Death in comics. We all know it’s pretty much a temporary problem for heroes and villains alike, but when it happens, it’s usually not a peaceful affair. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: when you live by the cape, you die by the cape. While many heroes and villains have succumbed to violent deaths over the years, there have definitely been some that were a little over the top.
When we started, we were going to do a list of the most violent deaths in comics, but there have been so many great examples over the years, we decided to knock out this as a DC-specific list with more coming about some of the larger publishing houses. Of course, many of these folks didn’t remain dead as is normal for comics, but that doesn’t mean they went out quietly. Here are the 15 most violent, horrific, gruesome and brutal deaths in DC Comics.
15. SUPERMAN AND DOOMSDAY
We are kicking off this list with what is probably the most well-known instance of death in comics: “The Death of Superman.” This particular battle that finally ended the life of both Doomsday and the Man of Steel (yes, we know they both came back) was disturbingly violent and excessively horrific. Superman has almost always been in a position where he had to maintain control of his powers. He is so powerful, he could probably sneeze the skin off of anyone in front of him so he tends to hold back in a fight. When it came to the unstoppable force that was Doomsday, he put his all into it and the battle nearly destroyed Metropolis.
The above panel depicts both combatants broken, bloodied and dead under a crying Lois Lane with a torn and tattered cape flying like a flag at half-mast upon a piece of rebar. The final fight took place in “Superman” #75, written by Dan Jurgens with pencils by Brett Breeding. It many ways, the storyline was just a gimmick, but it set the bar for superhero deaths as being major events for years following its publication in 1993. As we all know, Superman has since returned, but the event allowed for the introduction of a few interlopers and some interesting characters who have remained in the DC Universe ever since.
14. CH’P SPLATTERED BY A TRUCK
Admittedly, this death falls more on the side of humorous than it does horrific, but we couldn’t leave it off. Ch’p was a member of the Green Lantern Corps of Sector 1014 who belonged to an alien species that looked much like cartoon characters of Earth animals. As you can plainly see, Ch’p looked like an adorable little squirrel. What’s the best way to take out a squirrel? Run them over with a truck, of course! Granted, when the squirrel in question is as powerful as our little friend here, the writers had to come up with a little tweak to make it all work: they made the truck yellow.
Ch’p met his untimely demise in a story called “Nuts” in “Green Lantern: Mosaic” #2, written by Gerard Jones and penciled by Cully Hamner, who also did the cover art showing Ch’p facing the oncoming headlights of the aforementioned truck with the sub-caption “Roadkill” perfectly emblazoned on the bottom. When it comes to taking out Ch’p, DC could have done just about anything. They could have hurled him into a black hole, but instead, they ran him over with a yellow truck. Splat!
13. DEATH BY SNIPER
Agent 355 was one of the principal characters in the series “Y: The Last Man,” about a plague that killed off all of the male mammals on the planet. Well, all but two, apparently. Spared from the plague were Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand, who 355 accompanies as a bodyguard throughout the series. The plague may have been inadvertently started by 355 following a mission she went on in Jordan. It all had to do with a magic amulet she removed from the country. As soon as she crossed into Saudi Arabian airspace with the amulet, the plague struck. She was a member of the mysterious and secretive Culper Spy Ring.
355’s death was both violent and shocking. She was standing in front of a window where she wasn’t able to see the small, red dot sitting right between her eyes. A sniper’s bullet blasts through her skull and the masterfully skilled and deadly spy is taken out. The death was shocking to readers as well as Yorick, who cries over the body in the picture above. 355 was killed in issue 58, written by Brian K. Vaughan and penciled by Pia Guerra.
12. THE CORINTHIAN’S KILLING SPREE
The Corinthian was a nightmare created by Dream of the Endless to be the dark mirror of humanity. In the first issue of “Sandman,” we find that Dream has been captured by humans and maintained in a magical prison for most of the 20th century. When he finally escaped and returns to the land of Dreaming, he finds that many of his dreams and nightmares have left in his absence. The Corinthian is one such nightmare who had gone to the mortal world where he became a serial killer. It isn’t just that the Corinthian was off killing people that puts his misadventures on this list, it’s that he had a particular affinity for eyes.
The Corinthian’s antics as a serial killer made him one of the most notorious in the world. He attended a convention of Collectors; like minded individuals who have a proclivity towards ending the lives of others. The Corinthian’s signature move was to remove the eyes of his victims and consume them within his own eye sockets. His killing spree ended when Dream confronted his creation and unmade him, but he would later return the Corinthian to life as a newly-born nightmare.
11. THE DEATH OF ROBIN
In what has to be one of the most insensitive and disturbing calamities to befall a superhero, the fans actually voted to see Jason Todd die when DC put out a poll asking what his fate should be. The margin of votes to see him die was only 72 people more in favor of his death (5,343 for, 5,271 against) making it fairly close, but not close enough. Todd’s demise was told in “Batman” #427 in a story called “A Death in the Family,” written by Jim Starlin with pencils by Jim Aparo.
