The Six Things Every MCU Superhero Has In Common

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Anthony Hopkins as Odin in Thor The Dark World


If a mythic hero doesn't have "daddy issues," chances are he may not actually be all that mythic or heroic. Distant, difficult or downright demonic father figures are a thread that unites everyone from King Arthur to Hercules to Jesus Christ to Superman to Son Goku to Star-Lord. Even if there was a point where it wasn't an ironclad rule for blockbuster movie protagonists it has been ever since Luke Skywalker got some surprising news in the depths of Bespin. And as Marvel is nothing if not thorough when it comes to Freudian archetypes, it's unsurprising that the other end of the Oedipus equation plays out even more reliably than the previous one.

Related: Thor: Ragnarok’s Deleted Scenes Hide Odin’s Original Death

MCU Dads (and "father figures") are almost all varying levels of damaged or damaging - and the ones that aren't so actively still tend to be so indirectly by virtue of their absence. But Marvel doesn't simply lean toward patriarchs who're disappointing... mostly of them are perhaps more notably disappointed. Marvel Men are all tightly-wound bundles of wounded masculine anxiety, and what they agonize over the most is often their desperate need for approval from an older male (or "masculine-coded") mentor figure who will probably never give them enough of it. Even the very best of such characters, Captain America's "creator" Dr. Erskine, dies immediately after having granted Steve Rogers (whose real father was, of course, an abusive alcoholic) his powers  - never able to tell his surrogate son that he made him proud.

But beyond that? Where there's a Marvel superhero, there's probably a literal or symbolic father/mentor withholding approval of their heroic deeds - sometimes up to the point where they're one of the villains of the piece. Tony Stark will toil forever in the shadow of his deceased father, caps off his origin story by defeating his evil "office dad" in Iron Monger, and then becomes an unofficial "bad dad" himself to Spider-Man in Homecoming. Thor's first movie (indeed, his entire multi-film journey) is about proving to Odin that he's worthy of the throne, a concern that also bedevils T'Challa in Black Panther, and is resolved in part for both men via the acceptance that their respective fathers weren't perfect either. Ant Man and The Wasp both conduct their superhero careers under the wounded curmudgeonly direction of Hank Pym. Peter Quill's already-arrested psyche is warped further by his "unusual" upbringing under Yondu. Stephen Strange may be the most emotionally-needy magic student in history not named Hermoine Granger.

And, of course, post-unfreezing, poor, sad, stoic Steve Rogers seems trapped in a self-imposed cycle of seeking out systems of authority to be The Best Son to and then face disillusionment with (the army, S.H.I.E.L.D. and eventually the entire U.S. Government as of Civil War.) "Manly tears" are the essence of emotional-storytelling in the MCU, and approval-averse dads are so often the source it even extends beyond the heroes themselves:

Key Release Dates
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Silver and Black release date:
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date:
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