Superheroes typically have high-stress lifestyles. They often embody public personas that are burdened with various responsibilities, such as of saving lives and thwarting supervillains. Despite all of this, heroes must still find time to be regular people when the capes and masks come off.
Much like real life celebrities, many of the famous heroes that inhabit comic book pages have had serious problems with drinking. Hiding a secret identity often means hiding secret addictions too. Even superheroes whose identities are publicly known have secrets that they must hide from society, and occasionally heroes use alcohol to numb the pain they’ve experienced in the past or even the present. It is not uncommon in their dangerous line of work to lose friends, lovers, and fellow superheroes.
It’s hard to imagine beings who can carry the weight of the world on their shoulders (a feat some can do literally) succumbing to addiction, but alcoholism has managed to drip its way into the cracks of battle armor, bulletproof skin, and mutant healing factors. Even the good guys need help in life sometimes, and more than a few heroes on the list even turned to Alcoholics Anonymous to kick the habit.
Here are the 15 Superheroes Who Let The Bottle Get The Best Of Them.
15. Batman (Thomas Wayne)
In The Flashpoint Paradox‘s animated version, Batman is shown to hit the hooch harder than he hits criminals. The reason for this? Flashpoint took place in an alternate timeline where the notorious robber, Joe Chill, ended up shooting the child Bruce instead of his wealthy parents, Martha and Thomas Wayne.
The chilling experience would send Thomas into a deep depression that would transform him into Batman. Martha then snapped completely after losing her only child and became a new version of The Joker.
At a point of the story, Barry Allen (who had lost his powers in this alternate timeline) visited the batcave. It was a bit sloppier than the batcave that Bruce Wayne kept, as it was littered with a unique decoration– bottles of booze everywhere. In contrast, Bruce Wayne’s version of Batman actually abstained from alcohol on most occasions.
14. Jessica Jones
While it is scientifically known that men are twice as likely to become alcoholics, there are always exceptions. As Jessica Jones quipped on her Netflix series, “would you put day drinking under experience or special abilities?”
Jessica has had her share of trauma to deal with. The two most notable were the death of her family in an automobile accident and her sexual abuse under the control of Zebediah Killgrave, aka The Purple Man.
In the comic book version, Jones was a more established superhero named Jewel when Killgrave mentally enslaved her. In both the TV series and the comics, Jones retired the superhero gig and became a hard drinking private investigator in a somber, noir setting. Even Jessica Jones needs time to heal and has a fair share of vices to turn to.
13. Iron Man
The godfather to all superheroes who struggled with alcoholism: Iron Man. Tony Stark‘s battle with alcohol could even be described as iconic. It was immortalized on the cover issue of “Demon in a Bottle,” a major story arc in 1979 which showcased a red-eyed, sweaty Stark facing himself in the mirror.
Heck, the cover even had a figurine made after it. Like the other Marvel heroes, Tony Stark would eventually go to Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, at some points, he attended AA with two members from this list: Henry Hellrung and Carol Danvers.
While Tony’s struggles never made it to the on screen version of the character, there had been certain parallels between Stark’s follies and the man who plays him, Robert Downey Jr, whose real life past struggles with drugs and alcohol were quite infamous.
12. Venom (Flash Thompson)
Spider-Man‘s former bully, Flash Thompson, has sure come a long way. He went from being a schoolyard jerk to a war hero when he joined the army, and then went on to become the next Venom when he enlisted in “Project: Rebirth” and bonded with the symbiote that the Marvel Universe has come to know and love.
It wasn’t always a triumphant life for Thompson, however. Much like John Constantine, Thompson also had a drunkard, abusive father, which in part explained why Thompson would go on to take his deep-seated anger out on Peter Parker.
In his adult life, Thompson would struggle with a bout of depression and alcoholism which led him to engage in a fair share of drunk driving. Norman Osborn once even took advantage of this during the “A Death in the Family” story arc by kidnapping Thompson and forcing whiskey down his throat. He then pressured him to drive a truck into Midtown High School, the very school he and Peter Parker attended when they were teenagers.
11. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Carol Danvers is the opposite of Moon Knight in a certain respect. While she maintained her one personal identity– as Carol Danvers– she has gone by many superhero titles. From Ms. Marvel to Binary, Warbird, and Captain Marvel.
