Superheroes are gods for the common person, but sometimes when the common person decides to buy a comic book, they get treated to pantheons upon pantheons of literal gods and goddesses. Some treat the very concept of divinity with a wry, DIY sensibility (e.g. The Wicked + The Divine), but many just represent figures from classical mythologies as actual superpowered beings, who may or may not be immortal. We say “may not” because there are plenty of examples of superheroes and supervillains killing actual gods, beings whose existence is supposed to color the way the world exists at a given time.
Some of the people who were able to kill gods did so for the right reasons, to stop a mad god, to end a war; others were petty, jealous squabblers who wanted only the godhead for themselves. It’s not dissimilar from any other cycle of myth, really, if you just imagine Batman in The Iliad. And, just like in a myth, it’s possible for someone who’s just a person to kill a god, without their own demiurgic powers, just their skill and ingenuity; other times, more hands-on methods are required. Check out this list of 15 heroes and villains who single-handedly took down a cosmic being!
Alongside traditional DC continuity, there have been several years’ worth of comics about the Injustice: Gods Among Us universe, a universe that trades in a much darker tone, with a Superman who once accidentally killed Lois Lane and his unborn child by punching them to death. It’s not a universe where nice things happen to people, and if the people aren’t nice to start with, they’re generally in for much worse.
At one point, Darkseid sends his son Kalibak (Orion’s brother who was raised on Apokolips with their father) to negotiate peace with Superman. Kalibak, being from Apokolips, starts peace treaty negotiations by launching a full-scale invasion of Earth. He taunts Superman for being unable to kill him, but let’s just say his mouth wrote a check his body was going to have to cash.
14. RED HULK
During Jeph Loeb’s late-2000’s tenure as the head of the Hulk line at Marvel, his biggest triumph (and controversy) was the introduction of the Red Hulk — a Hulk as powerful as Bruce Banner, but with a mysterious secret identity (it’s Thunderbolt Ross, who can apparently absorb his mustache into his face when he transforms, unlike Bruce Banner).
The Grandmaster stages a tournament to “help” the Hulk get back Jarella, an old flame from his past — to do so, Hulk teams up with his old Defenders teammates Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, and Namor, and they have to fight the Offenders, featuring the Red Hulk and as close to bizarro versions of the Defenders as they could find. After Red Hulk kills most of the competition, the Grandmaster brings them back to life; feeling duped by an Elder of the Universe, Red Hulk destroys him, essentially because he can.
13. NICK FURY
Marvel’s 2014/2015 crossover, “Original Sin”, hasn’t aged particularly well since its debut. While it was a solid story by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato’s art is a pleasure on almost every page, the story itself was convoluted, and attempted to set up stakes for things that just paid off six months ago. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it wasn’t necessarily something that Marvel needed to take the time and resources to do on such a large scale.
What “Original Sin” did have, however, was a ton of awesome crime scenes. Throughout the book, Marvel characters pursue a trail of dead bodies, beginning with Uatu the Watcher and extending outward, to alien hordes and demigods in other dimensions. Eventually, it’s revealed that Nick Fury killed the Watcher (and all the other insane other-dimensional beings and aliens) because… secrets? The motives are weak, but the murders are strong.
This is one of the more famous instances of deicide in DC Comics for a lot of reasons; primarily because it’s one of the very few times that Batman has used a gun, much less used one to try and kill someone. In the lead up to “Final Crisis”, Batman’s reality had been turned upside down during Grant Morrison’s “Batman R.I.P.”, and he was almost a bat adrift; “Final Crisis” featured him trapped by Darkseid’s minions before breaking out and going on the hunt for Darkseid.
Using a bullet that Darkseid himself had sent through time to kill Orion, Batman was able to kill him, but not before being hit by Darkseid’s Omega Sanctions himself. The Omega Sanctions send Bats all the way back to Kamandi’s time, which set the stage for Morrison’s next act, “The Return of Bruce Wayne”.
