The cry to assemble has been issued once again, friends. All over the internet members of the Super-Blog Team Up have noticed their signet rings flashing calling us fans of comic books to come together once more to celebrate our favorite characters and this time we will be discussing our personal top ten lists. For my entry in this round of the Super-Blog Team up, I will be discussing the Top Ten Comic Book Deaths! Mwa-Ha-Ha!
Of course these Top Ten Comic Book Deaths will feature my personal favorite instances of heroes and villains shuffling off their mortal coils so I certainly hope you will share your own choices in the comments section, and I beg you will please bear in mind these choices are in no particular order…except for the Number One spot…that is hands down the greatest exit a comic book character has ever made! Since I will we talking about the demise of these characters you should probably consider all of this to fall under the SPOILERS territory.
10) The Death of Doug Ramsey aka Cypher in New Mutants #60 (1988)
By 1984 I was collecting various comic series on a monthly basis and one of the earlier titles that earned a spot on my pull list was The New Mutants. A group of teenaged Mutants at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters that frequently were called upon to tackle ever increasing threats. Perhaps none more so than when they faced off against Cameron Hodge during the Fall of the Mutants crossover events…
…where Doug Ramsey, whose Mutant power was Omnilingualism, the ability to translate any language whether that be computer, written, spoken, or even that of body language. All of that made him pretty darn smart as well as an excellent diplomat but didn’t lend itself well to combat, thankfully he had fellow team member Warlock to help with that by forming a living technological exosuit for fighting. But in issue #60 of the New Mutants Doug selflessly pushed another teammate, Wolfsbane, out of harm’s way when Cameron Hodge began shooting at her, with deadly results. To add insult to injury she didn’t realize he had taken multiple bullets trying to protect her and kind of scolded him as she leapt into battle herself…not noticing Doug’s response in the ensuing chaos.
I found myself being pretty down for a couple of days after this issue, Cypher was certainly one of my favorite characters…I suppose since it was easier to identify with someone who could understand languages over one that could transform into a wolf or fly through the sky like a human rocket.
9) Arthur Curry Jr. aka Aquababy in Adventure Comics #452 (1977)
I have said before on the site and quite unashamed that I happen to be a very big fan of Aquaman. That probably has a little something to do with watching the Superfriends as I was growing up to be honest. So in 1977 you can imagine the shock of picking up Adventure Comics #452 at my local gas station and upon getting home and reading it…I was shocked. In the comic Black Manta in a round about way has kidnapped Aquaman’s Son, placing the toddler in a special glass case that is slowly filling with air as the water within drains out, sadly “Aquababy” didn’t inherit his Father’s ability to breathe above the ocean depths. The villain forces Aquaman and Aqualad to fight to the death in a gladiatorial styled arena with the promise that if one kills the other he will refill the case with water, though Aquaman is able to defeat Black Manta without killing Aqualad his actions are too late to save his own Son.
That was a pretty heavy comic for a five year old to read.
8) Glenn Ford aka Jonathan “Pa” Kent from Superman the Movie (1978)
Okay. I admit this is just a little bit of a cheat but it still is related to a comics property and features one of the most emotionally stunning deaths that I can remember. Finding that his Son has shown off just a tad when being left behind to tidy up the football equipment at the High School, Pa Kent gives him some wonderful advice and reasons for him to play it low key in front of others…you know what they tried to have Kevin Costner do in Man of Steel.
Glenn Ford delivers grace and humility in his performance as Pa Kent which makes it all the more heartbreaking when his character suffers a heart attack a few moments later. Everything in that scene is brilliant. The way it was setup by Richard Donner, the sweeping score of John Williams, and of course all of the actors involved make this a scene that literally makes me weep every single time I watch it.
[Via] Andrew Murray
This scene also marks the first time I ever remember seeing my Father openly cry during a movie…well…until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
7) The Death of Optimus Prime in Transformers #24 (1987)
Now to be fair I had already seen Optimus Prime’s death a year earlier with Transformers: The Movie. That was an incredibly traumatic experience for me as I looked to Optimus Prime as being the greatest Hero and Leader one could aspire to be. At least I had the Marvel Comic series to help ease the pain…until issue #24 that is…when Prime is killed while failing to save some virtual inhabitants while combating Megatron in a computer simulated world.
