Top Ten Significant Superhero Deaths
Mortality in Comic Books
Comic books have emerged as respectable works of art that many contend to be simple escapist fare. Usually, the main characters in comics are superheroes – humanoids endowed with special abilities and who are able to go through life’s hardships with much ease. What could be more escapist than that?
As the art developed through the years, stories mirrored realities closer to life. Superheroes faced the same problems that normal people did. They went through a string of emotions and issues. Despite their superhuman abilities, they still had to face their mortality.
If superheroes were fundamentally mortal, they would have to face dying, just like everybody else. Still, a superhero death is a momentous occasion, if only because people believe that the lot of them are indestructible.
However, comic books are still pieces of literature in which mortality becomes central. It’s no surprise, then, that many superhero deaths have occurred. Some of them, however, are considered to be more significant over others. The following lists a few of these momentous occasions.
10. Sue Dibny
Technically Sue Dibny isn’t a superhero. Regardless, she’s important to the comic book world in that she served as administrator to the JLA.
DC’s Identity Crisis (2004) started off as a murder-mystery, with Sue dying at the hands of Jean Loring, wife of Atom Man. Using her husband’s size-shrinking powers, Loring entered Sue’s brain and caused an aneurysm.
The death of Sue Dibny was the proverbial opening of the can of worms. In more ways than one, her death provided the basis for the current status quo in the DC universe.
9. Ted Knight
DC’s Starman series can be seen as putting a family dimension to superhero life. Ted Knight, the original Starman, fathered two sons, David and Jack, who would both take on their father’s role.
Ted Knight gave up his life to protect Opal City from a disastrous nuclear explosion, effectively passing on the Starman responsibility to his son, Jack. His death is significant not just because of heroics. Invariably, it heightened the family issues in the succeeding stories of the Starman series.
8. Captain Marvel/Mar-Vell
Captain Marvel is a part of the Kree, a humanoid, yet alien race. Sent to Earth as a spy, Mar-Vell began to empathize with humans, ending up a traitor to his mother race.
Death often came to superheroes in, well, a very heroic manner. With Captain Marvel, though, the end came because of sickness. Inhaling a gas called “Compound 13,” Mar-Vell contracted an alien form of cancer. Since viewed as a traitor by his homeland Kree, Captain Mar-Vell was unable to find a cure. Who would’ve thought sickness could also lead to the demise of superheroes?
7. Jason Todd/Robin
(Batman: A Death in the Family, 1988)
Batman still needed a sidekick, and writers decided to introduce Jason Todd. This came around the same time DC incorporated reader feedback into its storylines. DC bigwigs decided that with “A Death in the Family (1988),” the readers could call a 1-900 number to vote for their preferred outcome. By a slim margin, fans voted to have Jason Todd killed out of the story.
6. Blue Beetle/Ted Kord
(Infinite Crisis, 2005)
Many readers were surprised when DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005) involved Blue Beetle being shot through the head by Maxwell Lord. Again, the mindset was that superhero deaths were momentous occasions, happening only to “significant” characters. Because Blue Beetle was killed (and has so far remained dead), DC made it clear to readers that death can come to any of its characters.
5. Rorschach/Walter Joseph Kovacs
(The Watchmen, 1986)
Donning a Rorschach blot as a mask, Walter Joseph Kovacs didn’t have superhuman abilities. Instead, he was a highly-skilled fighter who professed a distinctively black and white view of morality.
Towards the end of The Watchmen, the main protagonists were faced with the dilemma of jeopardizing the survival of humanity, all for the sake of upholding virtue. If they divulged the machinations behind recent alien invasions to the rest of humanity, all the gains in unifying the world would be lost.
Rorschach was adamantly against this, and decided to have himself killed if he was alone in believing humanity deserved to know the truth. His death was significant mostly as a signal to the entire comic book world that the running themes about good versus evil are not always clear-cut.
4. Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix
(The Dark Phoenix Saga, 1980)
Taken over by the Dark Phoenix, Jean was responsible for the deaths of billions of people. After much struggle, Jean reasserted control and eventually gave her life up. The Dark Phoenix saga is considered to be a classic in the comic book universe. After all, it has tragedy written all over it.
Dark Phoenix is the dark side of Jean Grey when her powers overwhelmed her, causing her to kill billions of people which made her to be on the Top Ten Comic Book Villains of our lists. Jean Grey on the other hand, has the characteristic of a mild-mannered, sometimes funny but always drop-dead gorgeous women on Marvel and that made her ranked #4 on the Top Ten Most Popular Women In Comics.
3. Clark Kent/Superman
Though happening in combat with a powerful alien named Doomsday, Superman’s death was seen as a simple gimmick. A few months after Superman #75 was released, a new set of characters, all based on the Superman mythos, debuted with comics of their own. Still, for some, the death of the man of steel was a momentous comic book occasion.
2. Barry Allen/The Flash
(Crisis on Infinite Earths, 1986)
In Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986), Allen is captured by the Anti-Monitor. The villain believed that since Allen had the capability to move at speeds fast enough for time travel, he shouldn’t be set loose throughout the universe. Likewise, the Anti-Monitor was set on destroying the Earth, a plan that the Flash easily foiled. However, in the course of saving the day, Allen died.
Though later incarnations would be created, Barry Allen’s version of the Flash has remained dead in the comic book universe. The hint of finality, undoubtedly, puts some mortality to the fantasy in comics.
1. Captain America
(Civil War, 2006-2007)
Observers would say that the Marvel crossover series Civil War (2006-2007) was a reaction to the political climate prevalent all over the world, but mostly in the United States. In this series, a superhuman registration act was passed that required all individuals who had superhuman abilities to register and, consequently, reveal their true identities to the federal government. The law greatly polarized the superhuman community, with Captain America taking the helm of the opposition.
Conflict broke out, leading to the surrender of Captain America. As he was about to be tried for his crimes, Cap was assassinated. The death of the Cap resounded loudly across the comic book community. Of all the Marvel comic book characters, Captain America was the only who hadn’t been killed. Likewise, many contend that since the Captain represented America, his death was like the death of the United States.
Human after All
Superhero deaths humanize superheroes like the ten listed above. In turn, this trend makes comic books a lot more accessible to readers.