Death in superhero comics is like an argument at a family event — inevitable. It’s no secret; death and resurrection have become accepted tropes of the genre, regardless of the jokes. As you’d expect, it gets hard to keep track of who’s alive and who’s dead, especially when characters often take extended breaks from publication. Recently, keeping track has become difficult due to the crutch of killing off named heroes during tie-ins and events to manufacture drama, which doesn’t work as well since everyone has become savvy to it, to the point where the collective eyes of an entire fandom are rolled when the next “GROUNDBREAKING, EARTH SHATTERING DEATH” is announced.
With that in mind, if a character is conspicuously missing it’s safe to assume they’ve kicked the bucket at some point and you missed it. But it’s not always the case. Character’s relevance can wax and wane, often putting them on the backburner until a creator comes along with a fresh take. Or sometimes, people just forget about the character, leaving them to languish in the back of the proverbial wardrobe like a hideous Christmas sweater. So ready your shocked face and practice your gasps as we reveal 15 Marvel characters everyone thinks are dead, but actually aren’t!
When Frank Miller reinvented Daredevil in the ‘80s, he brought a whole ton of new toys to add to Matt Murdock’s toy box. With them came Stick, leadership figure of the Chaste and Matt Murdock’s ninja-ing teacher. Stick wanted Daredevil to join good ninjas the Chaste in battling bad ninjas the Hand in an eternal battle they were losing. Naturally, like any good comic book mentor, Stick died in a heroic sacrifice to save Daredevil and lay waste to the Hand.
Considering Matt Murdock’s perpetually awful life, Stick’s death was probably inevitable. So it was a surprise to see him resurrected to fight in the “Contest of Champions”. Stick got up to fighty mischief during the games, eventually escaping to lead a new superteam back on Earth. We’ve yet to see if Daredevil will come across Stick again, but we’re sure he’ll enjoy whipping the new superteam into shape.
14. WHITE NICK FURY
Nick Fury is one of Marvel’s oldest heroes, debuting in the same year as Iron Man and The Avengers. He’s also one of the most recognizable thanks to his brilliant silver screen portrayal by Samuel L. Jackson. So you might be surprised to learn that Marvel actually wrote Nick Fury out of the Marvel universe in 2014. Well, sort of. You see, the MCU Nick Fury was based on the Ultimate Universe’s Nick Fury, not the main Marvel Universe’s, who was an old, gray-haired, curmudgeon and not, well, Samuel L. Jackson.
Marvel, seeking to balance their corporate synergy, replaced “Old White Man” Fury by introducing his son, “Samuel L. Jackson” Fury. Normally the outdated character is killed when this happens, but perhaps due to “Old White Man” Fury’s legacy, he was carted off to act as an intergalactic security guard instead. Which, under the circumstances, is a pretty good deal.
Chris Powell is an angsty young man in charge of an amulet which holds the power of the Darkhawk armor, which essentially lets him fly around and blow stuff up. Featured heavily in the “War of Kings” event and its sequel, “Realm of Kings”, it seemed like Darkhawk was set to be a big deal. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Last seen five years ago as part of Avengers Arena, Darkhawk has seemingly been sent to the backbenches. You’d be completely forgiven for thinking he’d died, considering “superheroes dying” was kind of the premise of Avengers Arena, but he surprisingly made it out of the series alive. Darkhawk is actually due to receive a re-introductory one-shot in Marvel Legacy, so we’ll soon see if he can resonate with modern readers.
Never wanting to be outdone, Tigra is Marvel’s “sexy cat lady,” in direct competition for the title with Cheetah over at DC. Tigra is more than just a furry-con booth babe though, acting as a loyal and fierce friend to many Avengers throughout the years. Making frequent guest appearances, both fleeting and prolonged, Tigra was positioned as Hank Pym’s lover in modern Marvel. She supported Pym through the superhero Civil War and its aftermath (well actually he was a Skrull, but who’s counting?) and then promptly faded from view.
The instinct when this happens is to assume they’ve died in the background during some catastrophic battle, but Tigra is in fact alive and well, last seen as a background extra in Secret Empire. We imagine Tigra will stay relegated to crowd scenes until Marvel can figure out another angle for her, rather than “Sexy Cat Lady.”
An Irish mutant with the power of super-screams and a “so bad it’s good” costume, Banshee is still a pretty memorable member of the X-Men, holding a major role in the franchise at one point. However, he seems to have fallen out of vogue in modern Marvel. Having been taken over by the Apocalypse Twins and severely injured, Banshee was in dire trouble.
Beast fixed up the means to heal Banshee of his wounds, but said it would take a while, essentially telling the audience that we won’t be seeing (or hearing) Banshee any time soon. In short, he almost died, but Death seemed to change its mind and instead arranged for Banshee to take a nice trip to wherever Marvel stores all of their characters that they’re not using. Maybe a nice bed and breakfast somewhere?
Sleepwalker was one of the various characters to be introduced to readers with their own series right off the bat in the early ‘90s. A member of an alien species that polices The Mindscape, a dream realm shared by all living creatures, Sleepwalker was trapped in the mind of human being Rick Sheridan by his arch-nemesis. Sleepwalker debuted in 1991 in his own solo series, as many characters did back then, becoming a fairly prominent hero in the Marvel Universe.
He was even a major player in “Infinity War”, due to his popularity at the time. Not a lot of heroes can claim they played a big part in stopping Thanos. But enthusiasm for Sleepwalker faded along with Alanis Morissette and light-up sneakers, and he’s been pretty much AWOL in the ‘00s and ‘10s. While Sleepwalker’s not dead, he might as well be.
9. KRAVEN THE HUNTER
Kraven the Hunter is, well, a hunter. A hunter with super-strength, speed, senses and endurance, but a hunter nonetheless. One of the most prominent Spider-Man villains, Kraven enjoyed a long period of popularity, and is still regarded as one of the best rogues to showdown with ol’ Webhead. However, Kraven has a death problem. Not in terms of dying too much, but more that he can’t escape its shadow.
Kraven’s Last Hunt is held as a top-tier Spider-Man story, in which Kraven takes his own life in frustration at his repeated failure to defeat Spidey. It stands as a poignant and memorable story, and therein lies the problem. Even though Kraven has since returned from the dead and continued to battle Spidey, none of his stories can reach the heights of Kraven’s Last Hunt. Kraven might have returned, but he remains dead in a lot of fan’s minds.
X-Man is peak ‘90s X-Men, all of the tropes and style of the era distilled in to one ridiculously overpowered and edgy mutant. X-Man, or Nate Grey, is a genetic sibling to Cable, but also isn’t, because Marvel loved a convoluted backstory back then. Featuring heavily in the X-Events of the time, including the fondly remembered “Age of Apocalypse”, X-Man died a spectacular death at the end of his solo series, saving the entire Earth from destruction.
Nate Grey was actually resurrected and rebooted during “Dark Reign” with a more tempered power-set and is a part of the X-Men to this day, having in a hand in the X-Men’s modern schism, conflicts with the Avengers and general struggle against extinction. Which, to be fair, is pretty fitting for a guy literally called X-Man.
7. HANK PYM
Hank Pym’s history is weird. He holds the prestige of being a founding Avenger but a general lack of direction and one disastrously mishandled story where he strikes Janet Van Dyne, his then partner, have sunk Pym’s standing. His abusive actions made it even harder for creators to reconcile, leaving Pym to only show up as a player in events, with a general “I’m a genius and morals suck” characterization.
Eventually, Marvel realized they didn’t have a use for Pym anymore, and had him die in one final battle with Ultron, his super-evil robot child. Except, he didn’t quite die. Instead, his consciousness somehow fused with Ultron’s, leaving them cohabiting a techno-organic form with Ultron as the dominant personality. So we suppose that’s a kind of death, in an existential sort of way. Except he’s not dead, because Ultron still has to contend with his consciousness. We need a nap…
6. HUMAN TORCH
Johnny Storm is a thief. Not in the “steal your TV” way, but he sure as hell stole the Human Torch persona. Jim Hammond is an android with the power to engulf himself in flames, as well as control the flames he conjures. So yeah, just like Johnny Storm. However, Jim Hammond stands beside Namor the Sub-Mariner and Captain America as one of the Marvel Universe’s wartime figureheads, joining the Allied Forces in the battle against the Axis.
