Many people consider their mothers to be their superheroes. Being a mother is an extremely taxing task, that requires true sacrifice, heroism, and superhuman amounts of patience.
While we often celebrate the feats of strength and bravery shown by superheroes from comic books and films, behind every superhero is a great woman who raised them.
In honor of Mother's Day this week, we’re paying tribute to the moms and mother figures who are superheroes in their own right. Here are just a few of the often-overlooked mothers of our favorite superheroes and the actresses who have portrayed them in small screen and big screen adaptations over the years.
Martha Kent, Superman
Martha Kent, the adoptive mother of Superman, lives in the rural town of Smallville, Kansas. In most versions of Superman's origin story, Jonathan and Martha Kent find Kal-El as an infant after he crash-lands on Earth following the destruction of his home planet, Krypton.
Martha Kent is partially responsible for the upbringing of the Man of Steel, and made sure to instill honesty, a sense of justice, and responsibility in Clark even before his powers first manifested. She continuously expresses her love for Clark and supports him with motherly advice.
Superman's adoptive mom first appeared on the big screen in the 1948 serial played by Virginia Carrol, while Phyllis Thaxter portrayed her in the 1978 epic which starred Christopher Reeve. Eva Marie Saint played Martha Kent in Superman Returns, a 2006 film that was a callback to the Reeve movies.
On the small screen, K Callan played Martha Kent to Dean Cain's Superman in the series Lois and Clark, which ran from 1993 to 1997. Anette O’Toole, who originally played Lana Lang in Superman III, stepped into Martha’s shoes on the long-running television series Smallville, which ran from 2001 to 2011.
Most recently, Diane Lane played a younger version of Martha Kent starting with 2013’s Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.
Each screen version of Martha shows how the rural, all-American Kents formed Clark's moral character and how they help a scared young Clark deal with and adapt to his emerging super powers.
Aunt May, Spiderman
While Aunt May may not be Peter Parker’s biological mother, she raised him as if he were her own son and he loves her and treats her like she were his mom. As the widow of the late Ben Parker, Aunt May takes responsibility for Peter’s upbringing and has to deal with his various teen shenanigans as seen in various film versions of Spiderman.
The role of Aunt May was played by Rosemary Harris in the Sam Raimi trilogy which starred Tobey Maguire, while Sally Field took over the role for the Amazing Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield.
Marisa Tomei made her appearance as "hot aunt" May in Captain America: Civil War, and reprised her role as Peter Parker's guardian in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home with Tom Holland.
Helen Parr/Elastigirl, The Incredibles
Helen Parr is a super-mom in every sense of the word, as she has to juggle both motherhood and saving the world as Elastigirl in Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004). The character was voiced by Holly Hunter in the original film and the 2018 sequel.
The mom of three wields the power of elasticity and displays incredible grit, bravery, devotion while she deals with her husband Bob/Mr. Incredible going through a mid-life crisis and raising three superpowered kids (Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack) to boot. As a wife and stay-at-home mom in the first film, she displays sharp wit and a high sense of responsibility for her family's well-being. In The Incredibles 2, she gets to show off her superpowers in style, while Mr. Incredible takes care of the kids.
Aside from her superhuman flexibility and durability, Helen is a highly skilled pilot, an expert at hand-to-hand combat, and expert motorcyclist, having once had her own personalized motorcycle that was called the Elasticycle before her retirement.
Hippolyta, Wonder Woman
Queen Hippolyta, based on the Amazon queen Hippolyta from Greek mythology, is as bad-ass as her daughter Diana, a.k.a. Wonder Woman. Long before Diana was born, it’s seen that Hippolyta joined the battle to defend Earth from Steppenwolf and his invading Parademons, and she still takes up the sword to ride into battle when Themyscira is threatened.
As the queen of the Amazons of Themyscira, she raises her daughter Diana, conceived by Zeus, alongside her fellow Amazons, trying to shield her from the outside world and humanity. She’s both protective, yet encouraging towards Diana. In a flashback when Diana was a child, Hippolyta oversees an athletic competition that Diana takes part in. After Antiope pulls Diana out of the competition for falling off her horse and taking a shortcut to catch up to it, Hippolyta consoles her and states that she will be among the great warriors someday.
In the 1975 Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter, three different actresses portrayed Queen Hippolyta: Clors Leachman, Carolyn Jones, and Beatrice Straight.
The character was more recenlty portrayed by Gladiator's Connie Nielsen in newer DC films Wonder Woman, Justice League, Wonder Woman 1984 and Zack Snyder's Justice League starring Gal Gadot.
Ramonda, Black Panther
The Queen Mother of Wakanda, Ramonda is the wife of T’Chaka and mother of Black Panther himself, T'Challa, and Shuri. Angela Bassett played Ramonda in 2018's Black Panther and reprised her role in Avengers: Endgame.
Ramonda is a courageous and hard-willed individual who deeply cares for her family and nation. The queen helped set the example of regal grace under pressure and indomitable spirit that her son carries on as the ruler-protector of their African kingdom.
The queen stood by her son’s side when he became King of Wakanda, but was forced into exile when Erik Killmonger defeated T’Challa in ritual combat and took over the throne.
Rosa Vasquez, Shazam!
It takes an enormous amount of selflessness to adopt foster kids like Rosa Vasquez. In the the 2019 DC film Shazam!, we're introduced to 14-year-old foster child Billy Batson, who continually runs away from foster homes to search for his birth mother, who he got separated from at a fair when he was only four years old. He's eventually taken into a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez, with five other foster children who all come from varying backgrounds.
As a foster mom, Rosa runs the household with compassion, understanding and proudly provides a safe structured environment for kids in need. Vasquez has accommodated numerous kids and constantly battles with the emotional challenges of getting attached and having to let go, but is always ready to cater to the needs of any kid who walks into her home.
Spanish-American actress Marta Milans played the role of Rosa in the wholesome family-friendly superhero flick.
Janet Van Dyne, Ant-Man and The Wasp
While she may not have gotten much screen time yet, scientist Janet van Dyne, the mother of Hope Van Dyne and wife of Hank Pym, can be considered one of the MCU's first female superheroes. The original Wasp, Janet (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) sacrificed herself on a S.H.I.E.L.D mission in the 1980s in order to disarm a Soviet ICBM bound for the United States, saving millions of lives, but getting lost to the Quantum Realm in the process.
Hank spent the rest of his life trying to figure out how to locate and save Janet from the Quantum Realm where she disappeared. Janet spent decades in the Quantum Realm surviving through her strength and ingenuity. She eventually reunited with her now adult-daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and is set to return in the third film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in 2023.
(Images via Warner Bros & Disney/Pixar)