We have seen several of the comic book world’s most precious and beloved characters bite the dust over the years. Of course, it is far less common to see a comic book character die and stay dead rather than die briefly and return from the dead just a few issues later, but the initial impact of seeing the character die in the first place is a feeling that lasts with readers for the most part. The deaths of these fictional characters were devastating for readers enough that they made the national news in real life, and that says a lot about the emotional connection fans make with them.
When fans are savvy to the fact that the supposed dead character is due to come back from the grave sooner rather than later, they become more interested with which character will come out and step up to the challenge of adopting the fallen hero’s alias. Again, this did happen following deaths for the likes of Captain America, Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman. These replacements for dead superheroes have occurred to mixed results. Sometimes the change warrants rave reviews. Other times…not so much. Here are some examples, and we’ll judge who between the dead hero and the replacement was better.
15. BETTER: SAM WILSON REPLACES STEVE ROGERS
The general public reaction to Bucky Barnes as the new Captain America was negative for the most part. So negative that Marvel decided to slip the suit off of Bucky and onto Steve Rogers’ other best friend, Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon when Steve was decommissioned again. Truthfully, despite his run being surprisingly brief and ending in somewhat of an anti-climactic fashion, Sam Wilson was a solid Captain America.
And, in some ways, he was even better at doing his job than Steve Rogers was. As the new Captain America, Sam Wilson’s endurance was tested at every turn and at every turn, he rose to the challenge by exhibiting the essence, qualities, and strength of a true leader. The original Captain America, Steve Rogers, would absolutely positively unapologetically surely be proud.
14. WORSE: SUPERBOY REPLACES SUPERMAN
“The Death of Superman” storyline saw, well, the death of Superman. With such a major character placed on the shelf, this paved the way for not one, but four different heroes trying to replace him. One of which was Superboy, who after the Man of Steel’s death started calling himself the Metropolis Kid.
Superboy certainly was not the worst option to replace Superman when we look at the runt of the litter, but it’s not like any of these replacements were particularly great to begin with. And neither was Superboy. In Superman’s place, Superboy led Metropolis under the guise of an overly angsty and annoying teenager who was too busy sulking in his sorrows to save the day. It got irritating really, really, really fast.
13. BETTER: SHURI REPLACES T’CHALLA
There are more than just a few instances in several different comic book continuities and universes where the Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, takes up the mantle of becoming the brand new Black Panther, and in one iteration of the character, the torch is passed after the Panther dies. Or, rather, he is believed to be dead in his universe.
See, in the universe of the Exiles (where this version of the Black Panther is actually named T’Chaka), Black Panther is launched into an entirely new reality following an encounter with Klaw, and he stays there to join the Exiles. Following his prolonged absence from his original universe, his tribe in Wakanda assumes he is dead and the guise of the Black Panther is passed on to Shuri.
12. WORSE: DICK GRAYSON REPLACES BRUCE WAYNE
After the events of “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis”, Bruce Wayne was killed. And thus, “The Battle for the Cowl” was on. With a Batman-less Gotham plunged into chaotic destruction, Nightwing himself had to step up and don his pseudo-father’s costume for himself as the new Batman. Not a bad choice for Batman, but it seemed like somewhat of an odd one. Considering that the whole reason Dick Grayson left Batman’s side as his Robin sidekick was because he wanted out of Bruce’s shadow.
Now, he’s fallen into the shroud of his cowl. Not to mention, while Grayson wasn’t an awful Batman, he never felt like Batman during his run. He felt like the same wisecracking Nightwing, only now he was just cosplaying as Batman.
11. BETTER: RIRI WILLIAMS REPLACES TONY STARK
Following the events of “Civil War II”, it was assumed that Tony Stark died after his encounter with Captain Marvel. It has recently been revealed that he was just in a coma, but when Riri Williams was introduced and became the new Iron Man, many audiences that Tony was dead. While donning the suit, she actually seems to be developing into a much better Iron Man than Tony Stark ever was.
For starters, she seems to be far more advanced and intelligent in her youth than Tony Stark was in his prime. Tony Stark built his Iron Man suit around his 30s, while Riri was but 15-years old when she built her first suit. Plus, Riri doesn’t have all of the overly cocky, overzealous, alcoholic, and self-destructive character flaws that held Tony Stark back oh so many times.
10. WORSE: THE ERADICATOR REPLACES SUPERMAN
In the aftermath of “The Death of Superman”, four Superman wannabes came to the forefront trying to fill Kryptonian’s ruby red shoes. One of the worse replacements was a character who would later be better known as The Eradicator. As the “Last Son of Krypton,” The Eradicator came to Metropolis replicating the likeness and body of Superman. The Eradicator even believed itself to be Superman himself, when in reality, he was an old humanoid relic from Krypton.
When the real Superman returned to Metropolis and helped The Eradicator defeat the Cyborg Superman, the latter was wounded and taken to the Fortress of Solitude to heal. After the Fortress revealed who (or, rather, what) The Eradicator truly was, it was killed after protecting Superman from a lethal blast.
9. BETTER: WALLY WEST REPLACES BARRY ALLEN
When fans debate which character is the better Flash, it is usually the same two names that come to mind: the original Barry Allen, and his predecessor Wally West. During the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline, Barry gave his life to save the planet earth and subsequently, Wally West stepped in to take his place. Since becoming The Flash full-time, West has had plenty of noteworthy adventures that rival some of Barry Allen’s most noble sacrifices.
We have seen Wally West commit some truly incredible feats, such as to be the first speedster to ever survive the Speed Force. In sharp contrast to Barry Allen’s normally serious tone, Wally was always funny and charming, and never took things too seriously. Yeah, Wally takes the edge here.
