Comic books are all about resurrecting characters. Just about every major superhero you can think of has died at least once- then returned in an over the top fashion. It gives the writers freedom to have the emotional impact of a big death, but without having to completely drop the best-selling stories from the shelves. You could argue that it’s cheap, but in all honesty, it’s just how comics work these days.
This also translates into the media. Very seldom have I ever seen a superhero show or movie that keeps the characters that it kills of dead (the only example I can think of being Young Justice). The MCU, the CW, and the DCEU alike almost feel like they have no true consequences at times because the characters keep coming back. Perhaps that’s because of the medium of storytelling being used, but it’s hard to say either way.
However, this doesn’t mean writers brought back every superhero from the grave. As a matter of fact, there are a number of characters who have stayed dead all this time. Often times, a meaningful death has actually sent a hero on their path of crime fighting, and it would be almost pointless to bring said character back from the dead. It’s hard to believe at face value, I know.
If you still think I’m making this up, read further for 15 superheroes who actually stayed dead.
Civil War was a huge event in the comics. Nearly every superhero in the Marvel universe was present and divided, taking either Iron Man’s or Captain America’s side. Despite how brutal it was, the heroes still held a decent amount of respect for one another, because neither side wanted to truly harm the other. However, with big egomaniacs on Iron Man’s team like Reed Richards and Hank Pym, it was only a matter of time before things got out of hand.
During a battle with Captain America and his team, Iron Man’s heroes brought forth the mighty Thor, who was thought dead at the time. However, this Thor was actually a robotic clone created by Stark, Richards, and Pym. They did so in order to get some of Captain America’s friends to defect from their allegiance. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a good grasp of this Thor robot, and it summoned a big lightning bolt and fired it at the mutant Goliath, while he was in his giant form. The electricity passed straight through him and put a hole in his chest. Immediately, Goliath dropped dead, and the conflict between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes became much more real.
14. Silver Fox
Silver Fox was known as Wolverine’s bride before he was altered by the Weapon X program and still tried to have a normal life. However, things changed for Logan when Silver Fox was assaulted by Sabretooth, a move that would change his life forever. But, this supposed assault didn’t kill her as many thought it did. Instead, Silver Fox somehow lived and went on to help out Logan and other members of Team X. Everyone there had their memories wiped, so Silver Fox tried to help them regain them once more, and this brought her in the crosshairs of the person who originally erased their memories. Then Sabretooth showed up once more to finally kill Silver Fox once and for all. Logan didn’t have a full recollection of who she was and how close they were, but he still felt some sort of attachment and buried her at the cabin where they once lived. Since then, Silver Fox has not reappeared, mostly because a quiet romance is not something that would suit a character like the Wolverine, and he has plenty of struggles to face in the present day as it currently stands. It’s a sad life for someone like him.
Fortunately, sometimes people get their comeuppance one way or another. Sabretooth was the original archenemy of Wolverine and could often compete with him on a physical level. Because their powers were very similar, Sabretooth often felt challenged by Wolverine and would attack him out of a desire to prove his dominance. Since then, the character has been involved with teams like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
However, Wolverine has experienced a lot of growth over the years and has become much stronger than he was back in the day. Because of this, one could notice that Sabretooth doesn’t exactly measure up anymore and couldn’t compete with Logan as he once did. Usually when characters reach the end of their usefulness, that’s when they get killed off, and that’s what happened to Sabretooth. He became a mindless animal, reverting back to primal instincts, so Wolverine put together a sword that has his soul in it. Apparently this makes it able to cancel out a mutant healing factor, so he used it against Sabretooth and cut the guy’s head off. It was really that easy, and there’s not much reason for the villain to come back any time soon.
12. Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)
Blue Beetle is a superhero that has had a few people take up the mantle, but the first one was a man named Ted Kord. He was a much more classic take on the hero and offered up a lot of stories and adventures that set him apart from the more mainstream cast of DC Comics lore. However, as it stands right now, Ted Kord is a legacy known for putting his life on the line and inspiring younger people to become heroes themselves.
One adventure saw him find a corrupt organization run by a man with ties to the Justice League, Maxwell Lord (he appeared in the first season of Supergirl). Unfortunately, Kord was discovered and imprisoned by Maxwell. Then the villain told Kord his plans (as any good villain does) to control the world’s superheroes by the people similar to what the Avengers did in Civil War. After that, Maxwell presents Kord with the option to join him or die where he stood. Kord chose to stand his ground and his immediately shot in the head. The suit was then passed on to Jaime Reyes, who did everything he could to honor Kord’s name.
11. The Question
The Question is Hub City’s most interesting character and one that the writers on the CW DC shows have taken a lot of interest in. Vic Sage was a powerful journalist who viewed the world on a scale of black and white. Because of this, he could come across very aggressive during his job, but that wasn’t the worst of it. By night, he took the role as a superhero named the Question, resembling a man with no face. He questioned many things and was obsessed with investigations, but there’s no denying that he was effective at what he did. The character originally debuted in Charleston Comics along the original version of the Blue Beetle.
