Poll Position: You’re killin’ me, Smalls

Since it's Academy Awards Nominations Announcement Day, I thought we should continue on our run of discussing the various "best/greatest ever" aspects of super hero comics. Today our subject is death!


So loosen up those spittle-flecking muscles and let's rumble!

Before I start, in the interest of full disclosure I should admit that I haven't read all of the stories below. So my commentary will be colored by that. What can I say, I suck. Also, I am old so some of these stories had a greater impact on me personally due to when I was reading them than they might perhaps warrant based on either the actual story or its place in comics history.

Finally, each of us will have our own definition for what makes a story "great", which is a major part of the fun. I look forward to vigorous debate in the comments about why you choose the one you do, what you think "great" means, and why I personally am a moron. Let the indignant spittle fly!

  • Superman, "The Death of Superman": This certainly garnered a lot of media attention at the time, partly due to the fact that arguably the greatest character in history was meeting his end and partly due to the frenzied activity of comic book speculators snapping up hordes of copies. For me, the impact of the story was diminished because, come on, we all knew Superman wasn't going to stay dead. Although had he realized he'd be resurrected with a mullet, he might have reconsidered. But the story itself was a bit weak for me; I wanted Superman's death to have more going on than just a massive slugfest in downtown Metropolis. I mean, freaking Ferro Lad got to die saving the whole galaxy, but Superman gives it up for some prime real estate? Come on.
  • The current Fantastic Four arc: I'm not reading this, and I don't want to spoil who the character is that gets it, but I thought some of you might be into it. And/or it might be awesome.
  • Jean Grey, "Dark Phoenix Saga": Even though she doesn't stay dead (who does besides Ben Parker these days?!), the story had a major impact when it happened and still is talked about in hushed tones.
  • Batman, "Batman: RIP": I admit, I haven't been reading this. But like the "modern" crop of dead characters, you knew all along it was just a gimmick to goose sales and Bruce would be back.
  • Gwen Stacy, "The Night Gwen Stacy Died": Gwen's one of those rare characters that both had a major impact on the main book and stayed dead, at least in the main continuity. The issue was controversial at its time, and I think its impact was only magnified because she was an innocent bystander without even any powers of her own. Say what you want about Marvel and Spider-Man, when people die in his life, the repercussions echo for a long, long time and affect him deeply. For Spider-Man, at least back in the day, death was not a marketing gimmick, it really mattered.
  • Jason Todd (Robin), "Batman: A Death in the Family": I was checked out of comics during this entire episode, therefore it doesn't matter to me personally. But I know it does to people who were active in the genre then, so I look forward to hearing you make your case in the comments.
  • Barry Allen (The Flash), "Crisis on Infinite Earths": On the one hand, Flash was one of my four favorite characters while I was growing up. On the other hand, Crisis was a colossal waste of time and I hated it. Perhaps the fact that Barry died during the series is part of my dislike for it, which in a weird way is an argument in favor of its importance. But as a general rule, I heavily discount deaths that occur in the course of a "Major Event", because they tend to (for me) get lost in the noise.
  • Jor-El, "Action Comics #1": This is a bit of a stretch, but I think Jor-El appeared enough throughout the Silver Age to merit inclusion here. And without the heroic, sacrificing father sending his powerful sun off to redeem humanity, the Superman mythos wouldn't be what it is. But honestly, Jor-El would be more in the "Supporting Actor in Death" role here.
  • Ben Parker, "Amazing Fantasy #15": Ben Parker, on the other hand, is even MORE influential on his super-progeny than Jor-El. And even better, he stayed dead, in multiple incarnations! That's really saying something. Even in the Ultimates continuity, Ben stays among the dearly departed. Without Ben, Spider-Man would probably not exist, and certainly would not be the character he came to be. I can't think of another character whose death affected the main protagonist as profoundly, and for as long, as much as Ben Parker.
  • Ferro Lad, Legion of Super-Heroes, "Adventure Comics #353": I admit, I included him mostly because I love me some Legion. And I thought it was cool that in this group of super teens, one would sacrifice himself and be honored for it for so long. I remember there was even a "Hall of Fallen Heroes" or something. That whole aspect of a big group with multiple moving parts and death lurking in every adventure was a big part of their appeal.
  • Steve Rogers/Captain America, "The Death of Captain America": I admit, I didn't read this one either. Mostly because I knew it was just another gimmick, and I get tired of being jerked around.