6) Chester Cheese aka Little Cheese in Teen Titans #30 (2005)
Don’t walk away, friends. Hear me out. In my youth the first two comic books I followed were Captain America and the Falcon and a funny animal book from DC Comics entitled Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew. Basically think of anthropomorphic versions of some of DC’s most popular icons and you sort of have the idea of what Captain Carrot was about, but mix in the likes of Bowzar the Barkbarian and Oklahoma Bones and you can see the type of comedy, artist Scott Shaw and writer Roy Thomas were bringing to the pages.
In the popular Teen Titans comic series in the early 2000’s the good Captain and his crew were included as a spoof on the darkening of all comic characters, a comic within a comic! In issue #30 it was revealed that Little Cheese: The Micro-Mouse had been savagely murdered by someone.
I understand this was meant as humor, a nice thumbing of the nose to every character in comics having to go through some dark and twisted ordeal but ‘Funny Animal Book’ or not the members of the Zoo Crew were still some of my favorite heroes as a kid.
5 ) A whole lot of characters in Justice League: The Nail (1998)
This story may have taken place in the Elseworld series of comic books but that doesn’t mean seeing the deaths of favorite and familiar characters were any less emotional. As I’ve stated on the site many times some of my most favorite characters from films and literature tend to be the second stringers. Like DC’s Adam Strange who is sort of a John Carter of Mars character, an adventure that was transported to the planet of Rann thanks to being struck by what is called the Zeta beam. He becomes that world’s champion and in the past he was constantly being transported back to Earth once the beam’s effects wore off and have to try and pinpoint where the next Zeta beam would strike.
In Alan Davis and Mark Farmer’s excellent mini-series from 1998 entitled the Nail, Green Lantern and Star Sapphire find the Earth has been surrounded by a force field blocking any attempts to leave. The discovery also reveals the gruesome fate of Adam Strange who was caught when returning from Rann by way of the Zeta Beam.
That’s horrible to be sure but nothing compared to the fates of Batgirl and Robin at the hands of the Joker with his Kryptonian gauntlets at the end of the first issue.
4) The Deaths of Doc, Heavy Metal, Thunder, Crankcase, Breaker, Crazylegs and Quick Kick in G.I. Joe #109 (1991)
Possibly it was just the way the 1990s were but it seemed like every comic was getting dark and gritty and the excellent Larry Hama G.I. Joe series were no exception. To be fair Hama always took a more mature look at the G.I. Joe team and it’s war against the forces of COBRA, it stands to reason that soldiers would eventually die in such a conflict.
Now the reason I was affected by the brutal deaths of the Joe team at the hands of the villainous SAW-Viper and the battle that ensues afterwards is pretty simple, like many of you I grew up with these characters thanks to the animate series as well as the toyline. That’s quite a few years to become attached to these characters.
3) Hollis Mason aka Nite Owl I in Watchmen #8 (1987)
Obviously there are a plethora of good reasons why Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is still so highly regarded by comic book fans. For one thing it was a game changer when it was first published back in 1986, being one of the early comics to show the all too fragile clay feet of a world where super heroes existed…though only Dr. Manhattan had real powers.
Alan Moore built a world where there was briefly a golden age for masked adventures, through the alluring aspects of a team known as The Minutemen but those aspects are continuously to be shown as acts of self-deception. One of these members was Hollis Mason, a beat cop who became a vigilante known as Nite Owl. He is one of the truly noble characters (Though Moore still casts doubt on him as he has written a tell all book about himself and his teammates) and meets a grisly end thanks to what ends up being a case of mistaken identity.
The gang known as the Knot Tops are seeking Nite Owl II when they break into Hollis Mason’s home in the comic, being Halloween night Mason thinks it’s kids trick or treating…
…the next panels while masterfully done are absolutely heartbreaking. Hollis upon being brutally attacked thinks back to his younger days when he and his dog heroically fought the like of costumed gangsters. Pay close attention to that third panel where they even slay his dog who tries to protect his master, subtle but it’s like a punch in the gut nonetheless.
