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Dark And Troubled Past / Comic Books

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  • The X-Men's Wolverine, who also had a Mysterious Past and, thanks to his amnesia, had it remain that way for a looong time. Further complicated by implanted memories; as if forgotten trauma wasn't bad enough, how about a helping of trauma that didn't actually happen? Not to mention the pain of wondering if his few happy memories were real or not.
  • Magneto, in spades. His entire birth family was killed in the Holocaust, his daughter Anya died in a fire because he didn't know how to use his nascent powers to save her, and his wife (who was also his childhood sweetheart) called him a monster and fled after he — literally — exploded in rage and killed the villagers who'd prevented him from either concentrating on said powers or going after Anya by normal means. Later, he joined an American government agency to pursue Nazis, and agents killed his girlfriend because he had pursued one of the "wrong" Nazis. No wonder the guy has a deeply cynical attitude toward humanity.
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  • Gambit was not merely an orphan whose parents may or may not be dead—or may simply have deliberately abandoned him—but was taken in by a creepy old man/possible pedophile, then turned out onto the streets of New Orleans to fend for himself until the age of ten, then was adopted, fell in love, witnessed his younger cousin's drowning (at age 13), further witnessed the retrieval of said cousin's body(!), accidentally killed his fiancee's brother in a duel, and accordingly was exiled from the only home he ever knew. To make matters worse, his powers raged out of control and in exchange for help fixing them he was tasked with—unbeknownst to him-leading a murder-squad against a group of fearful, helpless mutants, only managing to save the life of a single child. Oh, and the girl he loves he can't even kiss because she'd suck the life out of him.
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  • Cyclops was thrown out of a crashing plane with the only parachute and his baby brother when he was a young boy, which, when the parachute caught on fire, ended with him in a coma for a year with brain damage that permanently removed his ability to control his powers. During that time his brother was adopted to make him more vulnerable. He spends the next few years in an orphanage where he is bullied, belittled and experimented on while any attempt for him to be adopted is quelled by the Mad Scientist running the place. He finally gets away when his power activates and he almost kills several people, and when running he is taken in by a man. The man is an abusive criminal who beats him and treats him as more of a gun than a teenage boy and Scott is eventually forced to atomize him by Professor Xavier.
  • Batman's parents got murdered by an unknown mugger before his very eyes.
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    • The two-issue miniseries The Ultimate Evil actually tried to defy the use of this trope, with social worker Debra Kane having a discussion with Batman on the concept of a person being born bad, or becoming a criminal because of childhood abuse. Debra asserts that it is not an excuse at all, on the grounds that all people have a choice, and that excusing or sympathizing with criminals who were victims of abuse is an insult to all of the other victims who suffered similar or even worse abuse and did not imitate their abusers.
  • Post-crisis Martian Manhunter has probably the most extreme example in comic books, and that's saying a lot. His evil twin brother created a plague which destroyed the entire green martian race, including his wife and child, leaving him to wander aimlessly among the ruins of his dead race until he was teleported to earth.
  • Spider-Man has his (which already includes losing both parents) tying in with his greatest failure, with Peter Parker refusing to stop a bad guy who would then go on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben. Not that things would get much better afterwards...
  • DeadpoolHey! Why don't you go watch the fight between me and Deathstroke right here!
  • Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner and his mother were regularly abused by his father, Brian. Brian eventually killed his wife, in front of Bruce.
  • V from V for Vendetta was tortured and experimented on in a concentration camp, transforming him into an embodiment of anarchism.
  • Ah, Thug-Boy from Empowered. The general criminality is how he met the love of his life, and she knows the basic outline of the whole 'Witless Minion' scam (although the detail about their last employer/victim still searching for the only survivor has apparently been glossed over). But then there is San Antonio. Cape-killing terrorist anyone?
  • Sin City protagonists usually have one, even if we never get their full backstory. This comes in vague references to past events; Dwight apparently had a criminal past and Wallace likely had an abusive childhood, for instance. Marv was tied to a tree in the middle of the woods and left overnight once, was in prison, and once made a reference to being in a war.
  • Grimjack has probably one of the worst cases of this trope. Abused and abandoned by his family, he spent his childhood fighting for his life in a gladiatorial arena. He eventually escapes and finds peace in another dimension, only for everyone in the dimension, including his true love, to be slaughtered by demons. Then there was all the crap he went through during the comic.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans (and elsewhere) had spent most of her life as a slave to the Citadel, after being sold into it by her own sister. She mentions some experiments done on her too, which were all likely horrific.
  • X-23, hoo boy. A clone created by mixing Wolverine's genetic material with that of her human "mother" to be a living weapon, Laura was raised in a padded cell, beaten, abused, had her Healing Factor forcibly activated by exposing her to lethal doses of radiation as a child, had her claws surgically removed to be coated in adamantium one at a time with no attempt at anesthesia whatsoever, was trained and conditioned almost from birth to be an assassin and racked up an impressive body count before she was a teenager, and was made to kill the only people during this time who ever showed her any kindness by means of an olfactory trigger that she was conditioned to enter an Unstoppable Rage whenever she was exposed to it. One of them was her mother, right as she planned to help Laura escape. After getting away, she was forced to cut off contact with the only other family she had to protect them from her Ax-Crazy abusive handler, and spent time on the streets as a child prostitute specializing in cutting her clients. The worst part about all this? While Logan lost most of his memories about the really shitty stuff that's happened to him, Laura remembers everything.
  • Villains can suffer these as well; as a child, Doctor Doom had to watch both his parents die and grow up an orphan among persecuted Romani in Latveria.
  • Runaways loves this trope:
    • Chase Stein was regularly physically abused by his father, to the point where he makes up lies about things that he did to try and justify this abuse.
    • Molly Hayes' parents constantly used their psychic abilities on her to make sure she never acted up.
    • Xavin was trained as a Super-Skrull from a young age so that he/she could be deployed to serve as a Child Soldier in the pointless war that his/her parents started with Majesdane.
    • Klara Prast was married off at age 11 to an alcoholic pedophile who physically and sexually abused her and forced her to work in dangerous factories to earn money that he spent on booze.
  • Superman and Supergirl's entire home planet was destroyed when they were just a baby and a little child respectively, and they're the last of their kind.
  • Dark Annisia of Red Sonja was a fighting slave alongside Sonja herself, but where Sonja endured Annisia slid toward madness due to hallucinations of the people she'd killed.
  • Amanda Waller's going From Nobody to Nightmare involved her living in a bad part of Chicago, her son dying in a mugging, her daughter dying fighting off a rapist (and was so severely hurt, her funeral was closed-casket), her neighbors opting to ignore what happened to her daughter while it was going on, her husband dying confronting the man who killed their daughter, and deciding to never be helpless again.
  • Red Wasp: The Red Skull broke into her home, abducted her baby son at gunpoint, and then gave her a Sadistic Choice of either murdering her husband or watching him shoot her son. She beat her husband to death, then watched the Red Skull hurl her son out a window to his death before he ordered his men to beat and gangrape her before leaving her for dead. She still wears her gold wedding ring to remember what the Red Skull did to her.
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