completely insane in the way that only cartoon characters can be. He is constantly making pop-culture references and he regularly breaks the Fourth Wall to an extent that even Deadpool would find impressive.
In addition to the meta humor, the show had a thing for making use of stock footage and extended cameos, both from real people and other characters on the WB network, such as Pinky from Pinky & The Brain.
13 Moon Knight
At first glance, Moon Knight might seem to be little more than a Batman knockoff, but Marc Spector is so much more than that. Moon Knight’s origins have varied over the years, but the basics remain consistent. While doing mercenary work in Egypt, Spector was shot and left for dead by an ally. While he was bleeding out, he found himself in front of a statue of the Egyptian moon deity, Khonsu. The god promised to heal Spector if he would become its avatar on Earth. Spector agreed, taking up the mantle of Moon Knight.
The really interesting thing about Moon Knight is the amount of debate that surrounds his insanity. Sometimes he’s written as if he truly is the avatar of a deity, whereas other times it’s clear that he’s just utterly insane.However, even if he truly was saved by Khonsu, Spector is still totally mad. The “moon god” stuff is just the tip of the crazy iceberg with him. It’s the three separate personalities that really give his madness an unpredictable twist, making him an excellent candidate for a live-action adaptation.
12 The Tick
The Tick is an interesting example of a “joke” character gaining mainstream popularity. Originally created as the mascot for a comic book store’s newsletter by Ben Edlund, the cartoonist eventually started creating stories for the Tick that earned him his own comic book series and several TV shows. In the original version of the story, the Tick actually escaped from an insane asylum before becoming the protector of “The City.” Other stories hint that he might be an alien. The subjectivity is fitting considering that, thanks to being hit in the head a lot, he has no memory of his life prior to being the Tick.
The character was meant to be a parody of superheroes, and that definitely shows in his personality. He’s often childlike and prone to giving silly speeches. His battlecry of “Spoon!”, which he invented during breakfast, is equally absurd. The Tick might not be the most powerful superhero, and he’s unlikely to ever get his own blockbuster film franchise, but he’s certainly one of the craziest.
Rorschach was born Walter Joseph Kovacs, but he considers his birth name to be a mask. In fact, during his trial, he refuses to answer to his given name, instead demanding to be referred to as Rorschach. There’s a similar viewpoint regarding Batman, in that some of his writers (including Christopher Nolan) view Bruce Wayne as a mere mask, but at least Batman leaves room for doubt. Rorshcarch’s sense of self is as absolute and unyielding as everything else about him.
Raised with a deeply religious upbringing, Rorschach is the definition of an absolutist. His sense of justice is stark and unforgiving, with no room for compromise. In his eyes, there is a right way to live your life and a wrong way to live it, and if you live it the wrong way, you'll have to sleep with one eye open. As one might imagine, his extreme stance has left him isolated from society, which can’t be healthy for his already damaged mental state.
10 The Plutonian
To really break down a character, you have to truly understand and connect with that character -- and Mark Waid’s work on Superman (such as Kingdom Come) proves that he really gets the Man of Steel. So it makes sense that he would write one of the best deconstructions of Superman ever.
Irredeemable follows the story of the world’s greatest superhero, Plutonian, as he descends into madness and embarks on a killing spree. Such stories have been told before, but it's the reasoning behind the madness that provides such an interesting contrast to Clark Kent. Plutonian’s foster parents were afraid of his powers leaving him without the strong moral support that was so crucial to Kent. Whereas Superman’s powers didn’t manifest until his teenage years, giving him time to live a normal life, Plutonian’s developed early. This forced him to withdraw from his peers, leaving him isolated and gave the other kids a target to pick on.
With a live-action film based on Irredeemable reportedly on the way, now is as good a time as any to familiarize yourself a bit more with the character.
9 Jean Grey/Phoenix
Like any character that’s been around for a few decades, Jean Grey -- and the Phoenix -- have a convoluted history. In the early years of the comics, the Phoenix force was simply the manifestation of Grey’s full potential. Eventually, it was revealed that the Phoenix was a separate entity. A cosmic force of rebirth. And that’s where the really crazy stuff begins.
