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 death. 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 all comics, but there have been so many great examples over the years, we decided to knock out this as a Marvel list with more coming from some smaller publishing houses next. Of course, many of these folks didn’t remain dead, as is normal for comics (and in fact, some of them had healing factors, so they almost immediately came back), but that doesn’t mean they went out quietly. Here are the 15 most violent, horrific, gruesome and brutal deaths in Marvel Comics.
15. BULLSEYE STABS ELEKTRA
Like the death of Gwen Stacey, the killing of Elektra had a lasting impact on the life of Matt Murdock, aka, Daredevil. Elektra was renowned as the greatest assassin in the world, but it was her status as the former lover of Murdock that brought conflict into her and Daredevil’s lives since she was one of his primary antagonists. When Elektra and Bullseye apply for the position of the Kingpin’s top assassin, they are pitted against one another to see who is best. The survivor will get the job while the dead one will be… well, dead (you see where this is going). Bullseye is sicced on Elektra after she failed to kill Foggy Nelson and the game is on.
The two battle through “Daredevil” #181, written and penciled by Frank Miller. While the match is nearly equal, Bullseye is able to get a hold of one of Elektra’s sais, which he thrusts through her chest. She doesn’t die right away but instead makes it to Matt’s apartment where she dies in his arms. The death weighed heavily on Murdock and remains one of the most significant in Marvel Comics… even though she eventually came back to life.
14. GWEN STACEY’S NECK SNAP
The death of Gwen Stacey is one of the most important to ever occur in Marvel Comics. Gwen’s demise at the hands of the Green Goblin has shaped Peter Parker for years. In some ways, the death helped push the hero forward, but it also held him back. Gwen was killed in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #121, written by Gerry Conway and penciled by Gil Kane in 1973. Gwen was Peter’s first, true love and the death was certainly a turning point in his life. It all came down to a sadistic choice.
Spider-Man arrives at the George Washington Bridge where the Goblin offers him the choice of sacrificing his own life or the life of his love. Not wanting to play any of his games, Spider-Man battles the Goblin and appears to beat him. When he runs to check on Gwen, the Goblin soars by and throws her from the bridge. Spider-Man then shoots a webline to save her from the fall, but the jerk from the line snaps her neck, killing her instantly. Enraged at the death, Spider-Man vows to kill the Goblin.
13. THE PUNISHER PUNTS MA GNUCCI
If this list tells you anything, it should be not to mess with the Punisher. The guy is unstable and really good at his job. When he decided to resume his war on crime in New York City in “The Punisher” #1, written by Garth Ennis and penciled by Steve Dillon, he went after the Gnucci crime family. He does this by throwing one of the members off of the Empire State Building and then goes on his typical killing spree taking out most of Ma Gnucci’s kids (she’s the head of the family).
When he lures the family into the Central Park Zoo, Frank finds a way to sic some of the animals on the gangsters. Ma loses her scalp and all of her limbs to a pack of polar bears, but she somehow survives what would have killed anyone else. Castle heads on over to Ma’s mansion to finish the job, setting the place on fire. Ma then escapes the blaze through a window, but the Punisher is not having any of that and he punts her right back into the blaze, killing her.
12. MR. SINISTER GOT CLOSE TO ROGUE
When it comes to stupid ways to die, this one pretty much takes the cake. While many of these other deaths were pretty horrific or even epic milestones in their respective series’, nothing stands up to falling on a woman who leeches life away, unable to pick yourself up. Mr. Sinister is not an easy guy to kill and even when he does die, it isn’t as permanent an inconvenience as it is for everyone else. Following the events of M-Day, a mutant named Hope is borne so Sinister decides to kidnap her. He fails to acquire the child and then has a confrontation with Mystique, his second-in-command.
He informs Mystique that he is unable to save Rogue, which Mystique doesn’t appreciate very much. In a fit of rage, she shoves his face onto hers, and unable to get up, his life is sucked away by the unconscious Rogue. Even though Mystique helped him along to his demise, falling on a mutant whose powers suck the life out of you even when they are knocked out and dying is a pretty silly way to go, but it’s also pretty gruesome in its own little way.
11. MISS ARROW EATEN BY BIRDS
Miss Arrow was a strange character with an even weirder origin. In “The Others” event, Spider-Man is killed fighting Morlun, but it turns out that his body was just a sack of skin he had shed so he could be revived within a cocoon under the Brooklyn Bridge. While Pete’s skin is resting for a bit in Stark Tower, a horde of pirate spiders consumed it and reformed themselves into a human female body declaring itself as being Spider-Man’s “Other.” As if that origin story isn’t weird enough, the tale of her death is pretty barbaric and odd as well.