Once DC eventually got the reigns, they had their fun altering the character, but when the New 52 launch came about, that was when things got a little more interesting. Vic Sage was killed and passed up the mantle of the Question to another person by the name of Renee Montoya. There is still more we have to learn about this character, but it’s true that the original version of the character is dead. It’ll be interesting to see how the CW will adapt this mysterious individual into the Arrowverse.
10. Laurel Lance (Arrow)
Speaking of the Arrowverse, this aspect of Arrow also deserves a spot here. The show is infamous for constantly reviving characters who are near death or have already died. Oliver was brought back to life in season 3, Sara Lance was presumed dead but returned in season 2, then was killed and resurrected in seasons 3 and 4. The list goes on and on. So when the tragic death of Laurel Lance at the hands of Damien Darhk occurred, it was clear that there was something different about it from the get-go. Nobody attempted to resurrect her because they had no way of doing so. They had a proper funeral and burial for the DA, and her death has continued to affect the dynamic of the team to this day.
I will admit, that I expected her to come back at some point, but I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that is not the case. When the actress appeared again in season 5 of Arrow, it was interesting to see that it was the Earth-2 version instead. Furthermore, the Black Canary mantle has officially been passed on, so it’s safe to assume that Laurel Lance will not be returning for a long time yet.
There are many times when a superhero has to go on some hiatus because of death or another unfortunate circumstance, and it’s times like those that led to people taking up the mantle. After the mighty Thor had disappeared for some time, a man by the name of Eric Masterson took his place for some time. The “Thor” comic was now headed by this individual, but he proved to be popular enough to garner his own series after the Son of Odin returned. In his own series, he was given the name Thunderstrike, and was differentiated from Thor in many unique ways. However, the writers knew that when the series came to end that Thunderstrike was going to die, and they followed through with that. When a powerful god came to town, Thunderstrike sacrificed himself in order to beat the messed-up villain, and he’s been gone ever since. Those that are familiar with the character have expressed interest in seeing him return, but it’s a long shot considering all of the things they’re trying to do with the All-New All-Different and whatnot. Don’t expect him to appear in the MCU either.
After Batman had his back shattered by the nearly invincible Bane, he had to find a way to keep up appearances as the Dark Knight. After all, if people started putting two and two together, his entire secret could’ve been out. For his temporary replacement, he called on Jean-Paul Valley to put on the cape and cowl. Valley was previously known as the vigilante Azrael- a powerful combat master who was trained and brainwashed by the Order of St. Dumas. The Order had programmed Valley’s mind to have the desire to kill the Caped Crusader, but it was Batman that helped Valley rid himself of said programming.
Azrael’s time as Batman lasted for quite some time all things considered, but he met his end when his series as the Dark Knight came to a close. The panel was a bit open-ended, suggesting that Valley could come back again someday, but he was actually confirmed dead by DC. Since then, they’ve introduced a new Azrael with a new name and haven’t really brought the character back since then. Azrael has since had multiple incarnations in various media, but none of them are quite like Jean-Paul Valley.
7. Maxwell Lord
Remember that guy who was responsible for the death of Blue Beetle? He got his comeuppance as well. Maxwell Lord decided to deal a brutal blow to the Justice League by messing with Superman’s mind. Then, it was up to Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) in order to restore her friend’s brain and stop Maxwell from dealing any more damage. Their fight was brutal, but in the end, Diana sliced Superman’s neck which incapacitated him for a time, and tied up Maxwell Lord. However, he decides to taunt her by saying that the only way that Superman will ever be free from his mind control is if she kills him. Wonder Woman ponders it for a moment, then proceeds to snap his neck, much to the shocked expression of Superman. I’ll admit, it’s a little corny and convoluted in context, but you have to hand it to Wonder Woman for not being afraid to get her hands dirty. This way, she also has something in common with Zack Snyder’s version of the Man of Steel. We doubt that this event will ever show up in anything other than the comics unless people find a way to execute it better.
6. Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady)
You may recognize O’Grady from a previous article about the jerkiest Avengers. The reality is that Eric O’Grady is one of the worst. He became Ant-Man solely because he stole the suit and decided to use it to commit crimes and spy on women in the shower. He wasn’t good to his comrades and would often leave when things got a bit too rough for him, so there’s not a lot to love about him.
However, he eventually managed to get a spot on the superhero team known as the Avengers. It was there that he ended up gaining some actual humanity and doing things that would be decent by human standards. As he began to care, more villains came their way, and he fought them against his better judgment. Despite his turning to a new leaf, O’Grady didn’t last too long. He ended up sacrificing himself in order to save his newfound friends, and has never returned since. The reason for this is probably because Irredeemable Ant-Man most likely functions better as a one-off story, and the fact that he became a hero contradicted the overall direction of the story. This way, his arc ends in a bittersweet yet satisfying way.
