We all know that deaths in comic books almost never stick. The saying goes that the only characters who actually will stay dead are Uncle Ben and Batman’s parents. And it’s totally understandable since certain characters have grown popular, and fans are willing to pay a lot of money to continue seeing those characters. So, from a financial point of view, we get it. But from a narrative point of view, it can be pretty frustrating.
Sometimes a character’s story has just reached a natural conclusion. There are some superhero deaths that have become iconic, but then they were resurrected and it spoiled some of the impact of losing them. Other times a franchise has just outgrown the classic iteration of a character and a more interesting successor has come along who we’d rather see. This isn’t about characters we want to die because we hate them (for the most part). Most of these characters have simply had complete story arcs and we’re ready for their time to be over.
Right now Logan is dead and gone both in the X-Men comics and in the movies. And it’s not like we’re celebrating such a fun character being gone, but it feels okay to move on. Hugh Jackman had the spotlight for the majority of the X-Men movies, and even Wolverine’s biggest fans have felt some fatigue from that. But the movies have followed the route of the comics in setting up X-23 to take Logan’s place, so it’s not like we’re without a Wolverine to enjoy.
The joke has become that Logan’s strongest ability is his popularity among fans, which has made him be portrayed as invulnerable. His healing factor has been amped up to pretty ridiculous degrees at times, so it’s refreshing to see Logan be mortal for a change. We like Logan, but we’re honestly enjoying a break from the guy, and the world of Marvel is doing plenty of interesting things without him… even if an older version of him is running around.
14. PETER PARKER
We are as excited as anyone about Spider-Man: Homecoming, but everyone who has lived through the release of all the Spider-Man movies has, at some time or another, thought, “Seriously? Another one?” Peter Parker is a great character and is obviously the most recognizable name that Marvel has. That being said, some fatigue towards the guy has set in. The Spider-Man universe has lots of cool characters, and we really wouldn’t mind one of the others taking the reins now.
Ultimate Spider-Man would be a perfect story to adapt to the cinematic universe to remedy these problems. Peter Parker could have one last hurrah and finally get to be part of the MCU, and some fresh blood could finally be injected into the role by bringing in Miles Morales after Peter’s death. Could anyone really complain about that when we’re going to have at least seven movies with Peter at this point? His mark has been left and his legacy is cemented. Let’s see someone new get to make their legacy.
13. BRUCE WAYNE
This is another case where the hero is obviously great and we have no qualms about what he has contributed to comic books. The issue is that Bruce has been around as Batman for so long now that it’s really hard to do anything fresh with the character. One of the few things left that would be exciting would be for him to pass on and leave his mantle to someone new. Permanently.
Even though Bruce didn’t die at the end of Dark Knight Rises, his legacy was still left to Robin to continue. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see a fourth movie with a fresh hero taking care of Gotham? There have been so many interesting Batmen at this point, ranging from Azrael to Dick Grayson to Terry McGinnis, and it just feels like a shame that Bruce is still the default when his origin has been told to cliché by now.
This one is obviously a longshot to ask for, but yeah, if Clark died then it would certainly make the comic book world a lot more interesting. It’s no coincidence that the publicity stunt of “The Death and Return of Superman” initially saw sales for the story skyrocket. A lot of people were keen to see what new thing would come in the absence of Superman. Then interest waned after Clark was brought back in pretty short order.
We have no doubt someone as popular as Superman will never be gone for long, as his not so secret return in the Justice League movie demonstrates. But narratively, a world living in the wake of Superman’s death would be very compelling. And it’s not like there is any dearth of survivors from Krypton nowadays to fill the void left from Clark.
11. STEVE ROGERS
Steve Rogers is another one who would never be permanently killed off due to how lucrative he is for Marvel, but narratively it would be fitting for him to pass on at this point. And in 2007, following the events of Marvel’s first “Civil War” event, Steve did receive such a story. As most superhero deaths turn out, this one made a big splash among fans and the media. And it felt like a natural progression because even back then there were several good candidates to take Steve’s place.