So that's the list I came up with, and now I turn it over to you all for debate and discussion. For me personally, I'd have to go with Jean Grey. I think the story was the best written, coolest, and most powerful of the lot.

How about you?

(Image ©2007, Marvel Comics, Cover of Captain America vol. 5, 25 (Apr 2007). Art by Steve Epting.)

38 Responses to Poll Position: You’re killin’ me, Smalls

  1. Rob Barrett says:

    Jeff, you’ve ill-advisedly left off the death of Skurge the Executioner in THOR #362. As a result, the poll is utterly invalid. 😉

  2. Me, Myself & I says:

    I went with ben Parker. Of all those listed, he was the most influential on the main character. Heck he is the whole reason the main character became what he is. Come to think about it, Gwen Stacy was my second pick. I think the fact that these two characters died in the Spiderman stories (and stayed dead) made them that much more believable. It made the hero’s and villains actions actually matter and have lasting consequences.

  3. Myro says:

    I’ll admit that I was checked out of comics during “Death in the Family” as well, and found out about it from friends (and later through other media), the only reason that Jason Todd’s death was significant was that most everyone hated Jason Todd. I mean, the fans voted to have him killed. And in the end, although a lot of people held out that this one would last, it ended up being as permanent as two-thirds this list, when Jason reappeared as the Red Hood. But I’m just saying.

    I’m almost completely with MMI on this one, except that I’ll take Gwen Stacy over Ben Parker given the shock value of how Gwen died during the comic, and how iconic it is in comic book history.

  4. CPrime says:

    Ummm… excuse me? Where’s the Death of Captain Marvel?

    Or how about the Dark Phoenix Saga?

    Or when Jean really did die in New X-Men #150?

  5. CPrime says:

    Oh I didn’t see Dark Phoenix on the list. Fine, but where’s Captain Marvel and when Jean Grey actually died.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Marvel was a wuss.

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    (Can’t you just SEE the spittle flecking my screen?!)

  8. CPrime says:

    What? The what doing what to your screen? This isn’t that kind of website, Jeff.

  9. Joshua says:

    If you’re looking to honestly answer this question, you have to ask yourself: just whose death had the most emotional impact on both the main/title character and yourself. Some of the characters listed above died as heroes– sacrificing themselves for the world, a city, their teammates, or a loved one. And while you do grieve at their passing, it’s a death I can’t say is truly under tragic circumstances (…besides, Jeff is right. You know their death is temporary, therefore your grief is lessened).

    Now, Jason Todd, Gwen Stacy, and Ben Parker died as victims. Jason Todd’s death was the subject of countless Batman issues, affecting him for such a time that he even considered never allowing another kid to become Robin. Yet, Jason was trained to deal with the criminal element, so was he really a victim per se? The Joker had to ambush him, catching him in a vulnerable position before even offing him. Besides, Jason did eventually come back. Gwen Stacy, on the other hand, was a victim. She was caught in the crossfire between Spiderman and the Goblin; in fact, she was chosen by The Green Goblin because, after discovering Spiderman’s identity, he wanted to strike at Peter’s very heart. And yet…(and say what you will) could it even compare to Uncle Ben’s death? No.

    There would be no villain proper to take Uncle Ben’s life. Rather, it was ultimately because Spiderman failed to act that inadvertently cost Uncle Ben his life. I never fail to get a lump in my throat when I read that panel where Spiderman realizes he could have prevented Uncle Ben’s death. The tears streaming down Peter’s face, the look of horror and regret– it kills me, boys. And impact? Spiderman would have never been “born” if not for Uncle Ben’s death. Spiderman came to embody the truth of “With great power comes great responsibility.” by the most tragic of lessons.

