Living the life of a superhero isn’t the easiest thing in the world. You have super villains constantly popping up at inconvenient times, a day job to pay the rent, and that pesky secret identity you need to maintain. For better or worse, things tend to get especially complicated when you throw a romantic interest in the mix. When that happens, you have to worry about everything from bad guys finding out who you are and striking out at you through the people you love, to even discovering your girlfriend has been possessed by an angry cosmic force hell-bent on destruction. Unfortunately, if you’re a superhero worth your grain of salt, then that also means you’ve probably lost the battle of love on more than one occasion.
Often enough, superheroes struggle not only to maintain their already strained relationships, but sometimes are helpless to watch as their significant other gets ruthlessly slaughtered by their foes or as they end up sacrificing themselves to save the hero. It’s never easy for either the protagonist or the readers, but this being comics, we the audience can find solace in the tried but true constant that almost no one stays dead in comics forever. Here at CBR, we’re going to look at 15 comic book relationships that died on the page as either our hero or their significant other kicked the bucket.
15. SUPERMAN AND LOIS LANE
Perhaps the relationship to define all relationships in comics, the love Superman and Lois Lane share is known by nearly everyone. Through thick and thin, Clark Kent and Lois Lane have been at one another’s side. Yet their time together died the moment Superman met his fate at the hands of the Kryptonian monster Doomsday.
In a battle spanning issue after issue, the world’s most iconic hero dies, taking down Doomsday with him. Before he dies, Lois rushes to Superman’s side, cradling the Man of Steel in her arms. As he takes his last breath, still ever concerned about the well-being of Lois and whether he stopped Doomsday, Superman dies, and Lois’ reaction is as primal as they come. Letting out a hollowed cry, it’s an image that would haunt readers. Little did audiences know that Superman would come back, as he didn’t actually “die,” but went into a “healing coma.”
14. INVINCIBLE AND ATOM EVE
Mark Grayson and Samantha Eve, otherwise known by their superhero monikers Invincible and Atom Eve, have had a long and intricate history together. Starring in Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, the two heroes have faced everything from intergalactic threats, to teenage love, to even getting married and having a kid together.
However, one of the biggest threats to come their way was when the Viltrumite warrior Conquest besieged Earth in Invincible #63. In a brutal battle involving plenty of broken bones and internal organs erupting from various cavities, Invincible quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the fight. Atom Eve, sensing his distress, rushes to the scene, only to quickly get impaled by Conquest, seemingly killing her. The display is vicious and gory. For a few pages, the audience and an utterly heartbroken Mark are convinced she’s dead. Weirdly, it wouldn’t be the last time Eve would go through something similar.
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA AND SHARON CARTER
Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter, or Captain America and Agent 13 if you’re feeling fanciful, have a relationship, that while not the granite that holds the Marvel Universe together, is one of depth and passion. Yet the two have lost one another on multiple occasions, each time with one thinking it was the last time they’d see the other. Shortly after Civil War, Sharon, who at the time was being mind-controlled, shoots and kills Captain America in The Death of Captain America, sending the Marvel Universe into a downward spiral. He comes back eventually.
The next time one of them dies, it’s Sharon, sacrificing herself to rescue him from Arnim Zola’s pocket universe Dimension Z in Captain America #10 by Rick Remender. She too came back. Now, with Captain America an agent of Hydra, he’s keeping her captive in hopes she’ll fall back in love with him.
12. THE HULK AND BETTY ROSS
One of Bruce Banner’s defining passions, aside from the overwhelming rage he experiences when he’s the Hulk, is his love for Betty Ross. The two have dated, married, and broken up so many times that it ought to be a world record. However, it was in The Incredible Hulk #466 when Betty Ross, the love of Bruce’s life, shifted off this mortal coil.
After the Abomination somehow poisoned her, despite Banner’s efforts, she eventually dies. Her death is devastating to her Bruce, Samson and her father. Bruce, overwrought with grief, even tries committing suicide moments after she dies. There’s no easy fix here, as her death lasts for several dozen issues (essentially a lifetime in comics), with the Hulk/Bruce sent into a deep depression for quite a while.
