If you have been reading comic books for more than a few years, you’ll notice that one of the most fleeting concepts in comics is death. Characters come back from the dead so frequently that there is even a catch phrase in “X-Men” comic books about it (“You’re dead!” “I got better.”). It has gotten to the point where it is very difficult to get people to take any death in comics seriously. Really, the only way that you can get people to take deaths seriously is if the company commits to the death. For instance, if Wolverine actually stays dead, then “The Death of Wolverine” will be retroactively viewed a lot more seriously than how it was originally received.
This is not to say that comic book deaths should be final, as of course they shouldn’t be. The concept of bringing characters back from the dead long predates comic books (Sherlock Holmes famously died and then returned). Comics just take it to the extreme. This is especially true when characters return to life very quickly. Here, we’re taking a look at some of the fastest character resurrections in history.
15. THANOS (18 MONTHS)
Thanos has always had an interesting relationship with Death, so it is not surprising to see him come back from the dead so many times. However, over time, his deaths have lasted shorter and shorter time periods. After his initial death in the late 1970s, it took over a decade before he returned at the hand of his creator, Jim Starlin (who had killed him off in the first place). When he died during the “Annihilation” crossover, it took a few years before he returned to life for the crossover event, “The Thanos Imperative,” which was Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s swan song on their run on Marvel’s cosmic line of comics.
Being their final work in this line, they felt the freedom to kill off their characters. Therefore, during “The Thanos Imperative” miniseries, they killed off Drax the Destroyer, Thanos, Nova and Star-Lord, with the last three all dying in the final issue, which came in November 2010. Three of those four characters returned in the initial story arc in Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s “Avengers Assemble” series. Thanos, though, returned one issue before Star-Lord (May 2012’s #3 versus #4), so he makes the list while Star-Lord falls just shy (Drax was killed in “The Thanos Imperative” #3, so he stayed dead even longer).
14. TALIA AL GHUL (17 MONTHS)
In his “Batman Incorporated” series, Grant Morrison revealed that Batman decided to form an international organization of heroes specifically to stop the evil organization known as Leviathan. It was ultimately revealed that Leviathan was led by Talia Al Ghul, who had usurped her own father’s League of Assassins for the formation of this criminal empire. Opposing her was not just Batman, but also her own son, Damian Wayne, who was serving alongside his caped crusading father as the new Robin. Ultimately, Talia would not let her feelings for her son stand in her way and one of her agents ended up murdering Damian. A frenzied Talia was then killed by Spyral agent Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman in “Batman Incorporated” #12 (cover-dated July 2013).
Ra’s Al Ghul tried to resurrect both his daughter and his grandson, but he had no success. Ultimately, Batman was able to bring Damian back and mysteriously enough, in “Robin Rises: Alpha” (cover-dated December 2014), Talia returned, as well, initially with amnesia. Her memory returned eventually and she got caught up in a battle with another eternal warrior, Den Darga and his evil group, the Lu’un Darga.
13. CABLE (17 MONTHS)
Cable is no stranger to seemingly dying and then coming back to life. He’s a guy who can travel through time, so it is easy enough to “kill” him by just sending him into the future (or past) and making it look like he died. However, most of the time, these “deaths” are planned by the writers ahead of time. For instance, Mike Carey “killed” Cable in “X-Men” #200, but that was all part of the plan for him to show up again in “Messiah Complex,” where he became the protector of the first mutant baby to be born since M-Day (when Scarlet Witch wiped out almost all mutants on Earth).
In “Second Coming,” however, Cable’s death at the end of the story in “X-Force” #28 (cover-dated July 2010, where he helped the other members of X-Force get back to the present) was intended as an actual death. The writers of that issue, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, noted that Cable was someone who would always be willing to die if that’s what it took to get a mission done. However, just like the other times, this death also just turned into Cable time-jumping, as revealed in Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ “X-Sanction” #1 (cover-dated December 2011).
12. METAMORPHO (14 MONTHS)
Metamorpho’s initial death came as part of the crossover event, “Millennium,” where each superhero (or superhero team) was revealed to have someone close to them working for the Manhunters. In the case of the Outsiders, it turned out to be their scientific advisor, Dr. Jace. She also brainwashed Metamorpho into helping her. In the end, Metamorpho was atomized. This was towards the end of the original “Outsiders” run (issue #27, cover-dated January 1988), so they were more willing to kill off one of their major cast members.