During a moment of crisis, Grey desperately called out for something to save her fellow X-Men. The being that answered her call was the Phoenix Force. After saving her allies and safely sealing Grey’s body away, the Phoenix began to believe it was Jean Grey, even adopting her memories and personality. For a while, things were going pretty well until, during a confrontation with the Hellfire Club, Phoenix lost control of its powers and sanity, renaming itself Dark Phoenix. Lost in madness, the Dark Phoenix goes on a rampage, destroying an entire solar system before the “Jean” personality could regain control. In order to prevent more destruction, “Jean” commits suicide, and a fragment of the Phoenix awakens the real Grey, but she rejects its power. Good call.
We couldn’t do an article about insane superheroes without touching on Batman. Grief can do terrible things to a person, so it’s understandable that 8-year-old Bruce Wayne wouldn’t take the murder of his parents all that well. It even makes sense that he would devote himself to ridding Gotham of crime. What doesn’t make sense is his plan to dress up as a bat and start punching criminals.
That being said, what’s truly interesting about Batman isn’t that he’s a bit cracked, it’s the way his insanity manifests itself. The idea of a grown man dressing up as a flying rodent is absurd, but, despite the absurdity of his actions, Batman is completely rational in his approach to crime fighting. He’s a brilliant detective who's mastered every form of martial art known to man, and he manages to pull off the playboy billionaire act very well. It’s a very controlled and, paradoxically, rational form of insanity.
7 The Mask/Big Head
Most people reading this are probably familiar with The Mask due to the 1994 movie starring Jim Carrey. In the film, Carrey’s character Stanley Ipkiss is living a normal boring life as a bank clerk until he stumbles across the titular mask. The mask, an artifact of the trickster god Loki, turns him into an insane, god-like being. He can alter reality with a mere thought, but his thoughts tend to be chaotic and random.
As bizarre as the movie is, the comic series by Dark Horse is much darker. Big Head, as the mask’s wearer is dubbed, is far more violent and powerful than his movie counterpart. He has no problems murdering those who have wronged him, and he essentially becomes a living cartoon character freed from the constraints of reality and morality.
Perhaps more disturbingly, the mask also begins to have an influence on Ipkiss himself, who becomes abusive towards his girlfriend. After she leaves him and takes the mask with her, Ipkiss gets arrested trying to break into her house so he can steal it back -- because he realizes he can’t live without it.
The Sentry’s story is a bit convoluted, even for comic books. He’s a relatively new creation, but his history spans decades. Marvel essentially rewrote huge parts of their timeline in order to include Sentry in their universe's history. The short version is that Robert Reynolds is a normal guy who wakes up one day and suddenly remembers that he’s one of the world’s greatest superheroes, known as the Sentry. No one else remembers him at first, but eventually he restores the memories of his old friends and allies. Unfortunately, this also awakens his alter-ego, known as the Void.
The Void is sort of a case of split-personality disorder brought to life via the power of Sentry. The Void isn’t simply the Sentry putting on a brand new costume and being evil. Rather, the Sentry believes he is the world’s greatest superhero, and thus needed the world’s greatest villain. His power, and subconscious need for a villain, brought the Void into existence, who undoes all the good work of Sentry.
Back in the day, one of the big differences between DC & Marvel was their approach to their heroes. Marvel tried to create humans with superpowers. They wanted their characters to be more “realistic” than DC’s in terms of their struggles and personalities. Marvel’s heroes, especially those created by Stan Lee, were supposed to be relatable and flawed, and they were a bit more grounded as a result.
But in the case of the original Ant-Man, they might have made him a bit too flawed. Pym suffers from several mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorder. The exact reasons for these illnesses tend to vary, though it's oftentimes explained away as a result of the Pym Particles messing with his brain chemistry. Regardless of the reasoning, Pym’s mental problems resulted in one of the most reviled moments in comics. During an argument with his wife, Janet, he hit her across the face, cementing his reputation as a domestic abuser.