The Goddess of Wisdom doesn’t have the best track record for benevolence in the comics world, with her wisdom often being written as a kind of conniving, shrewish intelligence. In the case of Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak’s Incredible Hercules, she presents herself as Hercules’ loving sister and willing aid — until the very end.
The series ends with a confrontation between Hercules and the evil Typhon, who was trying to use a quantum replicator to make his own Earth and destroy ours when it was no longer useful, and just as Hercules thinks himself victorious, Athena appears and takes credit for all Typhon’s machinations and Herc’s miseries, even including the status of his birth and his Twelve Labors. She saves the Earth from Typhon but leaves Herc to die, content to make Amadeus Cho her new unwitting pawn.
Beginning with J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor run, Loki was brought into even more prominence in the Marvel Universe — it seems that successfully arranging and surviving Ragnarok really ups one’s swagger factor. Loki’s track record during this period is impressive; he starts off by stealing the body that was intended for Sif to regenerate into, and his crimes and misdemeanors only get more impressive from there (including getting his brother Thor to kill their grandfather in the street).
But during “Siege”, Loki has a change of heart — after basically arranging all the pieces for the siege of Asgard to take place, he sees the ultimate darkness of the Void, and the Void sees him. Loki is briefly able to use the Norn Stones to supercharge the heroes’ powers and begin to turn the tide, but the Void is having none of it, and murders the god of mischief.
9. DR. DOOM
Anytime there’s a Secret War going on in the Marvel Universe of any kind, you can bet your bippy that Dr. Victor von Doom is involved in a significant way. During the build up of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers series’ into Secret Wars at the end of 2015, Dr. Doom was heavily featured, as a spurned member of the Illuminati, a spurned member of the Cabal, and finally, the evil genius who wanted nothing more than to save the world (to paraphrase Guardians of the Galaxy, because he’s one of the idiots who lives in it).
Doom was able to create a bomb out of fragments of the Multiple Man scattered throughout the universes and shoot it at the Beyonders, killing just enough of them to be able to reshape the universe through his own will and create Battleworld.
8. BLACK RACER FLASH
During Geoff Johns’ swan song run on Justice League, “The Darkseid War,” all the gods of New Genesis and Apokolips got involved alongside the Justice League to fight/bear awed witness to a fight between Mobius (the Anti-Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths) and Darkseid.
During the battle, many of the Justice League members are bonded with or given the powers of some of the New Gods: Batman sits in Metron’s Mobius Chair and gains Metron’s powers; Superman falls into a fire pit on Apokolips and becomes the God of Strength; and Flash is bonded with the Black Racer to become an embodiment of Death (Flash ends up somewhere between the Black Racer and the Black Flash). Flash is sent by Mobius to attack Darkseid, and uses his newfound powers to punch a whole through Darkseid’s chest. Which is one easy way to kill a god, it seems.
7. WONDER WOMAN
In Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s New 52 Wonder Woman series, they revamped a lot about Diana. Her mythology became less esoteric and more integrated into a traditional Greco-Roman hierarchy of gods (i.e. her father is Zeus, her family are all Olympians), and the entire tone of the book became a lot darker and seedier. Wonder Woman inherited many powers from her godly parents, Zeus and Hippolyta, but the biggest boost to her powers came about when she was forced to kill the god of war.
A villain was going to kill Ares and become the god of war themselves, but Wonder Woman knew that the power of the god of war was too much, and in the hands of someone evil, would be turned to ultimately destructive ends. She heads off their plan by killing Ares herself, gaining his powers, as well as his responsibilities.
“Siege” is one of Marvel’s shortest crossover events, but that somehow makes it feel like even more happens. The comic does give some events the space to breathe, including one of the more brutal turns of the siege. Early on, the heroes are only fighting a corrupted Sentry alongside H.A.M.M.E.R. — he still hasn’t completely become his evil co-entity/nemesis The Void, but he has taken a turn for the darker.
