Follow TV Tropes


Older Than They Look / Comic Books

Go To

  • Artesia has a very good example, with one of her commanders.
  • Magneto, despite having white hair for most of his adult life, is actually physically in his late thirties/early forties, thanks to being reverted to infancy by Alpha the Ultimate Mutant when he was Absolutely Finally Defeated in an issue of The Defenders, then later re-aged to his physical prime by the Shi'ar agent Eric the Red after the X-Men series returned under Chris Claremont. Neither of these events get mentioned much anymore, though. The movies have him the age he'd actually be, with an age-appropriate Ian McKellen playing the role.
  • Wolverine:
    • Logan's son Daken counts (while Wolverine himself, being born in the 19th century, just tips the scale at Really 700 Years Old). Daken was born in 1946, which makes him old enough to be the father of most of his teammates when he served with the Dark Avengers. He barely looks like he's in his early 20s most of the time.
    • Advertisement:
    • Wolverine's daughter/Opposite-Sex Clone, X-23, shares the same mutation and will eventually join them if she hasn't already (Comic-Book Time being what it is).
  • Professor X gets this as well, as Depending on the Artist Charles is either a handsome bald man or a somewhat wrinkled bald man, neither of which is indicative of a person whom in his prime was fighting HYDRA Nazi Baron Von Strucker alongside Magneto shortly after WWII. This gets Hand Waved later as Charles is resurrected into a younger (non-disabled body) justifying his appearance.
    • Charles' stepbrother Cain Marko aka The Juggernaut was the same age as Charles when they met but years later Marko hasn’t aged a day and is fit as ever, though given the magic nature of the Gem of Cyttorak this to be expected.
  • Blade was born in 1929 and barely looks out of his mid 30s due to being half vampire.
  • Nick Fury was a World War II combat sergeant and hero, heading up the "Howling Commandos". By the time he became "Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." in the 60s, he was taking a special "youth formula" to explain why he had barely aged a day since then without some outlandish retcon. Not that that youth formula isn't any weirder.
    • Parodied with Nextwave's "Dirk Anger", who was 90 years old and kept alive with drugs and pureed live chickens.
    • Nick Fury is completely removed from World War II in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Captain America taking his place as the leader of the Howling Commandos.
  • Apparently, Nick's youth formula is starting to malfunction, leading him to retire. Even if it wasn't, he gave the last of it to Bucky Barnes when the latter was suffering from a massive injury. This also means that Bucky will retain his age for a while as well. Even more notable since Bucky is already Older Than He Looks, having been kept in cryo between missions after WWII. He was a teenager during WWII, and is portrayed as a man in his late twenties in modern times, but he's actually at least 80 years old by this point.
    • Captain America himself, obviously. The man was at least in his late 20s when he was frozen at the end of WWII, and in modern times, is depicted as being probably mid-thirties. He's actually close to 100-years-old.
  • Advertisement:
  • Baron Helmut Zemo is the son of a Nazi war criminal, and was initially depicted as having already been born around the time of World War 2. Even with Comic-Book Time in effect, his father's connections to WWII have remained despite Helmut himself looking fairly young. A flashback story in a special issue of Thunderbolts suggested that Compound X, the chemical developed by his father, had special regenerative effects that had kept Helmut's body young. He later used the moonstones to repair his hideously disfigured face for a time (though it eventually wound up getting burnt again), which may have had the side effect of making him appear more youthful as well.
  • The Punisher. Frank Castle is heavy into this trope, mainly because the character is so firmly tied to the Vietnam War. In the comics involving the mainstream Marvel Universe, he's generally depicted as mid-to-late 30's, and each writer who has the character for any length of time will invariably mention his fanatical fitness regime and adherence to a balanced diet. Nick Fury has the Infinity Formula, and both Cap and Bucky were frozen for decades, but Frank has been active and kicking ass since his introduction. The last American troops left Vietnam in 1975, so even a 18-year-old soldier who was there only briefly in 1975 would be 63 as of 2020. Frank's background, however, involves multiple tours and coming home to a wife, as well as two children who were well out of the toddler stage. When Frank gets together with men he knew during the war, they are depicted as having aged appropriately and even commenting on Frank's youthful appearance. "Frank, what is it with you? You don't look a day over 45!"
    • It's actually becoming an issue in the mainstream universe, as writers are aware of the conundrum and try to avoid mentioning his Vietnam service, and instead just referring to him as having extensive military experience.
    • Advertisement:
    • The MAX series depicted Frank as the 50-60 year old man that he was, who relied on massive firepower and methodical planning to kill his opponents, but was nevertheless still extremely dangerous in hand to hand combat. The final (and extremely well-done) MAX story showed Frank's age (and mental problems) finally catching up with him, although he stayed alive and kicked ass long enough to get the job done.