8. WORSE: JASON TODD REPLACES BRUCE WAYNE
We did not think that fans could hate Jason Todd any more than when he was Robin, or when he became a full on bad guy as The Red Hood. As it turns out, there was still enough room for seething hate towards the character. During “The Battle for the Cowl” storyline, which focused on the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s death at the hands of Darkseid, Gotham was in shambles in a frenetic chaos of foes squaring off to become the new Batman.
One of these foes was Jason Todd, who did a lot more harm as a villain than as a hero when he assumed the mantle of the Batman. As the Batman, Todd shot Bruce’s son and new Robin, Damian Wayne. Todd also gets in huge fights with Tim Drake and Dick Grayson. As Batman, Todd nearly broke the Bat Family apart.
7. BETTER: JOHN HENRY IRONS REPLACES CLARK KENT
Out of the four men who stepped up trying to replace Superman after the Kryptonian’s death, the best one of the lot was John Henry Irons as Steel. Granted, considering all of the impostor Superman who we got during this storyline, being the “best” does not say or mean much, but Steel was definitely the most interesting and watchable of the four.
There is a reason why out of the four wannabes, Steel was the only one who continued to have a comic book solo series run after Superman was resurrected (for a bit anyways), and why Steel is the only one out of those four to get a live action movie adaptation; albeit a really bad one starring Shaq. Steel just works, and he continues to catch the intrigue of audiences who read his work.
6. WORSE: KRAVEN REPLACES PETER PARKER
For years now ever since the comic book debut of Spider-Man, several supervillains have stepped up to the plate to try and kill the webslinger. It isn’t until the comic book Kraven’s Last Hunt hit shelves that a supervillain actually succeeded in trying to kill off Spider-Man. After shooting Spidey dead and burying him, Kraven dons a copy of Spider-Man’s costume and becomes New York City’s new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to prove he’d be better at the job. Turns out that he isn’t.
The comic book seeks out to prove that Spider-Man is more than just Spider-Man. He’s Peter Parker, and no one can be better at being Spider-Man than Peter Parker. Although this theory would be proven wrong when Miles Morales is introduced, Kraven was just far too volatile and murderous to be a hero.
5. BETTER: COMMISSIONER GORDON REPLACES BRUCE WAYNE
“Better” is a strong word — after all, it is hard to find anyone who was a better Batman than Bruce Wayne — but out of all of the characters who tried to replace Bruce Wayne in death as the Caped Crusader, Commissioner Gordon was one of the better ones. Batman seemingly died along with The Joker at the end of the “Endgame” storyline, and Gotham was left without a Batman. To rectify this, the GCPD implemented their very own Batman 2.0 suit and appointed Commissioner Gordon as the new Batman, which Gordon begrudgingly accepted.
It was a strange storyline on the offset, but as time grew, Gordon actually proved to be a competent Batman held back only by GCPD regulations. When Wayne returned, Gordon was quick to hand over the Bat reigns back to him.
4. WORSE: HANK HENSHAW REPLACES CLARK KENT
When he tried to replace Superman after his death, Hank Henshaw was introduced to DC as a joke and that’s how we perceived him for his entire run. He started off as 1/4 of a Fantastic Four parody where his friends and wife scientist team were exposed to radioactive energy, but instead of gaining superpowers, they all melted away and had horrific deaths. After death, Henshaw was able to transfer his consciousness into the LexCorp main frame and manages to transfer from planet to planet. To make a long story short, Henshaw manages to manifest himself to look like Superman, and thinking Superman intentionally got his family killed, sought to ruin his reputation as a “reborn” Superman. His plan is thwarted by the return of the original Superman.
3. BETTER: TIM DRAKE REPLACES JASON TODD
While many people understandably prefer Dick Grayson as their definitive Robin — the first is usually the best after all — Tim Drake might just be the most perfect Robin to ever grace the page. He feels like an amalgam of each Robin that came before him possessing the intelligence and gracefulness of Dick Grayson, the confidence of Jason Todd, while also developing enough of a fresh personality to feel like an entirely new entity.
Tim Drake was a huge step up from Jason Todd, who was such a bad Robin fans were anxious to have him killed off once they were able to vote in the option to do so. When Todd was out and Drake was in, fans wholeheartedly accepted Drake into the Bat world with wide open arms.
2. WORSE: BUCKY BARNES REPLACES STEVE ROGERS
In the “Death of Captain America” storyline (which served as an epilogue for the “Civil War” storyline), Captain America was gunned down by Crossbones and Sharon Carter. In the aftermath of his friend’s death, Tony Stark appoints Steve Rogers as the new Captain America. Bucky Barnes becoming Captain America was, for lack of a better word, problematic. For starters, it was not that long ago that Bucky was killing people on behalf of the Soviet Union.
Sure, he was brainwashed during his days as a Winter Soldier, but moments before Tony appoints Bucky as Captain America, Bucky seriously considers killing Tony. And right beforehand, he bribes Tony to be an independent soldier. Bucky never had the merits of a soldier who should be representing the red, white, and blue.
1. BETTER: MILES MORALES REPLACES PETER PARKER AS SPIDER-MAN
In 2011, fans were shocked to see “Death of Spider-Man” hit shelves all around the world. The character’s much publicized death made national news in ways that the comic book world hadn’t seen since the death of Superman. In a bold move that received just as much mainstream publicity — if not more — was the announcement that Peter Parker will be replaced by a minority Miles Morales.
The idea of Peter Parker being replaced by anybody worried many minds, by as it turned out Miles Morales has proven to be even better at the job than Parker, which says a lot. There seems to be a higher sense of urgency with Morales. Rather than being a conflicted teenager who becomes a superhero to redeem not saving his uncle, Morales does it simply because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.
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