  10. Myro says:

    In regards to Captain Marvel, I presume we’re talking Mar-vell, in which case, I’ve got to take Jeff’s side on this one. As tragic as a death from cancer is, major super heroes should not die from wasting terminal illnesses. They should either die in battle against a dangerous foe, or by sacrificing themselves to save others (their team/sidekick, the city/country/planet/universe). So Colossus “dying” after injecting himself with the Legacy Virus in order to give Hank McCoy a chance to come up with a cure is cool, because he is sacrficing himself to save mutantkind, but Mar-Vell contracting cancer almost seems pointless.

  11. CPrime says:

    It wasn’t pointless at all. Captain Marvel’s death was unique in that when we think of the death of a superhero, we think of a very extravagant battle or some heroic sacrifice. They are, in our minds, immune to the ailments of the common folk. Mar-Vell, one of the most powerful superheroes ever, died from cancer. It was a foe that he saw coming and was powerless to stop it.

    And if you want to talk about impact, every single hero of the Marvel Universe was at his death bed. In addition, a two-page spread from this story sticks out in my mind. Rick Jones, who, understandably, is not dealing with the death of his hero very well. He goes off on several of the greatest scientific minds among the heroes including Hank Pym, Simon Williams, Hank McCoy, T’Challa, and Reed Richards. He berates them for wasting their vast collective intellect, which if applied, could be used to cure diseases like cancer. It was a wake-up call to Marvel’s best, who realized that defeat doesn’t always come at the hands of supervillains and that they could be doing more than what they were doing.

  12. CPrime says:

    Plus, Jeff doesn’t have a side on this one. His response was “Captain Marvel’s a wuss.”

  13. CPrime says:

    Okay, now I’m going to put away my Mar-Vell soapbox and take out my Cap one.

    You say it’s cheapened because it didn’t last. I disagree.
    Captain America’s death was powerful because of the timing of not only his death but also his resurrection, of sorts.

    Put yourself into the story. If you look at everything that Marvel had put its heroes through starting with the destruction of Genosha, to Avengers Disassembled, to Xorn’s destruction of New York City, to Nick Fury’s Secret War, to Annihilation, to House of M and Decimation, to the explosion at Stamford which led to the SHRA and the Civil War, and you look at all that was lost and ask yourself, how bad could it get.

    Then you see the single greatest Marvel superhero ever (maybe not the most powerful or the strongest, but the greatest hero), Captain America, first become a fugitive, then surrender to authorities and eventually shot by his GIRLFRIEND. In that one moment you begin to wonder how it all came to this.

    And they want to stop and mourn but they can’t. Because half of the heroes are still fugitives while murderers and madmen earn amnesty for hunting them, and now you don’t know who is really who they say they are because all of a sudden the Skrulls are here and you don’t know how long they’ve been here. Then as the final blow in that battle, you see the death of Janet Van Dyme, whose death was merely a last ditch weapon of spite by the Skrulls.

    And you still can barely take the time to mourn her loss or the return of all those who were replaced by the Skrulls, because Norman Osborne has almost absolute power and he and his “Avengers” spit on every iconic image of everything good and noble.

    But who comes back to save the day, but Captain freaking America, Steve Rodgers. Norman’s gone, the Avengers are reunited, and for the first time in years, the good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad.

    That my friends is an argument for The Death of Captain America as the greatest death story in superhero history.

  14. CPrime says:

    Maybe the finality of the death of the superhero doesn’t cheapen it after all. Maybe it’s more about the effect of the absence of that hero on the lives of those who are still alive. Which makes you appreciate it all the more when they inevitably do come back.

    Yeah, I just blew all your minds.

  15. Frevoli says:

    I went with Batman, time to explain why.

