Monday, December 15, 2008

Iconic Comic Book Deaths Revisited

Comic book deaths are nothing new, and many times they can seem excessive. One thing is certain: they help sell issues. Since that's the case, heroes will continue to die as publishers crank out miniseries after miniseries that needs something to set it apart.

We put together a list of great deaths before, but there was no way to cover them all in one sitting. Now we're back to see a few others that have gone on to the great sketchbook in the sky.

Join us as we look at a few more iconic moments in comic book deaths.

Alexandra DeWitt

It may seem strange to start this list off with a person who isn't a superhero, but Alex's death sparked a lot of controversy. She was Kyle Rayner's girlfriend, and we met her shortly after Kyle became the Green Lantern. Unfortunately, Kyle soon found himself with a serious enemy in Major Force, something he'd never had before since he was just an artist.

Returning from a fight, Kyle came home to find a note from Alex about something special in the fridge. That something special was Alex herself (the note obviously wasn't from her). Force had killed her and stuffed her body in the refrigerator.

It was the first time anyone close to a Green Lantern had died. Carol Ferris and Pieface had been around Hal Jordan for years with no serious damage, but Kyle lost someone almost immediately. It set the tone for the book's future, and it also brought about public outcry for violence against women in comic books.


Sometimes a storyline can only be improved by the death of someone important. Sometimes it's just done for a gimmick. I have no idea which one is true for Firestorm, killed during the Identity Crisis miniseries. During a minor scuffle to try and stop a villain called Shadow Thief, Ronnie was stabbed. Aware that he is about to explode, he flies into the sky so as not to kill those around him. His parting words are incredibly tragic: "Tell my dad I said goodbye."

Ronnie Raymond was a hero with the potential to have been the most powerful player in the DC universe. His death was treated more as an afterthought than anything else. It accomplished nothing to further the story, but it did give it a sense that the heroes were truly in danger, so in a way I guess it had its merits.

Unfortunately, like the Blue Beetle, Firestorm was rebooted to a younger character and never really got the send off he deserved.

Blue Beetle

Ted Kord was an unappreciated hero. Resigned by DC to be nothing more than a comic relief character (along with Booster Gold), Blue Beetle never really received the recognition he should have.

But all of that changed the day he died.

Kord managed to use his athletic ability and smarts to figure out that Maxwell Lord was behind a global conspiracy to rule the world. He snuck into Max's castle lair to find out the truth, was captured and beaten, and finally given the opportunity to join Max or die. Kord stared him down and stood his ground as a hero...and died for it. Kord's death started the Infinite Crisis storyline, and it wasn't until he was about to die that DC finally decided to make him cool. No more jokes. Kord was all serious business and showed himself every bit the detective Batman was. It was an unfair treatment of a great hero.

Captain Stacy

Spider-Man's life has been tragic, to say the least. The death of his uncle sets him on the road to being a hero, his best friend was killed after taking over his father's role as Green Goblin, and we can't forget this moment. Captain Stacy's daughter Gwen got mention in our first look at comic book deaths, but he deserves mention as well.

During a battle with Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man dodges a wild swing of the mechanical arms that brings down a ton of bricks toward an innocent group of bystanders. As one small child watches in awe at the death bearing down on him, Captain Stacy pushes the child out of the way and is crushed. Peter digs him out and takes him away, only to find out that Stacy knew all along about Peter's heroic alter-ego, and asked him to take care of his daughter (we see how well that turned out).

This death set the stage for a lot of conflict. Gwen blamed Spider-Man for her father's death. Peter loved Gwen and didn't want to tell her the truth about himself for fear of losing her. It was a problem for years to come, until Gwen herself finally died later.

Gwen Stacy (Ultimate Version)

How does someone make it to this list twice? By being killed in every incarnation of her life.

In the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, Gwen Stacy was a completely different person. She wasn't this sweet, quiet, unassuming girl. Instead, she was this rebellious, troubled teen who wasn't afraid to defend herself (or Peter) in high school.

Unfortunately, Marvel seems slated to kill her off whenever they can find her. This time out she died quickly (she was in 48 issues before her death), killed by the Ultimate version of Carnage. The truly tragic thing about her death was the fact that the last thing she saw before dying was Peter's face. Carnage took on Peter's appearance, so Gwen died believing that Peter was her killer.

She was brought back during the Clone Saga, but her identity as a clone was quickly established. I, for one, would have loved to have seen them kill off Mary Jane in the Ultimate universe and let Peter and Gwen pursue a relationship. If you really wanted to make things different, that would have been a great way to do it.


Anonymous said...

The death of Capt. Stacey was the first time I encountered death in my young life. This issue had a huge impact on me as I realized that not only comic book characters that I liked, but people that I loved would someday die.

In an age when superheroes were mythic and held above everybody else, this death had a HUGE impact on Spider-Man, his cast of characters, the entire Marvel Universe, and the readership.

Thank you for including what was, and will always be to me, the most impactful of comic book deaths.


ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

Killing Ronnie Raymond and Ted Kord were some serious bad moves. Those characters were loved and unique in their own way. I know some didn't like the humorous Blue Beetle, but he did have his fans and he's an icon of a time when the Justice League dared being funny.

We all know how well the new incarnations of the Blue Beetle and Firestorm went.

I mean, if they want new characters, go ahead and create them, but this legacy without a legacy doesn't really work.

Hopefully Ted Kord and Ray Raimond will be brought back at some point.

Brian said...

jehingr, I agree with you. Captain Stacy's death was the first major comic death I'd ever faced as well as a kid (albeit in the "Marvel Tales" reprint version), and I just couldn't comprehend why everyone hated Spider-Man for it. Looking back on it years later, it all makes sense, and really set the stage for some incredible future storylines.

Chris, I know what you mean. Blue Beetle and Firestorm were rebooted simply to turn them into teen characters and shoot for a different audience. We see how well that worked out. When we invest years into the life of a character, their death should mean something. If you want to introduce teens, by all means do so with new characters. Otherwise, have the reboots make sense. Marvel's reboot of Giant-Man is a prime example. It makes sense simply because it's his nephew taking up the suit. That makes it powerful.

ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

Agreed, Brian. DC is all about legacy. It did work with the passing of the Flash torch between Barry and Wally, because it did make sense. The "passing" of the Blue Beetle and Firestorm torches didn't move in this direction. Same with the new Atom. And that's why none of these really worked in the big picture.

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