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Jerkass Woobie / Comic Books

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Examples of Jerkass Woobie in Comic Books.

  • X-Men:
    • Emma Frost. As a kid, she was raised by a heartless father and a doormat mother. Her older sister was a queen bitch. Then, the headaches started. After losing several friends and lovers, suffering Fantastic Racism, nearly being a victim of sororicide, et cetera, it's not surprising that Emma Frost acts coldly even after joining the good guys.
      • It went From Bad to Worse since she joined the good guys, what with her students dying and all. She's something of a Mama Bear now, though she's still as cold as ever.
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    • Magneto. Sure, he's a genocidal maniac, and caused a high number of casualties in his quest for mutant freedom. Nonetheless, when he was young, he survived The Holocaust after surviving his family's execution by firing squad, left in a mass grave with them, and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.
    • While originally a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Hellion has become this, somewhat.
    • Surge. She was disowned by her father after her powers manifested and had to live on the streets. During this time she was addicted to pills that she used to control her powers. When she tried to go to Xavier's for help, she was turned away by Hellion for being homeless. After joining the New X-Men, she has softened up a little.
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    • Cyclops/Scott Summers probably counts as well after all he's been through: parents kidnapped by aliens, living in a Crapsack World, his first love died two or three times, sacrificing his humanity to protect a dwindling mutant population, etc. His current bitterness bordering on bigotry post Avengers Vs. X-Men may seem cruel but given the life he's led...
      Alex: What is wrong with us?
      Scott: Aliens kidnapped our parents and killed our mom in front of us.
      Alex: I was being rhetorical.
    • Wolverine/Logan can be extremely unpleasant, but like the others mentioned here he's just had so much terrible crap happen to him over the years (tortured into being an unstoppable killing machine, brainwashed to the point that he can no longer tell which parts of his past are real and which aren't, lost countless loved ones, may or may not be immortal) that even at his most Jerkass there are times when you just want to give him a hug. Or a beer.
  • Watchmen
    • Rorschach. He's a disgusting psychopath who falls somewhere in between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain, but his backstory combined with the awfulness of his entire existence just makes you feel immense pity for the guy. It's perfectly intentional that people should feel sorry for him — unfortunately, some admire him and consider his nihilistic, absolutist worldview to be correct.
    • Dr. Manhattan cheats on his wife with the second Silk Spectre, eventually alienates Silk Spectre too, and cares nothing about the course humanity takes, letting the Comedian murder the mother of his illegitimate child in front of him. On the other hand, his backstory reveals that he, as a result of being able to see the future, has lost the ability to relate to people or even decide his own fate.
      • In other words, he knows he's going to cheat on his wife with a girl whom he hasn't even met yet. It's insanity to even think about it, but he fully comprehends and accepts it, which sets him apart from everyone.
      • He gets better after his ability to see the future is disrupted and he sees the value of life.
    • The Comedian may be another example. While his actions can be downright horrifying, he is entirely aware of how awful a person he is and desperately wants to change but can't. The only people he seems to care about view him as a monster, and he is full of self-loathing. Stopping Ozymandias would bring some form of redemption, but he knows that it is too late. Although the Comedian seems more like the guy who has lost hope in humanity and doesn't want to make it better. He doesn't even try stopping Veidt and he only does "superheroic" things because he enjoys the chaos.
      • The closest thing he has to a friend is his former Arch-Enemy. Even the Comedian realizes how pathetic that makes him.
  • Arguably, Rayek from ElfQuest. Megalomaniac, drama queen, Troubled, but Cute Jerkass, and still somehow sympathetic.
  • Batman: sure, he acts like a total jerk at times, but, hey, you'd be pissed too if your parents were gunned down in a dark alley.
    • Same with his son Damien. All the kid wants is to follow in his father's footsteps and for his mother to love him — although now, since he chose Dick and his father's ideals over his mother, she abandoned him. And, since he was born, he was trained as an assassin and never got a chance to interact with society properly as a normal kid. And he was spoiled rotten and always got his way, without really knowing things like morals.
    • Jason Todd/Red Hood. Considering that he grew up on the streets, had his foster mother (drugs), his father (Two-Face), his real mother (Joker), and his adopted father (Batman, really lost in time but he didn't know that) all die on him, had his real mother betray him to the Joker when he tried to help her, was brutally beaten and then blown up by the Joker, was resurrected without his memories and forced to dig his way out of his grave and live on the streets, was dunked in a Lazarus Pit to regain his memories, found out that his adopted father had failed to avenge his death, was "betrayed" again when Batman attacked him to stop him from killing the Joker...
