Seven cartoons with adopted characters

Today is National Adoption Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of children that need adoptive families. This website about the day provides more information.

Animation and comics have presented plenty of children who’ve been taken in by adoptive parents. Here’s a list of seven comics and cartoons depicting adopted children.

Clark Kent (Superman)

The Smallville Orphanage
From “Limited Collector Edition C-31” (October-November 1974). Art by Curt Swan.

Famously, Jonathan and Martha Kent adopted Kal-El (naming him “Clark”) after his rocket from Krypton landed outside of Smallville. Earlier versions of the adoption (and some media versions) showed the Kents formally adopted little Clark from the Smallville Orphanage. A few modern versions imply modern child services instead.

For more on this, see my post on Clark’s adoption, which also covers whether he’s an American citizen (the answer’s “yes”).

Kara Zor-El/Linda Danvers (Supergirl)

Various continuities have presented differing versions of the Maid of Might’s origin story. However, in the original Silver Age version, after Kara’s arrival on Earth, Superman leaves her at the Midvale Orphanage under the name “Linda Lee.” This was out of concern taking Kara in directly as Clark Kent might (somehow) endanger his secret identity.

Eventually, Fred and Edna Danvers adopted Kara (who changed her alter-ego’s name to “Linda Danvers”). Kara’s new parents soon learned she was Supergirl.

The “Supergirl” TV show’s gone with a variation on the above. No orphanage, but Kara’s taken by Superman to be adopted by the Danvers, who already have a (biological) daughter in this series. In her civilian identity, Kara goes by “Kara Danvers.”

Peter Parker (Spider-Man)

Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle raised Peter from a very young age. Aunt May and Uncle Ben were much older than Peter’s actual parents, who died when Peter was extremely young. Later stories revealed that Peter’s parents were secret agents.

Bamm-Bamm Rubble (“The Flintstones”)

Barney and Betty Rubble found little Bamm-Bamm left in a basket on their doorstep. Unusually for an animated series up to this point, instead of going to an orphanage or merely just taking in Bamm-Bamm, Barney and Betty went through formal child services in Bedrock to legally adopt Bamm-Bamm.

Of course, it was also a way to get a courtroom-themed episode. The Rubbles faced a rival set of parents that also wanted to adopt Bamm-Bamm, the wealthy “Stonyfellers” and their lawyer, “Perry Masonry.”

Dick Grayson (Robin)

Bruce Wayne took in Dick Grayson (the original Robin) as his ward after the deaths of Dick’s trapeze artist parents. Some of Dick’s relatives have occasionally appeared, most famously his Aunt Harriet Cooper in the 60s comics and TV show.

However, Dick stayed with Bruce through the rest of his childhood and teen years; he finally left Wayne Manor in 1969 to go off to Hudson University. Dick ultimately dropped out of Hudson by the early 80s to basically become a full-time superhero/Teen Titans leader (and change his name to “Nightwing”).

Huey, Dewey, and Louie (various Disney cartoons)

DuckTales title cardFamously, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are raised by their “Unca” Donald Duck, with whatever happened to their actual parents never revealed. The boys are the sons of Donald’s twin sister, Della (or “Dumbella” in her one on-screen mention).

While the boys in the theatrical shorts were often mischievous, the comic books saw them lose much of their misbehaving aspects, and become better behaved children. A Don Rosa comic story implies this came in part from the boys joining the Junior Woodchucks.

The Chipmunks and the Chipettes (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”)

The 1980s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” cartoon shows that as babies, the boys were left by their mother on the doorstep of then-struggling songwriter David Seville. She wasn’t able to take care of them during a particularly rough forest winter; however, she figured they’d fare better with the kindly man who was staying near their forest. Dave took in the boys, discovered they could sing, and the rest is history.

Other than an episode where the boys reunite with their mother, their adoption status didn’t come up often. However, the three did take Dave’s last name and consider him their father. As for the Chipettes, they did have an episode about their lack of a parent or guardian. Up to that point, the girls had been living on their own, in a heavily stylized treehouse. This was resolved when the Sevilles’ babysitter and neighbor, elderly Miss Miller, took in the girls.

The 2015 TV revival seems to hew closer to the CGI movies’ versions of events. Miss Miller is shown in the series as the boys’ babysitter, but not the Chipettes’ caretaker.

(Updated 4/2/18)

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