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Heroes? Technically. But we wouldn’t necessarily call them role models for impressionable youth! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Edgiest Superheroes."
For this list, we’ll be looking at superheroes with a serious dark streak. Whether its a willingness to embrace violence, play judge, jury, and executioner, a history of instability, or just an above average propensity towards brooding, these are characters who complicate the hero archetype.
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When it comes to edginess, Batman’s more of a solid contender than a champ. Over the course of his 70 plus years of publication, Bruce Wayne has survived some truly dark days of maximum brooding and a rather unheroic brutality. Then, of course, there’s his tragic origin story, which is well-known around the world. Considering everything he’s seen since embarking on his one-man crusade against crime, you can’t really blame the man for giving into the darkness. His mind is just about as scarred as his body.
He’s the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s downright terrifying. Unlike our last iconic contender, this X-Men member has absolutely no qualms with claiming a life and is known to brutally maim and cripple both supervillains and common barroom thugs alike. Sure, he can be brutally violent, but Wolverine is also an edgy character because he’s willing to make tough, morally gray decisions that haunt him —which, for someone with an unnaturally long lifespan, is quite the burden.
This one-time sidekick started off relatively happy go lucky as Green Arrow’s ward. He would excel in the role, proving himself to be a formidable hero—even earning himself a spot amongst the Teen Titans. But the character was changed forever when it was revealed that he had developed a heroin addiction. It was a turning point for Roy Harper as a character and the medium as a whole. A teenage hero succumbing to such a dangerous addiction was a dark theme the likes of which we’d never seen in mainstream comics. Though Roy would overcome, he’s been a damaged character on a hard journey ever since, losing an arm and a daughter on his path to becoming a brooding anti-hero.
#7: Red Hood
What is it about sidekicks that makes writers want to put them through the meat grinder? The second Robin, Jason Todd, was unceremoniously killed by the Joker following a fan vote. Batman’s rebellious, angry young ward was edgier than his predecessor right out of the starting gate, but when he returned from the grave as the Red Hood, a gun-wielding vigilante with a willingness to kill and walk the very fine line between good guy and criminal, he cemented his place amongst DC’s edgiest anti-hero. He considers Batman’s code to be far too restrictive and counterproductive to fighting crime. This guy’s got a lot of trauma in his past and it’s shaped him into a uniquely edgy character.
#6: Moon Knight
Speaking of trauma… how about this seriously unstable fan favorite crimefighter? Moon Knight feels like a twisted version of Batman who’s sanity finally collapsed under the weight of all the horrible stuff he’s seen. A mercenary-turned-vigilante, Marc Spector serves as the human champion of the Egyptian god, Khonshu, and he does so by violently tearing criminals apart. Spector suffers from multiple personality disorder, which or may not be the result of Khonshu’s influence, depending on who you ask. Whatever the specific cause, Spector is deeply troubled, as exemplified by his dark thoughts and the joy he clearly takes in murdering evil-doers. Suffice it to say, most heroes are unwilling to work with him.
#5: The Crow
This undead vigilante is just about as dark as they come—and he’s got the gothic aesthetic to match. Making his debut in Caliber Presents #1, in 1989, James O’Barr’s grim and gritty hero quickly stood out from the crowd not just with his looks, but also with disinterest in conventional justice. Eric Draven, aka The Crow, has no interest in tying up criminals and leaving them for the police—he serves as judge, jury, and executioner. His introductory story played out like a revenge fantasy, stalking and murdering the gang who attacked and killed him and his fiancée. Since then, the mantle of the Crow has passed to a number of similarly wronged individuals.
This iconic character might’ve gotten his start as a Spider-Man villain, but the Venom Symbiote and its first host, Eddie Brock, quickly proved too popular and dynamic for a strictly villainous path. After coming to a tense truce with the webhead, Venom moved to San Francisco where he became the city’s Lethal Protector—a perfect title for the vicious character. In this new setting, Brock fell into the vigilante lifestyle by coming to the aid of the homeless and poor, before later having to tangle with other symbiotes. The thing is, even when playing the hero, Venom’s brand of justice is brutal and animalistic, and we wouldn't have him any other way.
Todd McFarlane’s iconic anti-hero is of a very different breed. Exercising his creative freedom under the creator-owned banner of Image Comics, McFarlane gave us a hero who was downright terrifying and had a rogue’s gallery to match. Once a man named Al Simmons, the character died and went to hell only to return to earth as an agent of revenge, rage, and brutality. Spawn’s appearance alone makes him plenty edgy, but it's his tendency towards dismemberment and willingness to commit murder that really earns him a spot on our list. Oh, he also once took it upon himself to fight both Satan AND God.
From the brilliant mind of Alan Moore and the pages of his legendary graphic novel, Watchmen, comes Rorschach, one of the most interesting characters in the history of the medium. A vigilante with a brutal approach to justice, complete lack of sympathy for criminals and unflinching, immovable concept of good and evil, Rorschach believes that what he does is right, but his rigid moral compass makes him seem more than a little unstable. Walter Kovacs, the man under the mask, has seemingly lost himself to his mission, identifying more with the alter ego than his civilian self. As Rorschach, he’s in his element, dishing out punishment that often goes well beyond the crime.
#1: The Punisher
Frank Castle was once a family man—a skilled, dedicated soldier with something to live for. After his family was killed, however, he became a one-man army waging perpetual war on violent crime. Frank Castle is mentally unstable, there’s no doubt about that. He kills without a second thought and isn’t afraid to maim, injure, or brutally take down anyone who stands in their way. If you’re a good guy, he won’t kill you, but he’ll remove you from his path, and he won’t do it gently. Driven solely by the hate he feels for criminals and the memory of the life he lost, Frank Castle has done horrific things, including torture and mutilation, but he sure is compelling.