However, it was under her Warbird mantel that Carol struggled with alcoholism. Having lost her cosmic powers, Danvers felt like a less complete hero and compensated for it by hitting the bottle.
Danvers reached the ultimate low in the Iron Man story “Sunset Intrigues” when Tony noticed that she was drunk in the middle of a battle against the misunderstood protagonists Golden-Blade and Sapper.
Basically, Danvers was wasted on the job. She passed out after the battle and awoke in her apartment to Tony Stark offering her coffee in order to help her get sober. At that point, she knew she needed help and would later attend Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fans unfamiliar with the comics may have been surprised to see how much liquor Wolverine threw back in the movie Logan, but the heavy drinking certainly had its origins in the paneled pages as well.
Wolverine has lived an unnaturally long life, fighting in many wars and losing many loved ones, and sometimes the pain of all these memories is too much. Following the path of many depressed superheroes before him, Wolverine chose to cope with his pain by drinking whatever liquor was available.
There was always a major factor in the way of his drinking– a healing factor that is. The enhanced healing factor prevented the intoxicants from having any major effect on the mutant. Wolverine was never one to give up that easily, however.
9. Francis Ruben
Marvel and DC comics aren’t the only ones to produce alcoholic superheroes. Dark Horse Comics stepped into the game when they released their graphic novel Buzzkill in 2013.
Starring Francis Ruben, a superhero in a compromising situation that sets him apart from all the other heroes on this list. See, Francis actually received his powers from drug abuse. Cigarettes granted him super-durability, caffeine gave him enhanced senses, and alcohol temporarily blessed him with super-strength.
The story actually opened with Francis Ruben attending Alcoholics Anonymous, so the hero wanted to get clean. The main problem was that Ruben had trouble “sharing” with the struggling alcoholics around him, as their problems weren’t quite like his– they didn’t face the dilemma of being a superhero fueled by the drugs also killing them.
8. John Constantine
John Constantine, the middle-aged master of the occult, is certainly no master of his addictions. A cigarette and a cup of liquid courage at a dive bar are the most common vices that the magician turns to.
It’s hard to blame John for this struggle, since he had a rough childhood. His mom died after giving birth to him and he was left under the “care” of his abusive drunk of a father. This, of course, gave way to John’s heavy drinking, as drinking can occasionally be linked to genetics.
However, in 1993, things got really dark for Constantine in the “Fear and Loathing” storyline, during which his girlfriend Kit left him. John hit the bottle hard– even by his own standards. Dealing with the fires of Hell, turning to alcohol as a method of coping was all in a day’s work for John Constantine. Sometimes the worst demon is the one that hides at the bottom of a bottle.
Firestorm is a unique superhero since he is actually the composite of two people (and in some cases more) coming together to form one nuclear-powered being. One-half is Ronnie Raymond, who is the source of his athletic body, while the other is Professor Martin Stein, who serves as the guiding conscious. This does not make things easy for Stein, however.
Initially, Ronnie had dominant control of the Firestorm persona. This meant that he also kept the memories of whatever super-heroics he engaged in, even when he was transformed back into his human body.
Stein, on the other hand, would black out and have no recollection of what had happened, which meant that he was missing chunks of his life. Eventually, Stein turned to the bottle to find some peace of mind. His heavy drinking even affected Firestorm, as the combined hero felt some of the negatives of Stein’s heavy drinking.
Ronnie Raymond would also face his own battle with alcoholism when he was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-’90s. Whichever half of Firestorm you look at, they’ve both had a challenging history with alcohol.
6. Bobo T. Chimpanzee
While the idea of a crime solving Chimpanzee may sound bizarre, keep in mind that Bobo T. Chimpanzee came about during The Golden Age of DC Comics. Somehow, this wasn’t so strange back then… in fact, it was common place.
Bobo the Detective Chimp was a crime-solver who needed to be taken seriously… well as seriously as one can take a talking chimpanzee. However, he did have skills that rivaled other DC detectives, such as Ralph Dibny and even Batman.
Unfortunately, like many other Golden Age oddities, Bobo became forgotten. Struggling to pay his bills, he eventually turned to alcoholism to cope with the pain. As absurd as it may sound, there are real life parallels with nonhuman primates becoming addicted to booze.
