The Greatest Superhero Deaths
The superheroes of comic books are our modern day legends and myths. These super powered being enthrall us with their epic battles, but sometimes with the stakes so high they fall. The history of comics is littered with superheroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for truth and justice. True readers can take comfort in knowing they will probably be resurrected at some point, but a well told story of the death of a superhero is still enough to punch fans in the heartstrings. So here in no particular order are the greatest superhero deaths.
Confessor: In their series, Astro City the creative team of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have created an immersive and expansive superhero universe which often takes years to build. In the shadows of this gleaming metropolis of heroes and villains is the vampiric Confessor. Over the centuries this black clad crusader realized even with the abilities being a vampire afforded him, he could not continue his war on evil alone and recruited a sidekick in Altar Boy. When the mayor, who was an alien invader in disguise declared war on the superheroes of the city the Confessor was the one who exposed the plot at great cost. During a televised press conference the dark hero was attacked the mayor and though he exposed the extraterrestrial plot, he was exposed as a vampire and killed on TV. This proved to be his final gift to his apprentice Brian Kinney/Altar Boy who took on the Confessor mantle. Many in the city (criminals especially) believe the Confessor to still be a vampire giving him a psychological edge in his crusade against crime.
Green Lantern/Hal Jordan: Once the greatest Green Lantern of them all, Hal Jordan protected Sector 2814 and served with honor in the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps. That all changed when his home, Coast City was destroyed by Mongul. The carnage and destruction broke the once unflappable Lantern as he destroyed the Green Lantern Corps. in an attempt to get the power needed to rebuild his city. Jordan took on the name Parallax and became a powerful supervillain both in battle and holding a psychological edge when he had to battle his former friends. Everyone assumed Green Lantern was lost forever until the events of Final Night. As the earth’s sun was in danger of being extinguished, Hal Jordan was forced to reassess everything he had done and heroically gave his life to stop the sun from dying at the hands of the Sun-Eater, but not before giving some help to a few of his old friends. His final act of heroism made him the new host for the Spectre a role Jordan took on as a means to find redemption which he ultimately did.
Cyclops: Since the beginning of the X-Men, the stalwart Scott Summers has held a leadership role. Rarely receiving the same glory and attention as his colleagues like; Wolverine, Storm, or Jean Grey; Cyclops has been a steadfast and loyal soldier for the Xavier’s cause. In the 2000’s something began to change as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely began to show the hero beginning to crack under the years of being in his position. This was the beginning of a massive character arc for the optic blasting which would go on for years. After he caused the death of Xavier, Cyclops began to take a more militant stance in protecting his fellow mutants, even becoming a globally recognized leader in his cause. Recently the Inhumans unleashed a Terrigen Mist which swept the planet and proved to be lethal for mutants who came in contact with it. Scott Summers rallied his fellow mutants to fight back against this genocide, and in the ensuing battle fell to Black Bolt. Readers were surprised though, to find there was a twist. Cyclops had actually died much earlier as a victim of the mist, but Emma Frost knew mutantkind needed a leader to stand up for them, and psychically projected Scott through the war, knowing he was the only one who could fill the need.
Rorschach: In the world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking masterpiece the Watchmen, being a superhero has taken a toll on those behind the masks forcing many to retire. Till fighting the good fight on his own terms is the nihilistic vigilante Rorschach. When one of his former colleagues, the Comedian, is murdered the masked hero figures out there is more at play under the surface. As the conspiracy unfolds, the other heroes eventually succumb to the moral gray area in a plan to save the world at a tremendous cost. It is only the crazed Rorschach who sticks to his guns in the end and rather than prevailing in the face of adversity he is blasted into oblivion by Dr. Manhattan. His anguish and bravery in his final moments are perfectly illustrated by Gibbons as he tears off his mask and faces his former teammate yelling at him to do the inevitable deed.
Supergirl: DC Comics was in the midst of reorganizing their universe and planning for a more streamlined world post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the things they decided was that they wanted to restore Superman’s status as the last surviving Kryptonian, thus the fate of the Maid of Might was sealed. A contingent of people at DC Comics led by Dick Giordano felt that too many charcters where the iconic S made Superman less unique and special, and when the Supergirl film flopped that was all the ammunition they needed. Kara Zor-el died in her cousin’s arms showing nothing short of unflappable courage as she passed. Unfortunately unlike Beppo the Supermonkey or Streaky the Supercat, Supergirl had a fanbase which loved her character and were devastated when she died. Realizing the hole her death left in the DC Universe, multiple attempts were made to find a new Supergirl. Whether it was an angel or a shapeshifter nobody else could do what Kara Zor-el could. She has since been brought back to this post-Crisis world and Supergirl is currently enjoying a greater profile than ever before.