Since then, Pym has gotten help and appears to have recovered from his illnesses, but it hasn’t been enough to redeem his image. In fact, the entire reason the Ant-Man movie didn’t feature him in the suit was because Marvel felt he was too damaged to carry the film.
4 Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch, has led an interesting and rather confusing life. An orphan, she was raised in Romania, but it was eventually discovered that her father was the mutant terrorist, Magneto. She eventually joined her father’s Brotherhood of Mutants and was an enemy of the X-Men. In time, she grew disillusioned with her father and his mission, and left to join the Avengers. Still with us? Good, because it only gets weirder from here. Recently, Marvel, possibly due to the fact that Fox owns the rights to the X-Men movies, retconned her origin so that she’s no longer the daughter of Magneto.
Retcons and convoluted history aside, there’s one thing that everyone agrees on. Wanda does nothing by half measures. When the loss of her children drives her mad, she ends up killing several members of the Avengers and then rewrites reality so that her children are safe, mutants have become the ruling class, and Wanda and her family are at the head of that class. The resulting House of M and the No More Mutants storylines were two of the most important developments in X-Men and the wider Marvel lore in recent years.
On the bright side, it turns out her kids are alive. The Young Avengers known as Wiccan and Speed are actually the reincarnated sons of the Scarlet Witch, though her recent solo series reveals that Wanda isn’t very close to them.
When it comes to insane super heroes, The Merc With the Mouth is kind of the poster boy and he’s definitely earned that status. Deadpool started out as little more than a Deathstroke clone. Even his name, Wade Wilson, was a knock at Slade Wilson, but Deadpool managed to distinguish himself by being completely insane.
In fact, it’s safe to say that if he weren’t nuts, Deadpool wouldn’t be nearly as popular as he is now, because his personality and humor is what really separates him from similar characters. His madness most often manifests in the form of breaking the fourth wall, where he’ll directly address the reader. This was taken to its most extreme in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, where he decides to free his fellow fictional characters by murdering them all. He eventually ends up in our world. Of course, this raises an interesting question. Is Deadpool really insane if he’s correct about being a fictional character?
2 The Creeper
At one point, Jack Ryder was nothing more than a talk show radio host, but all that changed when... well, he actually has several different origins. In some of the stories, Ryder’s transformation is the result of an experimental drug that gave him superpowers. In other incarnations, the Creeper is actually an Oni, a Japanese spirit of chaos.
Regardless of the origin story, the Creeper is undeniably insane, but on the bright side, at least it’s a good sort of insanity that rarely results in mass murder, so he’s one step above the Joker. Speaking of the Joker, the Creeper is one of the few characters that the Joker actually admits to being afraid of. When you can frighten Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, you’re either doing something very right or very wrong. We’re not sure which one it is, but, just to stay on the Creeper’s good side, we’ll say he’s doing something right.
1 Rose and Thorn
There are several different versions of Rose’s origin, but the basics remain the same. Rhosyn "Rose" Forrest’s father was a police officer who was murdered by a gang called the 100. At night, her split personality manifests in the form of a violent vigilante known as Thorn who hunts down her father’s killers.
In Gale Simone’s version of the story, Rose is a 12 year-old-old girl who lost both of her parents to the 100. Due to violent outbursts, she was sent to a mental hospital, where a doctor conducted illegal experiments meant to suppress those urges. Unfortunately, they later manifested as the personality of Thorn. This violent persona would take over whenever Rose, normally a pretty meek girl, was angry or scared. As the series progresses, Thorn gains more and more control as she hunts down her family’s killers.
In this version, Rose actually has more than two personalities. There is the one she calls Mom who, as the name implies, is a kind figure, and then there’s Wild Rose, who is even more violent than Thorn.
Which heroes do you believe belong in the nut house alongside the Joker? Let us know in the comments.