In the world of comics death isn’t always the end – in fact it’s often the beginning.
Marvel is currently running a 4-issue mini-series entitled “Death of Wolverine” by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven. While it may boggle the mind as to why they would intentionally kill off one of, if not their biggest money maker, there’s no doubt that there’s a high level of interest among comic readers on how Logan is going to meet his end. But he won’t be the first hero to die in comics.
Countless villains and heroes have perished over the years. Many have come back. It’s not always predictable who comes back alive or changed, and who doesn’t. More interesting is just how meaningless death is in the world of comic books. Writers have used this mechanism to generate shock and interest, to reboot heroes, and alter or undue plot lines that have gone awry. It’s rather silly at times and you might be surprised at which comic characters have bitten the big one! Warning –there may be some spoilers ahead.
Jean Grey has had a tough go of it. First she nearly died after being exposed to radiation – but got lucky and emerged as the Phoenix, all super powerful and stuff. Then in a famous 1980 issue of X-Men she sacrificed herself in order to save the universe – a worthy sacrifice for sure. Her death was something of a shock at the time as major characters didn’t die off quite as frequently as they do today. She once again rose (as a Phoenix?) and became known as the Dark Phoenix – a corrupted and extremely powerful version of her former self. The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the better X-Men storylines and ends (unfortunately) with Jean Grey committing suicide. Don’t worry, we might not have read past those comics but we have a feeling she might come back again later in the series.
9) Johnny Storm/Human Torch
In 2011 Marvel comics killed off the human torch. In a series of comics known as the “Three” storyline, writers ended the series with the death of Johnny Storm. Human Torch died in a rather heroic effort to fend off a wave of bad guys on the wrong side of a portal (why is there always a portal?) His death was short lived as the insect-like wave of creatures inhabited his body and brought him back to life. After returning to Earth Johnny was killed again, this time along with Reed Richards and Ben Grimm (Mr. Fantastic and the Thing.) His death once again seems rather short-lived as Johnny is already appearing in new Fantastic Four series.
Ok this is one is just weird. First of all, Aquaman had a kid with Mera known as Arthur Curry Jr., or as we like to call him Aquababy. In 1978 DC went Ol’ Yeller on the poor kid and kidnapped and eventually murdered him. Rather macabre if you ask us. Aquababy was not only killed but he was put into a machine which was intended to suffocate him – murder and torturing kids must have been far more acceptable in comics in the 1970s. At any rate, DC did establish one thing and that was that no one was safe in the darker-toned world of their comic books. They used this to great effect over the years, but the death of a child is still rather unnerving and uncalled for if you ask us.
7) Jason Todd/Robin
In 1988 DC comics continued its dark trend and murdered Jason Todd in a rather brutal way. Who was Jason Todd? Well none other than Robin. Jason Todd first appeared in 1983. He replaced Dick Grayson and despite DC’s best intentions he never attained the popularity of his predecessor. His death at the hands of the Joker was a major publicity stunt, but to good effect. First Joker brutally beats Robin to near death with a crowbar and ties him and his mother up in a warehouse filled with explosives. Then, in a rather American Idol-like moment, DC allowed fans to call hotlines and vote on whether Robin should live or die. The votes were close, but apparently a lot of people preferred Dick Grayson because death was chosen and Robin was exploded all over the place. Of course, Jason later returned in a later story line, proving that even unpopular characters can cheat death from time to time.
6) Barry Allen/The Flash
The Flash had been around a long time. He first appeared at the beginning of the Silver Age and his death came at a rather shocking time, following on the heels of the death of Supergirl and at the end of the Crisis of Infinite Earths storyline. Barry Allen’s death led to the arrival of a new Flash, a man known as Wally West (the lesson here kids is that even when superheroes die there’s always someone to replace them!) Barry seemed rather dead for good – but in a surprise twist DC brought him back over twenty years later, a rather remarkable time in the comic book world. More impressive, the death of Barry Allen was extremely shocking and unexpected and one of the better surprise moments in DC comics at the time.
5) James “Bucky” Barnes
Captain America’s sidekick bit the bullet early on and stayed dead – a rather impressive feat in the world of comic books. Bucky was shot and wounded and died in 1948. Bucky appeared in flashbacks here and there but he was mostly gone with the exception of a brief stint of poor-selling comics in the 1950s. Then in 2005 something awesome happened, he came back as a villain known as the Winter Soldier. It was a dramatic twist of fate that was met with shock and surprise and was pulled off extremely well. Bucky was the perfect foil for Captain America, at least for a while.
4) Steve Rogers/Captain America
Speaking of Captain America… Part of the Winter Soldier storyline involved the death of Ol’ Cap himself. In 2005 at the end of the Civil War storyline Steve Rogers (Captain America) is shot and killed by agents of Red Skull after turning himself in to authorities over a battle about the secret identities of superheroes. Steve Rogers’ death resulted in James “Bucky” Barnes taking up the mantle of Captain America for a time and resuming the role his friend left behind with his death. But don’t cry for Rogers, it turns out the bullet didn’t really kill him (shocking I know) and Rogers returned as Captain America in 2009.
3) Bruce Wayne/Batman
In 2008 DC Comics killed off Batman in a rather confusing series called the Final Crisis. The Storyline of Batman’s eventual demise is convoluted, confusing and altogether fascinating. It also caused a lot of nerd rage and confusion because many people have no clue what the hell the storyline was about – even today. The villain is rather confusing as well, but the important thing is that Batman dies when he’s exposed to Omega Beams (note to self: stay away from Omega Beams – they can kill Batman!) People cried, people were pissed, but don’t worry, Batman can’t die! Turns out that Batman wasn’t actually killed, he was just sent back in time. He re-emerged later, more dark and brooding than ever before.
2) Peter Parker/Spiderman
Peter Parker must have had a rather confusing couple of years because not only did he die in 2011, but he also died in 2012. Parker bites the big one the first time by taking a bullet to save Captain America, then (while wounded) fighting off Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six before eventually meeting his demise in an explosion. They replaced Parker with Miles Morales. However, and this is confusing, there are two story lines with Spiderman (Ultimate Spiderman and Amazing Spiderman) and there’s still another Peter Parker running around – and we can’t have that. So in 2012 Parker again dies in the Amazing Spiderman series in a rather perplexing fight with Doctor Octopus when he switches bodies with Parker (just go with it.) No doubt Parker will be back – after all no one stays dead forever in comics!
1) Clark Kent/Superman
Even Superman isn’t immune to the occasional death it seems. While facing a foe he couldn’t beat called the Ultimate (and later Doomsday) Superman finally dies in a 1992 comic. The presentation of this death was great and DC devoted 22 single panels to the fight – just a single panel per comic book page to emphasize the dramatic battle. The climatic fight culminated in the death of Superman. Luckily for us, four more Superman variants shortly appeared in comics afterwards – including a cyborg version of Superman. Killing off Superman proved to be extremely lucrative for DC comics and the storyline of his death has remained a popular one even twenty years later.