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Child Soldiers / Comic Books

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Child Soldiers in comic books.

Precociously Talented

  • Really this is what Captain America's sidekick Bucky was.
  • Bucky was part of a strange tradition among Golden Age war comics to feature child soldiers as the heroes. See Airboy or DC's Boy Commandos. Either the writers either didn't think the implications all the way through, or were having so much fun they figured it wouldn't matter.
  • And let's not forget, the eponymous BOY wonder, Robin and his successors. (Especially in Frank Miller's All-Star Batman & Robin.)
    • Cassandra Cain may not have ever been a Robin, but before becoming Batgirl, she spent the first eight years of her life training as an assassin and the next eight on the run.
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    • And then there's the original Batwing, the Batman of Africa, who was a child soldier in the Army of the Dawn before managing to escape.
  • Xavin the Super Skrull in training from Runaways thinks of themselves like this, but based on the flashbacks to their training on their homeworld it seems like Xavin has never really seen combat and only undergone Super Skrull basic training.
    • In the Runaways/Young Avengers Civil War arc, Xavin tells a Mad Scientist that when they were five, they were forced to first watch their father slaughter a "screaming family" and then was made to spend three days with the bodies as a punishment for crying during it.
  • Hit Girl from Kick-Ass is a strange case, because not only is she aware of her status as this, but she's far more capable than the 16 year old title character. Also, in a realistic twist on the trope, the bad guys have absolutely no problem with trying to kill her. The two most heinous examples are when they shoot her in the back with "a hundred bullets" (which she recovered from) and whacking her in the head with a meat hammer. To be fair, however, she had already done much, much worse to them. After her father gets killed, Kick-Ass helps her track down her mother, and she goes back to a normal life like nothing bad ever happened. The first issue of Volume 2 shows her continuing to train Kick-Ass, keeping a small army's worth of firepower hidden in her bedroom, and being thoroughly bored with civilian life. So her normal life is probably going to just be a temporary blip.
    • In the movie, her mother is really dead, so she returns to a normal life - probably devoid of bullies, but that's a detail - with just Dave as a guardian.
  • X-23 from the X-Men was artificially created to be a perfect killing machine, this meant learning to kill from birth on and being send on messy assassinations by the age of 12. The nature of her training qualifies her as an example of the tragic sort as well.
    • Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man, Cable's alternate counterpart and half-brother (he was created from Scott Summers' and Jean Grey's DNA, while Cable was the son of Scott and Maddie Pryor, Jean's clone) is this. He was explicitly created by the Age of Apocalypse version of Mister Sinister to kill Apocalypse, with an additional genetic time-bomb planted in him so he won't be around for long afterwards, and he spends most of his solo series trying to find a chance for some peace and avoid war, whilst worrying that combat is all he's good at. This shows even when he tries to help other people in more than just a basic superhero sense, as his instincts are to force peace, thanks to growing up in a warzone and being thoroughly aware of his limited time, leading to the events of Uncanny X-Men (2018) and Age of X-Man.
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    • Metaphorically, Marrow was also a child soldier. Being forced to kill fellow Morlocks in order to survive and being indoctrinated to hate normal humans for no apparent reason.
    • Cyclops, along with the other original X-Men, were trained from around their mid-teens to fight to protect "a world that feared and hated" them. The psychological effects are most obvious in Cyclops, who's fairly reserved to begin with - he becomes an outright brilliant general and ruthlessly pragmatic Machiavellian schemer, running rings around even Captain freaking America and having Magneto himself be willing to follow his lead, but he's completely emotionally broken, especially without Jean's stabilising influence.
    • Hope Summers was trained from birth to fight, by Cable, who is himself a partial example of this trope.
  • This is the source of Captain America's opposition to Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe.
    • And even moreso with Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, who is even younger.
  • The Muties story "Arrested Development" is about an African boy who is kidnapped by a Joseph Kony expy named the Reverend and forced to become a child soldier. The stress of this triggers the development of his mutant ability to manipulate time, which he ultimately employs to get his revenge on the Reverend.
  • Judge Dredd was in his early teens when he first hit the streets, including killing lawbreakers.
  • Daisy Johnson and the Secret Warriors both have shades of this. Daisy was still high school age when Nick Fury approached her and had her trained to be his secret weapon, and its often noted by most of the people she encounters how young she is. Her teammates all vary on how much they fit this, with Hellfire being explicitly older than her while Yoyo and Alex being several years younger (Alex being a tween, though he's the reincarnation of the God Phobos, and is technically an immortal as it is). Explicitly, the team was formed using the illegitimate children of supervillains that Nick Fury had kept off of any other list, making them perfect secret weapons because nobody knew they existed.
  • In the New 52 universe, The Ravagers were originally trained to serve as elite soldiers in Harvest's private army, but decided to rebel instead.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Contest reveals that Artemis was only fourteen when Circe booted Themyscira from reality into a hellscape where they had to fight against demonic monsters to survive for ten years, meaning she grew up in a war fighting for her survival and helps explain her naivety about society on earth.

