Comic book heroes have a short lifespan, but fortunately for us fans, they have a way of coming back as they never stay dead for long. With recent news that Wolverine is about to be killed off (yet again), we decided to put together a list of the top ten most shocking comic book deaths.
Spoilers follow, so if you’re not up to date on the latest major series, you might want to skip this one! If you’re ready, take a look at our list of top ten superhero deaths, and let us know which moments shocked you the most.
10. Steve Rogers Death: The Dignified Passing Of Captain America
Steve Rogers’ death came as a surprise to many comic fans, mostly due to the timing. Right out of the Civil War, it seemed that everything was going to be okay.
Both pro and anti-registration sides had called a truce the moment before Captain America could kill Iron Man, which was a bit of a letdown after a series hyped to such a degree — we all knew someone was going to be killed off.
Coming up the steps to the courthouse, Captain America was gunned down on orders from Red Skull, and the Marvel world changed forever. (Or at least until, like all comic characters, he was revived).
Rogers’ death is notable for bringing Bucky back into the mask, and his assassination made real-world mainstream news.
Co-creator Joe Simon said, after finding out about Rogers’ death, “Cap is one of the great comic book icons, and as dangerous as the world is today — more than it was in the 1940s — we need him around more than ever to act as our moral compass.”
9. Superman Death: Dying To Save The World
The Death of Superman is one of the highest-selling comic books of all time, and the final line, “For this is the day–that a Superman died,” still brings tears to the eyes of comic fans.
Luckily this particular comic book death was short-lived, but his battle with the government-created weapon of mass destruction, Doomsday, remains one of Superman’s most iconic battles.
Doomsday has since returned for a number of special issues, including The Doomsday Wars and Infinite Crisis, but no matter what new stories he appears in, he’ll be forever remembered as the villain who killed Superman.
8. Barry Allen Death: Dying To Save The World (pt.2)
In one of the most shocking and grisly comic book deaths, Barry Allen, The Flash, gives his own life to save the human race in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Anti-Monitor, the supreme and near-invincible ruler of the anti-universe, attempts to destroy Earth with an anti-matter cannon.
Because The Flash is the only hero who can travel to other universes at will, the Anti-Monitor locks him away while he prepares his cannon. The Flash escapes, making it to the cannon just in time, and creates a speed vortex around it to destroy it.
Unfortunately, during this heroic act, The Flash absorbs more energy than he can handle and destroys himself, along with the anti-cannon and the Anti-Monitor, resulting in one of the most climactic and disturbing comic panels on our list.
7. Wolverine Death: Blasted Away By Sentinels
The newest series isn’t the first time Wolverine has died.
Not so long ago, in X-Men: Days of Future Past (the series, not the recent film) the X-Men are summoned by Kitty Pryde to prevent a moment in “past history” that brought down government control of mutants, leading them to be interred in camps.
In this “future world,” the Sentinels rule the United States, blasting everything in their way with their powerful hand cannons. Unfortunately for Wolverine, not even his healing factor or adamantium skeleton could withstand a fatal blast, leading to his death in the Future Past timeline.
6. Dark Phoenix Mystique Death: The Ultimate Self-Sacrifice
After Jean Grey is exposed to a blast of radiation from a solar flare when returning from a mission in space, she begins to develop new powers that alters her personality.
Reaching her full potential as a telepath and telekinetic, she becomes an easy target for Mastermind, who wishes to control her powers and ultimately prove himself worthy of inclusion in the nefarious Hellfire Club.
After her powers leave her control, and she inadvertently kills billions of people by consuming a star, Phoenix, now Dark Phoenix, sacrifices herself to save the people she loves.
5. Peter Parker Death: A Tragic Love Scene To End The Series
In a comic book death worthy of a classic character, Peter Parker finally meets his demise at the hands of Vulture, Electro, Dr. Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Sandman, and Norman Osborn, but not before saving the love of his life, Mary Jane, as well as Aunt May.
The conclusion to the series, The Death of Spider-Man, this marks the first and only time Peter Parker has died (though he once died in a silly alternate story line in Dr. Octopus’ body, but we won’t count that).
Even though the comic gave away the ending in its title, many fans were shocked that Parker actually died, bringing an end to the series.
4. Lori Grimes Death: A Very Graphic Demise
As a Walking Dead fan, you know that characters are going to die as soon as you become attached to them, and that no one is spared. In a climactic final scene, The Governor fires at Lori as she’s escaping the prison with her and Rick’s newborn.
The bullet pierces her back, killing her and the child, and the black and white full-panel scene is both shocking and horrifying. This is the moment that changes Rick forever, as he could do nothing to save her, and completely alters the tone of the comic in subsequent issues.
Lori might not have been a fan-favorite character, but the death of Rick’s wife and child was unforgettable in a comic filled with unforgettable moments.
3. Gwen Stacy Death: A Tragedy That Marked Spiderman’s Fate
Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane’s rival for Spiderman’s heart, has really been through some tough times. In The Night Gwen Stacy Died, Spiderman catches Gwen as she’s falling during a battle with the Green Goblin, but unfortunately, not in time.
This iconic moment was recreated in the newest movie in the Spiderman franchise, The Amazing Spiderman 2: Rise of Electro.
One of the most important events in the Spiderman series, Gwen Stacy’s death cast a dark shadow over the rest of Spiderman’s life, and his battle with the memory of losing her continues to haunt him in the current series.
2. Jason Todd Death: Killed Off By Popular Demand
This is one heartbreaking story. Jason Todd, never a very popular Robin, found himself at a crossroads in the Batman series.
Writer Dennis O’Neil decided to leave Robin’s fate up to his audience, releasing a 1-900 number in the back of the comics for fans to call in and vote for the character’s survival or death.
After over ten thousand fans called in, the decision was clear. Robin was beaten by The Joker and left to die in an explosion. Although it was The Joker who did the honors, it was the fans who actually killed him, making this quite possibly the saddest comic book death in history.
1. Alexandra Dewitt Death: Grizzly Scenes & Green Lantern’s Heartbreak
Topping our list is a character you might not recognize, but wins our vote for the most shocking comic book death of all time.
Alex DeWitt was the girlfriend of Kyle Rayner before he received the Green Lantern Power Ring. She was essential in helping him train and become the new Green Lantern, so much so that one of Kyle’s greatest villains, Major Force, sees her as a threat.
This one earns the top place because of the horrifying method by which Major Force kills her. After strangling her, he cuts up her body, leaving it in the refrigerator for Kyle to find.
The full-panel of Kyle’s discovery of her body is the most shocking moment in comic book history, and is continuously referenced as the darkest and most-important scene in the Green Lantern chronology.
Comic Book Death Takeaways
Killing off a popular comic book character is always a risky business. The fan backlash is dramatic without fail and sometimes threatens to bring an end to the comic franchise.
Comic book deaths always generate a lot of emotions: certain readers vow never to read the comic in question again, others lament the creators’ decision to kill their favorite characters while the very few justify the direction they take, citing artists’ creative license.
One thing is certain, though: each of these top ten superhero deaths carry enormous weight and are some of the most iconic moments in the history of comic books.