    Here’s one of the Superhero genre’s greatest characters, who is not actually super. He has no abilities, he’s as mortal as the people he saves. He faces monsters, meta-humans, robots and psychopathes, getting placed into all sorts of elaborate traps and comes out unscathed (minus the odd cut, bruiseor broken spine). Death follows him; his parents, Dick Grason’s parents, Jason Todd… etc. His enemies kill, but he never crosses that line (which, if you think about it, iincredible considering what he has to deal with). And whatever happens, you’ll think “he’ll be okay, he’s Batman”.

    So with RIP your expectations are there. With each page, you’re wondering “Will it be this, will it be that”. And when (Spoilers) he doesn’t die and instead they leave it until Final Crisis where he sacrifices himself to kill Darkseid. Having kept the Radion bullet (as Batman does keep interesting momentos) and breaking his gun policy. The all powerful lord of Apokoilips defeated by this normal man.

    Yes of course it wasn’t permanant (as most Superhero deaths often are) but regardless, just how it all came together makes me favour this one.

  16. Frevoli says:

    CPrime (14)


  17. MScat says:

    I agree with Myro’s first comment…I think both the Jason Todd and Gwen Stacy have the most impact.

    Gwen Stacy had an impact on readers because NOONE saw it coming…I mean come on she was spider-man’s GIRLFRIEND he was planning to marry her. Everyone wanted to see spider-man save the day, but writting good fiction isn’t about what READERS want…its about whats going to hit your readers in the teeth (in a good way) And in true spidey fashion He blamed himself for it.

    Jason Todd was the complete opposite…If you were one of those (VERY FEW) people who liked him and wanted him to survive then you were shocked. But the thought that the writers left his fate in the hands of the readers is really dark and cool…and something i don’t think other writers would be brave enough to do. (I mean if we had a choice in who lives and dies in the comic universe it would be CHAOS!) Anyways the other thing I like about Todd’s death is the MANNER in which he died. Most of us knew how twisted the Joker was…but even at that it was hard for the “Clown Prince of Crime” to be thought of seriously. Until he shot Barbara Gorden in cold blood paralyzing her(which was permanent in the comics…id like to add) and then by beating to a pulp and killing batmans own sidekick. This cemented the Joker as a dark, dangerous, villain who would haunt the Caped Crusader for the rest of his career.

    As far as the pheonix goes…The only thing about that is how much everyone on the x-men team cared about Jean Grey so her death was important to the comic.

  18. MScat says:

    BTW…we were all happy to see Dick Grason become batman. What better story than that…The original Robin all grown up now taking his master’s place and continuing his legacy.
    (also liked how Dick had to EARN the cowl)

    Doesn’t get much better than that

  19. Joshua says:

    CPrime & Frevoli– killing a character these days is sadly nothing more than a sales gimmick. You’ll pardon my cynicism, but it is cheap. In fact, I wish some writer would inject some fourth wall awareness into the supporting cast the next time a major character dies. For example:

    The clatter of a dozen keyboards comes to an abrupt silence as a bloodied alien drags its mangled body into the bullpen of the Daily Planet, moaning in half-a-dozen unknown languages before finally reaching the one the startled staff can understand.

    Alien: Denizens of Terra…I am…Meegor of Korua Prime–

    He pauses a moment, swallowing down a rancid mixture of what passes for his blood and saliva.

    Alien: 13 standard Garthlacks ago…which in your time approximation would be 3 weeks ago, a strange visitor answered our hails for assistance against the D’ranjo Imperium. H-he valiantly held them at bay, marauder after marauder, until they all fell at his red boots. Heeeee–

    The alien, apparently choking, grasped its elbow, then massaged it until his breathing stabilized.

    Alien: He…died shortly thereafter. Succumbing to his wounds.

    Collapsing to a heap on the ground, the alien conserves the last of his strength and continues.

    Alien: He told me…he tol–told me…”Tell Lois I love her and goodbye”. And shortly afterward, he died.

    Jimmy Olsen, standing nearby and unfazed, takes a sip of his coffee.