Then the leader of the Knot Tops picks up the trophy, you’ll notice the “In Gratitude” inscribed on its base, given to him for his service as a costumed adventurer before he went public with his identity, before killing Mason with it.
It’s still a moving scene for me because of the unfairness of it all, a hero perishing so brutally…which of course is the emotional response I think Moore was shooting for.
2) Wesley Dodds aka the Golden Age Sandman
I have always been a big fan of the Golden Aged comic heroes in particular those from DC Comics. Kind of like what you saw with Nite Owl I even though that character was created in 1986. That style of hero always gets my attention. So when I read an issue of DC Comics wonderful Secret Origins series featuring the Sandman I was hooked on the character, his personality and attire just clicked for me. A costumed avenger wearing a cloak, fedora, and gas mask literally causing criminals to suffer nightmare thanks to a gas gun? Sign me up!
Though to be fair he didn’t become my absolute favorite comic character of all time until the stunningly awesome Vertigo series created by Matt Wagner and Guy Davis entitled Sandman Mystery Theatre was published in 1993.
Set in the 1930s, the series gave us a look at Wesley Dodds and his costumed alter-ego before he became a member of the Justice Society of America. It presented a very noir look at the Sandman’s heroics and being a Vertigo title was certainly not for children as it took on story elements involving brutal murder, racism, drugs, and the threat of Nazism amongst others.
Wesley Dodds we learned became a crime fighter because of the dreams he was experiencing at night, he was literally compelled to put a stop to the threats he was dreaming about so he could sleep peacfully once more, he would be plagued by them until he stopped the particular threat. This was actually due to the imprisonment of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Morpheus character, who was the embodiment of dreams, Dodd’s prophetic dreams are a side effect of that imprisonment.
I loved the character so much, my friends, that I even created a short film. Going so far as to put it on tape and give out copies to Dave Stevens, John Carpenter, and Mark Schultz while attending Comic-Con in 1998. Now the character of Wesley Dodds and his partner Dian Belmont from the Sandman Mystery Theatre were given a beautiful and moving send off by way of retirement in James Robinson’s Starman series, a title which could be looked on as a love letter to the Golden Age of DC Comics. But in 1999 when a new Justice Society of America comic was about to start up it was revealed in the Secret Files and Origins #1 that to protect the whereabouts of a new Doctor Fate, Dodds subjects himself to his own gas gun and heroically hurls himself off a mountain in Tibet to avoid being tortured by The Dark Man until he reveals the location of the new Fate.
1) Skurge the Executioner in Thor # 362 (1985)
All right. We’ve reached the number one spot. Finally and I’ve saved the best for last because it can truly be said that if one wants to read some of the greatest stories involving Marvel Comics’ Thor they need merely seek out Walt Simonson’s legendary run. It is epic…no…it is EPIC.
Let me put it to you this way. Skurge or the Executioner if you will isn’t even one of my favorite Thor characters and this villain’s heroic demise is without a doubt the greatest exit a comic character has ever had. I first read Thor #362 on the school bus and I was so enthralled until the end of that book that I actually missed my stop!
In an attempt to regain the stolen souls of the mortals of Midgard (Earth) Thor leads a band of heroes including his foe Skurge into the realm of Hela, freeing the souls Thor and his allies intend to guard the very bridge between the realms, at the cost of their own lives holding off the vast armies of the dead at Hela’s command. But Skurge knocks out Thor, this isn’t exactly an act of betrayal because as he tells his allies:
“They made a fool of me, Balder. They laughed at me. Everybody laughs at Skurge. Hela, Mordonna, even the Enchantress I love. They all laugh at me. Except you. Balder is too kind to laugh at Skurge. But whenever they laugh, I hurt inside. Maybe I die a little. Now I think I am dead already. And my axe was destroyed with Naglfar. So I will stay behind and the last laugh will be mine. … I will hold the bridge myself.”
So Skurge will remain behind to buy time for Balder the Brave to get Thor and the mortal souls to safety. That quote alone is epic but then Walt Simonson if you’ll forgive the pun really brings the thunder!
Yes, Skurge the Executioner is slain but that last panel…you will never get more epic than that.