Just Plain Tragic

  • In Last Days of the Justice Society, The Flash is shot and killed by a child soldier in 1945 during the fall of Berlin.
  • Mariane Satrapi's Persepolis featured a portrayal of the real life Iranian unit of children, who were walked into the minefields to detonate them ahead of the troops.
  • The Vertigo reboot of Unknown Soldier is set in Acholiland, the base of operations of the Lord's Resistance Army, one of the most infamous Real Life users of child soldiers. Therefore, they're all over the place.
  • When the X-Men were up against Storm's uncle, a ruthless African dictator, he had a whole unit of child soldiers, trained to be extremely sadistic. Storm had no choice but to kill a squad before they could to the same to her.
    • While not as explicit, Cyclops is an example of a child soldier grown-up. Traumatized as a child (kidnapped father, orphaned with his brother), trained in military tactics from age 14, and sent on paramilitary actions until he was a full adult. Recent X-Men author Kieron Gillen even cited this trope as his central motivation for the character.
  • Batwing, "the Batman of Africa", has a back story where he was forced into service as a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His parents also died of AIDS, completing a truly African backstory.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye has the Warborn, Cybertronians born during the war. When one of them undergoes a psychotic break, the fact that he's spent his entire life a soldier isn't even raised as a reason for why he's snapped. Not even the ship psychiatrist, the sanest and most empathetic of the cast, is unnerved by the concept.
    • A later issue reveals that whole platoons of Cybertronians were brought online solely to fight, and taught the necessary skills required only to fight. They're labelled the Made To Order. And all the MTOs we've met so far? All Autobots.
    • Said issue also reveals the MTOs are made so quickly they tend to suffer from all manner of neurological impairments. And no-one blinks an eye at this, either.
      "In the end, High Command decided they wanted their new troops to fight, not study, so they reduced the steps from ten to eight to three. Three steps, Nautica: 'From thaw to war in under an hour.' Because who cares whether or not a warborn knockoff with a three-minute life expectancy can quote Dominus Ambus or notate the Grand Celestial Melody? So long as he can assemble a path-blaster with his brand-new eyes closed, everyone's happy. That's sarcasm, by the way. I dabble."
  • A flashback in an issue of Green Lantern shows that at one point in his past, apparently before he tried taking over his home-planet, Sinestro was confronted by a child suicide bomber on Korugar. Said child kills Sinestro's wife trying to get him.
  • The origin of Black Widow features this heavily in the form of the Red Room, a secret KGB splinter program that took young girls and trained them to be assassins, dubbed 'Black Widows', with Natasha Romanoff becoming the most successful candidate of the program, before she defected in adulthood and became a hero. The Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia Van Dyne, was also this, having been kidnapped as a baby and trained, until they recognised her academic skills and moved her to their science division, which gave her the opportunity to devise a means to escape.
  • Mikey Rhodes from Birthright was a typical Kid Hero dragged into a Trapped Into A Magic Land story... Except the comic has Warhammer 40,000 levels of horrors with an unbeatable tyrant in charge of endless waves of monsters and horrors at his disposal. He is exposed to so much death and terror at an tender age of 12 that when he grows up, he sides with his enemy in exchange for being returned home.
  • Code Name: Gravedigger: In Men of War #10, Gravedigger is trapped behind enemy lines in Germany. He is rescued by a Jewish resistance cell made up almost entirely of children. These children become his companions for the next several issues, as he helps them achieve their goals, and then they help him achieve his.
  • In the French heroic fantasy bande dessinée Vauriens, The Big Bad has used mass hypnotism on the adults of several cities to use as a labor force and worshippers in her personality cult. The protagonist organizes the children into an army - although one of his tasks is to prevent them from rushing her mooks and get slaughtered.


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