    Jimmy: Meh.

    Alien: !?

    Jimmy: It happens. Besides, he’ll be back good as new in a couple of months.

    Lois: Jimmy, what are you talking about? He’s been back since Thursday.

    Perry: Yeah, Olsen! I spotted him at 5th and Byrne yesterday. And what do I pay you for? To loiter!? Get me one of those coffees, NOW!

    Jimmy: Er–yes Chief!!

  20. CPrime says:

    Joshua, your point is invalid through your use of Jimmy Olsen. I’m sorry.

  21. CPrime says:

    Just kidding. But seriously, you’re saying that all superhero deaths are cheap sales gimmicks. I’ll grant the premise that there is a sales motivation there. But you can’t tell me the Civil War story wouldn’t have been less than it was without the death of Cap?

  22. ajw says:

    Robin, red hood, hush all things jason todd’s death helped as well as bringing back more mature readers he was the greatest death ever like when Ch’P was hit by a truck in the green lantern annoyance now gone and only brought back when an ass kicking oppurtunity arises.

  23. MScat says:

    The dispute over deaths being sales gimmicks is invalid all together.

    Here’s my explanation: Comic book writing is a BUSINESS…do you think comic books would still exist if there was no money in it. HECK NO!

    Writers should have a passion and love for what they’re writing of course but bottom line is…they want to get paid just as much as we all do.

    If a certain character is dropping in sales and needs a boost so they can keep getting paid for the work they put into it, why shouldn’t they pull some stunt to do it! People seem to think this cheapens the work…and in some cases (when theres a lack of story, point, or even thought into a character dying) yes it can be kind of a cheap shot at the audience…

    but honestly its part of being a super hero that you will look death in the face from time to time…and its part of being a writer that you will write the stories that will keep a steady income while still being appealing.

    (But as a rule you should still have respect for what you write EX: Marvel’s Ultimatum…somewhere along the lines the writers lost respect for the story so they just threw a buch of…for lack of an ‘appropriate’ word…CRAP together and shoved it under the noses of readers for us to gag over the disgustingly fowl stench)

    Putting my OBVIOUS hatred of Ultimatum asside. Writers are people same as you and me. They are not like the hero’s they write about…although we’d like to view people like Stan Lee as being super! If we comic nerds can accept that Peter Parker first chosen to use his gifts to earn money…how much more so can we, the readers, accept the same kind of actions from the writers. They want to create appealing work that also earns them a living…hence the “chap sales gimmicks” that have been going on ever since comic books were created…you think we would have learned to just roll with it by now 😉

  24. ajw says:

    still jason todd was hated so to boost sales he was killed so they can be a sales gimmick
    super man doomsday huhumpmrphhermrph not the hate but the sales hence the blackout packages

  25. CPrime says:

    Ok, so let’s forget all exterior factors: sales, fan voting, etc. Let’s focus on internal impact within the continuity of the respective “universe.”

  26. Joshua says:

    MScat, I have no problem with a publishing business doing what it can to ratchet sales on a flagging title. However, instead of utilizing an old-hat trick like killing a title/flagship character, shouldn’t they try something unexpected and groundbreaking? You even hinted at it yourself at these deaths: we’ve been there, done that– it’s becoming lazy writing. That’s not to say a good story can’t be written around a character dying, but as a reader it has to have a lasting impact; that’s the whole point of this poll. Now, we can go back and forth with this, but wouldn’t offering a suggestion be a better endeavor?

    I’ll give you two great examples: Planet Hulk– while we the readers knew he wasn’t dead, many in the Marvel Universe believed The Hulk so. And while he was exiled, didn’t we get a great story by Greg Pak? Demon in the Bottle– granted, Tony Stark didn’t die, but his good name and standing pretty much did. We don’t need another needless event death to get us to care about these characters or to gain readership.

  27. CPrime says:

    Touche, Joshua. You bring up a great point, but the debate here is not whether or not a death story is better or worse than another story. The death stories, lazy or not, are iconic parts of comic book history. And we’re debating which one is best or why.

