Superheroes uphold everything we believe is moral and upright. They save hostages, protect the innocent, and put the bad guys in jail. Since we were little kids, we've looked up to these costumed juggernauts and have so desperately wanted to be like them. Superheroes were the pinnacle of justice, and that was something that even we fans would hold onto even to this day.
However, superheroes aren't all they're cracked up to be. Because they're human, sometimes their anger and fear get the better of them. When people are backed into a corner, they tend to lash out. The same is true for even the most righteous of heroes. No matter whom you think of, I guarantee that they've probably taken a life on one occasion or another. Even the boy scout Superman is guilty of this.
That said, when heroes kill a bad guy or another hero, it's not always because they're upset. Sometimes, they feel that it's necessary for the greater good. A villain will keep breaking out of prison and causing all sorts of havoc on the world. Perhaps everyone would be better of if they were to simply die instead. Would it really be the worst thing if Batman finally decided to just kill the Joker and be done with it?
When the going gets tough, the heroes mean business. Here are 15 times superheroes were forced to take a life.
15 Green Arrow Shoots Prometheus
The tale of Prometheus is not a pleasant one. After his criminal parents were killed by cops, he swore vengeance against the justice system and became an anti-Batman of sorts. Starting out as a villain of the Dark Knight, the powerful Prometheus would eventually move along to other heroes. Another hero that he tormented was Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. He began targeting those close to Queen and pushed the Emerald Archer to his limits.
Their battle was fairly epic, but as you might expect, Oliver Queen came out on top. However, he knew that if Prometheus lived, it would only be a matter of time before he returned. To add fuel to the fire, Prometheus was taunting him, stating that he would live on. Because of this, Green Arrow had a bit of a surprise in store. He pulled back his bow and put an arrow through the villain's head while stating, "I'm no hero. I'm a hunter." Considering the fact that Prometheus is the current villain in Arrow, it would be an amazing scene to witness Oliver shoot him through the head. Don't let us down, CW.
14 Wolverine Stabs Jean Grey
The quintessential death moment in X-Men comics comes from the Dark Phoenix Saga. As you may know, Jean Grey's amazing powers come from an entity known as the Phoenix Force. However, this power source begins to take control of and consume her, turning her into a brutal villain named the Dark Phoenix. She then begins terrorizing mutant kind, turning on those she once called allies and threatening the entire world in the process.
From that point on, it's up to Charles Xavier and the rest of the X-Men to bring her back to her senses and restore her mind. Unfortunately, the battle takes many dark turns, leaving the mutant team wondering how they're going to stop her. Enter Wolverine. Having loved Jean Grey, he makes his way to her and manages to bring out her real self. However, instead of taking control back, she simply begs Logan to kill her, stating that she's much too dangerous to be left alive. With tears in his eyes, Wolverine obliges, stabbing Jean Grey with his claws. Since then, this moment alone has haunted him for years and only makes him want to die that much more.
13 Hawkeye Shoots Bruce Banner
We're two for two in the archer heroes. In Marvel's All-New All-Different relaunch, Marvel did something drastically different with Bruce Banner. While he can generally control his raging form as he transforms into the Hulk, that's not the case in this reality. As a matter of fact, anytime he becomes the Hulk, he destroys all kinds of property and places many lives at risk. Because of this, Banner knows that he's a danger to everyone and worked for years to make sure another incident didn't occur.
Then came Civil War II. This conflict eventually involved Bruce Banner. During an argument with other heroes, however, Hawkeye suddenly comes in and puts an arrow through Banner's head. While that was very shocking at first, it was later revealed that Hawkeye and Banner had made a deal. Banner didn't want to hulk out ever again and charged Hawkeye with killing him if he were to ever transform. During the confrontation, Banner's eyes were beginning to turn green and Hawkeye, keeping his word to his friend, followed through with the request. Whether or not you think that shooting an arrow at Bruce Banner would actually work, you have to admit that's a powerful development, either way.
12 Rogue Kills Scarlet Witch
If you've ever picked up a comic, you probably know that Scarlet Witch is a very dangerous individual. Being the daughter of Magneto, she apparently inherited her father's damaged emotions. While she quickly became an Avenger, she has still caused a lot of problems for the Marvel Universe. There was one instance when she even managed to create another reality dubbed the House of M. Since then, there's been some bad blood between her and other superheroes.
Take Rogue for example. During Uncanny Avengers, the series essentially opens with Rogue having absorbed Wolverine's powers and killing Scarlet Witch. Apparently, Scarlet Witch had made a deal with the Apocalypse Twins to move every mutant on Earth to another world entirely. Rogue wasn't a fan of this idea and decided to kill Scarlet Witch before things got too out of hand. Unfortunately, it was later revealed that Wanda Maximoff actually had a plan that involved defeating the Apocalypse Twins and setting the timeline right again. It seemed as if Rogue not only absorbed Wolverine's claws, but also his tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. After that happened, Rogue eventually got her comeuppance.