Luckily for Metamorpho, DC was planning on having a spin-off of their popular “Justice League International” title with “Justice League Europe” debuting after the events of “Invasion!” Keith Giffen was going to handle “Justice League Europe” and he was the brains behind “Invasion!” as well, so he used the Dominators’ Gene Bomb attack to bring Metamorpho back in “Invasion!” #3 (cover-dated March 1989) so that he would be available to be a founding member of “Justice League Europe” (Metamorpho would later die again in “JLA” #1, that death lasting six years).
11. DRACULA (13 MONTHS)
One of the most successful villains in Marvel Comics history, in terms of supporting his own title, Dracula’s “Tomb of Dracula” lasted for nearly a decade. Once it wrapped up, Dracula made some prominent guest appearances in other titles (including almost turning Storm into a vampire in the pages of “Uncanny X-Men”) before Doctor Strange successfully acquired the Darkhold and used it to access the famed Montesi Formula, which wiped out all vampires on Earth, including Dracula!
That lasted for six years or so, before vampires returned, along with Dracula. His appearances were sporadic after that, though. His next major storyline was not until he faced off against a group of British superheroes in “Captain Britain and MI:13,” including his old foe, Blade (who was British, after all). Their battle against Dracula reached a conclusion in “Captain Britain and MI:13” #15 (cover-dated July 2009) when he was slain by the legendary sword, Excalibur. The following year, though, in a set-up to a new “X-Men” series, Dracula was brought back only to be killed again in “Death of Dracula” #1 (cover-dated August 2010) by his even more evil son. The X-Men then fought Dracula’s son and decided that they had no choice but to resurrect Dracula to help them fight the bloodsuckers. They brought him back in “X-Men” #3, just three months after he was re-killed in “Death of Dracula” #1.
10. SIN (13 MONTHS)
Sinthea Schmidt is the daughter of the evil Red Skull. He had her artificially aged into becoming his servant, Mother Superior. She was then de-aged and became Sister Sin. S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to de-program her and gave her an ordinary life as a teenager in the United States. After her father was seemingly killed, however, her father’s chief agent, Crossbones, broke her out of her de-programming and she returned to a life of evil. She was badly scarred during “Captain America: Reborn,” giving her a visage like her father’s.
She was a major player in “Fear Itself,” as she was the one who freed the Serpent in the first place to start the whole conflagration. She faced off against the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, early in his first ongoing series as Captain America. During their battle, she seemingly fell to her death in “All-New Captain America” #3 (cover-dated January 2015) when she refused to accept his help. She showed up again in “Uncanny Avengers” #5 (cover-dated February 2016), back to her non-scarred look, serving her father again, who in turn was in a new cloned body.
9. ISIS (12 MONTHS)
Isis was a popular TV superhero during the 1970s for DC, tying in with their “Shazam” TV series. However, she did join the DC Universe proper until “52,” when Black Adam fell in love with an Egyptian woman named Adrianna Tomaz. He wanted to make her his queen in Khandaq and he managed to get Captain Marvel to approve giving her access to a magical amulet that could transform her into the powerful hero, Isis. Her brother was then also transformed into the hero, Osiris. For a while there, it seemed like things were going right for Black Adam, as he now had his own version of the Marvel Family.
Tragedy struck, however, during “52,” as both Osiris and Isis were killed. Isis died in “52” #44 (cover-dated March 2007), leading to Black Adam going seriously crazy in his acts of vengeance upon the rest of the world. After “Infinite Crisis,” Black Adam tried to bring Isis back to life during the mini-series, “Black Adam: The Dark Age.” He failed, but unbeknownst to him, Felix Faust succeeded, bringing Isis back as his servant in “Black Adam: The Dark Age” #6 (cover-dated March 2008). Don’t worry, though, things did not work out for Faust, as Isis regained control eventually and castrated Faust as punishment for manipulating her.