Jason was tricked by his own mother into a trap by the Joker who literally beats him to death with a crowbar. It’s incredibly violent and much of the carnage happens just off-panel, as you can see only the deranged look on the murderer’s face as he continuously beats the boy nearly to death. In many ways, this death was a turning point in the life of Batman. It would be used in later series as well as the DCEU to portray the point where the Dark Knight hits a wall and, as displayed in “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” he doesn’t hold back anymore.
10. THE DECONSTRUCTION OF RORSCHACH
Dr. Manhattan has been touted on this site numerous times as being one of the most powerful characters in all of comics, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was able to completely disintegrate Rorschach in the final pages of “Watchmen” #12, written by Alan Moore and penciled by Dave Gibbons. Rorschach was an incredibly violent superhero somewhat akin to the Punisher and Batman if guns weren’t involved and insanity was thrown into the mix. He was one of the main characters in the “Watchmen” miniseries who learns of Adrian Veidt, aka, Ozymandias’ lethal plot to fake an alien invasion of New York City.
After Veidt is confronted by his fellow superheroes, he convinces them that his plot is necessary and must be allowed to continue. The only person who refuses to accept this is Rorschach, who leaves, intent on revealing the plot to the world. He is confronted by Dr. Manhattan who has, like his compatriots, agreed to allow the plan to continue. When Rorschach refuses to back down knowing he must die, he rips off his mask and demands that he do what he must. With one wave of ahis hand, Dr. Manhattan turns Rorschach into a bloody pile of matter.
9. FLASH DANCE
Bart Allen was not a speedster for very long before he met his ultimate demise at the hand… well the feet… of some of the Flash’s greatest villains. Bart was born with the speed of his grandfather, Barry Allen, but was afflicted with a metabolism that aged him too quickly. He was placed into a virtual reality to help him grow and deal with his powers. When this failed to work, he was transported to the past to meet up with Wally West and Max Mercury, who helped him get his metabolism back on track.
Bart’s time as the Flash was brief. In a fight with the Rogues, he becomes powerless after his contact with the speed force is drained and he is left to the mercy of some pretty nasty villains. Captain Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard and Inertia all gather ’round and stomp him to death. There isn’t much carnage depicted on the panel above, but it’s clear that the person at the center of the circle is not having a good day. The death of Bart Allen has left a lasting impact on the Flash and it was one of the most brutal deaths depicted in the series.
8. MIDNIGHTER AND THE JACKHAMMER
When it comes to violence in comics, you don’t have to look much further than most of the recent work done by Mark Millar. He’s the fellow who called a little girl Hit Girl and had her brutally murder dozens of people in his hit series “Kick-Ass.” Millar’s work on the DC/Wildstorm imprint “The Authority” spared no bloodshed when he pitted Midnighter against the Commander. Midnighter and Apollo are lovers, so when the Commander kidnaps and sexually assaults Apollo, Midnighter doesn’t take too kindly to it.
After Apollo is able to wound his captor, Midnighter comes in to finish the job. With a jackhammer. Yup, he literally sodomizes the Commander to death with the tool for what he did to his boyfriend… and you can’t really blame him. The more disturbing imagery has to happen in the reader’s imagination since it happens off-panel, but the implications of the death are gruesome. Millar’s use of extreme violence was used quite well, in this instance earning it a place on this list.
7. GUT SHOT CANARY
Superman is DC’s golden boy who could do no wrong. That is, until they came along with the “Injustice” series that saw the Man of Steel finally snap and take over the world with an iron fist. The focus of the story is that following the death of Lois Lane, Superman decides that he must take over the planet to ensure peace. He turns on his former allies and Batman begins an underground resistance against the Man of Steel (who reveals his secret identity on Facebook).
When a battle erupts between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, Black Canary approaches Superman and shoots him with a Kryptonite bullet. That should have done the trick, but while he lays on the ground working to remove the bullet with some yellow pliers he created thanks to his Yellow Power Ring, he looks up at his former ally and blasts through her abdomen with his heat vision. The lesson she learned here… if only for a short time… was to never taunt Superman about the death of Lois Lane, even if you shoot him with his only weakness. That just makes him angry and, like the Hulk, you wouldn’t like him when he is angry.
6. SUPERGIRL GETS REKT
After 50 years of complex continuity, DC decided it would have an event called “Crisis on Infinite Earths” to settle its multiverse problems once and for all (not so much). “Crisis on infinite Earths” #7, written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Pérez, is one of the most iconic comic covers of all time. It shows Superman holding the body of his cousin, Kara Zor-El, otherwise known as Supergirl with just about every hero from the DC universe standing behind them. At the time, it was the most high-profile death in comics since people who never even read a comic at least knew who Supergirl was.