      • In Red Hood and the Outlaws, after a conversation with a stewardess, whom he takes interest in, he finds out that she slipped him her number. He promptly throws it away, considering his life so awful that she is lucky that they will never cross paths again.
    • From Death of the Family, Harley Quinn. It's no secret that she is a villain. However, when you see the Domestic Abuse Joker puts her through and the fact that she's not really enjoying it this time around, you will feel sorry for her. The fact that she escapes him when so many Harley Quinns before her didn't actually feels so satisfying!
    • The Riddler. A villain turned Private Detective, turned villain again. He's not as bad a guy as some of the other villains (hence the pretty long reform period), but he still qualifies as a jerk with the grievances he's put people though. So, as established by his history as a maniacal shitheel, he's a big nasty dangerous jerk, but it's not exactly surprising when in "Low" and "Riddle me This", we learn he was raised by two people who openly hated him: "My mother hated me. Not as much as my father, sure, but it wasn't from lack of trying". We already know from his origin comic that they would blame each other for his conception, but in the aforementioned arcs, we learn they also went out of their way to hinder his education by rejecting his test scores. And if that isn't bad enough, his father took it beyond emotional abuse and beat Edward for his accomplishments until he was so emotionally damaged that he developed an OCD while trying to cope with his trauma.
    • David Cain is a tremendous asshole, whose treatment of his daughter easily crosses the Moral Event Horizon. Still, it's hard not to pity him when he tries so desperately to hold onto the only things he has left of her, the tapes he recorded of her training sessions, and spends most of his time when not being an assassin drinking and watching those tapes over and over, desperately trying to understand where he went wrong.
  • The Flash villain Captain Cold. He'd hit the ceiling if you called him any sort of woobie, jerkass or otherwise. This dude personifies the cold-hearted, unpleasant, pitiless SOB. His trailer-trash background, complete with a horribly abusive father who beat the snot out of him for saying, "I love you", might explain some of it. Cold spent his childhood trying to protect his little sister from their dad's rages. His mom was just another punching bag. His grandpa—the only good thing in his and his sister's life—died when he was 12. And then his sister followed him into crime, became the Golden Glider, and was murdered by one of her boyfriends. Cold's a genuinely tragic villain. Don't believe me? He reveals that he hasn't shed a tear since his grandfather's death. Then, he tracks down, tortures, and murders his sister's killer. A few panels later, he's at home, tears running down his face, saying, "Much as I hate it, my heart's not always cold."
    • Wally West, the third Flash, started out as this. He was very self-centered, lecherous, lazy, and arrogant. However, he was also rather depressed, had incredibly Abusive Parents, and the only people who did care for him, his aunt and uncle, were killed. These days, he's grown as a person and is just The Woobie, without the Jerkass element.
  • Sometimes, Victor Von Doom falls in this trope. On the other hand, this is the guy who brought every bad thing that has ever happened to him down on his own head because he was too much of an arrogant prick to listen to Reed Richards' advice, opting instead to try to maliciously destroy the latter's life because he accidentally bruised Doom's ego by daring to be smarter than him. So he's crossed over the line to Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Iron Man. Tony Stark. He's an arrogant, smarmy, womanizing jackass; but his life has been one long Trauma Conga Line, and due to his awareness of his flaws, he's a deep, dark pit of The Atoner bordering on Death Seeker, to the point where he feels that all his teammates' lives are always more important than his own.
  • Black Alice from The DCU isn't a nice girl. At all. She's petty, cruel, ruthless, and she has a strong case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. Her moral compass isn't very good either — she once sold out fellow magic users to demons in Hell in a bid to fix her own powers and she briefly teamed up with the Secret Six. On the Woobie side of things, her entire life has been one long Trauma Conga Line that started with discovering that her mother was a suicidal junkie after she found her body in their pool. Then she had to watch her father lose himself in alcohol and depression. Then her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. She was the victim of a particularly cruel scheme of Talia Al Ghul's. Her disastrous attempts to master the Helm of Fate nearly got her father killed. Her powers got nerfed when she got mind raped in Hell. Then she accidentally gave her father cancer. The poor girl is a miserable person with an even more miserable life.
