It's no coincidence that some of our favorite characters in the DC and Marvel universe are also some of the most emotionally damaged and mentally tested.
Their lives have been full of pain, suffering, loneliness and betrayal which could have easily made some of the most famous and beloved characters cross the thin line which sometimes separates good from evil.
Each character has it's own story, and each one of them has their personal reasons of fighting injustice, and it's no secret nor a surprise that opinions and attitudes differ when it comes down to fighting and the methods and damaged done to villains.
Here is my personal list of the characters with the darkest life experiences (please note that i have created the list based on the film and TV adaptations of the characters and not the comics):
In 2004 we were introduced to the film The Punisher, this adaptation depicts one of my favorite vigilante characters or antihero if you prefer. The story and plot were mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories, The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank.
In the movie we see Frank Castle experiencing of of the most horrific situations a person can go through, when the villain Howard Saint orders the execution of Frank Castle's entire family during a reunion. The ruthlessness in which Frank's family is killed in cold-blood and witnessing his wife and son being run over made the audience connect to Frank Castle and at the same time grew the thirst for revenge.
After this event we see The Punisher being born, Frank Castle remains a lonely quite man with no friends or family left. The only thing which keeps him going is revenge and a man who has nothing more to lose is the most dangerous.
At the opening scene of Guardians of The Galaxy we see a very young Peter Quill/StarLord in the hospital where his mother is minutes away from losing the battle with cancer in a very sad scene. The very next scene shows Peter being taken by a spaceship and flown away from his Earth home and the remaining of his family and starting a life mostly by himself across the galaxy.
Losing his mother and with not knowing who his father is exactly is the saddest and toughest thing a child can go through, and his mother's loss is something that scars and impacts the character through out the entire movie.
We all know the story of the Hulk either through comics or the movies so far, so i am just going to focus straight on to the misery of being The Hulk. We all know that scientist Bruce Banner hates being the Hulk, he always tries to avoid tense situations in which he loses control and prefers to keep the Hulk buried inside.
Being the Hulk, Banner lived most of his life either running away from people wanting to use him or hiding away in seclusion so that he never hurt or damages anything and anyone ever again. He can never have a family and the though of attaching himself to someone terrifies him, he is bound to a life of containment and hates himself for not being able to find a cure knowing that "normality" will never be part of his life as long as he is the Hulk.
Black Widow (Natasha Romanova)
Black Widow had been orphaned as a young child, with no family nor home she was taken in by Soviet intelligence services which trained her and turned her into a deadly weapon. Having being tortured, mentally tested, forced to commit murders and countless of black ops it is safe to say that this female force to reckon with has one of the darkest stories and background and rightly earns hes place in the Avengers team.
She is a really closed up person, finding it very hard to open up, talk or trust people. She cannot attach herself to people as she does not wish for anyone to get hurt because of her, and she can never have a family as it was revealed that part of her training process was forced sterilization, an event that deeply effects her as we saw in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Being the son of Odin and future King of Asgard, Thor had all the privileges of growing up as royalty and never went through childhood terror as are other characters.
Thor had a different kind of mental and emotion battle to face in the name of betrayal. And the constant betrayals came from non-other than his war-loving half-brother Loki, who is filled with hate and jealousy. Despite all of the things Loki has done to Thor, Thor never stopped caring for him and hoping that he would be reasonable and logical.
Thor has also fallen in love with Jane who is certainly not the right candidate for the future king of Asgard, and each day he spends away from across across million of miles of space between them hurts him and he would willingly sacrifice his life for her safety.
Thor witnesses the death of his mother and queen of Asgard which sets him upon wild hunt for revenge along with the he help of Loki who he also dies along the road (or so Thor thinks) causing Thor a great deal of pain and suffering.
Born in 1845 young James Howlett witnessed loss and tragedy after seeing his father killed by groundskeeper Thomas Logan. The trauma activates the boy's mutation: bone claws protrude from his knuckles, and he kills Thomas, who reveals that he is James's real father. James flees along with Thomas's son Victor Creed, who is thus James's half-brother.
Through the next century him and his brother fight through the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. They then join Team X a group of mutants who's disregard of human life sickens James who quits and vanishes to find peace with him self. All the fighting and killing cause trauma to the Wolverine's mind and spirit, having constant nightmares and regrets.