Realizing he’s been duped by Norman Osborn all along, Ares pulls a Leroy Jenkins and runs out alone to take down the Sentry. It… does not go well for him. They fight for several pages, which is always fun — nobody draws two big dudes beating the snot out of each other like Olivier Coipel — but Sentry is able to gain the upper hand and literally splits Ares down the middle. It’s brutal, and it places Sentry in his own separate pantheon.
During Walt Simonson’s character-defining run on The Mighty Thor in the early 80’s, Simonson peppered pages throughout the first year of the run of a mysterious entity, making an enormous sword at a forge in what appeared to be Hell, only accompanied by the sound effect “DOOM.” When the swordsmith was finally revealed, he was none other than Surtur, the fire demon lord of Muspelheim, and he was come to have his fiery vengeance on Odin, the Allfather of Asgard.
For the occasion, Loki and Thor put aside their differences and fought side-by-side with Odin. In the end, however, Odin pulls a Gandalf/Balrog move and falls off a never-ending cliff clinging to Surtur, to prevent him from infecting the world with his evil again.
Grant Morrison’s “Final Crisis” is in many ways a book about murder; it starts off as a murder mystery, a book whose first question is “Who killed a god?” and ends with “How could a god kill the universe?” In traditional Morrison fashion, none of these questions are answered without a trip across the interdimensional Bleed between universes, a visit to Limbo, some metafictional awareness on the parts of the players, etc.
But the book begins with Orion, biological son of Darkseid and foster son of Highfather, the lord of New Genesis, dead in a garbage heap in a bad part of town. Eventually, the Justice League discovers that he was killed by his own father Darkseid, using a bullet that he shot backwards through time; a bullet that would have dire consequences for Darkseid himself.
During J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor, he was tasked with bringing all the Asgardians back after Ragnarok, the literal end of the world for Asgardians. In the aftermath, Loki takes over Sif’s intended body and gets to be a Madame Hydra-type mastermind for awhile. One of the wheels within Loki’s wheels during this time was to get Thor kicked out of Asgard, so in Thor #600, he engineered a way for their grandfather Bor (Odin’s father) to be reawakened and set loose in a city, deluded into thinking he was surrounded by demons.
Thor isn’t able to find out what Bor wants, and regretfully has to kill him; it’s only after the fact that Loki and the rest inform him that because he has killed a member of his own royal family that he will be exiled from Asgard.
2. SAINT OF KILLERS
This one is a doozy. Most comic book universes are lousy with gods — if superheroes are going to be modern-day stand ins for gods and demons, for immortals and mythological figures of all types, why not have them meet actual mythological figures and gods? It’s made for interesting stories, but it also means that both Marvel and DC have their own version of Mount Olympus with very similar, but legally distinguishable characters.
Preacher doesn’t have that problem. There are angels all over the place, but there’s only one God, the literal Judeo-Christian God, and everyone’s looking for him. When the Saint of Killers, a man God had blessed/cursed to be the ultimate Clint Eastwood character, finds God back in Heaven after his final battle with Jesse Custer, he pulls off the ultimate nihilist move and puts one right between God’s eyes.
Few people would think that Aquaman would end up on this list, given the tradition of ragging on Aquaman for having all the powers of a can of tuna fish. However, during the late ’90s and early 2000’s, Aquaman was the literal emperor of the ocean — he just also had a ton of bad stuff happen to him (see also: hook hand Aquaman).
Triton was a son of Poseidon, and feeling that the ocean should rightfully be his domain, he challenged Aquaman to physical combat — even though Triton warned him it was impossible for him to be beaten except by someone without faith in his divine power. It would seem that Aquaman doesn’t have any faith in a god of the seas, because he impaled Triton on a rock after a long fight; to hide the shame of a fallen god, Triton’s father Poseidon collected his physical corpse and struck Aquaman blind.
Which of these godkillers is the most impressive? Let us know in the comments!
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