  • In Mini Monsters, we have the main character Victor Von Piro. He's a spoiled jerk who doesn't care about anything but himself. He has done such things like helping the villain to achieve his goal or betraying his friends by joining their rival's gang. However, he only did that to come back to his former home Miedópolis, failing in both cases. Also, when you learn that he has a very embarrasing family, gets constantly hurt and humiliated by everyone, and has no real friends outside Frank's gang, you want to hug and kiss him a lot of times. His physical appearance makes him more adorable.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. A little heavy on the jerkass, perhaps, but when we find out that he was a talented artist driven to insanity after being made into a flusher for the world's evils, it's impossible not to pity the guy.
  • Jezebel in Blacksad, book two, Arctic Nation. Her father left her mother to die while pregnant. She lived and raised her twin daughters before dying young. Our Jerkass Woobie plotted out revenge on that father over the course of decades — a true Evil Plan verging on Gambit Roulette. She's cruel to that man, and arranges for his death by lynch mob — but she also loves her sister more than anything and wants just to be happy with her sister and her niece. And then, at the end, she's achieved her revenge, but her sister is dead, too, and Jezebel herself has nothing whatsoever to show for it. Try to not feel bad for her.
  • Doctor Who Magazine comic companion Destrii. She's a total jerkass in her first appearance — especially since she betrays then-current companion Izzy — but when she returns later on, we find out about her childhood, which, among other things, involved being painfully and viciously tortured by her mother. Then her Affably Evil uncle, the only person who seemed to show her any real affection, beat her to a pulp for spoiling his plans. Even the other characters find themselves wanting to treat her like a Jerkass Woobie.
  • In Archie Sonic Universe issue 29 only, this is Scourge the Hedgehog-every single audience member was along with his pity party in that they wanted to see him get hurt more for one reason or another. Some people thought this. He's back to normal by the next issue, which subverts the trope.
  • According to his Christmas special, Larfleeze. He may be a greedy asshole, but he misses his family above everything.
  • Gennosuke of Usagi Yojimbo fills this trope rather sadly. Sure, he can be a greedy and oportunistic asshole with no respect for the code of samurai, but be honest, his greed and dislike for bushido aren't unjustifiable. More specifically, his whole family was dragged into a pointless search for revenge by their feudal lady, which led them into poverty, with his mother being forced to prostitute herself to pay his family debts. Years later, after abandoning his father and feudal lady, Gennosuke became a cynical mercenary that concluded that blindly following any moral conduct is completely impractical, and downright stupid, and vowed never to be poor again.
  • Mister Gone from The Maxx is a sadistic murderer and rapist who thinks low of women and abuses his powers to make anyone around himself suffer. However, it's later reveled that he had a unhappy childhood and first marriage: His aunt frequently insulted and sexually harrased him, and his first wife was a drug addict that went as far as to kill their child to get more drugs, dying in the overdose. Hard not to feel sorry for him, isn't it? And when he remarried and had a second child, he was forced to abandon her knowing that he was too mentally unstable to take care of her, a thing that devastated him. (Indeed, Sarah {his daughter) had at first only contempt of her father and scoffed his pledges of forgiveness, but once she learns his tragic past, Sarah, while still disliking him, could not help but to FEEL sorrow for him.).
  • Xadhoom from Paperinik New Adventures. She's abrasive, rude and condescending to everyone. However, as her homeworld was invaded and conquered by the Evronians, this becomes far more understandable.
    • "Conquered by the Evronians" means that the population is either killed or transformed into mindless zombies, and technically she was the one to allow their landing.
  • Brian in Knights of the Dinner Table. He's a Manipulative Bastard who regularly cheats, backstabs, and swindles his friends to get ahead. He's also a deeply insecure man who lost both his parents, has an unrequited crush on Sara, and tells people he has a 'beloved uncle' who takes him away on Thanksgiving when, in reality, he just goes down the the game store and plays in tournaments to pass the time.
  • Vladek Spiegelman from Art Spiegelman's Maus. He's a Holocaust survivor, he lost almost all his family, including his young son, his first wife committed suicide without a note, and his second wife is possibly a Gold Digger and ends up leaving him for a short time. He's also a racist, a cheapskate, and he makes life difficult for everyone around him, especially his second son Art and his second wife, who points out that she and a lot of other people went through the same things he did without ending up like Vladek. Art spends part of the story trying to understand how the horrors his father endured shaped him into the old man he became.
  • Depending on the Writer but Loki mostly qualifies. He's at best an untrustworthy jerk, at worst a villain bent on world domination, but has a lot of valid excuses like parental favouritism, mistreatment by the people of Asgard, and fate being a dick so feeling sorry for him is understandable.