The most obvious replacement, and the one who takes up the Captain America legacy following Steve’s death in the books, is Bucky Barnes. A lot of fans feel this would be a pretty good choice for the MCU if Steve winds up dying in one of the next Avengers movies. Thanos does have to make an impact somehow, and killing off Steve would definitely be a bold move.
This one’s for you, Frank Miller! In case you don’t know the story of Elektra, she was created by Miller in the ‘80s for what was initially considered to be a consolidated story arc. After a little more than ten issues, she was killed off by Bullseye, and that was meant to be the legitimate end of the road for Daredevil’s lover. Miller had negotiated an agreement that his creation would not be used again, but as Marvel transitioned from a private to a public company that agreement eventually got broken. Marvel wanted Elektra back, regardless of Miller’s opinion.
It’s not that Elektra should have stayed dead just to avoid annoying Miller, though. It’s that even now her death is still her best known moment. Sure, her resurrection initially made a splash, but nothing since then has created a new peak for her. So since her death is her biggest moment either way, it kind of begs the question of what was so groundbreaking that she needed to be brought back in the first place.
9. PROFESSOR X
This is another one that might rustle some feathers, but hopefully a lot of you can see where we’re coming from with this. We all know Professor X is the leader of the X-Men. He’s their rock, there for stability and guidance and to provide a moral center. The problem is that he is essentially a mentor character, and eventually mentors need to go away for the protégés to get their full chance to stand on their own. Professor X is great in the formative years of the School for Gifted Youngsters, but as the conflict heats up it feels like the story outgrows him.
So many other X-Men have shown they have the capability to lead Professor X’s school in his absence. Cyclops has done it, as has Storm, Wolverine, Jean, Kitty Pryde, and even Magneto. Seeing any one of those characters in control sounds really interesting. Professor X plays a vital role in assembling this team of mutants, but after the formative period we’re ready to see the team continue to evolve. Maybe this time, Cyclops’ death will stick.
8. HANK PYM
Poor Hank Pym. His name basically got tarnished based off of one unfortunate panel. Today his name is synonymous among many comic fans as the guy who beat his wife. Jim Shooter, the writer at the time, says his story was misinterpreted and that he only meant Hank to inadvertently hit his wife, but the artist misunderstood and had Hank viciously backhand her. Regardless of intent, Pym’s name suffered.
It’s likely no coincidence the MCU made Scott Lang Ant-Man rather than Pym. Yet Pym also has a legacy as one of the founders of the Avengers, so he contributed to something pretty great, too. Still, for the sake of avoiding the unfortunate blemish on Pym’s career, it does make sense to utilize one of his several successors and just have his connection with the Avengers simply be mentioned. You have to take a character’s good with their bad, and mistake or no, Pym’s badness is pretty hard to overlook.
7. JASON TODD
This one might be a bit controversial, but that’s because Jason Todd’s death is controversial in general. This iteration of Robin was killed off by a narrow margin in a fan vote that left him a victim of the Joker. Todd had trouble finding a fan base as Robin, but there were still plenty of people who didn’t want him dead. But then years later Todd made a splash again when it was revealed he had been brought back to life and was now intent on ruining Batman’s life as the Red Hood.
As disputed as both those decisions were among fans, at least they were interesting and provided something fresh. The problem now is that Red Hood has pretty much squashed his conflict with Batman and he has proven capable of being a hero again. What is he adding that Nightwing or Red Robin or Damian Wayne aren’t giving us?
6. HAL JORDAN
We’ve talked about the tainted legacy of Hank Pym, but he really has nothing on one of the most famous Green Lanterns. Everyone knows Hal Jordan, but it’s hard to think of him without recalling the really dark period he went through. You know, that time when Jordan’s home of Coast City was destroyed he was subsequently driven insane enough to go on a Universe-wide killing spree? Yeah, that did some damage to the legacy of having Jordan around.
