Comic Book Questions Answered - where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.
Reader David L. wanted to know, "Which character(s) at Marvel and DC have been "alive" the longest without dying? Are there *any* who have been alive since their inception? If so, who? If not, who went the longest without dying?"
Read on for my best guess at the answer!
NOTE: For both companies, you run into a bit of an issue with characters who were in limbo for decades. Yes, I suppose that also means that they didn't die, but come on, that's not particularly fair to compare them to characters who were constantly in print, right? So how about the qualifier of the character having to appear in a comic book at least once every five years to qualify for this list.
We'll start with DC Comics, which has a major problem for this question, namely "What do we do with Earth 1 and Earth 2 versions of heroes?" For years, DC had two different Earths, one for their "Golden Age" versions of their heroes and one for the "Modern" versions of their heroes, so you'd have two Supermen, two Wonder Women, two Batmen, etc. Do you count Earth 2 versions of the character dying as evidence of the character dying? I don't think you should, but you could make a case for it. And if you DO count Earth 2 versions of characters dying, what about when Crisis on Infinite Earths basically merged the two worlds together, with the Earth 2 versions of most of the people just ceasing to exist? Does THAT count as dying?
The "main" Dick Grayson has somehow never been killed off before, despite Dan Didio specifically wanting to kill him off in Infinite Crisis (as detailed in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed). Instead, Superboy died...
However, in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, the Earth 2 Dick Grayson was killed by demons...
Black Canary was supposedly from Earth-2 when she came over to join the Justice League of America after her husband was killed.
However, we then learned that that was her mother who served with the Justice Society of America, and she was the daughter who secretly took her place (it's a super-confusing story). So the original Black Canary died, but her replacement has yet to be killed, so....I dunno...what do you do with that? Maybe you count Black Canary?
The Eath 2 version of Aquaman barely even existed (he made only a handful of appearances) and was never heard of again after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Aquaman himself lasted until the 21st Century before being killed. So if you think Earth-2 characters actively dying disqualifies a character, then Aquaman is your man, as he lasted past Infinite Crisis, which was longer than Earth-2 Lois Lane.
Earth-2 Lois Lane, though, was kept alive at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths...
and didn't die until Infinite Crisis #5...
Earth-1 Lois never died period. So she didn't even need to deal with the whole "Earth-2 version disappearing during Crisis" issue.
I think the best answer is Lois Lane, then, as I don't think we should count the Earth-2 counterparts period. So the "main" Lois Lane has never died. Neither has Dick Grayson, but Lois predates him by nearly two years.
If you want to pick someone else who never had an Earth-2 counterpart AND never died on the main Earth....I dunno....I guess Beast Boy?