  • Mystique is self-admittedly at least eighty years old, but her Shapeshifting powers greatly mask this fact. We learn later Mystique was lying, in fact she’s way older, given she meets her girlfriend Destiny (Irene Adler) in Victorian times and played Bonnie to Wolverine’s Clyde for a good many years as well. This makes Mystique well over 200+ years old the same as Logan. Nightcrawler (her son) at one point reminds her how old she is and Mystique gets pissy with him.
  • Black Widow also has been handwaved as being experimented on with something to keep her young. It explains how she could be a spy during the Cold War and still not look a day over 30.
    • Similarly to the Nick Fury example above, the Marvel Cinematic Universe sidesteps the issue altogether by making Black Widow an ex-mercenary who just happens to be from Russia, rather than a former Soviet spy.
    • Lampshaded in Iron Man 2:
      Tony Stark: You have a quiet reserve. I don't know, you have an old soul.
  • The members of DC's Seven Soldiers Of Victory spent over four decades lost in time after a fight with the Nebula Man. As a result of this, the Star-Spangled Kid (later Skyman), Stripesy, Crimson Avenger, Shining Knight and Stuff the Chinatown Kid all aged roughly a week despite having been gone more than forty years. This is explicitly acknowledged in Infinity, Inc. #50, where Skyman is incensed to learn that his teammates are celebrating his 61st birthday despite him physically being in his early 20s.
  • Many members of the surviving members of the Justice Society of America:
    • The team has been active since the early 1940s, with some of its members pushing 100 at this point. Initially, this was explained to be the result of the JSA having spent years in a magical alternate dimension that rejuvenated their bodies. However, this was undone during Zero Hour!, where Extant forcibly reaged most of the team, resulting in the deaths of the Atom, Hourman and Doctor Mid-Nite. While Doctor Fate, Johnny Thunder and Sandman were physically aged to such an extent that they could no longer fight crime and had to retire, a few other members like Jay Garrick, Wildcat and Ted Knight got off lucky, only aging to their late 50s or early 60s. This was later Lampshaded in James Robinson's Starman series:
      Ted Knight: We all grew older, but clearly some of us less than others. You know how old I should be, don't you, Jack? But how old do I look? Late 50s? Retirement age? No older.
    • For a while, Alan Scott was kept young by the Starheart, the source of his power. Even after this was undone and his physical body became closer to his chronological age, he still looked far younger than he should've, complete with his hair still being blond.
    • The Carter Hall version of Hawkman is technically thousands of years older than he looks, having been reincarnated multiple times throughout history, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. Despite this, he's usually drawn as a man in his late 30s or early 40s at the oldest.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has Mina Murray, who's immortal due to her bath in the fires of youth at the lost city of Kor (from She: A History Of Adventure), and thus always looks to be in her twenties. This might lead to her becoming Really 700 Years Old after awhile but, at the time of the Victorian-era comic book, it just means she looks really good for her age.
  • Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl looks like she is ten years old and her friend, Ragamuffin, looks like he is a 25-year old guy. ''She is actually 100 and he is 400.
  • In Planetary, there are certain characters called "century babies", that are born at midnight of a century's initial year(i.e. 12:00 a.m. January 1, 1900, etc.). These characters can still be killed, but once they reach a certain point in adulthood, they stop aging and it's never made clear if they can in fact die of old age. Century baby Elijah Snow looks about 40 but is(at the time of the book) in his late 90's; Jakita Wagner and Anna Hark are the daughters of century babies(Lord Blackstock and Hark, respectively); both are in their mid-70's and neither look a day over 30, with Anna predicting that she will live for at least three hundred years. Spy John Stone has been aging at about 1/5 normal speed since his 40s. Then there's Axel Brass, who figured out how to stop his aging when he was 43. Jenny Sparks from The Authority is also a "century baby" and stops physically aging at the age of 19, though she looks to be in her mid-20's.
  • Shade hasn't aged since gaining his powers in the mid 1800s.
  • Jack Knight from Starman looked like he was somewhere in his late 20s, when he was really in his mid 30s. It's not that drastic, but they do lampshade it a few times.
  • Most of the surviving Golden Age DC characters have had a few decades taken off as a result of various adventures and continuity paradoxes. Notably not used with Wesley Dodds AKA The Sandman.
    • At this point, the remaining survivors actually have it built into their powers. Strangely, back when older versions of DC's Big Three were part of the team, they aged normally despite having the most leeway to excuse slow aging.
    • John Byrne's Generations series had several characters with this including a superpowered immortal Batman.
  • Jessica Drew, also known as the first Spider-Woman, went into cryogenic stasis to speed up the effects of an experimental spider serum her dad injected her with. She went into stasis when she was four, spent at least thirty years in it, and came out looking seventeen.
  • Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian:
    • Ed "Baby Brain" Sargard. In flashbacks to the Newsboy Army he's a superintelligent baby. In the present he looks like a baby who's got old without maturing.
    • Sally Sonic is 15-years old, permanently. In her human form. Her super form is (The female characters in the series are deliberately drawn in a fanservicey fashion.)
  • Cecil in Ghostopolis at first. He looks approximately 10 years old, despite being the ghost of a 60-to-70-year old man.