11 The Flash Snaps Reverse Flash's Neck
Barry Allen never got the chance to have a normal life. At a very young age, he came home to see a strange yellow man murder his mother in cold blood. That event alone shaped every decision in his life that would lead to him becoming the Scarlet Speedster known as the Flash. Eventually, he would come across the yellow man once more, figuring out that it was his archnemesis known as the Reverse Flash. The two speedsters would engage in a conflict that would span decades and make its way onto the small screen and potentially the big screen as well.
In those battles, Barry always tried to take the high road and never kill anyone. That didn't stop Reverse Flash from testing him, though. However, one time he took it much too far. Reverse Flash targeted Barry's love Iris and began relentlessly running toward her. Barry, after losing so many people he loved, wasn't going to take that sitting down. Not only did he stop his enemy, but he decided to make sure that Iris would be protected. He put Reverse Flash in a choke hold and quickly snapped his neck.
10 Spider-Man Accidentally Whiplashes Gwen Stacy
Of all the deaths in comic books, there is one that stands out above all the rest: the death of Gwen Stacy. At the time, superheroes were incredibly lighthearted. They always managed to get the girl and save the day. The villains would come close, but they would never succeed. Then Marvel came in to shake things up.
The Green Goblin is the archenemy of Spider-Man and decided that it was high time to make the wall crawler suffer. After discovering the hero's true identity, the Goblin kidnapped Gwen Stacy and held her over a bridge. Before Spider-Man could get there, he dropped the girl to fall to her death. However, Peter Parker's reflexes were on point, and he fired a string of web to catch her. The webbing caught Gwen, but the resulting whiplash was so great that she died on the spot. From that point, Spider-Man's career as a superhero was never the same. He moved on and ended up marrying Mary Jane, but he always loved Gwen. That was a death that would always weigh on his conscience as he was technically the one who killed her and not the Green Goblin.
9 Namor Destroys an Entire World
Over the years, of all the Avengers, none have been more jerkish than Namor the Submariner. Despite his morally grey actions, he was made a member of the Illuminati, along with the likes of Captain America and Black Panther. That group was established to make the tough calls that nobody else on the planet could. Unfortunately, they had to operate many times in that regard.
One particular instance involved two different Earths colliding together. The only way to save themselves would be to destroy the other Earth. After debating on the topic, the Illuminati decided that they would rather let both worlds die than be responsible for the death of an entire world. However, Namor had no qualms with killing people and found a way to destroy that other world. In the process, he did save all of the Avengers we know and love, but the damage was catastrophic. After this, the Illuminati had serious issues with Namor, and he left the group as a result. To make matters worse, Namor formed his own group known as the Cabal. Which characters were in this group, you might ask? Let's start with the Mad Titan Thanos. Oh yeah, that was a fun ride.
8 Superman Snaps Zod's Neck
When Man of Steel came out, it was met with mixed reviews at best. The film attempts to showcase a much more realistic Superman struggling with being an alien on the planet Earth. The entire time, Pa Kent is discouraging him from using his powers, while Jor-El is encouraging him to do the opposite. Clark Kent is torn about how to use his abilities, but he eventually comes to the realization that if he can save the world, it's his responsibility to do so.
Then General Zod came knocking from the Phantom Zone, bringing an army of evil Kryptonians. The resulting battle between him and Superman was a tough one that destroyed the majority of Metropolis (and got Batman on his tail). Eventually, their scuffle took them to a train station, where Zod threatened an innocent family with his heat vision. Superman was holding him back but knew that if he let Zod live, the family would die. Taking up his responsibility as a protector of the innocent, Superman proceeds to snap Zod's neck, killing the dark general once and for all. Needless to say, the Man of Steel wasn't exactly happy about doing it.
7 Spider-Man Eliminates the Shade from Existence
Another entry from the wall crawler here. There were a lot of times in comic books when Spider-Man teamed up with much more experienced heroes in order to take down a much bigger threat. Apparently, there was a villain known as the Shade who began abducting homeless people and dumping them into the Astral Plane. This led Peter Parker to seek the help of Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme.
Needless to say, the doctor didn't do much to aid Spider-Man in presence. Instead, he simply gave the wall crawler a temporary set of magical powers that he could then use to deal with the Shade. Spider-Man then made his way to the Astral Plane in order to fight the interdimensional foe. The struggle ended with Spider-Man using the powers he gained in order to not simply kill the Shade, but to erase him from existence altogether. When dealing with bad guys who can travel across different dimensions, it's probably best to cover all of your bases. Besides, the Shade was decreasing the surplus population, and that's a serious crime. (No need to get offended; it's a Christmas Carol joke.)
6 Batman Shoots Darkseid
Of all of the Justice League villains, there are few who pose a threat like Darkseid. This villainous god seeks to control the entire universe, but it always gets bogged down by the heroes who live on Earth. This motivates him to come up with greater schemes and use greater powers so that he can finally rid the universe of the Justice League. One particular comic showed Darkseid getting his hands on something called the Anti-Life Equation. This equation showcased how meaningless life truly was and cemented Darkseid's desire to take it from everyone.