Miss Arrow, later called Ero, kidnaps Flash Thompson with the intent of impregnating him with an egg sack. This would hatch thousands of her children, but kill Flash in the process, so in comes Spidey to save the day. When Ero sees Spider-Man come into the situation, she decides to impregnate him instead, but before she can, Betty Brant blasts the sack with a shotgun, destroying the eggs inside. As she attempts to flee, Ero follows her into an aviary, where birds feast on the mass of spiders in human form. Only one spider survives, which Spider-Man promptly steps on.
10. PUNISHER FLATTENED LOGAN
Any superhero who decides to work with the Punisher should know they are in for a difficult time. The guy just doesn’t work and play well with others; then again, neither does Wolverine. The pair team-up in “Punisher” #17, written by Garth Ennis and penciled by Darick Robertson in 2002. They were meant to battle against some diminutive mafia goons, but Castle instead turns his guns on Logan, blasting his testicles off and then his face, before running him over with a steamroller.
RELATED: 15 Times Wolverine Died
To be fair, Wolverine didn’t exactly die from the encounter and Castle was really only trying to get him out of his way. So yes, we cheated putting this on the list… but it’s too funny (and disturbing) to leave off. They may have teamed-up to stop the Mob, but Castle really just likes to work on his own. Right after this, when Wolverine is seemingly dead and certainly out of action, Castle walks into an adjacent room and slaughters a bunch of amputees.
9. LOKI SPEARS AGENT COULSON
For all the characters inhabiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s one who has been there for pretty much every event leading up to the creation of the Avengers, and it’s not Nick Fury. We’re talking about Agent Phil Coulson. Though he has since been resurrected and running about the small screen’s version of the MCU, Coulson was instrumental in getting the team together so they could stop bickering and just get on with fighting the bad guys instead of one another. All he had to do was die.
In “The Avengers,” Phil confronts the villain Loki with a weapon he doesn’t even know the capabilities of. That was probably a pretty good idea, considering Loki is an Asgardian and is basically a god to humans. Unfortunately, Loki’s magic and trickery put him behind Phil the whole time and he is impaled through the chest by his scepter. Before he dies, Phil shoots the gun, knocking Loki through a wall. His death stands as a turning point for the heroes who now have something to avenge (other than the dozens killed prior of course).
8. PUNISHER DISEMBOWELS AND BURNS A SUCKA
Frank Castle is one of those guys who doesn’t like it when someone is violent against women and children. After all, he got into the punishment business following the murder of his family, so you can imagine his lack of restraint when it came to his confrontation with a sex-slave operation in Eastern Europe in “The Punisher” #5, written by Garth Ennis and penciled by Leandro Fernandez. After rescuing a woman, Frank learns that her baby was killed and she had been forced into prostitution since she was kidnapped at the age of 15 from her village in Moldova.
The Punisher then sets out to do what he does best. He begins with the smaller fish until he finally confronts the leader of the ring, who he disembowels. While that is probably a painful enough way to go — slowly dying as your guts spill out of your belly — the Punisher doesn’t let him off that easy. He then sets the guy on fire and throws him through a window. Because The Punisher.
7. SENTRY RIPS ARES IN HALF
If you don’t know Ares from Marvel Comics, you likely know him as the son of Zeus who stood as the Greek God of War. He has been a longtime frenemy to his brother Hercules, as well as Thor, but at one time, he was even a member of Tony Stark’s Avengers before joining up with Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. It was his association with Osborn that resulted in his untimely and incredibly gruesome demise. Osborn planned a siege on Asgard, but Ares was so against the plan, he worked to stop his former boss from going through with it.
Osborn kicks off “Siege” and tricks Ares into the fight against Hogan and Fandral, then Balder and then finally, after learning of the ruse that tricked him into fighting, he turns on Osborn who calls over Sentry. While Ares is a tough Olympian who has been the God of War for thousands of years, he is little more than a piece of fine tissue paper to the likes of Sentry, who has the power of a million exploding suns (whatever that means). As you can see in the picture, Sentry wastes no time ripping Ares in half
6. LOGAN GIVES HULK HEARTBURN
In Mark Millar’s limited alternate futuristic epic set in Earth-807128, “Old Man Logan” in “Wolverine” issues #66-72, penciled by Steve McNiven, the two longtime rivals are back at it. Logan has vowed not to pop his claws anymore and is living as a farmer with a family in the Hulk’s territories of the former Western United States. The place is run by the Hulk’s offspring, who have the powers of the Hulk, but not the intellect of… normal people. Since the only woman the Hulk could mate with was She-Hulk and the two were cousins… well, you get the idea.
After Wolverine goes on a mission with Hawkeye, who has fallen blind, he returns to find that his family has been killed by the Hulk’s kids. Logan then travels the land killing anyone and everyone with green skin. When he finally meets the Hulk, he finds him a gigantic disgusting blob. Knowing that he could only do so much damage to his longtime enemy, Logan lets the Hulk eat him. Yes, eat him. The one thing the Hulk might have forgotten was Logan’s healing factor, which he realized all too late as he bursts from his gut, killing him.
