The 10 Most Memorable Superhero Deaths

Matthew White -- February 27th, 2013

By now, comic book fans (and readers of the New York Post) have heard the news that Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and the current Robin, dies in the pages of Batman Incorporated #8, which hits shelves today. While the death of a superhero is nothing new to comics (this is actually not the first time a Robin has been killed), it’s still a pretty big deal for DC Comics and will certainly have a lasting effect within the Batman storyline, not to mention a brisk spike in sales for the publisher.

Here are ten other memorable superhero deaths from over the years.

10BlueBeetle

10.  Ted Kord, Blue Beetle – Countdown to Infinite Crisis (2005, DC Comics)

In the lead up to DC Comics’s Infinite Crisis event in 2005, former Justice League member Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, single-handedly unravels a plot by the psychic (and psychotic) Maxwell Lord to initiate one of Batman’s doomsday protocols in which a swarm of invincible robots called Omacs are released upon the world. Ted confronts Max, only to be shot and killed, but not before gritting his teeth and telling Max to “Rot in Hell.” Unlike many of the other entries on this list, Kord has not come back and has only been seen briefly in flashbacks.

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9.  Bruce Wayne, Batman – Final Crisis #6 (2009, DC Comics)

In the finale to Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, Batman confronts the evil deity Darkseid, who had unleashed the “anti-life equation” on the world eradicating all free will and thought. Seconds after mortally wounding the evil God, Batman is struck with the Omega beam, seemingly killing him, but actually sending him hurtling through time. Almost simultaneously, Batman was involved in another death-related storyline, “Batman R.I.P.”, which involved a plot orchestrated by the Black Hand, an illusory villain that was trying to break Bruce’s psyche. Despite the two storylines occurring concurrently, they were only tangentially related, and ultimately Batman survived both.

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8.  Ultimate Universe Peter Parker – Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (2011, Marvel)

In the Ultimate Marvel Universe (a separate universe that contains more realistic interpretations of Marvel’s heroes), Peter Parker is shot by the Punisher and later dies after an all-out battle with his nemesis, the Green Goblin. To replace Parker, Marvel introduced Miles Morales, a boy of mixed racial descent who is now the star of Ultimate Spider-Man. Fans and critics have embraced the new protagonist and he seems to be sticking around for the foreseeable future.

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7. Captain Marvel – The Death of Captain Marvel (1982, Marvel)

In Marvel’s first ever original graphic novel, the Kree warrior Captain Marvel (AKA Mar-Vell) discovers that exposure to “Compound 13” nerve gas has given him cancer, and while his powers keep the disease at bay, it also prevents any treatment. Captain Marvel eventually accepts his fate and quietly dies. In the years since, he’s returned only temporarily, and has largely remained a symbol of tragic heroism in the Marvel universe.

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6. Bucky Barnes ­– Seen in The Avengers #56 (1968, Marvel)

During World War II, James “Bucky” Barnes was Captain America’s plucky sidekick, accompanying the hero on nearly all of missions despite not actually having any superpowers of his own. After Cap himself is thrown from an airborne explosive and trapped in ice, Bucky hangs on and dies trying to defuse it. Even after Cap is revived in modern times, Bucky’s death still haunts him, that is, until his former partner resurfaces as the evil soviet super assassin Winter Soldier. Bucky’s eventually freed from the mind control he was under and is now fighting the good fight again (he even became Captain America for while – see #2).

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5. Barry Allen, The Flash – Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (1985, DC Comics)

Towards the climax of DC’s landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen, The Flash, dies while protecting Earth from the reality-erasing Anti-Monitor. For more than two decades following Allen’s demise, former Kid Flash Wally West carried the mantle of The Flash, until Allen raced back to life in during the events of Final Crisis. Barry Allen is currently the primary Flash of the DCU and, ironically, Wally has been M.I.A. ever since the publishers “New 52” relaunch in 2011.