Supergirl was engaged in battle with the Anti-Monitor and she was being bombarded with a lethal amount of deadly energy the whole time. She was willing to sacrifice herself to save everyone else, but in a final attempt to escape with Superman and Doctor Light, the Anti-Monitor strikes a killing blow, taking out the Girl of Steel. She dies in her cousin’s arms while expressing no regret, happy to learn that the Anti-Monitor’s machines have been stopped.
5. RUN BARRY RUN
Within one issue depicting the death of Supergirl, DC decided they needed to wipe out another iconic hero: the Flash. While resting comfortably in the good ol’ 30th century, Allen is taken by the Anti-Monitor and returned to the present (1985 at the time). He does this because the Flash’s ability to travel between universes at will is seen as a threat. Barry is able to escape from the Anti-Monitor, but when he deploys an anti-matter cannon to destroy the Earth, Barry steps in and does what he does best — he runs.
Barry creates a speed vortex to draw in the power of the anti-matter cannon. The power becomes so great and his speed so fast, he withers into a skeleton and dies. He literally runs so fast, he turns himself into dust. It was theorized that he became one with the Speed Force and traveled back in time to become the very bolt of lightning that gave him his powers in the first place. Other theories suggest that his soul resides within the Speed Force. Since the Crisis storyline, Barry Allen has returned to the world of DC comics as nobody stays dead for long.
4. HEY MAX, NICE SHOT
Ted Kord was only one of many people who became the DC hero, Blue Beetle. His run as the superhero was ended somewhat abruptly with a bullet to the head in a move that we rarely see in comics: the villain points a gun at the hero’s head and pulls the trigger. No elaborate plots for Mr. Bond to get out of here, just a slug to the skull. The death occurred in DC’s “Infinite Crisis” where Kord discovers that Maxwell Lord is at the center of a plot to place all the world’s meta-humans under human supervision and control.
When Kord confronts Lord about the project, Lord asks Kord to join him. Ever the hero, Kord refuses, which earns the reply, “Rot in Hell” just before Lord raises his gun and blows Kord’s brains out. As you can see from the panel, it’s a rather gory and violent death. The sudden nature of the gunshot and the clear destruction of the man’s skull with blood splatter silhouetted against the flash of the gunshot make for a particularly gruesome demise.
3. SKINNED ALIVE
When you’re a homicidal maniac with an affinity for smiles, it’s no wonder DC would give you a comic of your own. “Joker” #1, written by Brian Azzarello and penciled by Lee Bermejo, came out in 2008 and was a pretty sadistic tale, even for the Joker. For some reason, the Joker is given his walking papers and is released from Arkham Asylum (they really need to do something about the security in that place). He quickly enlists Killer Croc and his gang into his own so that he can set about and rebuild his empire.
The gang head on over to a strip club where Harley Quinn is currently dancing. She decides to give the Joker, Croc, Johnny Frost and a former goon named Monty a private show. The gang heads on to a back room to discuss what has happened in the Joker’s absence so we don’t get to see the gore, but we do get to see what happens next. Monty stumbles out of the back and onto the stage only he isn’t wearing anything. That’s not to say he isn’t wearing any clothes… it is a strip club after all. No, he’s been skinned alive.
2. PRIME PUNCHES PANTHA
DC is never far from a new Crisis, so when it launched the “Infinite Crisis” that saw Superboy-Prime run amok, somebody had to die. Superboy-Prime hails from an alternate Earth called Earth-Prime (the real world). He was just a regular guy named Clark Kent who turned out to be the real Kal-El teleported from Krypton shortly before it was destroyed. He left his reality and after various realities unfolded, he came through to Earth-1 and became jealous of Connor Kent, the current Superboy. Prime confronts Connor and they fight, but Connor was able to summon help.
The Teen Titans, the JSA and the Doom Patrol come to Connor’s aid. What they find is a whiny, horrifyingly powerful Superboy going on a rampage. Without even noticing what was going on, he puts his fist back towards the voice of Pantha who just called him stupid. He doesn’t like being called stupid. Her head and his fist connect like a watermelon getting crushed by a sledgehammer. As her head flies off, he says he didn’t mean it, but the damage was already done.
1. THE FINAL PUNCH-LINE
We mentioned before that Superman went through a bit of a trial in the “Injustice” series, where he sees Metropolis destroyed and his beloved Lois killed. The whole thing came about when the Joker became bored of torturing Batman so he went off to Metropolis to see what kind of trouble he could get into. After gassing the Man of Steel and tricking him into fighting Doomsday… who was actually Lois, Superman hits something of a turning point. Fast-forward to Superman realizing that he needs to take over the world to ensure peace and destroy anyone who gets in his way.
While Batman is interrogating the Joker, Superman strolls in without saying a word, walks straight up to the Crown Prince of Crime and shoves his hand right through his chest. The look on Batman’s face is pretty telling in the picture above — he clearly did not expect that to happen. The death is so brutal and sudden, we just had to give it the top spot on this list.
Did we miss any of your most memorable DC deaths? Sound off in the comments and let us know whose brutal beating you think should be included!