Robin/Jason Todd: It has been said many times that Batman needs a Robin. Someone with youth and energy to balance out his brooding darkness. So when Dick Grayson grew up and became Nightwing, DC Comics knew they had to do something. Jason Todd was introduced as the newest character to take on the mantle of the Boy Wonder. Originally he too was an orphaned acrobat, but his origin was updated to make him a thief who Batman took in and trained. Not wanting to make a carbon copy of Grayson, creators went out of their way to make Todd an absolute unlikable brat who many readers found grating. The powers that be at the publisher realized something had to be done and decided to let the readers choose the fate of Robin. In the now legendary Death in the Family arc the Joker beat Jason Todd with a crowbar and left him in a building as it exploded. Readers were left to decide the fate of the character, and decided the Dark Knight’s latest sidekick would not survive the ordeal. The death of Jason Todd left a powerful legacy on the Batman franchise making the Caped Crusader and those around him a bit more vulnerable. Like many characters, he did eventually return to life, but it was several years later and the events which happened to him clearly left an impact on Jason Todd as he adopted the mantle of Red Hood.
Captain America: To say the Star Spangled Avenger holds an important place in the Marvel Universe is a bit of an understatement. Ever since he burst onto the scene, socking Hitler in the jaw, Captain America has been a cornerstone for Marvel Comics. So when Captain America was killed by a sniper following Marvel’s Civil War it resounded beyond comics and made national headlines. With the nation facing a new era of terrorism and government trampling of liberties, the fact that the most American of heroes was gunned down was a powerful moment. His former sidekick Bucky picked up the shield and it was clear the pressure on him was huge. Across the Marvel Universe the superheroes all mourned the loss of such an important character and reminded everyone of his importance to their world.
Captain Marvel: This is one of the rarer deaths in comics as Mar-Vell has actually remained dead. The Kree hero discovered a previous exposure to a powerful gas had left him with cancer and his own Nega-Bands were preventing any treatment from working. Captain Marvel knew the end was near and faced it like a hero in the first graphic novel published by Marvel. His friends and allies in the superhero community paid their final respects to Mar-Vell and struggled to come to terms with a threat they could not just punch away. The fact that a powerful and dynamic alien hero could die in such a human way touched fans and comics were never the same.
Superman: The greatest superhero who ever existed, he even started the entire genre with his debut in Action Comics #1. The Man of Steel was everything a fan wanted in the perfect hero; he was powerful, kind, honest, and courageous. As the decades passed and tastes changed the seemingly invulnerable Last Son of Krypton seemed a lot less interesting and something was needed to remind people why this character was so beloved. When the powerful Doomsday invaded earth, only Superman proved strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the beast. The two opponents traded blows across Metropolis and Superman battled an enemy who would force the hero to make the ultimate sacrifice. Rather than give up, the Man of Steel fought until the very end to ensure the world would be safe from Doomsday. In this story arc, Superman was given a chance to prove how dedicated he was to protecting his adopted homeworld. The book with the now iconic bloodied logo proved to be one of the best selling issues in the history of comics. Readers were stunned that they now lived in a world without the greatest superhero in it and reassessed their feelings about the character. Inevitably he returned but the Death of Superman is still one of the most important comic book stories of all time.
The Flash/Barry Allen: Most fans and historians agree the Silver Age of comics truly kicked off when Barry Allen donned his trademark red costume and became the newest hero to call himself the Flash. So when Crisis on Infinite Earths hit, the powers that be at DC Comics knew the biggest thing they could do to indicate they were moving into a new age was to kill the harbinger of the last age. The Anti-Monitor prepared to fire his anti-matter canon to wipe out all of existence and only one hero could possible stop him. Barry Allen had been enjoying a sort of retirement, but when his time came he knew what to do. Racing against time the Fastest Man Alive created a speed vortex to draw the fire from the weapon. As he raced to save the universe, Barry felt his energy draining from him as he pushed his powers to a level they had never been before. A resolute Flash never gave even when he realized that he would have to make the ultimate sacrifice. With his thoughts solely on those he loved whom he will leave behind, Barry faded into oblivion with a message of hope. Being a comic book character he was eventually resurrected, but unlike other heroic characters it was not a quick turnaround but rather two decades later.