5. Jean Grey
Jean Grey is known for dying. After all, one of the greatest comic stories of all time is the Dark Phoenix Saga, where she ends up getting killed by Wolverine. She has also been very well known for getting shoved into the sun- and no one could really survive anything like that, right? Well, think again, because it was revealed that Jean Grey not only survived being thrown into the sun, but also being stabbed by Wolverine (it was not the greatest of plot twists).
Grey has been brought back to X-Force before, and even reignited a relationship with Scott Summers, but not before eventually dying yet again. However, how she died was a bit cheap and doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider everything that she’s been through. After the audience witnesses how she lived through some of the most dangerous circumstances, she ended up getting quickly killed by Magneto (as if there wasn’t a more interesting way for her to go out). Since then, she has only appeared one other time, but she’s pretty much been MIA for the longest amount of time. Will she be brought back into the fold of the new Marvel Universe? Most likely not until Marvel gets the film rights to the X-Men back.
There’s a lot of interesting backstory surrounding Hawkwoman regarding the lore, but it’s probably more convoluted than anything else. After helping out on Earth with all kinds of problems, Sheyara Thal eventually decided to go back to her home planet of Thanagar to fight the Polarans, but not before meeting and working with newer incarnations of herself and her lover, Katar Hol.
Upon returning to Thanagar, Hawkwoman was reinstated as a member of the army against the Polarans. The war was brutal and took many lives, but the problem did not come from her enemies, but her allies. She was betrayed by the Tamaranean Queen and and killed. From that point, her body was sent into the nearby sun Polaris, which was customary when disposing of fallen heroes. Hawkwoman left an impressive legacy with her newer incarnation, Kendra Saunders, but she probably won’t be appearing again anytime soon. DC has done away with a lot of their older superheroes, either bringing in new people to take the mantle or disposing of them altogether.
3. Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)
Marvel loves introducing new versions of Spider-Man. It gives them an opportunity to experiment with new designs as well as give Peter a much-needed break from juggling heroics, school, and relationships. One of the most well-known versions of Spider-Man comes in the form of Scarlet Spider- the Ben Reilly version, that is.
Reilly was introduced during The Clone Saga as one of the many clones of Spider-Man. He had a lot of the same attributes and powers (duh), and decided to become his own version of the wall crawler as a result (due to him believing that he was the real Peter Parker). He took a similar outfit, but with a classic blue shirt, and bore the name Scarlet Spider. After this occurred, Peter Parker took the opportunity to get some rest and focus on his school and work life respectively.
However, Marvel also loves killing off some of their interesting characters, and Ben Reilly was not immune to this fate. When the Green Goblin reared his head again, it was up to the Scarlet Spider to stop him. When Parker ended up joining the fight, Ben Reilly ended up saving his life. The Goblin sent his glider after Peter, but Reilly jumped in and took the blow himself. He then disintegrated into ash and hasn’t been seen since.
2. Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
Superheroes often have amazing stories of how they overcome powerful obstacles by learning to use and hone their unique abilities. Sometimes, writers use this to give them more struggles though, like in the case of Superman losing his adopted father to cancer. Despite all of his strength, there was nothing he could do. Marvel attempted this route with the original Captain Marvel (known as Mar-Vell).
Mar-Vell was a frequent opponent of the Skrull Empire, and his abilities proved to be too much for the aliens to fight effectively. One day, though, Mar-Vell was exposed to a toxic substance that gave him a brutal cancer. The comic then explores his mental state as he realizes there is nothing he can do to save himself regardless of his strength. Even the Skrull came forward and present Mar-Vell with a medal stating that he was the greatest enemy they ever faced.
In a sad ending, the cancer ended up killing Mar-Vell. He was given Avenger status, and a memorial statue of him was erected on Titan. Since then, Mar-Vell has not returned and the mantle of Captain Marvel has been passed down to others like Carol Danvers.
1. Arsenic (Gertrude Yorks)
The Runaways are some of the most interesting characters to come from Marvel. Whereas a lot of their heroes are copies or knock-offs of popular DC characters, the Runaways proved that they could come up with exciting and new ideas. This team was a group of kids who each had their own set of powers. The kids discovered that all of their parents often met together because they were a team of dastardly villains. It’s quite interesting.
One of the most unique members of the team was Gertrude Yorks, who was given the name Arsenic. Her power was that she had a telepathic connection to a carnivorous dinosaur, which she named Old Lace (Arsenic and Old Lace, get it?). She ended up developing a romantic relationship with another member of the team, Chase. During one of their battles, Chase was in grave danger and Gertrude sacrificed herself to save him, and gave him her telepathic connection with Old Lace.
With Marvel moving forward with The Runaways on television, this is a storyline they could easily adapt, and finish one of the seasons with the death of Arsenic. And, no, she doesn’t come back.