Sure, eventually it turned out Jordan was really just under the control of Parallax, so we were supposed to consider him absolved of the wrongdoing for the most part, but Hal was still the face for these horrible acts. Hal achieved some redemption in sacrificing his life to save the world, and we got some intriguing new Green Lanterns following this, but naturally he returned to claim the role before too long.
5. DINAH DRAKE
The situation surrounding Black Canary is a perfect example of why characters should be allowed to die off. Dinah Drake was the original Black Canary, but wound up hanging around for so long in an ongoing continuity that eventually people started to point out how it didn’t make sense and that Dinah should be an old woman by this point in the story. To remedy this lapse in logic, the writers soon revealed that the modern Black Canary was actually the daughter of the original, and they just had the same first name.
Having to put together explanations like this wouldn’t be necessary if writers just didn’t normalize a single hero sticking around forever. Heroes have protégés, sidekicks, and children who can all carry on the legacy. Having a new face take up the duty makes more sense than doing hundreds of issues only to do a reboot with the same hero every ten years.
4. JEAN GREY
We really are not trying to pick on the characters of the X-Men, but there have been so many of them that a lot have been killed off at some point, and some of them just feel okay to let go of. Jean Grey certainly makes it onto that list since the pinnacle of her story was reached decades ago at this point. What better sendoff could she really ask for than the conclusion of the Dark Phoenix saga? That story arc is iconic in the industry and left a huge impression for the franchise. So why not just leave that great moment alone and stop trying to bring Jean back?
Jean is similar to Professor X in some ways since she is an incredibly powerful mutant with mental powers, and is intertwined in the lives of many of the X-Men’s core characters. But like we said with Professor X, there are other mutants who can fill that role without tarnishing a legacy. Jean is great, but nothing any writer does with her is going to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the Dark Phoenix saga.
3. CAPTAIN MAR-VELL
Today Carol Danvers has become synonymous as Captain Marvel, and will represent the heroic mantle in the 2019 Captain Marvel movie starring Brie Larson. Of all the characters on this list, Mar-Vell is one of the few who has actually kept to his fate pretty well—which is to say he has only briefly reappeared a few times. Yeah, even the comic book characters who are the best at sticking with their deaths can’t help avoiding a couple resurrections.
Mar-Vell’s death is another that is iconic, with characters from all throughout the Marvel universe coming to visit him when they heard he was dying of cancer. His death has been briefly undone for short storylines, but for the most part he has stayed pretty dead. And we see how that can be a good thing with how it gave Carol Danvers an opportunity to step up and do something fresh with the heroic name.
2. THE HUMAN TORCH
Comparatively speaking, Johnny Storm is one of the more recent deaths on this list that actually happened in the comics. It all transpired in 2011, near the end of the Fantastic Four series before it was getting relaunched. To send the series out with a bang, having one of the original members of the team perish sounded like a good hook. So, the Human Torch loses his life in battle against the aliens in the Cult of the Negative Zone, last seen with the monsters swarming over him.
Of course, for such a well-known character, this was a big deal, but by this point the Fantastic Four had included plenty of other characters besides the original four. The team itself was more important than its members, as evidenced by Johnny quickly being replaced by Spider-Man. The Fantastic Four could have gone on just fine, but nostalgia won out and Johnny was brought back in short order.
1. BARRY ALLEN
Once again, this is a case of a great character who had lots of interesting stories, but simply did not need to be brought back. Not only does Barry Allen have an iconic death through his sacrifice in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” he also got a really good successor in Wally West. So even though The Flash TV show is fine, and the DCEU’s Flash for Justice League looks fun, it didn’t need to be Barry filling those roles.
Wally West actually became quite popular in his own right, so when Barry Allen returned in “Final Crisis,” fans were leery because they knew Wally was probably getting replaced by his predecessor. That’s one of the biggest recurring themes in this topic where it feels frustrating to see these classic characters sticking around because they’re often displacing fresher, more interesting heroes. Barry had his time already, and his legacy would have been just fine without pushing Wally to the sidelines.
Are there any heroes you would add who have overstayed their welcome? Share your thoughts and discuss our choices in the comments!
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