  28. zaheelee says:

    Okay, I have to admit that I am a little upset that everyone here says that Crisis on Infinite Earths was just a gimmick (which could be because I am guessing half of you people were actually there when it came out). Being fairly new to comics (a die hard fan for two years), I have to say that Crisis was one of the most epic storylines i have EVER read (right behind Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night). It changed comic book history and for that, it needs to be comemerated. Yeah, I know you are all thinking something along the lines of “but so many people died, they were lost in the translation!” or “but Barry Allen came back anyways!”, but the issues had a stronger focus on Supergirl (whom I believe should be on this list) and the Flash, giving their deaths more meaning, not to mention the fact that Barry Allen took 25 years to come back! That’s a long time in comic book years!

  29. MScat says:

    I deffinately didn’t mean to get off the topic of the poll and certainly didn’t mean to debate status quo…I was stating opinion which is the same as everyone else who comments on here.

    I did state my opinion on which death had the most impact in an earlier comment. The only thing i wanted to draw attention to is that we shouldn’t be surprised when a writer uses this plot twist. I admit that fresh ideas are apealing but in truth even with fresh ideas there will always be the death plot twist. Planet Hulk was an amazing story line but before that the Hulk had many death story lines. In fact the Red She-Hulk is one of those stories! And it too is a good story.

    That’s my last comment on that matter: I agree that we aren’t talking about whether the dead character plot is good or not. We already know that if done right it can be a great story.

    When discussing INSIDE the universe…in the life of the main character the 3 that I view as the best are

    Ben Parker
    Gwen Stacy
    Jason Todd

    These three affected their respected characters the most
    (I havn’t read the new FF story so I have no opinion on it…but if its like other FF stories it won’t be the earth shattering event like these three are)

    But i have to mention that if you read not only the Civil War issues but the Fallen Son issues you get a better story with Captain America’s death. If you read them they go into detail with different characters who were close to Cap and how his death affected them. What shocked me was how much Spider-man was affected. Cap was his hero so he takes his death pretty hard…plus the feelings of Gwen’s death are brought back up. And in a rare moment you see Wolverine being the voice of reason. I thought it was a very interesting view of how other heroes react to the death of one of their own.

    I look at it this way…How many times does Superman mentioned being ‘killed?’ How many times do you hear the x-men talking about that time they killed Jean Grey? Very rarely…How many times does spider-man talk about Gwen or Uncle Ben…He never shuts up. They had more of an impact on the main character’s universe than any of the other choices

  30. MScat says:

    I also feel like mentioning that after the actor who played superman in the 50s died and Christopher Reeves accident. You had to have balls to actually KILL the comicbook Superman…no matter how brief a time. You have to believe that guy wasn’t going to be a popular person for a while

  31. knight1192a says:

    You gotta pick someone who stays dead. With the habit both have of killing someone off and then bring them back I’m not inclined to believe the news that X is about to die (and yes, I know which member of the Fantastic Four X is, I was just telling folks yesterday in an article posted on Yahoo I’d only believe it if they keep them dead for the next fifty years). I say it comes out they just killed a Skrull imposter or transported them to another reality and completely negate this whole death story.

  32. Myro says:

    Wow, I picked the wrong day to forget my phone charger at home. This thing blew up after my last post.
    Anyway, CPrime (11), I’m just not going to agree with you on the Captain Marvel thing, and I have personal reasons why. What it amounts to is that I had lost my grandmother to breast cancer a few years before, and I was still pretty young, so my coping mechanisms were not very well developed. And then given that I was a bit of a quiet kid who looked to comic books as a sort of escapism (I’m sure many of you can relate), when I hero I read about contracted cancer, and then died from it, I felt cheated. Not sad, not angry, maybe a little bummed, but mostly cheated, like Marvel Comics wasn’t giving me the escapism I craved, and bestowed yet another miraculous escape from death that I wanted. I might be better equipped to deal with things like that now, but a I’m still going to view that event through the eyes of a kid, and a great death scene should never make someone feel like they got cheated. Even if I’m the only one that feels that way.
    As for everything else you said, I’m willing to give that fair consideration. You may have a point about the temporary death, even when we know it’s temporary, reminding us why our heroes are so great by giving us a world in which they are absent, even if for a short amount of time.