5. BLOB DINED ON THE WASP
“Ultimatum,” written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by David Finch, was not one of Marvel’s best crossover events. The five-issue series explored the fallout from Magneto’s attempt to destroy the planet following the deaths of his children, but it was not well-received by fans. The comics have some of the nastiest deaths in all of Marvel. Blob has never been the most pleasant of Marvel’s mutants, but he was usually depicted as a giant jerk for the most part. In “Ultimatum,” they took him a few steps further.
This alternate version of the Blob is much more dangerous than his Earth-616 counterpart. He is often shown eating an excessive amount of food as well as other normally inedible objects. He even threatened cannibalism against his enemies, which may have seemed like an idle threat, until he was found snacking on the Wasp. Tony Stark arrived at the Triskelion to look for her but found only the Blob dining on her corpse. The shocking scene is a bit too much for most of the mighty Avengers to handle, which is why her ex-husband, Hank Pym’s reaction isn’t too surprising. You see…
4. HANK PYM BIT OFF THE BLOB’S HEAD
This really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given what we just discussed in the previous entry. When Hank Pym, also known as Giant Man, arrives at the Triskelion to find his ex-wife on the floor with her guts dangling from the Blob’s mouth, he reacts like any enraged estranged spouse would. He picks up the Blob thanks to his ability to drastically increase his size and bites off his head. It’s gruesome, disgusting and perfectly placed in a series that had a hard time making an impact.
Fear not, True Believers, Pym doesn’t swallow the Blob’s head… he spits it out onto the ground, leaving his teammates shocked and disgusted, which is hardly surprising. The deaths of the Wasp and the Blob were two defining moments in the series and are probably the most notable that everyone talks about.
3. DAKEN DISMEMBERED THE PUNISHER
The Punisher has been waging a one-man war on crime since his debut in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #129, written by Gerry Conway with pencils by Ross Andru and Gil Kane. Following the events of “Secret Invasion,” the world had been placed under the protective care of Norman Osborn and his fascist global police force, H.A.M.M.E.R. Frank Castle sets his sights on him — taking out his various henchmen, the Deadly Dozen, and even succeeds in tarnishing his so-called good name. The fight takes its toll on Castle whose wounds aren’t healing in time for his next fight and he is just exhausted (remember, he is just a guy without superpowers).
Osborn dispatches Daken to take out the Punisher and even though Castle is amazingly outclassed by Wolverine’s son, he puts up a fight. Daken chases Castle up to a rooftop where they engage in a final battle. Castle stabs repeatedly at Daken while standing on a broken leg with numerous stab wounds of his own. After a short time, Daken either gets bored or just wants to finish up so he slices up the Punisher, dismembering him completely. When he is finished, he throws the pieces off of the roof.
2. DORMAMMU POPS DR. STRANGE
If you saw 2016’s “Doctor Strange” film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, you might think you know Dormammu, one of his most deadly enemies, but you probably don’t know what went down in “Ultimatum” between the two. We have already discussed a couple of deaths from the poorly-received Marvel Event, but those pale in comparison to Doctor Stephen Strange’s demise when he faced his greatest foe. Fans of Strange know that the two had been battling one another for years. It’s practically what the Sorcerer Supreme’s job description entails: battle Dormammu constantly. Even so, you would think that the good Doctor might have anticipated the attack that brought about his end.
You know that killer cape he wears all the time (there’s a pun in there)? Well, Dormammu uses it to wrap around Doctor Strange so rapidly and tightly, it chokes the life out of him. While that’s a nasty death in itself, it doesn’t really stop there. You see, the cape was wrapped so tightly, Strange’s head popped off like a balloon made of meat.
1. SPIDER-MAN EATS HIS FAMILY
The “Marvel Zombies” series began as a fun exploration into Marvel’s time-honored tradition of asking the question, “What if?” What would happen if all of the superheroes in the Marvel Universe succumbed to a zombie plague? Healing factors aren’t going to help anyone in this case so no matter how powerful the character, they are going to become zombified or a zombie’s dinner before you can get to the next page. It was a fun miniseries written by Robert Kirkman and penciled by Sean Phillips, which has enjoyed several offshoots and expansions.
When it came to Peter Parker, also known as Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and his reaction to the virus, we see something a bit unsettling. Peter gets bitten and swings off to ensure the safety of his beloved Aunt May and Mary Jane… only when he finds them, he doesn’t do a lot of protecting. He eats them both. The more disturbing elements of the engorging are off-panel, but when you take a character like Parker, who is defined by his love for family and then make him eat them, you create something particularly disturbing.
Did we miss any of your most memorable Marvel deaths? Sound off in the comments!