DC Comics is home to the world’s most famous superheroes. In effect, DC defined the superhero comic book as it’s known to most readers today. However, the word “comic” doesn’t apply to many of DC’s greatest heroes.
The publisher that all but invented the format with the eternally-lighthearted Superman also pioneered the era of “grim-and-gritty” comic books. Classic stories such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns struck a more serious tone in the 1980s, and that stylistic choice continues to permeate many of DC’s most recognizable superheroes today. There might be some in the world who still refer to comics as “funny books,” but there’s not much that’s funny about these DC protagonists.
10 Batman Is The Blueprint For The Humorless Hero
First Appearance: Detective Comics vol 1 #27 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
The Dark Knight wasn’t always so dark, as the character was depicted as somewhat happy-go-lucky in his early years. However, for much of Batman’s publication history, he has been a brooding and humorless creature of the night.
Batman’s single-minded focus on his personal war on crime doesn’t leave much room for being jovial. Having never gotten over the murder of his parents, Batman is essentially the original somber superhero. The Caped Crusader himself has been on the other end of death a few times, possibly adding to his grim visage.
9 Damian Wayne Has No Patience For Humor
First Appearance: Batman vol 1 655 by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert
Damian Wayne seems to have inherited his father’s pension for seriousness. However, the son of Bruce Wayne – and part of the legendary Robin lineage – owes his less-than-sunny disposition more to his mother Talia al Ghul’s side of the family.
As the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul, Damian was raised from birth to be a killing machine and to become heir to his grandfather’s League of Assassins. Being exposed to his father’s world and the influence of eternal optimists like Nightwing and Superman – as well as having been the leader of the Teen Titans and best friend of Jon Kent – have softened Damian somewhat. But at his heart, he is still deadly serious.
8 Raven Was Born Into Misery
First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
Being the daughter of a demon isn’t easy. Raven, one of the pillars of the Teen Titans, is the child of the demon Trigon, a being bent on enslaving humanity. Her dark magic powers are kept in check only to the point that she is able to control her emotions.
Raven has had a role in many of the Teen Titans’ most memorable battles, including some in which her emotional control was compromised. Expressing emotion can cause considerable risk to her teammates and to reality itself, leaving Raven a particularly humorless superhero.
7 The Question Combines Drive And Brutality
First Appearance: Blue Beetle vol 5 #1 by Steve Ditko
While the Question began his publication history as part of Charlton Comics, he has been part of the DCU for nearly 40 years. In that time, Vic Sage has earned a reputation as a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, and the investigative reporter is widely regarded as having detective skills on par with Batman’s.
One thing he doesn’t have a reputation for, though, is humor. The Question’s drive to solve each case and to bring criminals to justice completely belies any possibilities for humor. His brutal attacks on the criminal underworld certainly don’t leave his opponents laughing.
6 The Spectre Is Theatrical But Not Humorous
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #52 by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily
As the avenging arm of God, the Spectre has spent decades carrying out unique forms of justice. Charged with exacting vengeance on the wicked, the Spectre is known for his elaborate punishments upon street criminals and cosmic beings alike. However, for all his theatricality, it would be rare indeed for Spectre to crack a smile.
The Spectre is possessed of a single passion. It can’t be denied that, at times, he takes pleasure in his work. Perhaps too much. But he doesn’t channel that pleasure into anything most readers would relate with humor.
5 Black Adam Isn’t One For Silliness
First Appearance: The Marvel Family #1 by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck
Perhaps it isn’t fair to say that Black Adam doesn’t possess a sense of humor. Indeed, even calling Black Adam anything other than a villain could be a stretch, but the ruler of Kahndaq has recently joined up with the Justice League and was a member of the JSA for a time. It might be more accurate to say that he doesn’t really have the time or patience to use one. While not as single-minded as some of the other more solemn superheroes in the DC pantheon, Black Adam doesn’t place much value on being funny.
Consider his encounter with the Psycho-Pirate in the pages of Infinite Crisis. The Pirate, known in part for his ability to force emotions onto people, attempts to control Black Adam’s mind after Adam has broken the Pirate’s spell. Adam cuts Psycho-Pirate off mid-sentence, saying “No more silly faces” before dispatching the villain in a gruesome fashion.
4 Ganthet’s Omniscience Precludes Humor
First Appearance: Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale by Larry Niven and John Byrne
As one of the near-immortal Guardians of the Universe and overseers of the Green Lantern Corps, Ganthet doesn’t necessarily fit the bill of a traditional superhero. However, he did take direct action during the events of Green Lantern: Rebirth, freeing Green Lanterns John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Killowog from the influence of Parallax.
Possessing nearly-unlimited knowledge and charged with a sacred duty, Ganthet, like the rest of the Guardians, places little value on humor. Despite forging the Blue Lantern ring of hope and founding the Blue Lantern Corps, cracking a smile doesn’t seem to be among Ganthet’s many abilities.
3 Zealot Is A Humorless Immortal
First Appearance: WildC.A.T.S. vol #1 by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi
One of the earliest creations from Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Productions at Image Comics, Zealot is a founding member of the WildC.A.T.s. The Kherubim warrior was stranded on Earth centuries ago following a battle with her peoples’ greatest enemies, the Daemonites.
A Coda assassin, Zealot is a determined and fierce warrior. One of her trademark characteristics is her ability to shield her emotional state. Zealot is an expert at suppressing her emotions, including humor, which makes her a more effective and efficient killer.
2 Martian Manhunter Is Warm But Not Funny
First Appearance: Detective Comics vol 1 #225 by Joseph Samachson, Jack Miller, and Joe Certa
J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, has an exceptional capacity for humanity despite his inhuman heritage. He is a compassionate friend, a loyal teammate, and a warm and understanding presence among the Justice League. But he isn’t particularly funny.
Like Superman, Martian Manhunter is the last of his kind. But unlike the Man of Steel, J’onn was fully developed and perfectly aware of the circumstances of his peoples’ destruction. That isn’t a trauma that can be fully eased by friendship and camaraderie, meaning that the Martian Manhunter’s more human qualities don’t include a sense of humor.
1 Dr. Manhattan Lacks Any Trace Of Humanity
First Appearance: Watchmen #1 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
When a laboratory accident gave Dr. John Osterman the ability to manipulate matter at a subatomic level, it also gave him the ability to see time and the universe in non-linear terms. As Dr. Manhattan, he became America’s nuclear deterrent in the pages of Watchmen, boasting powers even greater than Superman’s.
But his omnipotence and omniscience gradually eroded his humanity to the point that Doctor Manhattan sees his human contemporaries as unevolved pawns. Manhattan’s determinism leads him to abandon Earth with the world on the verge of nuclear catastrophe. While Manhattan seems to be able to enjoy an almost-twisted sense of ironic detachment, that shouldn’t be mistaken for a sense of humor.
NEXT: 10 Best DC Heroes Created In The Golden Age
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