The Top 10 most memorable deaths in comics.
10. The Flash (Barry Allen) (Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) No. 8)
Barry Allen went out like all great heroes should — sacrificing himself to save the world. In 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, Allen stops the Anti-Monitor’s plan to destroy the Earth with an anti-matter cannon, ‘killing’ himself in the process. He would return 23 years later, and there is some debate as to whether he died at all, but given DC Comics was offing heroes left and right during “Crisis” (Supergirl had died in the previous issue), this was one of the sadder moments of our comic book-reading childhood.
9. Elektra (Daredevil (1968) No. 181)
In 1982’s Daredevil (1968) No. 181, Frank Miller offed Elektra in a battle against Bullseye. Through some mumbo-jumbo ninja mystical stuff she returned later (don’t they all?), but her death became a landmark moment in Matt Murock’s life.
8. Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) (Marvel Graphic Novel (1982) No. 1)
The alien Skree Empire’s greatest warrior, Mar-Vell, contracted it after being exposed to “Compound 13” nerve gas. His nega-bands kept the cancer at bay mostly, but also caused him to resist all known forms of treatment. As Mar-Vell faces his final moments, Thanos and Death appear to guide him into the afterlife. Cancer sucks.
7. The Comedian (Watchmen (1986) No. 1)
As the starting point for Alan Moore’s masterpiece The Watchmen, the mystery of who killed The Comedian is the rare case where the character dies before we really even get to know him. As Rorschach would say. “hrm”.
6. Supergirl (Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) No. 7)
Easily one of the most iconic and duplicated covers on this list, Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) No. 7 ended Kara Zor-El’s life as Supergirl. Her popularity naturally lead to her resurrection years later, but in 1985 seeing Superman holding his dead cousin’s body on the cover of an event comic was shocking.
5. Bucky (The Avengers (1963) No. 56)
Sure, Captain America’s WWII sidekick lived through this and went on to become the ass-kicker known as Winter Solider, but we’re not talking about that version. In 1968, when the fate of Bucky Barnes was revealed in The Avengers (1963) No. 56, the impact was so profound, it was a major motivator for Cap that lasted nearly four decades.
4. Robin (Jason Todd) (Batman (1940) No. 428)
The second person to take on the Robin mantle, Jason Todd was also the first to die. In 1988, during the “Death in the Family” storyline, DC Comics allowed readers to call a phone number to vote on whether Drake would live or die at the hands of The Joker. It was close, but death won 5,343 to 5,271 (allegedly due to some poll tampering by a single person using a computer to call the death number). The character would later return as the Red Hood, but this Robin’s death greatly effected Batman and his handling of future sidekicks.
3. Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) No. 698)
Technically, it was Doctor Octopus that died, but it was Peter Parker we all lost. Writer Dan Slott slipped Doc Ock’s mind into Peter’s body and things got kinda weird for over a year as the “Superior Spider-Man” took the Wall-Crawler in a decidedly darker direction. So was Peter dead? Alive? A spirit? A ghost? We’re still not sure, but either way it’s good to have the original back.
2. Superman (Superman (1987) No. 75)
DC Comics kill THE biggest superhero in the world? Like most on this list, the answer was “kinda” but that didn’t stop the masses from snatching up multiple copies of Superman (1987) No. 75 with its now iconic black bagged, bleeding ’S’ cover. The storyline ended up giving us several lasting characters, including Steel and Doomsday.
1. Jean Grey/Phoenix (The Uncanny X-Men (1978) No. 136)
She destroyed a whole race of aliens, so she really did have to go, but that didn’t make Jean Grey’s suicidal sacrifice any less heartbreaking or tragic. “The Phoenix Saga” ran for almost ten issues in 1980 and changed the X-Men forever. Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force that possessed her have returned several times since, but her original death remains one of the most well-known and referenced storylines in comics.