Chimpanzees, in particular, have real life drinking habits. Scientist have observed chimps in West Africa drinking fermented palm sap in order to get buzzed. Bobo, being of the more sophisticated sort, just preferred beer.
The Hercules of Marvel Comics is one of the most notorious drinkers amongst mortals and immortals alike. After all, there aren’t too many superheroes who could drink Thor under a table.
What happened when Hercules encountered the all-powerful space god, Galactus in Hercules #4? Well, Herc had obtained some of the most potent ale in the galaxy from a group of aliens known as the Brotherhood. He decided to sit down and secretly share some with Galactus. That’s right, the Lion of Olympus and the Devourer of Worlds sat down for a drink together.
Drinking hasn’t always been a fun activity for Hercules, however. Post-Onslaught, he was kicked out of Olympus by his father Zeus and stripped of his immortality. Finding most of his support group, the Avengers, missing, a more vulnerable Hercules thus turned to drinking in order to cope.
4. Moon Knight
Moon Knight is perhaps the most fractured character in Marvel history. Many superheroes have secret identities that they use to shelter themselves, but how many have two… or more? Marc Spector, Steven Grant, and Jake Lockley are all one man.
Any more personalities and he’d be the Marvel equivalent of James McAvoy’s character from Split. Resurrected and granted the equipment and abilities to fight crime by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, Mark Spector was a changed man when he became Moon Knight.
After a final battle against his rival Bushman, Marc Spector found his nemesis dead and himself with broken knees. Left in crippling pain, Spector entangled himself in a life of drugs and alcohol. It was under the gun-toting Jake Lockley personality that the character did most of his hard drinking. Moon Knight– he’s like Batman but crazier.
3. Tommy Monaghan
One quick glance at Tommy Monaghan will instantly tell you that he is a creation of Garth Ennis. When you’re raised in Gotham City like Tommy was, you’re destined to have a “charmed” life.
Tommy’s mother was a prostitute, while his father was a violent madman (an unfortunate familial trait shared with many characters on this list). Eventually becoming a hitman for hire, Tommy’s life changed after being bitten by an alien parasite. Granted with the powers of X-ray vision and telepathy, Tommy upgraded his contracts to taking out metahumans.
The telepathy had a side-effect, though, that left Tommy with migraines. How did he numb this pain? With beer, lots and lots of beer. He even had the bar tab to prove it, one of $107.56 at Guy Gardner’s Warrior’s bar, in fact.
As a deconstruction of the superhero mythos, Alan Moore’s groundbreaking comic book Watchmen did not shy away from harsh realities. Giving more grounded and realistic portrayals of superheroes, each character came with their own flaws and demons that they had to deal with. Byron Lewis, better known by his alter-ego Mothman, was one such character.
Lewis was quite the innovator, joining the heroic team “The Minutemen” after inventing his own glider suit. However, constant pressure to get the suit right and the struggle to stay in tip-top condition injected a tremendous amount of stress into Mothman’s life. He developed a serious drinking condition that only worsened after fellow superhero Dollar Bill was killed in action.
The drinking got so bad, in fact, that Lewis was eventually admitted into a mental institution in 1962. Later that year, the hospital allowed him to attend a special reunion of The Minutemen, but poor Lewis looked lost, confused, and frightened, barely even able to hold onto a glass of soda.
Within the Marvel Universe, Henry Hellrung is a superhero who is so cool that he got to play Tony Stark on a television series. He even went on to become drinking buddies with the real Tony Stark.
Unfortunately for Hellrung, though, his heavy drinking would lead to his downfall as he eventually became an alcoholic. However, his story would have a happy ending, as he soon became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and managed to kick the addiction.
After the disastrous Marvel event known as Civil War, Hellrung was granted the “power of a supercell thunderstorm” which allowed him to fly and generate electricity. Dawning the superhero name Anthem, he was now a force to be reckoned with.
On top of that, he was asked by Tony Stark to join “The Order” as a leader of the new California based superhero team. Things sure took a turn for the best for poor Hellrung.
Can you think of any other superheroes who struggled with drinking problems? Let us know in the comment section.
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