By HanaLena Fennel with additional support by Victoria Irwin
Fathers in pop culture are not often portrayed as the strong Saturday Evening Post ideal of a man playing baseball with his son. Fathers are often plagued by their pasts, their struggles, and the idea of keeping their children (adoptive or biological) safe in a world where anything can happen. Add in fiction and you get a whole other realm where things such as the Apocalypse, universal takeover by an alien species or zombie can crawl their way towards beloved offspring. At FangirlNation, we decided to take a look at some of the fictional dads who did the very best with what they had.
Sandman (Spider-Man 3)
Abandoned by his own father at a young age Flint Marko vows never to do the same to his daughter, Keemia. Unfortunately, Marko is a horrible judge of character and rubbish decision maker. Always struggling to be a hero and do good as he promised his mother, the loving father is pulled into evil schemes over and over again each time motivated by protecting Keemia or getting her back (most often from Child Protective Service). But hey, at least Keemia knows her dad loves her.
Worf (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
The growly-voiced Klingon raised by humans was not always a “world’s best dad” contender. At first Warf was unaware of the birth of his son, Alexander. When confronted by his one time mate, K’Ehleyr, Worf was reluctant to claim Alexander as his own. Though his motives are good at the time (Worf was at that time viewed unfavorably by the Klingon High Council and feared his son would suffer), it takes K’Ehleyr’s death to convince Worf to accept the boy as his own. Even then, Alexander lived with Wolf’s foster parents for a year before Worf took a swing at being a parent. Their relationship plays effectively with the idea of the emotionally distant father and the son vacillating between acting out and desperately needing approval. In a fantasy world, Worf’s love for Alexander feels very real as learns to guide Alexander to adulthood while accepting him as he is.
Dr. Walter Bishop (Fringe)
While Dr. Walter Bishop may not be the most sane human being, his love for his son Peter is greater than the bindings of reality and dimensions. When Water loses his son to a terrible disease, he comes up with a cure…and then uses it on the Peter of an alternate universe whom he kidnaps. Peter may end up caring for his Father more than expected, but Walter is willing to sacrifice himself to save Peter and give him a life worth living. After all, who doesn’t tear up when Walter says “I love you son.”
Bobby Singer (Supernatural)
Though not the biological father of the Winchester boys, Bobby is without a doubt the father figure that Sam and Dean needed. Plagued by his past, Bobby does everything he can to keep the boys safe and demon free. He tests out new solutions to destroy Leviathans and even gives up his soul (briefly) to Crowley to help save Sam and Dean during the Apocalypse. No one doubts the commitment of the lovingly redneck alcoholic who in his last moments on earth binds himself to an old liquor flask so he can continue to help Sam and Dean for just a little while longer.
Hershel (The Walking Dead)
Watching Rick Grimes struggle with being a single dad in this terrifying zombie-filled world is compelling TV. But it’s Hershel that shines as the best parent in the worst time. He acts a father to the whole group, leads by example, stays calm in the face of horror and never fails to hold on to his faith. Even with one-leg, he stands strong. It is easy to see where Maggie gets both her badass attitude and the ability to fall in love in spite of the risks. His other daughter Beth, is still coming into her own but with such an amazing role model, I have faith we are going to see some amazing things from her.
Thomas Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)
Thomas Wayne’s love for his son and his city were so important that the loss of this good man has been felt through generations of fans. We can still see echoes of Thomas in his son, Bruce Wayne. He lives on as the angel side, tempering the demons that haunt Batman’s mind. But upon the death of the elder Wayne it is former RAF and Her Majesty’s Secret Service agent Alfred Pennyworth who has taken on the daunting job of raising and guiding the troubled genius. While the relationship can be seen as deeply co-dependent and enabling at times, there is no doubt that Alfred lives for and would die for his surrogate son.
Professor Xavier (X-Men)
Professor X’s surrogate father role is most clearly seen in his mentorship of Jean Grey, but Charles Xavier is also the only real dad many of the students at his School for Gifted Youngsters have. After being rejected as freaks by their own families, Professor X gives his talented misfits a home, a place to belong, and often a new name. He has given everything he has to care for and protect his chosen family, even his own life, repeatedly.
Rory Williams (Doctor Who)
“I wish I could tell you that you’ll be loved. That you’ll be safe and cared for and protected. But this isn’t the time for lies. What you are going to be, Melody, is very, very brave. But not as brave that they’ll have to be. Because there’s someone coming. I don’t know where he is, or what he’s doing, but trust me, he’s on his way. There’s a man who will never let us down. And not even an army can get in the way. He’s the last of his kind. He looks young but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds for years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you’ll never be alone. Because this man is your father. He has a name but the people of our world know him better as the Last Centurion.”
Ben Parker (Marvel’s Spiderman)
Another adoptive father whose dedication to being the best parent possible was never in doubt. His life was violently cut short, propelling Peter Parker into making amends. The smart-mouth Spidie may still blame himself for his uncle’s death, but I think Ben Parker would be proud of the legacy and love he left in this world. Most of us can quote his simple but poignant philosophy on power and responsibility without having to think about it. A radioactive bite may have turned Peter Parker into Spiderman, but Uncle Ben made him into a hero.
Johnathan “Pa” Kent (Superman)
Practically the living embodiment of perfect 1950’s ideals, Pa Kent took the small alien child he found in a field into his family and raised the boy as his own. Clark Kent spent his formative years with two of the most loving individuals possible. Instilling Superman with good values and loving ideals, Pa Kent provided a powerful foundation for the superhero. Pa Kent’s loss was hard on young Clark, but the father figure gave his adoptive son the strength to make a difference in a troubled world.