  • Neil Nordegraf from the Scott Pilgrim series is generally known as "Young Neil" among his friends due to being the youngest of the gang (at least before Knives Chau showed up). This was played with to such an extent that when Scott finally acknowledged him simply as "Neil" in the final volume, Neil thought it was the best day of his life. Many people will, however, argue that a lot of other characters in the series look younger than they're made out to be due to the comic's art style, and due to Art Evolution, it becomes less and less obvious. Also, the ESRB even mistook Scott for a child in their parental guide for the video game adaptation.
  • Monster Girl from Invincible is 29 and looks about 9. Every time she uses her powers she gets younger but her powers get stronger. She manages to regain her approximate age later on and becomes a Ms. Fanservice.
  • Doctor Strange was born in the 1930s but remains 40-something (since that was his age when he met and accepted Death just prior to becoming Sorcerer Supreme). His apprentice and lover Clea appears to be in her twenties, though she's a century or two older than that.
  • Max from Sam & Max: Freelance Police looks, acts, and sounds (in the game and cartoon adaptations) like a child, but he's actually an adult.
  • Copycat from DV8 is, like the rest of the Deviants, 19 give or take a year or two. However, she's very small and somewhat physically underdeveloped; as her teammate Frostbite puts it, "ain't an ID fake enough to make her look older than thirteen."
  • Superman:
    • The Man of Steel himself in some continuities. In the Christopher Reeve movies, it's said that the voyage from Krypton to Earth took "many thousands of years" (it was an experimental starship, after all), during which Kal-El aged only slightly—from swaddling infant to toddler. Stories taking place in the future generally show Superman's aging to be much slower than that of humans, and that's if he ages at all, with generally the worst of it being him getting some gray hair. One particular storyline says that he actually shouldn't age at all, and he only does so because he grew up thinking he should.
    • Jimmy Olsen generally falls under Vague Age, but in Action Comics #865 he's captured by a version of Toyman who is an adult-hating child. Toyman says that he can trust Jimmy, since they're both kids—and Jimmy angry kicks him, noting that he's 23.
    • Supergirl as well, at least in modern adaptations; she also made the journey from Krypton to Earth, but unlike in Pre-Crisis continuity, she took longer to reach Earth and be released from suspended animation. As such, when she lands in The Supergirl from Krypton and Last Daughter Of Krypton she looks and thinks like a sixteen-year-old girl, but is actually a good few years older than Superman himself. In Red Daughter of Krypton, Kara insists that she's mentally and emotionally older than she looks.
      Supergirl: My entire planet was destroyed. My civilization is gone. That makes you grow up fast.
    • Supergirl's villain Blackstarr, who made her first appearance in Supergirl Vol 2, looks like a twenty-year-old woman, but she is in her fifties.
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Rangi is the mother of Angus Fangus (a full grown adult, probably in his forties), but she doesn't look much older than him.
    • Everett Ducklair. He already had two daughters when he first arrived on Earth and lost his memory, but he was mistaken for a late teenager/young adult.
  • Number 5 from The Umbrella Academy thanks to Time Travel is a 40-something old man trapped in the body of a 10 year old. Despite this whenever 5 does anything violent or he's in a bad mood he’s drawn looking older. In the Netflix adaptation Number 5 becomes particularly pissed off when he gets invited to a kid’s birthday party at a bowling ally.
  • Gert from I Hate Fairyland looks 6, but is really in her thirties.
  • Avengers: Adam Brashear, the Blue Marvel, looks like he's in his early 50s at the oldest, when he's actually upward of eighty, having grown up during The Great Depression.
  • Max Griffin from Amulet looks like he's somewhere in his teens. He's actually well over fifty years old due to being kept alive by the Amulet spirit as part of a deal.
  • Most of the heroes in Watchmen are starting to show their age, but Doctor Manhattan is immortal and ageless, while Ozymandias is the epitome of the Charles Atlas Superpower trope and is in terrific shape for his age. The Ultimate Watchmen edition contains commentary suggesting that he might live to be 150 through simply staying really fit!
  • The Spider-Man villain Kraven the Hunter looks to be in his thirties or forties, but in the Kraven's Last Hunt story arc he reveals he's actually in his mid seventies; he looks young because of the various potions he's taken over the years that enhance his strength and endurance.
  • The second Black Canary owes her existence to this trope. In the early 1980s, DC decided to explain why Black Canary still looks 20 despite being active since the '40s. The reason was a convoluted explanation involving body-swapping with a never-before-implied identical daughter and eventually it was streamlined into Black Canary being a Legacy Character.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): While Wonder Woman and the other Amazons tend to skirt and bypass Really 700 Years Old when her Earth-One (Silver Age) iteration travels to Earth-Two she finds that her local Golden Age iteration has formerly left Paradise Island to live out the rest of Steve Trevor's life with him and is thus aging, but at a much slower rate than a normal human and therefore looks decades younger than her similarly aged husband.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: