Comic book deaths happen all the time. Sometimes they offer a tragic, yet beautiful end to a character’s story line, like the death of Captain Marvel. Other times they happen to set up a new story arc, like we saw in the Death of Captain America. Then there are the times characters get killed off, and everyone just goes ballistic. People lost their minds when Superman died back in the ‘90s. The event may have jump-started the comic book death craze that has become a cliche at this point, but things would be a lot different if that event happened today.
Meaningful death or not, there are some characters that fans will never accept losing. While no one likes seeing their favorite superheroes getting killed, there are times where the issue at hand is far more important. Sometimes a death can be problematic for a number of reasons, and the fans are going to let the publisher know. Whether it’s the character being killed off, the manner in which they are killed, or the reason for their end, comic book fans have taken to social media and message boards to voice their unhappiness about the deaths of many characters. Here are 15 controversial comic book deaths that outraged fans.
15 EVERYONE IN AVENGERS ARENA
The 2012 series by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker proved to be the most controversial title among the original Marvel Now initiative. The story follows a group of young heroes who are forced to fight each other to the death on Arcade’s Murderworld. While the general plot didn’t seem to bother anyone, the manner in which the creative team went about eliminating characters seemed to irk some people.
Not only was this series predicated on the murder of kids, but their deaths were utterly meaningless in the context of the series and the Marvel Universe as a whole. On a long-term basis, we only ended up losing Mettle from Avengers Academy and Justin Seyfert, but the mindless death and gore just wasn’t what readers wanted at the time, though admittedly, the series did have a staunch and vocal fanbase.
Bill Foster got the shortest end of the stick when it came to Civil War. Despite being a long-time member of the Marvel Universe after debuting all the way back in Avengers #32 in 1966, Goliath was killed off without much reason. As a member of the Secret Avengers, Foster fought alongside Captain America until his death at the hands of the Thor clone, Ragnarok.
Not only was it terrible to see a person of color killed off in such a manner (and promptly forgotten) but the people who were responsible for his death (Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym) were never held responsible. His death affected a few heroes, but the impact just wasn’t there to merit his death as being worth it.
13 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
When the Martian Manhunter was murdered by the Secret Society of Supervillains, absolutely no one was fooled that his death was anything but a publicity stunt to make Final Crisis look important. Even the superhero community barely took it seriously when, during the funeral, Superman said they would “pray for a resurrection” while giving the eulogy for his fallen friend. As if these things just happen all the time. Even they knew it didn’t mean much.
The Martian Manhunter’s death was done in such an obvious and transparent way that it made death look routine, and fans were not happy. Even Grant Morrison later admitted that he killed off J’onn J’onzz knowing full well that he would come back in Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night only one year later.
12 BART ALLEN
When DC decided to move on from Bart Allen as the Flash, they were left in the awkward position of having to deal with him as an adult. Instead of returning him to his previous status as Kid Flash, he was killed off in the final issue of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. It was a move that was incredibly unpopular among fans of the character and of the Flash franchise in general.
His murder at the hands of the Rogues was even more controversial, considering it went against previous continuity and the characters’ well-documented morals. Editorial even attempted to retroactively save the characters by stating that several of the Rogues were actually trying to help the Flash, but vague artwork made it look worse. Obviously no one bought it.
After Spoiler accidentally sets off a gang war in the Batman crossover War Games, DC Comics has her pay the price by killing her off. While the torture she endured was gruesome, she would have been ok if Dr. Leslie Thompkins had not withheld vital medical care from her in order to teach Batman a lesson about teenage sidekicks.
It was a ridiculous ending to an otherwise solid Batman story. Not only was this against everything Leslie -- a doctor --stood for, but it was another example of a female character dying in order to make a male character feel and/or learn something. It was a bizarre decision that kept Stephanie Brown off the map until her death was retconned as a fake. Good save, everyone, good save.
It’s amazing that comic book readers can still be outraged by the death of a character in this day and age. Bruce Banner had been all over the place for a while. Multiple writers pulling him every which way left him with no clear direction or storyline. In Marvel’s effort to play up their All-New, All-Different line of books, they decided to kill him off and replace him with She-Hulk and Amadeus Cho.
It wasn’t so much the idea of giving the character a break that got people riled up, but the manner in which they decided to off him. Recently cured of his Hulkism, Banner could have lived on to play a role in future Hulk series. Instead, Marvel killed him in the unpopular Civil War II series just to up the stakes a bit. It was a cruel end to one of their signature characters.
9 EVERYONE IN ULTIMATUM
Ultimate Marvel was a beloved section of the comic book industry for several years before Ultimatum permanently stained what had been built. The Ultimates books by Mark Millar were continuously must-read entertainment, but when Jeph Loeb took control of the 2009 event series, readers were left nervous after what he had done with The Ultimates 3 the year before.
In the story, Loeb has Magneto drown half of Manhattan in an attack on the superhero community. The Ultimate Wave kills off many beloved characters, and by the end of the series, mainstays like Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Emma Frost, Hank Pym, Nightcrawler, Wasp, and Wolverine were listed among the dead. The title effectively gutted the Ultimate line without adding much value in return. It was truly the beginning of the end.