The Wolverine suffers great deal of pain and suffering from the lose of people he cares about from his girlfriend Kayla who he adores to Jean Gray later on , to the betrayal of his brother Victor who is responsible for her death.
And the cherry on the cake should be the memory loss he suffers from receiving an adamantium bullet to the head.
Playboy billionaire Oliver Queen suffered a great deal of loss and tragedy before and after he became the Arrow.
The ship he was sailing on sank, he witnessed Sarah Lance disappear in front of him, he watched his dad commit suicide in order to save him. He spent 5 years away from home from being alone in the island to suffering the loss of people close to him, and committing murders in order to earn his freedom by Amanda Wallace. His whole life went down to one word: Survive. It's safe to say this character has been physically and psychologically damaged,
His best friend Tomy died in the earthquake which hit Starling city and he witnessed his mother being murdered by Deathstroke in front of him.
Oliver Queen is a character filled with secrets and a very dark story.
As a young child Barry Allen witnessed his mother being murdered by the Reverse Flash, and saw his dad being wrongly accused and thrown away in prison.
He was a loner growing up and the events of that night still haunt him, after getting hit by lightening which sent's him in a coma missing months from his life. The one person he loves is with another guy and Berry is not very good at personal relations or keeping people close.
His life has been a constant battle of trying to make sense of things and The Flash is a very emotionally upset and beat up character who just wants to do what is right and fix things as much as they can be fixed.
Steve Rodgers has faced some serious tough times, after undergoing the experiment which made him Captain America, the army used him as a mascot. He fought in WWII where he lost very close friends to the hands of Hydra, friends who eventually came back to haunt him as enemies (The Winter Soldier).
He was romantically involved with Agent Peggy Carter who he did not managed to return to after the war because of the sacrifice he had to make to destroy the tesseract.
He was in a coma for decades and when he woke up he found himself in modern day NY completely confused and disoriented. He found Peggy Carter as an old dying woman, and given that Cap does not age he realizes he cannot afford to attach himself and create relationships as he will always witness the end of people he cares about.
Captain America faced betrayal, death, and emotional loss and still tries to find his position in the world besides being a fighter.
We all know the story of Superman so i will keep this brief. Since a newborn Superman lost his parents during the extinction of his planet and his race.
While on Earth he was always different and could never find a place to fit in like an ordinary citizen. He lost his step-father and blamed him self for not using his powers to save him.
He comes face to face with the remaining few Kryptonians who seek to destroy his home Earth. Superman really dislikes fighting against his own race and finds it very difficult to kill General Zod as he leaves him with no other option.
After his reveal to the world their is a great deal of hate and abuse towards his existence as half of the people see him as a dangerous threat to the planet.
No mater how powerful and strong Superman is he thinks and has moral dilemmas like humans and he needs guidance either by his mother or by his romantic partner Lois Lane.
Perhaps the most famous story of a Superhero is the story of Batman's. Young Bruce Wayne witnessing his parents murders by a thief. The flashes and the haunting of the event combined with his guilt and self blame become the major reasons for the creation of Batman.
Bruce Wayne went through tremendous physical and mental challenges from a young boy being orphaned to his training with the League of Shadows. Batman has faced betrayal by Ras Al Ghul while trying to destroy Gotham, and by his corporate ally and lover Miranda Tate who turns out to be Talia Al Ghul daughter of Ras Al Ghul wishing to finish her father's work with Gotham.
Batman has faced some of the toughest and strong villains who managed to break his spirit, his mind, and his body. Batman faced the craziness of the Joker who tried to make Batman break his rules, he suffered Rachel's loss almost sent him down a dark path, and he chose to take the blame for Harvey Dent's death for the good of Gotham.
Bane broke his spirit, body and mind and showed him what it feels like to be thrown into the deepest levels of the abyss, completely powerless with only slim hope in his life.
Bruce Wayne went through a great ordeal, which actually made him a very hard person to deal with and at times completely blocked from the outside world fighting his own demons alone.
In the comic and game adaptations a very critical turning point is when the Batman kills the Joker. The Joker in those instances made him brake his most important rule, and even though the Joker deserved it Batman cannot seem to be able to escape the haunting of the act.