  33. spidercow2010 says:

    Most any argument can be settled if its terms are defined.The question “What is the greatest “death” story in super-hero comics history?” is vague, I think. Are we asking about the greatest death or the greatest story? And, as Jeff queries, what’s “great” mean? I suspect he leaves all this open-ended to stimulate discussion, as well he should. But I had to impose my own rules of engagement here, or I’d be forced to waffle all over the place to cover all the bases, cuz I’m so long-winded.
    So I started by cutting out a huge swath: deaths where they got better. Saves us all a lot of time (and spittle). That leaves Gwen Stacy, Jor-El, Ben Parker and Ferro Lad.
    So, next I asked myself whose death had the greatest repercussions (in their comic worlds)? Well, Gwen’s end affected only a relatively small circle of people; just a few lines on the back pages (except in the Bugle). The deaths of both Jor-El and Ben Parker created heroes, with all the attendant repercussions of that. Parenthetically, by this criterion the deaths of Thomas & Martha Wayne are a conspicuous omission, but there it is.
    But Im gotta give it to Ferro Lad, who sacrificed himself to stop the Sun Eater, which had already destroyed who knows how many planets and was on its way to Sol and beyond. Ferro Lad’s death saved not only a whole legion of heroes but innumerable solar systems. He gets my vote.

  34. MScat says:

    @ knight1192a (31) I agree about the FF story. There’s no way it will be permanent its the Fantastic Four! Nothing is ever permanent in their comics. I’m going to have to start reading it to see.

  35. Joshua says:

    Since we’re acknowledging that there were “influential” deaths that went into the “creation” of Superman, The Batman, and Spiderman, and we can imagine that had these deaths never occurred it would have left a huge void in both the DC and Marvel universes– consider “It’s A Wonderful Life” and how those lives touched other lives and the difference that was made.

    With that said, let’s twist that thought on its ear and imagine that had Jor-El, Thomas & Martha Wayne, and Uncle Ben lived: just what kind of impact would that have had on their children?

    1. Superman– Had Krypton never exploded, Kal-El would have most likely pursued one of the scientific studies like his father, and we can assume he would have had a pretty well adjusted life.

    2. The Batman– Let’s say, for whatever reason, that the Waynes had a reason to raincheck that movie/play, now just what would have been the fate of an adult Bruce Wayne? Maybe he would have had a position at Wayne Enterprises (…perhaps taking over from or instead of Lucius Fox?), or he would have truly been a jet-setting playboy? Still, not too bad of an adjustment.

    3. Uncle Ben– Cash in hand, Peter Parker walks down the arena hallway very well satisfied with his winnings. A security guard yells out as a thief comes up behind Peter, but this time ol’ Pete gets the drop on him and history is changed. Now…here’s where it gets tricky. It’s quite possible that “Spiderman” remains a wrestling novelty with quite a growing fanbase. Money, women, and who knows what other vices creep into his fast-paced life? The point I’m making is that while it’s a good thing that Uncle Ben lived, Peter Parker very may have been (…for awhile anyway) worse off as a person. Though, eventually, his path would have crossed with some hero or villain and it may have put him back into the fate he was destined for.

    Final thought: Jor-El/Lara died when Superman was an infant; he doesn’t remember them. Thomas and Martha Wayne died when The Batman was a child of 8, and while that death DID have impact, Bruce was still in his formative years and his dedication their justice (…or revenge according to the acolytes of Miller) became his all-encompassing concern. But with Uncle Ben, Peter was nearing adulthood and spent most of his life with Uncle Ben. That means he experienced more with his “parent” than the other two. I won’t say the death of Uncle Ben changed Peter in the way that the Waynes did The Batman, but Peter wasn’t the victim of a natural disaster or random crime, he (…sadly) was an indirect cause to his Uncle’s death.

