Comic book characters have been toying the idea of the afterlife for decades. Be it characters like Ghost Rider who come from Hell and actually met deities in their adventures, or characters like Wonder Woman who were born from Greek Gods and find themselves thrust into the world of men. The hanging worry of an afterlife haunts your favorite superheroes over the span of their lives and will continue to do so for as long as their titles are published. It's only natural, given their line of work. It's pretty likely you're going to meet an untimely end in the tights and capes business, whether you're selling your soul for more power or on the wrong end of a slugfest with a giant, scary alien murder weapon.
Where those heroes wind up can be a cause for concern as well, and where they do go may surprise you. We've dug through the history of your favorite comic book characters to finds the one who went to hell and back, or the ones who went to heaven and stayed (or vice versa, obviously). Some of these are tragic, and some of these are the obvious outcome of their story arcs. Whether it's an erstwhile destroyer of worlds or an ignored wife who was pushed too far, your favorite comic characters know there's more to life than Earth, and some of them found it out the hard way. These characters faced the ultimate test of their lives, and where they wound up may surprise you.
Time and again, the Shredder has returned to antagonize the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but this last time may be the final time for real. After years of conflict, Splinter defeated Shredder in the Gauntlet, a trial by combat meant to end their feud. The battle concluded with Shredder taking his own life, and Splinter cutting off his foe's head.
Shredder's adventures do not end though, with the recent release of the five-issue mini-series Shredder in Hell. Trapped in Hell and faced with the prospect of his lover Kitsune using his soul to revive her father, Shredder in Hell is poised to explore the nature of this iconic villain, and perhaps even redeem him.
19 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Heaven and Hell are weird enough on their own until you consider that there are not just the Earth interpretations. The DC Universe is host to several beings of other races and planets, and one of the more well-known ones is the Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onnz. J'onn has made mention on many occasions of his own Martian religions, but that doesn't change that Heaven and Hell still explicitly exist.
One notable example of this phenomenon is the 1998 mini-series JLA: Paradise Lost. A story focused on the King-Angel Asmodel returning to Earth, Asmodel caught Martian Manhunter off-guard, throwing him outside of the Watchtower and ultimately ending J'onn's life. J'onn, however, immediately awoke in heaven, just in time to help stop Asmodel.
18 WONDER WOMAN & ARTEMIS
With a vision of Wonder Woman's demise, Hera made the decision to put the pressure on a different Amazon and spare her daughter. And so, Diana was stripped of the title, and Artemis became the new Wonder Woman. Sometime later, Artemis would be slain by White Magician and would wind up in Hell.
Technically, it was Hades, but it had the same effect. Artemis spent some time in Hell and even wound up marrying a Prince of Hell. Eventually, Wonder Woman would find her way to Hades to help her sister. It wasn't really needed though, as Artemis eventually made her way back to the land of the living.
17 GREEN ARROW
Oliver Queen's life ended as many would expect: stubbornly. With his arm trapped aboard a plane ready to explode, he refused to allow Superman to amputate his arm in order to save his life. But years later, Ollie would return, his from re-created by his best friend Hal Jordan, who was then serving as The Spectre.
Ollie would later discover that he was revived with a fraction of his memories, and would be taken to Heaven by Hal Jordan upon learning the circumstances of his resurrection. There he would the aspect of Oliver that asked Hal to revive him, but only asked him to be revived from a certain point so he wouldn't carry the memories of his later transgressions.
16 SAVAGE DRAGON
The Savage Dragon used to have a pretty weird corner of the Image Universe. He spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who had just been picked up by Image Comics for a rather infamous run. He also wound up in a number of Image events that are pretty well forgotten now.
The time came for Dragon to hang out with Spawn though, and that meant only one thing: a jaunt to Hell. Winding up in Hell after an encounter with The Fiend, Dragon and Spawn eventually make their way back to Earth, but not before God and Satan show up for one of the most infamous fistfights of ‘90s comics.
15 CHARLES XAVIER
Charles Xavier has come and gone more times than Jean Grey, oddly enough. The most recent end for Xavier came in the pages of the massive Avengers vs. X-Men crossover. Pleading with Scott to surrender before more damage was done, the Phoenix-possessed Cyclops slew his mentor, in what was either a tragic accident or calculated attack.
