Tragic backstories, incredible feats, super powers and self sacrifice, those are the things needed to create any superhero. Whether they’re male or female, black or white or any shade in between, super powered people need those qualities to really be considered heroes. Which is something that I find kind of absurd, and I’ll tell you why, self sacrifice? Why is that on the list? Look at any superhero and at one point or another they have sacrificed themselves for the greater good, every single one. The really sad part is that some of them did it in terrible runs (Civil War II) or it didn’t really have any effect (Spider-Man). This also flies in the face of the death problem in comics. How someone can die and you just have to wait about a year before they’re back in printing. Everyone has done it, at one point or another. This week I’m going to take a look at some of the pointless sacrifices in modern comics and highlight some that I believe to be rightfully deserved.
Let’s start with the bad…
*This post will be photo heavy. I apologize in advance*
CIVIL WAR II
Let’s run down the body count of the heroes involved in Civil War II and what it meant:
War Machine: He sided with Captain Marvel and had his spine punched out of his body THROUGH his armour by Thanos. He died to give Tony and Carol a reason to fight.
Bruce Banner: Died by Clint Barton firing a specifically designed arrow through his head. He died to increase the stakes on both sides as Clint sided with Tony and She Hulk (Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin) sided with Carol.
Tony Stark: Died to allow Riri Williams to take up his position and add more diversity to the Avengers. He isn’t technically dead, just in a coma.
Rhodey and Bruce’s deaths served no actually purpose except for to antagonize the sides against each other. In the original Civil War, Goliath (Bill Foster) was killed by the rogue Thor clone, Ragnarok, and both sides immediately stopped fighting. They held a funeral for him so they could pay their respects and refused to fight on the day of his funeral. Bruce was killed and the only thing that happened was Hawkeye went on trial for it, a trial in which he was acquitted.
Tony’s death served to introduce us to Riri and allow her the space to take up his mantle. Instead of Jarvis or Friday, she has a Tony Stark AI imbedded in her armour, which can also project a 3D model, that helps her with her tasks. Tony’s was the only death that served an actual purpose and like I said before, he isn’t actually dead.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/ SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
This one might confuse some, but I did like the Superior Spider-Man run. That being said, I also recognize that it was a completely ridiculous death and we all knew it wasn’t permanent. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius succeeded in switching his and Peter’s consciousnesses. Otto was left in Peter’s superpowered younger body, and Peter was stuck in Otto’s older dying body. Before he passed, Peter instilled in Otto his sense of responsibility and his memories, swapping his place in the memories for Otto’s. Otto realizes the error of his villainous ways and vows that Peter is not leaving the City and it’s people in the hands of a villain. Throughout the beginning of the run you are led to believe that this change is permanent and that we are going to have to get used to this new Spider-Man, but that’s not the case. At the end of one of the earliest issues, we are shown a spectral Peter alive and fighting in Otto’s subconscious so that he might regain control of his body. While the whole run was great and gave us some great Spider-Man moments, for me, it felt like there was a giant ticking clock on every issue counting down until Peter regains control. Not really spoiler alert at all… he does, and Otto makes the final sacrifice to let Peter retain his body and duties as Spider-Man.
Peter’s death appeared to be permanent, for all intents and purposes he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I do believe that Marvel received a LOT of flack for this decision which is what prompted the return so quickly. I cannot say for sure, but normally someone isn’t returned to life so quickly after a run, it takes some time. Wolverine’s recent resurrection via the Space Stone, is a prime example of this.
The Death of Superman… What. A. PUBLICITY STUNT! I was a whopping 2 years old when DC Comics pulled this event out of their ass to sell more copies of their Action Comics title, over six million copies to be exact. It was ranked as the top selling comic in 1992 from any single publisher. Superman comic sales had been on the decline for several years following some very lackluster arcs and more interesting characters getting their time in the spotlight. The original idea was for Superman to marry Lois lane, but when the television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman produced an arc of the same type, the writing team wanted to do something different. They decided to kill the big blue boy scout which was completely unheard of at the time; this arc also marks the first inclusion of Doomsday into Superman mythology. DC Comics gave the writers and artists the go ahead and the death of one of their flagship characters was crafted. It involves Clark’s first encounter with Doomsday and his sacrifice to stop the monster. After going blow for blow across the majority of the United States, the fight ended up in Metropolis where the final few punches were thrown.
The arc ended with Superman and Doomsday both delivering a fatal blow to the other and the Man of Steel falling to his enemy. A funeral was held for him, his adoptive father suffered a fatal heart attack at the news, and he was buried under a massive monument to him. Thing is, he wasn’t dead. He was in a coma, where he remained until one of the imposter Supermen, claiming to be him reborn, stole his body and hid it in the Fortress of Solitude. This is also where we were given the Black suit fans were clamoring for in Justice League, as well as that God awful mullet that he sported for nearly a decade…but we just won’t talk about that. This death, like the others I’ve mentioned was just a pointless publicity stunt. There was NO WAY that DC Comics was going to kill one of their Trinity, and even if they did, not leave him dead. Before the end of the run, Superman is back to life and kicking ass with his Tennessee Tophat (mullet) in tow.
