It’s long been said that in comic books, no one stays dead. Except for Spider-Man’s uncle, Ben Parker. So, it’s only fitting that Peter Parker’s final words were from his late uncle: With great power comes great responsibility.
By now, many of you have read the news of Peter Parker’s demise in the recently released “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 700. In that final issue of “Amazing Spider-Man,” Peter Parker and his nemesis Otto Octavius switch bodies. In the process, Doc Ock gains Peter’s memories and experiences, leaving him to become the new Spidey in “Superior Spider-Man” No. 1, which arrives in January.
Naturally, the news hasn’t been taken so kindly by fans. It’s a gutsy move to kill off one of the most iconic and beloved comic book characters ever. In fact, the character has become more than just a superhero appearing in the funny pages. He’s a pop-culture fixture that has been seen on film, animated series, merchandise, and even a Thanksgiving balloon. But, controversy sells. And, what bigger controversy can a comic company ignite than by killing off a fan favorite?
Killing off a major character isn’t anything new, even for Peter Parker. He was killed by the Green Goblin in ‘The Death of Spider-Man’ storyline in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” series, which brings us back to where we started. Just because a character is dead, writers can, and will, find a way to bring them back to life. Regardless if the death was temporary, controversial, or ridiculous, it’s a major moment for that character’s specific comic book universe. Because when a comic book character dies, it not only changes the entire landscape of the comic world, it also impacts their fellow superheroes and loved ones. Heck, it affects us fans as well, no matter how hooky that sounds.
So, in honor of the late Peter Parker, here are the 12 most significant comic book character deaths of all time.
Kara Zor-El, better known as Supergirl, was Superman’s Kryptonian cousin. She met her demise in the 1985 maxi-series “Crisis on Infinite Earths” while protecting her cousin from the the Anti-Monitor. Her death not only helped humanize Superman, since before Crisis there were a number of survivors from Krypton, and killing some off would show that they could be defeated. Also, the entire post-Crisis DCU could have been altered if she lived, maybe Kara would have prevented The Joker from paralyzing her bff Barbara Gordon in “The Killing Joke.” Besides that, fans believed that her death was the best Supergirl story they ever read. But, if you need any further just look at that cover. Supes is absolute wreck.
11. Alexandra DeWitt
Alexandra DeWitt wasn’t a major character, but her death improved one of DC’s most recognizable heroes, The Green Lantern. After the previous Green Lantern Hal Jordan goes off the deep end and kills the Corps, after he becomes Parallax, Kyle Rayner becomes the new Green Lantern. Unlike most relationships in comics, Kyle and Alexandra’s relationship improves after he becomes a hero. Just as things are looking bright for the happy couple, she’s murdered by Major Force and stuffed in a refrigerator. Yeah. You read that correctly. For most of us, Alexandra’s fate struck a cord. Who wouldn’t want to get revenge on the deranged madman that put your girl in a fridge? Kyle did get revenge, but this death helped him realize that being a hero means taking your emotions and using them for good. That’s something we should all realize.
10. Uncle Ben
The death of Uncle Ben played a major part in Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man. The famous line, “with great power comes great responsibility” is the mantra that Peter carried until his final breath. If Ben Parker had lived, I don’t think Spider-Man would have been the hero we’ve come to love, admire, and respect.
9. Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey)
Jean Grey’s fate occurred after she couldn’t control her powers. She was taken over by The Dark Phoenix and went on to kill a lot of people. This right here is interesting. You have one of the most popular female superheroes becoming one of the greatest villains ever. And, the shock value continued when Jean was able to suppress the Dark Phoenix long enough to sacrifice herself for the sake of humanity. For these reasons, this is why “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is one of the most classic comics of all time.