As you might imagine, the Justice League had a lot to say about that. However, Darkseid proved to be quite strong and put up a serious fight. Batman himself knew that Darkseid had to be dealt with, or the entire world would be destroyed as a result. He then got his hands on a gun with bullets that could somehow travel through time. Instead of hatching some elaborate plane with it, he simply used it to shoot Darkseid. That's it. The villain fired his Omega Beams, and Batman simply pulled the trigger, seemingly ending the conflict and saving the world. Batman almost died in the process, too!
5 Superman Suffocates Lois Lane
As you'll notice with some of these entries, there were cases when superheroes were forced to kill because they were manipulated. One of the most tragic cases where this happened was during the beginning of the comic for Injustice: Gods Among Us. Lois Lane had been taken by the Joker. However, with the entire Justice League on high alert, it wasn't long before the Man of Steel found his beautiful bride. Then, Doomsday appeared to attack Clark, and he sprang into action. He fought the monster and became so desperate that he carried him all the way into space. Unfortunately, it was all a ruse. The Joker had used a poison on Clark to make him see what wasn't there. What he thought was Doomsday was actually Lois Lane. Sadly enough, he was too late to save her, and the damage had already been done.
From then on, something inside of Clark snapped, and he decided to change the world in his image. He met the Joker and killed the jester with one fell swoop before becoming the dictator of the Earth -- all because he mistakenly suffocated his wife and unborn child.
4 Wonder Woman Breaks Maxwell Lord's Neck
There were some comics in DC history that were a bit sketchy, and the one I'm mentioning here is definitely one of them. Yet, this isn't a list about best comics, just about times when superheroes felt the need to kill for the greater good. With that out of the way, let's continue.
Maxwell Lord was a crafty villain and one day decided to take control of Superman's mind and cause the Man of Steel to destroy all kinds of buildings. Teaming up with Wonder Woman, Kal-El desperately wondered what was wrong with his mind, and the two of them began an investigation. Fortunately for them, they eventually found the culprit and decided to fight him. Yet, Maxwell Lord was prepared and controlled Superman's mind again. Luckily, Wonder Woman was there to even the odds. She temporarily subdued her comrade and wrapped the Lasso of Truth around Maxwell. He then stated how there was no freeing Superman, and he would continue to return and control his mind. Wonder Woman simply took everything he said and believed him.
That's why she proceeded with breaking Maxwell Lord's neck. She cared enough about her friend that she knew Maxwell had to die in order for him and the rest of the world to be safe.
3 Wolverine Slaughters the X-Men
The other tragedy on this list comes courtesy of Wolverine. There were some villains who decided that they wanted to torment Logan and get rid of the X-Men at the same time. To do this, Mysterio came into the picture and messed with Wolverine's mind so that all of the X-Men instead looked like all of his greatest foes. To make matters worse, they were all in one room, and Wolverine's animal instincts kicked into high gear. He popped his claws and began cutting down all of his foes. It wasn't long before each and every one of them lay dead on the ground. Then the spell wore off, and Wolverine saw what he had done. All of his friends and teammates were bleeding and lifeless because of him.
From that day forward, Wolverine vowed that we would never pull out his claws again and that he would instead lead a humble life. This was the setting that led into the events of Old Man Logan. Wolverine had to overcome his grief and hatred of himself when things got a bit hairy.
2 Fantomex Murders Apocalypse
Have you ever been faced with the question "If you saw Hitler as a child, would you kill him knowing the monster that he would become later?" Marvel Comics dealt with this idea as well.
You all know Apocalypse as the first mutant who carries the philosophy that only the strongest should survive. He became a brutal tyrant and tried to control the world multiple times. Well, the X-Men have defeated him in the past, but he eventually resurfaced after several years. There was a bit of a twist, though.
Apocalypse was brought back as a young and innocent child. Once our heroes got wind of that, the X-Force went to deal with it. They fought through the Four Horsemen and were eventually faced with the soon-to-be-warlord himself. However, seeing that he was just a child, none of the team members could muster the gumption to carry out the deed. Just when they thought that Apocalypse would continue to live, though, the mutant Fantomex put a bullet through Apocalypse's head. While this was initially shocking, at the end of the day, the X-Force was glad. Because he was no longer alive, Apocalypse wouldn't rise to power yet again.
1 Moon Knight Slices Bushman
There are some heroes who shouldn't be messed with. The mentally unstable Marc Spector is one of them. However, that didn't stop the villain Bushman from pushing the Moon Knight to his limits.
He terrorized the hero for quite some time. The two engaged in a battle that brought them on top of a roof. After exchanging some blows, they fell from the building onto the ground. Both of their bodies were battered and broken. At that point, Moon Knight had had enough. He knew that Bushman would only continue to haunt him. Because of this, he decided to take action. He chucked some crescent darts at Bushman to further subdue him. Then he crawled over to the villain, pulled out a knife, and began cutting the dude's face off! Seriously, people... I can't make this stuff up. After Moon Knight successfully removed Bushman's face from his head, he held it up as an offering to the god Khonshu.
For those of you who weren't sure if Moon Knight was legitimately crazy or not, I would point you directly to this story. Granted, Moon Knight is one of the few heroes who willingly left the Avengers.
Sources: Marvel Comics, DC Comics