Wednesday, October 7, 2009
It has recently occurred to me that superheroes have been discovering long-lost children for quite a while. Batman found that his genes had been used to make a rather irate Damian al Ghul. Wolverine found out the baby he thought had died had become the murderous Daken. Cable was revealed as Scott Summers' time-lost son, Nathan Summers. Nightcrawler was revealed as the child of Azazel (a demon lord of limbo) and Mystique. The Incredible Hulk was recently introduced to Skaar. Hidden familial relationships have been popping up in comics for quite a while. Wolverine even has at least one other child he doesn't know about (does anyone remember the "Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure" special by Simonson and Mignola?).
Further complicating these revelations is that these superhero dads frequently have tumultuous and often negative relationships with their children. Damian tried to murder Robin (Tim Drake) a few hours after being brought into the bat-cave. Daken has slit Wolverine's throat more times than even Daniel Way could count. These are not relationships that are likely to culminate in father-son picnics or games of catch.
In light of the fact that there are so many strained father/child relationships in comic books, it makes me wonder why there aren't many more lawsuits aimed at these unwitting deadbeat dads. After all, in all of these relationships, the father has not contributed to child-rearing. Neither financial nor emotional support was given to these children during their development.
Granted each of these cases is very complex and is not analogous to most paternal situations. Can Scott Summers be expected to pay back child support for a son who was raised in the future? Regardless of moral obligation, I would be hard pressed to find a legal precedent to support any litigation against Cyclops. But though these father/child relations are strange, does that mean that the comic book dads involved are excused from the obligations that are placed upon normal fathers? I'm not sure that's fair. I don't think Scott Summers should be allowed to abandon his clone wife and his son to hang out with X-Factor, only to help kill his clone wife, regain custody of his son, get his baby infected with the T-O virus, and send him into the future. I think we need more accountability than that.
Clearly the lack of paternal interaction has caused some anger issues in these long lost children. Damian al Ghul is quasi psychotic and at the very least has severe anger issues. Nightcrawler became a priest (if that's not rebelling against being sired by a demon, i don't know what is). Daken is a mass murderer with a particular love for cutting pieces off of his father. Cable just shoots lots of things, period. These children act out, in part because of the lack of support provided by their fathers.
But if these children really want retribution against their parents, wouldn't the path of legal recourse be more satisfying (and significantly less likely to result in bodily harm)? And if these wayward children don't take legal recourse against their estranged fathers, does it encourage comic book dads to send their children into the future (or another dimension, continent, etc.) to avoid their financial and parental obligations? Is that the message we want to send? We need to encourage men like Reed Richards (arrogant and emotionally distant though he may be) who stick around and support their children.
It's just the right thing to do.