It’s a high claim to hold, and is bolstered by the fact that he killed Hitler. Despite that wonderful feat, alongside several attempts to reintroduce him to the modern Marvel Universe, Jim Hammond has mostly been forgotten, being considered a relic of times past, despite being alive and kicking in the Marvel Universe.
5. THE SENTRY
More often than not, new superheroes in the modern Marvel Universe just don’t stick. What that means is constantly debated, but perhaps the biggest modern debut was The Sentry. Falsely touted as a lost Stan Lee concept from the Golden Age, The Sentry nevertheless was successfully built into a major aspect of the Marvel Universe over a few years. Then he was killed off. It’s weird to think that a successful debut of a character that managed to feel fresh and classic at the same time would be thrown away so quickly.
While his memorable death at the hands of Thor defines the way people remember him, The Sentry is actually still alive. After being resurrected by the Apocalypse Twins and being evil for a while, he turned face, rebranded as a cosmic protector of humanity. Seems us humans have a lot of protectors and guardians in space.
4. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
This one’s classic comics hi-jinks. In the controversial Superior Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus kicked Peter Parker out of his own body and took control. While Doc Ock inhabited Peter Parker, and therefore Spider-Man, Peter’s mind was still present and generally unhappy with the turn of events. To give him credit, Doc Ock had a great time living it up as Spider-Man, striving to become a more effective version of his nemesis.
However, all good things must come to an end and Peter managed to kick Doc Ock out and regain full control of his mind and body. Huzzah! You would expect this to mean the end of Doctor Octopus, and for a while everyone thought it was, but it turns out a digital copy of Doc Ock’s brain was stored in the Superior Spider-Man suit. From there he was able to inhabit a replica of his old body. Comic books, ay?
Sunfire holds the auspicious title of being one of the faces of the “All-New, All-Different X-Men” that also brought us Wolverine and Nightcrawler, which is pretty big. A temperamental and powerful mutant who gained his powers as a direct result of the Hiroshima catastrophe, Sunfire is a layered character who, unfortunately, has been underused in recent years.
His most notable position was a short-lived stint as part of the Avengers Unity Squad in Uncanny Avengers, where he went toe-to-toe with a Celestial. Come on, not many people can say that. Sunfire was last seen trapped on Weirdworld after the events of Secret Wars, so he’s kind of dead, but mostly not. Hopefully he can find his way back soon, because we’d love to see more of him.
Ares died a fitting death for the Greek God of War, namely having been ripped in half by The Sentry during “Siege”. Ouch. Still, we saw Ares kicking around Elysium (heaven for Greek Gods) with his son Phobos not long after, waiting to return. And return he did, resurrected to fight in a massive gladiatorial tournament called the Contest of Champions, in the book, Contest of Champions.
As you’d expect from a gladiatorial tournament, fighting ensues, with Ares in his element thwacking people with a giant axe. Eventually Ares managed to make his escape alongside some other, lesser known heroes, and heads to Earth once again to fight in a new superteam. So essentially, everyone thought Ares was dead but he wasn’t really dead because he’s a God, then he really really wasn’t dead when he was brought back to life. Simple!
1. SCARLET SPIDER
Scarlet Spider holds the not-so-esteemed position of being a result of the dreaded “Clone Saga”, an infamous Spider-Man event that is often credited as contributing to Marvel’s downfall in the ‘90s. Scarlet Spider, or Kaine if you’re nasty, is a somewhat failed clone of Peter Parker. By somewhat, we mean mentally unstable and physically deformed. That would be fine if that’s what you were going for, but Kaine’s “father” disowned him, leaving him with a huge case of the feels.
He pretty much spent his time inadvertently ruining Peter Parker’s life by being “Spider-Man but EGDY.” To be fair, Kaine did reappear in recent years, now donning the Scarlet Spider mantle in a bid to redeem himself, but to be honest nobody thinks of Kaine when see a Scarlet Spider book. To most, Kaine is firmly stuck in the ‘90s, still brooding all over NYC.
Any other Marvel characters who are actually alive that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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