JOHNNY STORM aka HUMAN TORCH
I will say, I’ve never really been a fan of the Fantastic Four. It has nothing to do with me disliking them or their powers, I just never got into their stories as a kid. I have seen all the movies… ugh. But when I heard of Johnny Storm’s death at the conclusion of the Three storyline, I was intrigued as to the circumstances and how it was handled. The basic rundown of the arc is that there were three events that the Fantastic Four needed to stop, due to these events happening simultaneously, they split the team. Reed and Sue were off doing their own mission and Johnny and Ben were left to deal with the Cult of the Negative Zone. The Cult had infiltrated the Baxter Building and opened a portal to the negative zone unleashing an Annihilation Wave through the portal at Johnny, Ben (currently de-powered) and the children of the future foundation. Franklin Richards managed to use his powers to kill the insectoids that had come through and with the help of the other children, they deduced the only way to close the portal was to do it from the Negative Zone side. Whoever wen through with that would never come back. Ben began to step through the portal saying he would be able to hold them off long enough to close the portal and for the kids to say bye to Reed and Sue for him. Johnny grabbed Ben and threw him back into the building, stepping through the portal and hitting the over ride to close the portal. As the portal closed the last thing the kids and Ben saw was Johnny igniting himself and declaring that he wasn’t scared of the million to one odds.
Like I said, I was not as familiar with the Fantastic Four as i am with other heroes, but this is something that sticks. Johnny sacrificed himself to save his best friend, his niece, nephew, and a bunch of other children. Not to mention the whole universe! The Annihilation Wave numbered in the billions and would not be able to be stopped easily. Respect to the writers for this, it really helped to show that underneath his brash exterior johnny cares deeply. Johnny obviously didn’t stay dead, but his death lasted for a while.
*Following the reading of Johnny’s Last Will and Testament, wherein he asked Spider-Man to take his place on the team, Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four and received his future foundation suit.*
BARRY ALLEN aka THE FLASH
Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, and it’s his speed that earned him one of the most memorable deaths in comics. During the storyline for Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry was retired from being the Flash and living in the 30th century with his wife. As the Anti-Monitor began his attack on the multiverse, a series of natural disasters began occurring in the future. Barry returned to the 20th century to warn his friends that something was wrong because despite the futuristic technology created to stop them, the natural disasters continued to occur. As he arrived and was about to warn Batman, Barry was pulled into the Antimatter Universe by the Anti-Monitor. Barry was tortured by Psycho Pirate and forced to watch as the Antimatter cannon was prepared to fire at his universe. Barry managed to break free by using Psycho Pirate to turn the Anti-monitor’s servants against him. He began to run around the canon so fast that he was able to strip the outer casing off destroying the canon. Barry needed to run so incredibly fast to accomplish this feat, that he disintegrated and absorbed into the Speed Force. Barry’s sacrifice single handedly allowed for the heroes to triumph over the Anti-Monitor and win the battle. Due to him being absorbed by the Speed Force, there were no remains to bury. A funeral was held in his honour with a gravestone placed in new York City. Barry’s sacrifice was known the world over and served as the catalyst for Wally West (Kid Flash at the time) to take up his mentor’s mantle and become the new Flash.
Barry’s sacrifice is probably the most influential death in comics as a whole. His willingness to sacrifice himself to protect not only his friends and family but the entire multiverse is what cements Barry as one of the best heroes ever created.
*Following Barry’s death, he was absorbed into the Speed Force and became a bolt of Speed Force Lightning. This bolt traveled back in time and was the same one that struck Barry all those years ago giving him his powers. Yes. Barry gave himself his Flash powers.*
GREEN ARROW aka OLIVER QUEEN
Oliver Queen/Green Arrow has sky-rocketed into popularity with the show Arrow starring Stephen Amell in the title role. Most people don’t know how massively different the television Oliver and the comics Oliver are form each other. Television Oliver is much more of a Batman style, Dark and Brooding and very little humour. Comic book Oliver is much more outspoken, humourous and political. Ollie’s death may not have been the most glamorous or the most impactful but it still shows us a death done right. Oliver was recruited by the NSA and asked to infiltrate and eco-terrorist cell known as Eden Corps. After he earned their trust, he began a romantic relationship with the group’s leader Hyrax. Through his connections Ollie learned that Hyrax was loading abomb onto a plane bound for Metropolis. The yield of the bomb was large enough to destroy the City itself and everyone in it. Ollie boarded the plane and through a nasty firefight and battle with another undercover agent, Ollie was the only one alive. He attempted to disarm the bomb, but his arm became trapped in the device. Superman arrived on the plane and tried to help, but Ollie had triggered a fail-safe which would detonate the device if his arm was removed. As the plane neared Metropolis the only option appeared for Superman to dismember Ollie by ripping his arm off. Not wanting to become an amputee Ollie told him know and removed his hand from the device triggering the explosion. Superman was largely unharmed by the explosion but Oliver was completely vaporized. With nothing left to bury, a small ceremony was held in his honour with his son Connor firing an arrow into the air, where it landed marking Oliver’s final resting place. Connor decided to take up his father’s crusade and become the new Green Arrow.
Oliver’s death was one of the events that didn’t affect many, but those it did, it hit hard. Hal Jordan, specifically, was hit very hard by Oliver’s death. So much so that when Hal went crazy and became Parallax, he used his power to bring Oliver back from the dead. This new Oliver lacked his soul, which was still in heaven and became very political in his vigilantism. Oliver may not be the most liked but he is by far one of the most left leaning heroes. His adventures had started becoming more and more about defending the disenfranchised and the downtrodden like Robin Hood, the character he was modeled after.
Death in comics is not permanent, or rarely is. Certain characters have remained dead for years, but most of them find their way back in one way or another, whether it’s a complete universe reset, Alien shapeshifters that kidnapped them years before, time travel or magic our Heroes tend to not stay dead for very long. I don’t mind when heroes bite the bullet and fall in their pursuit, I think it actually makes them more realistic. It shows that they aren’t invincible Gods that can shrug off any damage and keep going. That being said, if you’re going to kill of a character, do it for the right reasons and by God… DO IT WELL!
See you next week!