Xavier has since made his return after it was revealed his consciousness was trapped in battle with The Shadow King. However, during "The Quest For Nightcrawler," we saw an aspect of Xavier in Heaven, pleading with Kurt to remain. While Xavier has since been resurrected by placing his consciousness in Fantomex's body, a piece of him presumably remains in Heaven.
The Red Right Hand were a real piece of work, and they managed to do what very few before them had: pull a fast one on the Wolverine. With the help of Mystique, they were able to capture Logan, and then sent his soul to Hell, allowing a demon to possess his body.
While the demon in his body cut a bloody swath through Logan's closest friends, including Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and Mariko, Logan himself tore through Hell. Tortured and pushed to his breaking point, he would eventually conquer the Devil, holding a massive sword that made him the Lord of Hell before he was saved by his then-girlfriend Melita, with the help of the Ghost Riders and Daimon Hellstrom.
13 HOWARD THE DUCK
The MAX era of Howard the Duck was pretty weird, even for Howard the Duck. Trapped in a shape-shifting body, primarily into a Mickey Mouse parody. Howard goes up on a trippy journey through pop culture references. Ultimately though, Howard meets an untimely end when he puffs a cigar that was too powerful for him, turning him to ash.
Howard is ultimately revived and winds up meeting God. Howard and God have a heartfelt conversation, and he's ultimately restored to his duck appearance. God and Howard take a tour through both Heaven and Hell before ultimately restoring Howard to life.
It feels like cheating to put Spawn on this list. Obviously, Spawn has been to Hell. It is literally the gimmick. He's wandered around Heaven on a few occasions too, or at least something accompanying it, but Spawn has always been most closely associated with Hell.
It's pretty obvious why. As a soldier, Al Simmons was assassinated and sold his soul to a devil to be with his wife. But he was tricked by the devil, and instead became one of the hottest comic book properties of the past 30 years. Spawn's still around today and manages to find his way back to Hell every so often.
11 BARRY ALLEN
Barry Allen sacrificed his life in one of the most iconic sacrifices in comic books ever. Barry's sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths was so iconic that even his resurrection couldn't dampen it. Following his end, Barry was later said to have merged with the Speed Force, entering a sort of Heaven for speedsters.
Okay, okay, maybe that's cheating, but the point stands. Barry went to the Speed Force, which every DC speedster has come to recognize as their own Valhalla. If you want to get more technical though, Kevin Smith's critically acclaimed story "Quiver" saw Barry as a denizen of Heaven, hanging out with the spirit of Oliver Queen.
10 DOCTOR STRANGE & DOCTOR DOOM
Victor Von Doom was a man possessed, but even he was willing to ask Doctor Strange for help when it came to saving his mother. Trapped in hell, Doom would fight yearly for her soul but always came up short. With Strange in tow though, Doom hoped to finally save her soul.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment was quietly released as an installment of the Marvel Graphic Novel series, but redefined the characters. Doom, reluctant as ever, asked Strange to help save the soul of his mother, and the two did ultimately manage to trick Mephisto and free it, though it cost him the love of his mother.
9 JOHNNY BLAZE & DANNY KETCH
Okay, yeah, the Ghost Riders have obviously been to Hell. That's a pretty well known given, seeing as how both Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch have had their fair shares of encounters with Hell, with Johnny making a deal with Mephisto and Danny briefly ruling the domain.
It is a bit more surprising to know that the brothers Ghost Rider have made their way beyond the pearly gates. In the mini-series Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire, Danny and Johnny made their way to Heaven to stop Zadkiel from taking over Heaven. The two were successful, though the stay in Heaven was obviously a temporary one.
Hellboy was a breath of fresh air when it released, the tale of a seeming everyman character who also happened to be a demon from hell, destined to bring about the end of the world. Hellboy would eventually fulfill his destiny, meeting his end with Nimue plucked his heart from his chest in Hellboy: The Sound and the Fury.
Since then, Hellboy has remained in Hell, in the aptly titled Hellboy in Hell. The story, featuring creator Mike Mignola's return as regular artist, saw Hellboy meeting the remains of his demonic family as he explored the nature of the destiny he'd spend the series so far trying to avoid.