  36. Joshua says:

    Quick edit– Number 3 on that list should have read “Spiderman”

  37. CPrime says:

    @Myro (32)

    I hear your opinion, I absolutely respect it, and there are parts of it with which I don’t necessarily disagree. This is definitely an issue that can be viewed from many, many viewpoints. How much realism does a person look for in a comic book. If I were in your position, I might very well feel the same way you do. And if you were in different shoes, your outlook might change as well. That’s what makes comic books so great is that they can evoke so many different emotions from different people. On this, I am totally fine with agreeing to disagree with you.

    @MScat (29):

    Couldn’t agree more with you on the Fallen Son issues. Five brilliant pieces of story telling. I loved all five of them, especially the “Anger” dual story involving both Avengers teams and the “Bargaining” story involving Clint Barton.

  38. Myro says:

    Okay, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to bring this one up, but it wasn’t until tonight that it even occurred to me. Which is weird, given that I have said on more than one occasion here that he was my favorite DC character, but I’m feeling a little peeved that Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, was not included in the list.
    Now, I wasn’t collecting comics at the time this happened either, I ended up finding out about it from a friend that was still into comics at the time. I have since, however, gone back and found a second print trade that had this issue in it, and it was surprising how angry I became with Maxwell Lord when I read it, even knowing that Blue Beetle would die beforehand.
    For those unfamiliar, Ted Kord had dug up information that Checkmate had stolen some kryptonite from his Kord Omniversal warehouse, and was using it, and some other technology (namely Wayne Enterprise’s Brother One satellite), to create a super-weapon to use against the Metahumans of the world (testing the weapon originally on Ted’s best friend, Booster Gold, putting him into the hospital). Ted, however, is unable to convince the superhero population of the threat that Checkmate poses to them, so he decides to find proof on his own. And find it he does, which he then uses to confront Maxwell Lord, former friend and head of Checkmate. Lord deletes the information to keep Ted makes a break for it, intent on using whatever he knows to convince his former Justice Leaguers of Lord’s intentions, but gets intercepted during his escape, beaten up, and tortured.
    Finally Lord gives Ted his ultimatum. He says that Ted’s worth more than any agent under his command, he’s smarter, and more determined, and he needs someone like Ted as his right hand to make the world safe for “normal” humans like Lord and Ted Kord (remember, Blue Beetle, like Batman, was a superhero with no super powers). But if he won’t join, Lord will have to kill him. Kord, working on the faith that another Blue Beetle will take his place, and hopefully, be a better hero than he was, tells Lord to “rot in Hell, Max,” and gets shot through the head.
    Now the fallout from his death are pretty drastic. Of course, he is widely mourned, more by some than others, but Ted Kord was a fairly well- and broadly-liked member of the superhero community. Moreover, his death did wake up the Justice League and other superheroes to Lord’s threat (which is reinforced in a future story, when Booster Gold and new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, go back in time to save Ted Kord’s life, only to find that in the new timeline, Maxwell Lord managed to successfully kill off nearly all metahumans. The rescued Ted Kord sacrifices himself again to return to his timeline to die, in order to stop Lord). This led to Maxwell Lord’s defeat and death, as well as ignite the Infinite Crisis storyline. Furthermore, we can definitely say that Jaime Reyes would not have become Blue Beetle if Ted Kord had lived. So, there are in-universe ramifications of his death. And while Blue Beetle was not as popular a character as DC’s “big five,” Blue Beetle fans were taken aback, and quiteangry, with the shocking nature of Ted Kord’s death.
    Is it the “greatest comic book death, ever?” Probably not. And it’s hard to compete with the bigger names and iconic deaths on the list above, but I would say it is a great death scene. And one that had more substance to it than, say, the Death of Superman.