    • When he died and was reborn as an innocent child he turned into a straight up woobie, but then he murdered and body snatched this child self and went back being this trope again, worse thing he is trying to redeem himself now, but karma has a very bad sense of timing.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Chief Judge Thomas Silver ruthlessly crushed the Democracy movement, and made an appalling number of bad decisions that ended in Necropolis, a nightmare that cost the lives of 60 million people. Return of the King makes him rather pitiable when we see the sheer magnitude of the suffering he went through at the hands of Judge Death and his cohorts, who turned him into a zombie pet so they could torment and humiliate him indefinitely, constantly reminding him about what they were doing to his city.
    • Judge friggin' Fire actually managed to achieve this for a split second, who for the record is as much of a genocidal walking corpse as his brothers, who has actually burned alive hundreds of children in one day on the excuse of "noise pollution". In Dreams of Deadworld it's shown that he was in love/obsessed with a female Dark Judge who killed herself rather than submit to him. He just keeps staring at her skull for decades to relive the memory, constantly reiterating that as a Dark Judge he shouldn't have feelings anymore.
  • In The Order, Mulholland Black is not very nice or polite or refined. On the other hand, she was orphaned at a very early age by her idiotic junkie parents, spent her childhood bouncing around various foster homes, became an outcast after her mutant powers developed, fell under the influence of a girlfriend who exploited her before dumping her, ended up homeless, and then lost her powers, which by that point was the only thing that kept her from wanting to kill herself. And then she joined the Order in the hopes of having her powers restored, only to have the new powers crap out on her constantly, with the threat of being fired constantly looming over her. And then she finds out that her ex-girlfriend now has powers of her own and wants Holly back...
  • My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic:
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Megatron, surprisingly. Once he was a simple miner turned philosopher who just wanted to improve the lot of 'bots like him, forced into a way of life because of what they turned into, broken into the despotic warlord by a series of horrific incidents that convinced him to forgo peace and embrace violence. Four million years later, he's a fallen tyrant, with the blood of untold billions on his hands, and only a lifetime of regrets and a broken, failing body to show for it.
  • Mehridia from the Persepolis graphic novel. While Marjane's childhood flashbacks suggest that Mehridia was an unpleasant little girl (i.e., eating Marjane's food, ignoring Marjane to play on the swings), it's difficult not to pity her. Mehridia was born in a destitute village, then adopted by the Satrapis and taken far from her family. While the Satrapis did feed and clothe her, they kept her out of school and exploited her as an underage maid. Marjane's mother tried unsuccessfully to teach the girl how to read, suggesting that Mehridia may have had learning disabilities that went untreated. When she developed a crush on a neighborhood boy, Marjane's father thwarted her efforts to woo him. The adolescent Mehridia we see is illiterate, sheltered, and lonely.
  • Irredeemable: The spin-off series Incorruptible shows this to be the case for Max Damage, Plutonian's former Arch-Enemy and reformed supervillain. Much like Plutonian, his powers (which he'd gotten by paying a Mad Scientist to experiment on him because he realized being a low-level crook was useless with actual superheroes in the world) have made his life nearly unbearable, and his journey from bad guy to the Big Good is fraught with hardship and bumps that sometimes cause him to give up. And keeping with the 'jerkass' part, he's definitely not a nice guy at all, though he does get better.
  • Blake and Mortimer: The colonel Olrik, of all people, goes through a lot in The Septimus Wave. Not having recovered from the late Septimus's brainwashing in The Yellow "M", he found refuge in Miss Sing's Chinese establishment, where only morphine injections prevent him from completely going insane. The four Big Bads and Mortimer's activities with two Telecephaloscopes (one of Septimus's machines) doesn't help him; he has visions of a horde of Septimus wanting him back, only increasing his mental instability. The main antagonists kidnap him with the intention of brainwashing him again. The aforementioned Septimus horde actually exists and wants to capture him at all costs, forcing him to make an alliance with Mortimer. Desperate to get rid of the Mind Rapes for good, Olrik even accepts to take over the Mega Wave to end the phenomenon, despite risking to permanently lose his sanity on the process. In the end, he hasn't recovered from his experience and is reduced to repeating a Madness Mantra in Bedlam Hospice. Despite being the overarching villain of the series, Olrik's weaknesses are heavily present throughout the book, making him a surprisingly sympathetic character.


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