8. HAWKEYE (10 MONTHS)
When Brian Michael Bendis took over writing the “Avengers” in 2004, he famously tore the group apart, with Scarlet Witch suffering a mental breakdown (which is dangerous for someone whose powers can let her alter the fabric of reality) and attacking her own teammates. During one of the battles, where Scarlet Witch recreated the Kree/Skrull War on Earth, Hawkeye was killed in battle in “Avengers” #502 (cover-dated September 2004).
After Bendis re-launched the Avengers as “New Avengers,” he felt that he eventually would have to address the Scarlet Witch issue (at the end of “Avengers Disassembled,” Magneto just showed up and took custody of his daughter). In “House of M,” the Avengers and X-Men debated how to handle her, with all options being out on the table, including killing her. Quicksilver was not having that, so he ran to his sister and convinced her to alter reality so that mutants were now in charge of things. With reality altered, Bendis came up with an idea that he said would “break the internet,” he had Hawkeye return to life in “House of M” #3 (cover-dated July 2005)! Hawkeye survived “House of M,” but it took a while before he reclaimed the name Hawkeye (choosing to serve as Ronin for a while).
7. NUKE (9 MONTHS)
Sometimes comic book writers want to resurrect characters as part of their plotlines. Sometimes they want to resurrect characters because they did not think that the character should have died in the first place. Other times, though, comic book writers don’t know that characters were killed off by other writers. That is how Nuke was brought back to life in the same year that he died.
During Rick Remender’s run on “Captain America,” he had Cap and his allies face off against the villainous Iron Nail, who ultimately robbed Steve Rogers of his Super Soldier Serum. First, though, they faced off against the Nail and his agent, Nuke. During an explosion in “Captain America” #15 (cover-dated January 2014), Nuke was incinerated. There was a bit of a miscommunication between editors, however, and when Charles Soule began writing “The Death of Wolverine” later that year, he thought that Nuke was available (Wolverine and Nuke had fought against each other in the pages of “Wolverine: Origins,” due to their shared origins as attempted successors to Captain America) and so Nuke showed up alive in “Death of Wolverine” #1 (cover-dated September 2014).
6. GUY GARDNER: WARRIOR (9 MONTHS)
In 2001, Jeph Loeb ran a crossover event in the DC titles called “Our World at War,” where the villainous Imperiex and his Imperiex probes (each containing a piece of his power) invaded Earth. Each Imperiex probe was extremely powerful, so Imperiex himself was nearly unstoppable. The crossover was handled in an interesting fashion where instead of crossing over into other comic books, it instead took place mostly in the “Superman” family of titles and a series of one-shots for the other books (essentially taking the place of the annuals that year). In “JLA: Our Worlds at War” #1 (cover-dated September 2001), all Justice League reserves were called in to stop Imperiex and Guy Gardner was killed by one of the Imperiex probes.
It was an odd death for Guy, as he had been shown to be a lot more powerful in his own title than he was in that one-shot. So less than a year later, Joe Kelly brought Guy back in “Action Comics” #789 (cover-dated May 2002), where it was revealed that Guy’s powers kept him alive, albeit it agony, and ended up in a pocket of hell unleashed when the probe was destroyed by General Zod. When he escaped, he decided that he was going to become a hero who could do the things Superman couldn’t ethically bring himself to do. No one really picked up on that angle and Guy soon returned to the Green Lantern Corps during “Green Lantern Reborn.”
5. GLADIATOR (8 MONTHS)
Gladiator had long served as the head of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, but he was forced to move beyond that role when his queen, Lilandra, was killed during the “War of Kings,” where the mutant Vulcan had tried to take control of the Shi’ar Empire while the Inhumans were also trying to make their case for their control of the Kree Empire. When Black Bolt and Vulcan seemingly killed each other (Black Bolt’s return from that “death” just missed this list, as it was also less than two years before he came back), Gladiator became the leader of the Shi’ar.
It was in that role as leader of the Shi’ar that he led an attack on Earth during the Avengers crossover, “Time Runs Out,” due to the actions of Earth during their attacks on other Earths during the inter-dimensional Incursions. Iron Man used a powerful weapon, the Sol Hammer, to destroy the alien fleet, killing Gladiator and all of his soldiers in “Avengers” #44 (cover-dated April 2015). However, in “Ultimates 2” #3 (cover-dated January 2016), Gladiator was back in charge of the Shi’ar Empire, all safe and sound.