8. Robin (Jason Todd)
When Dick Grayson got too old to remain as Batman’s kid sidekick Robin, Bruce Wayne found himself a new kid to put in harm’s way. The second Robin, Jason Todd, was killed off after fans infamously voted for it by calling a 1-900 number. Poor Jason was beaten to death by crowbar at the hands of The Joker in 1988’s “Batman: A Death in the Family.” His death not only proved how twisted fans could be, it also showed how brutal The Joker could be. And, it would haunt Batman forever.
7. Bucky Barnes
Captain America’s orphaned sidekick James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes valiantly perished when he and Cap attempted to dismantle Baron Zemo’s experimental drone plane. Cap, of course, gets frozen when he’s thrown into the ocean, while Bucky goes up in flames. Not only does Steve Rogers feel responsible, and alone, he doesn’t even know about Bucky’s death until decades later. Bucky’s death wasn’t just a reminder of the sacrifices made during WWII, his death was one of the longest in comics. In fact, “only Bucky stays dead,” was a common catchphrase. That all changed when he was resurrected as the Winter Soldier, but we’ll save that for another time.
6. Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
The death of Captain Marvel was a landmark moment for Marvel. Not only did Jim Starlin’s “The Death of Captain Marvel,” published in 1982, make fans feel empathy and injustice, it was also Marvel’s first imprint of an original graphic novel. Mar-vell, was a humanoid alien from a race called the Kree, but was denounced as a traitor after he began to empathize with humans. After inhaling a gas called “Compound 13,” Mar-Vell contracted an alien form of cancer and dies. The fact that a real-world disease could kill a superhero really stuck with a lot of fans, but add that with the emotional and well-written story, and you have our 6th most significant death in comic history.
5. Thomas and Martha Wayne
No need to drag this one out. The murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents lead to the creation of Batman. While we never really saw much of them before their deaths, The Waynes were the most crucial element of one of the most popular comic book characters of all time.
4. The Flash (Barry Allen)
Despite there being four incarnations of The Flash, the second Flash Barry Allen is considered by many to be the first hero of the Silver Age of Comics, which is one reason why his death in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (1986) was so important. But, it’s also how he died that really matters. After Allen is taken prisoner by the Anti-Monitor, he escapes, creates a speed vortex to draw the power from an anti-matter cannon aimed at the Earth in, and is killed while running at such high speeds. Besides dying alone, his heroics weren’t even known to those in the DCU.
3. Gwen Stacy
Peter Parker suffered another tragedy in 1973. His girlfriend Gwen Stacy is kidnapped by the Green Goblin. She’s thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge and Spidey, unlike with his Uncle Ben, steps in. He uses his web to stop Gwen from falling, but her neck is snapped as a result of the sudden stop. Her death stayed with Peter forever, but outside of the book it was also significant. For starters, fans were shocked. Gwen Stacy was a popular character and even had fans of her own. Also, many cite “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” as the end of the Silver Age of comics.
2. Captain America (Steve Rogers)
The bloody and destructive “Civil War” storyline tear the Marvel Universe apart. And, just when you thought it was over, Steve Rogers is assassinated. The series leading to Cap’s murder occurs after he turn himself in. As he’s being lead into the courthouse, he hears a shot and moves S.H.I.E.L.D. agent out of the way, resulting in him taking the shot. The Marvel Universe, and fans alike, were shocked and saddened by the loss. Even after being labeled a traitor and coward, Steve Rogers did what was right by sacrificing himself. His death wasn’t just a major blow in comics, it was also a major blow to America.
In 1992 DC did the unthinkable. They actually killed Superman. Whether or not you’re a Superman fan, there’s no denying that he is the most well-known and iconic superhero ever. Killing him off was just not controversial, it was downright insane. “The Death of Superman” sent shock-waves through the DCU. The seemingly invincible Superman had been killed. Lois Lane lost her beloved. And, Metropolis became overrun with crime. “The Death of Superman” was a momentous occasion, both in and out of the book. It’s still unbelievable to think that it actually happened, despite DC bringing Supes back to life.
Images Via Wikimedia Commons, except Barry Allen via Wikia, Inc.