8 WAR MACHINE
In Civil War II, Captain Marvel and Iron Man come to blows over the usage of a new Inhuman’s ability to see the future. By using the information Ulysses provides, the Avengers attempt to stop Thanos before he attacks Earth; however, War Machine is ultimately killed in the attack.
While Rhodey’s death is what finally leads to Tony Stark taking a stand against Carol Danvers, the scene itself is anticlimactic. War Machine is shown to be murdered in a throwaway scene that gives the character no true sendoff. The death of a person of color should be handled with care, but it was clear Marvel just needed to artificially raise the stakes, and Rhodey was the easiest to off. There were many fans who were unhappy with the handling of this death.
7 THE ALL-NEW ATOM
Ryan Choi may never be as popular as Ray Palmer, but he has proven to be a successful addition to the DC Universe in terms of diversity. He enjoyed modest success in an ongoing series and even appeared in animation, but the return of the original Atom proved to be his downfall. Feeling like there was no need to have two characters with the same codename, DC killed Ryan off in order to help Deathstroke’s Titans title start off with a bang.
At the time, The All-New Atom was one of the few heroes of color in the DC Universe, certainly the only one of Hong Kong descent. His death also seemed to spit in the face of the publisher’s devotion to legacy. People were so pissed about the incident that DC actually brought him back during Convergence.
6 TASMANIAN DEVIL
In James Robinson’s Justice League: Cry for Justice, Prometheus kills most of the Global Guardians. While we see the deaths of Freedom Beast, Gloss, and Sandstorm, we merely see that he has skinned the Tasmanian Devil and is using the fur as a rug. No big deal, right? Just another minor character killed off?
Fans took issue with the slaying because Tas was one of the few openly gay superheroes in the DC Universe. To have him killed off like this (and not being the only gay character killed in the series) just felt like another instance of characters representing marginalized people getting a raw deal. Robinson quickly backtracked and when he took over the Justice League of America ongoing, he resurrected Tasmanian Devil. He even made Starman his new boyfriend.
5 FREEDOM RING
For a character who only appeared in a handful of comics, the death of Freedom Ring was kind of a big deal. Envisioned by Robert Kirkman as an inexperienced hero who acquires fantastic powers but doesn’t turn into a successful crimefighter, the writer also decided to write Curtis as gay. Meanwhile, Joe Quesada touted Freedom Ring as one of Marvel’s top gay characters in 2006 while he appeared in Marvel Team-Up.
Unfortunately, Kirkman followed through on his original storyline and had Freedom Ring die in battle. Not only was he killed, he was also horribly mutilated. Immediately, the internet blew up and railed against Marvel for alleged homophobia. Kirkman apologized for the whole incident, realizing he hadn’t thought the whole thing out, but the damage was done.
4 ALEXANDRA DEWITT
Back in the ‘90s, when Kyle Rayner first debuted as the last of the Green Lanterns, his journey to heroism was guided by his girlfriend Alexandra Dewitt. Then, several issues into the new run, she is brutally murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator by Major Force. The discovery of her body causes Kyle into a frenzy for revenge that lasts all of two issues before leaving Earth and seemingly moving on.
The event was so controversial and disheartening toward women that it led future comic book writer Gail Simone to coin the term “Women in Refrigerators.” To this day, "fridging" remains a term that attempts to bring attention to the horrific violence female characters face in comic books in order to make the male lead feel something. There’s a website and everything, dedicated to help people rethink the way we envision the role of women in comics.
3 PETER PARKER
When it comes to Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, people are often divided. He’s been the architect of the Spider-Verse for hundreds of issues at this point, but at the same time, he’s also responsible for killing Peter Parker and replacing him with Doc Ock. While we all know how Superior Spider-Man ended, at the time, the death of the original Spider-Man was a huge deal.
Fans were not only angry at Marvel for killing off one of their most beloved characters, but also seemingly smearing his legacy. Otto Octavius succeeds in killing his rival and then implants his consciousness into Spider-Man’s brain and starts living Peter’s life. The concept might have been interesting, but there was just no way anyone was going to give it a real chance.
2 LIAN HARPER
At the end of Justice League: Cry for Justice, Prometheus succeeds in destroying most of Star City. In the attack, Roy Harper’s daughter Lian is killed by debris, and after also taking his arm, James Robinson successfully destroys the man’s entire life. The death of a child is never going to be popular in what is supposed to be a superhero book, but to do so for no other reason than to set Arsenal up for the worst downward spiral we have ever seen... well, it's just kind of cruel. Comic books are supposed to be fun, and sacrificing a kid on the altar of plot devices crosses the line. Fans weren’t just unhappy because of Lian’s death, they were also mad at DC for utterly ruining Roy Harper.
1 SUE DIBNY
The most heartbreaking and soul-tearing death of all has to be the murder of Sue Dibny in the pages of Identity Crisis. Brad Meltzer kills off the beloved wife of the Elongated Man in order to tell a superhero whodunnit story involving the Justice League. The amount of violence put upon Sue in this story is deplorable and has caused many comic book fans to speak out against the treatment of female characters.
Not only is Sue brutally murdered and burned, over the course of the story, it is also revealed that she was raped by the villain Dr. Light at some unknown point in time. The usage of rape as a plot device in this instance has turned people off from the story even years after the fact. There are just some places you don’t go, and this one crossed a few of those lines.
These 15 deaths caused a comic book controversy. Can you think of other deaths that were not too well received?