7 THE PUNISHER
Frank Castle fought some of the most dastardly individuals in the world, and then one day inexplicably turned the gun on himself. Such was the hook of 1998's now infamous Marvel Knights reboot of The Punisher. Here, Frank was revived as a punishing angel of sorts, sent back to Earth to do Heaven's dirty work with the understanding that he would one day get back to Heaven with his family.
It wasn't meant to be. The story ended with the revelation that Heaven was manipulating Frank. After the mini-series ended, Garth Ennis took over for the character redefining "Welcome Back, Frank" with Frank stating he'd told Heaven where to sick their offer and was reborn on Earth as a result.
6 ALEX WILDER
Witnessing their parents perform a ritual sacrifice, the Runaways forged an unbreakable bond thanks to the leadership of Alex Wilder, himself the son of the leaders of The Pride. But the Runaways were nearly destroyed with the revelation that Wilder was working to impress his family and earn his place in The Pride, betraying the Runaways in one of the most iconic twists in comics to date.
Wilder's plans would fall short, and he would be slain by the very Gibborim they summoned to appease. Following the encounter, Wilder would appear years later in Hell before being revived by Daimon Hellstrom so that he could guide Nico in Avengers Undercover. Wilder briefly antagonized Power Man and Iron Fist before returning to annoy the Runaways.
5 SUPERMAN (PROBABLY?)
With Superman defeated by Doomsday, things only got worse when his elderly father Jonathan Kent suffered a heart attack. As he lay in the hospital fighting for his life, Jon would have a vision of fighting alongside Clark in a twisted version of Heaven, pleading with his son to return.
Jon would awaken, and shortly after he did, it was discovered that Superman's casket lay empty. Did Jonathan Kent fight alongside his son to help him escape Heaven and return to life? Is it all just a huge coincidence and Superman came back of his own accord? Stranger things have happened, and it's left up to the reader to decide.
The best thing that ever happened to Hulk is the current Immortal Hulk series. With a strong horror slant, some of the best Hulk tales in decades are being published right now, and the current "Hulk in Hell" storyline is no exception. After a long battle with Absorbing Man, being significantly weakened and taunted by a spirit claiming to be his father, the mysterious "green door" is wide open, and the Hulk is in Hell.
Is it THE Hell? Is it some type of gamma-irradiated nightmare, populated with the memories and remains of allies long-lost and lovers long dead? The mystery is just getting started, but Hulk is most definitely in a Hell, and it's not going to be pretty when he tries to leave.
Nightcrawler has had one of the more interesting religious depictions in comics over the years. Despite looking like what many would imagine a demon looks like, Kurt Wagner has always been portrayed as someone devoutly Catholic throughout his time in the Marvel Universe. Nightcrawler has even been an ordained priest for several years.
That didn't save him from a bitter demise though, teleporting into an arm to save Hope Summers. Nightcrawler naturally wound up in Heaven, but would not remain as such. During the events of the second volume of Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler would leave Heaven, selling his soul to bind his father Azazel to Earth and removing any hope he had of returning.
Spiritually and physically shattered after saving her husband Daimon Hellstrom, Patsy Walker ended it all. And for a good six years, she was dead, trapped in hell for the mortal sin of ending her own life. But Daimon Hellstrom had one last trick up his sleeve. He manipulated Hawkeye and his then-team the Thunderbolts into Hell, under the assumption they were saving Clint's ex-wife, Mockingbird, when they in fact saved Hellcat.
Shortly after her return, it was revealed that Hellcat has a slew of new powers, including the ability to summon her costume and a sensitivity to mystical events. These abilities have been downplayed in recent years in favor of a lighter toned version of the character, but presumably, Patsy still has these abilities.
1 THE THING (AND THE REST OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR)
There was some weird stuff going on in the Fantastic Four comics a few years ago. After seemingly trapping Doctor Doom for good, Reed and the family attempted to run Latveria. This also ended in spectacular fashion when Doom's soul possessed The Thing, and Reed was forced to put down his best friend.
Reed didn't stop there, though. Stealing back Ben's body from the government, he discovered Ben still had life within him, but no soul. As a perfectly rational scientist, Reed naturally opted to take his entire family to Heaven. There they found Ben and met presumably God (who looked a lot like Jack Kirby) before returning home with and resurrecting The Thing.