11. DEADPOOL AND SIRYN
Deadpool, similar to other tragic characters like the Hulk and even Wolverine, has never been lucky when it comes to love. Few people are willing to put with him, much less date him, but Wade Wilson was able to find some solace in the arms of Siryn, Theresa Cassidy, daughter of the X-Man Banshee.
Intimacy has never come easy for Deadpool, considering his horrific features, but Siryn saw through his features to his kind interior. The two connected and would’ve gone on to become something special if it wasn’t for the villainess Typhoid Mary. In issues #12 and #13 of Joe Kelly’s Deadpool, Mary disguises herself as Siryn and essentially rapes Deadpool emotionally and physically. By the time Deadpool realizes what’s happened, not only does he stop being a hero for a time, but also he’s unable to see Siryn the same, forcing them to separate; their love forever tainted.
10. WONDER WOMAN AND STEVE TREVOR
Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor have been an item for over half a century since he first debuted back in All Star Comics #8 in 1941. It was a change of pace, in that this time the superhero’s love interest was a man rather than the other way around. Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman would continue on for a while, and even though both characters would die multiple times, the first time Steve died was back in Wonder Woman #180. In fighting Doctor Cyber, Steve is killed and, for the next few years, he remained absent from comics.
It may not have been the most glorious death, getting shot in the back, but Steve’s dedication to Diana proved true and strong until the bitter end. It would not be the last time Wonder Woman experienced heartbreak.
9. SCARLET WITCH AND VISION
A mutant and a synthezoid/android, the Scarlet Witch and the Vision have had a long and exceptionally complicated history over the years. With Wanda conjuring children out of thin air and nearly wiping out the entirety of the mutant race, to Vision being created by the genocidal Ultron and originally designed to kill the Avengers, on some bizarre level, it was a match made in heaven.
At least it was until the Scarlet Witch went crazy and killed Vision, who at the time was her husband, along with several members of the Avengers during the 2004 event Avengers Disassembled. As one might imagine, it was the final nail in the coffin, and even though the Vision would eventually come back, their relationship was too fractured to continue.
8. MOCKINGBIRD AND HAWKEYE
Bobbi Morris and Clint Barton’s relationship is about as chaotic and passionate as you can get. Both have been on Avengers teams and both were pretty much the only members of their respective units to not have any powers. Unquestionably in love with each other, the two’s relationship blossomed when they were on the Avengers West Coast and West Coast Avengers.
Yet despite their love, they were too different, and were about to get divorced when supervillain shenanigans erupted. Sacrificing herself to save Hawkeye from Mephisto, Clint Barton is helpless as his wife dies before his eyes. On the plus side, 17 years later it would be revealed that it was a fake Bobbi Morris, a Skrull that had switched places with the original Mockingbird in events prior. Still, at the time, the loss was a devastating one for both Hawkeye and his fellow Avengers.
7. DAREDEVIL AND ELEKTRA
One of comic’s seminal couples, Daredevil and Elektra have as dysfunctional a relationship as anyone could hope to have. Constantly trying to kill one another, when they’re not fighting, they’re head over heels for each other. Yet in the relatively early days of Daredevil, Matt Murdock’s long-lost love, Elektra Natchios, returned. Together, they took on any and all comers. Everything seemed to be going well for the couple until Daredevil’s arch-nemesis Bullseye came along.
In Daredevil #181, the scarlet-clad ninja assassin does battle with Daredevil’s greatest rival and loses. Bullseye stabs Elektra with her own weapon in one of the most memorable images in comics. Leaving her for dead, the wounded assassin finds enough strength to crawl her way to Murdock’s apartment before dying in his arms. Her death sent Daredevil over the edge, as he nearly killed Bullseyse out of revenge. Don’t worry, though: she got better later.
6. NIGHTWING AND DONNA TROY
Dick Grayson, Nightwing, has romanced many ladies throughout his years. Out of them all, his relationships with Batgirl, Starfire and Donna Troy are easily the most memorable. Out of all three, he’s broken up with all three as tragedy found its way into each relationship. However, with Donna Troy, it was another matter altogether.