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4. Jason Todd, Robin – Batman #427 (1988, DC Comics)

The first Robin death occurred in the infamous “Death in the Family” storyline in Batman, wherein editor Dennis O’Neill and writer Jim Starlin called upon fans to vote via a 1-900 number whether or not the Boy Wonder would survive. Fans narrowly chose to dispatch Jason Todd, who was subsequently beaten to death by the Joker. A grief-stricken Bruce Wayne blamed himself and for years viewed it as his ultimate failure. Fifteen years later, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee teased the return of Todd under the guise of the Red Hood in the popular “Hush” storyline, but this was merely a ruse. Todd would eventually return for real in 2005 and has since been active in the DCU as the Red Hood.

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3. Jean Grey – Uncanny X-Men #137 (1980, Marvel)

After wreaking havoc on the galaxy, founding X-Men member Jean Grey, possessed by the destructive cosmic entity the Phoenix Force, sacrifices herself in order to preserve the universe at the end of the classic “Dark Phoenix Saga.” Although the character was resurrected a few years later and has consistently appeared in numerous X-Men titles over the years (usually involving the Phoenix Force in some way), Jean Grey has yet to be officially revived by Marvel. But recent events in 2012’s Avengers Vs. X-Men have led many fans to believe the time for her return may be soon.

2CaptainAmerica

2. Steve Rogers, Captain America – Captain America Vol. 5 #25 (2007, Marvel)

After the events of “Civil War” Steve Rogers turns himself in to stand trial for his role in opposing the government’s superhero registration, but is shot outside the courtroom by a mind-controlled Sharon Carter. Rogers seemingly dies on the courtroom’s steps, but it is later revealed that he had actually been sent through time (similar to Batman). In the interim, Bucky takes up the mantle as Captain America until Steve returned in Captain America: Reborn. Though even after Rogers came back, Bucky remained as Captain America while Rogers led the government law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Since then, however, he’s resumed his role as Captain America, and Bucky has gone back to being the (good) Winter Soldier.

1Superman

1. Clark Kent, Superman – Superman #75 (1992, DC Comics)

During the comic book boom of the 1990s, DC Comics did the unthinkable: they killed Superman. After succumbing to his wounds after an old-fashioned slugfest with the villain Doomsday, Superman died in arguably one of the most widely read stories in all of comic book history and one of the first events to gain international media attention. After his death, the “Reign of the Supermen” began, which featured four potential replacements for the Man of Steel. But like in all good superhero deaths, Clark returned after it is revealed that he wasn’t really dead and was instead recovering in stasis at the Fortress of Solitude.

HMInvincible

Honorable non-DC/Marvel Mention: Everyone – Invincible #100 (2013, Image)

As a sort of nod (or other gesture) to mainstream superhero comics, writer Robert Kirkman and Co. teased “The Death of Everyone” in the indie superhero series Invincible, leading to its 100th issue in early 2013. It’s quickly revealed not to be the case, and a return to the status quo is established within the story’s conclusion. In hindsight the decision seems more like it was poking fun at the “Big Two” (DC and Marvel) for their hyping of a character’s death that is almost never permanent.

12 thoughts on “The 10 Most Memorable Superhero Deaths

  1. RAGGEDT

    While Barry Allen’s death had long-lasting repercussions for the DC universe, Supergirl’s passing in the previous issue (COIE #7), heroically sacrificing herself to save Superman was the emotional highpoint of that series. It was also Kara Zor-El’s finest moment EVER. Oddly, after that gut-renching moment, The Flash’s subsequent death was almost anticlimactic.

  2. superrichkid

    At least you put Batman’s “death” near the bottom of the top ten. It might have gotten a lot of attention (I’m not sure it managed to), but it was clear that he wasn’t going to be gone long. It makes sense that you wouldn’t have listed Supergirl’s death along with Superman’s (Superman Family overkill, so to speak) but, like the Flash, her character was gone for about two decades, which is remarkable given the rate at which superheroes are resurrected these days. All in all, though, a fun list–keep them coming!

  3. Sheldon W.

    I humbly suggest that the death of Supergirl (Crisis on Infinite Earths #7) should have been placed on this list – possibly replacing The Flash.

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