4. DOOMSDAY (6 MONTHS)
We did not include Superman on this list, because while we believe that when he died, the creative team of the “Superman” titles may not have precisely known how they were going to bring him back, it was clear that they always intended to in some way eventually. There was never any doubt that Superman would return. It was just a matter of how he would return.
That same approach did not apply to the monster that killed Superman, however. When Superman died killing Doomsday in “Superman” #75, it was unlikely that anyone had any plans to bring Doomsday back. He served his purpose and now he was finished, so after the “Superman” titles took a short break following the “Funeral for a Friend” storyline, in the first “Superman” issue of the “Reign of Supermen” storyline (“Superman” #78 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding), the Cyborg Superman disposed of Doomsday’s body. However, at the end of the issue, we see that Doomsday was very much alive again!
3. MAGNETO (5 MONTHS)
Towards the end of his run on “New X-Men,” Grant Morrison revealed a shocking twist. The peaceful new member of the X-Men, Xorn, was actually Magneto in disguise and he had been using the Xorn identity to slowly turn the young students of Xavier against the X-Men. After seemingly conquering New York City, the X-Men slowly fought back and defeated Magneto. Angry in his defeat, he struck out and murdered Jean Grey. This sent Wolverine into a berserker rage and he beheaded Magneto in “New X-Men” #150 (cover-dated February 2004).
However, like a lot of the things that he had established during his run, Morrison’s killing of Magneto was quickly retconned. In “Excalibur” #1 (cover-dated July 2004), Professor Xavier took Magneto’s body to Genosha to bury him, but in actuality, Magneto was alive! It turned out that Xorn had just impersonated Magneto and that Magneto was not behind any of the action in “New X-Men.”
2. HAWKMAN AND HAWKGIRL (2 MONTHS)
Grant Morrison was once again overruled on a death during his crossover event, “Final Crisis,” for DC Comics. In the final issue, “Final Crisis” #7 (cover-dated March 2009), Morrison decided to kill off Hawkman and Hawkgirl in a devastating fire. Morrison figured that since the characters resurrected themselves all the time, killing them off would just be leaving a clean slate for a new writer to take over and do what they wanted with the hawks (Jim Starlin had set up this death of Hawkman in his DC cosmic stories leading up to “Final Crisis”).
However, Geoff Johns then decided that he wanted to have Hawkman and Hawkgirl alive for his upcoming event, “Blackest Night” (so that he could kill them off in that, only to resurrect them at the end of the series), so “Justice League of America” #31 (cover-dated May 2009), which was going to show Roy Harper mourn for the death of his ex-girlfriend, Hawkgirl, had to be re-written and re-drawn at the last second to reveal that, oops, nope, Hawkman and Hawkgirl survived their injures from “Final Crisis” #7. Hilarious.
1. BETTY BANNER (1 MONTH)
At the end of his run on “Incredible Hulk,” Peter David ended things with a shocking death. Bruce Banner’s wife, Betty, died suddenly, seemingly from a reaction from spending too much time around her gamma irradiated husband (in actuality, due to the Abomination poisoning her). That happened at the end of “Incredible Hulk” #466. “Incredible Hulk” #467 was David’s farewell issue, where he detailed all the plans he had for the future of the title that he never got a chance to do due to his run being cut short. Betty is cremated, just like how her ashes were in an urn in the classic Hulk story, “Future Imperfect.”
However, at the end of #467, after David’s run was finished, there was an epilogue by the incoming creative team (Joe Casey and Javier Pulido) showing that, nope, Betty wasn’t actually cremated. She was in cryogenic storage while her father, Thunderbolt Ross, continued to look for a cure for her (ultimately he did via the Leader, who cured her and transformed her into the Red She-Hulk). It’s tricky because she’s not necessarily alive, but come on, this is comics, when you’re cremated and then suddenly you’re revealed to be in suspended animation, that’s as good as being alive. No one puts a character into suspended animation with the intent of them being actually dead.
Which currently dead comic book character would you most like to see come back to life? Let us know in the comments section!
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