In the 2003 miniseries Titans/Young Justice Graduation Day, the Teen Titans and the Titans come together and end up taking on an insane robot Superman. After the robot kills the Titan Lilith, the two teams join forces, but can barely hold their own. In a final gambit, Donna takes matters into her own hands, tackling and pummeling the robot into debris. Before it dies, it fires a beam of heat vision through her heart, killing her. Nightwing and Arsenal rush to her, but there’s nothing they can do. Her death spurs Nightwing to disband the Titans.
5. DAREDEVIL AND KAREN PAGE
If there’s anything to take away from Daredevil’s life, it’s that he’s incredibly unlucky when it comes to love…or anything really. Karen Page had been Daredevil’s romantic interest for literally decades. Whenever someone like Elektra or Typhoid Mary wasn’t around, Murdock and Karen Page would be an item. Sadly, Karen Page’s turn to drugs and prostitution forced Matt to leave her.
That would’ve been the end of their story, but in Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil, the Man Without Fear is battling Bullseye and poor Karen runs in on their battle. Bullseye, who already has a knack for killing the people Daredevil loves, steals Daredevil’s Billy club and impales her with the hero’s weapon. Daredevil is rocked to his core, nearly giving up being a superhero as he seriously reconsiders his no-kill policy. Karen has remained dead ever since.
4. CYCLOPS AND JEAN GREY
The X-Men’s relationship with death is such that nearly every member of the mutant superhero team has died at least once, chief among them, Jean Grey. The poster child for dying over and over, Jean Grey and the Phoenix, the psychic cosmic force that chooses to oftentimes inhabit her, has had it rough. Scott Summers/Cyclops and Jean, despite their love for one another, constantly find themselves at odds with fate, rarely finding the time to settle down.
The first time Jean Grey died was perhaps the most traumatic for Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men. Long story short, towards the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga, arguably the most revered of all X-Men story arcs, the planet-destroying Phoenix has begun taking over Jean completely. With her remaining willpower, Jean chooses to commit suicide, in front of Cyclops no less, rather than be used to kill more worlds.
3. SPIDER-MAN AND MARY JANE
One of the strongest relationships in the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s love is practically transcendent in nature. The two characters are literally “meant to be together” and were one of the constants within the Spider-Man universe for years. That was until the 2007 event One More Day. In it, Aunt May has been shot and is at death’s door. Overcome with grief, Spider-Man exhausts every possible option, from science to magic, in order to save her, but nothing works.
In one last-ditch effort, he and Mary Jane consort with Mephisto, the literal Devil. He makes a deal: Aunt May will be saved in exchange for their years of marriage. Peter and Mary Jane accept. It’s a decision that angers fans to this day, as they felt cheated out of years of storytelling. Maybe one day Peter and Mary Jane will find each other again.
2. KYLE RAYNER AND ALEX DEWITT
Like many superheroes, from the moment he was chosen to be a protector of peace, Kyle’s life spiraled out of control. Back in Ron Marz’s Green Lantern #54, Kyle returns home to find his long-time girlfriend Alex DeWitt dead, folded and stuffed in a refrigerator, courtesy of the villain Major Force. It’s Kyle’s first experience with such loss and it would forever remind him about the dangers of being a superhero.
Even though Alex may not have been in comics for very long, her death sparked the phrase “Women In Refrigerator” syndrome and the term “fridging,” to describe how the deaths of female love interests were used primarily as fodder for the writers to further spur on male heroes. And unlike most love interests, Alex would stay dead, seen only to return as a Black Lantern zombie during the Blackest Night event several decades later.
1. SPIDER-MAN AND GWEN STACY
Before there was Mary Jane, there was Gwen Stacy. The love of Peter Parker’s life, while Peter would struggle to find common ground with gals like Betty Brant and Mary Jane, Peter and Gwen connected from the get-go. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man #121, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” would serve as the driving force for Spider-Man for years to come; he’d never let himself live the failure down.
Her death was a seminal point, not just in Spider-Man’s life, but in comic books as a whole. Written by Gerry Conway, Gwen’s death was a milestone as it marked the arrival of a darker tone in comics, showing readers that their favorite characters could die. The idea of characters, especially love interests, dying, was one that hadn’t really been considered beforehand. Gwen Stacy’s death made it open season for anyone and everyone.
Let us know in the comments which of these deaths impacted you the most!