There are thousands of superheroes out there in the comic book universe of all shapes and sizes, genders and colors, and an amazing variety of powers. Most of them tend to come from Earth, which isn’t much of a surprise since that’s where we live, but there are also quite a few from other planets. Many of them have origins that are rooted in success while others are born from tragedy. Of all the most tragic origins, probably the worst has to be when the superhero is the only survivor.
We love for superheroes to be unique and special, and that may be why so many of them end up being the last of their kind. That might mean the last of their species or the last of their organization if they’re a member of a team. Some are even the last living thing from their entire universe. Some eventually found others of their kind while others remain alone to this day. No matter how you define it, these unique heroes have a special responsibility to represent their community, and they often come through. That’s why CBR is going to run down 15 superheroes who are (or were) the only survivor of their kind.
In 1975, Gamora first appeared in Strange Tales #180 by Jim Starlin, where she helped Adam Warlock kill the Magus, an evil alternate version of Warlock himself. It turned out she was the last of the Zen-Whoberis, a species wiped out by the Universal Church of Truth (later, retconned to be the alien Badoon).
Thanos found and brought Gamora back in time, where he raised her with the promise that she would get the chance to kill those responsible for the genocide. Her skill as an assassin earned her the title of “most dangerous woman in the Galaxy,” because she succeeded in killing every member of the church involved before the genocide ever occurred. She went on to become a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, where she fell for Star-Lord’s pelvic sorcery.
14. MARTIAN MANHUNTER
The Martian Manhunter (also known by his Martian name J’onn J’onzz) was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa in Detective Comics #225, back in 1955. Martian Manhunter was pulled from ancient Mars to Earth by a scientist who died shortly afterwards, leaving him stranded on Earth. J’onzz’s wife and child, along with all the other members of the Martian race, have been dead for thousands of years.
J’onzz decided to fight crime as a police detective named John Jones while working secretly as the superhero Martian Manhunter. He became one of the seven original members of the Justice League of America, and has been one of the most powerful members of the DC superhero community, even while mourning the loss of his world and everything on it.
Of all the members of the Green Lantern Corps, one of the most respected is Kilowog. Originally from the overcrowded planet Bolovax Vik, Kilowog first appeared in 1986’s Green Lantern Corps #1 by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton. Kilowog became the most effective teacher of Green Lanterns who arrived on Oa, and also one of the physically strongest members of the Corps.
His life changed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths when his home planet was destroyed. He was able to use his ring to capture the life essence of billions of citizens of his homeworld inside his ring, where he kept them safe until he could find a world to place them on. When he and his fellow Lanterns terraformed a world for them, Sinestro almost immediately destroyed it, along with the last remaining members of Kilowog’s race.
12. KYLE RAYNER
In 1994’s Green Lantern #48 (Ron Marz, Bill Willingham), the “Emerald Twilight” storyline began as Hal Jordan’s sanity seemed to break from the destruction of Coast City. He went on a rampage to get more power from the Central Power Battery on Oa, and try to recreate the people and places that he’d lost. In the process, he seemed to destroy the Green Lantern Corps.
Only one ring was left, which was given to Kyle Rayner, a graphic artist who became the one and only Green Lantern left. Rayner had to learn on his own how to use the ring, and the rules of the Green Lantern Corps, and he did a great job. Over time, the Corps was rebuilt, Jordan was absolved of his crimes as Parallax and Rayner became a historic member of the Lanterns.
Not all of those who were called the last of their kind stayed that way. Some of them started out as the last, and things changed for the better. That’s the case with Jessica Drew, better known by her superhero identity, Spider-Woman. Created by Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin in 1977’s Marvel Spotlight #32, Drew was originally supposed to be a spider who had been evolved by the High Evolutionary, a supervillain who experiments with animals to create evolved humanoid hybrids. That made her the first and only one of her kind.
That origin was later retconned in 1977’s Marvel Two-In-One #33 (Marv Wolfman, Ron Wilson), where she was told she actually was a human child who was injected with an experimental serum based on spider-blood to save her life. When the High Evolutionary took her in, she was given false memories and escaped to join Hydra. That made more sense.
10. OMEGA THE UNKNOWN
In 1976, Omega the Unknown #1 (Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes, Jim Mooney) started a landmark series that didn’t sell well at the time, but has proved a cult classic since. In the first issue, we met Omega, the last member of an unknown alien race that was killed by mechanical beings called the Protar. Omega escaped on a starship headed for Earth.
Somehow, Omega was connected to a young boy on Earth named James-Michael Starling who had dreams about Omega, and was attacked by the same robotic aliens that attacked Omega’s homeworld. When his parents were killed, James-Michael went on to live with a foster family and deal with problems, all while Omega fought supervillains and popped up in the boy’s life. Later, in the book Defenders, it was revealed that Omega and James-Michael were biomechanical organisms created by the Protar.
In 2001, Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint created a new series in 2000 AD’s Prog 2002 called “Shakara the Avenger.” The series revolved around a violent and indestructible robot who would travel around the galaxy, destroying various aliens while shouting “Shakara!” Over time, we discovered the “robot” was actually a liquid being encased inside a suit. With the huge blades on its arms, the being rampaged across the stars.
By the end of the series, we discovered that Shakara was actually the name of the species that created the being, which had been wiped out by aliens. Shakara the Avenger was the last remnant of the alien civilization, created to avenge their deaths. In the end, it turned out that the Shakara were wiped out by the very warrior who united them, and that same warrior killed Shakara.
Jimmy Proudstar was originally known as Thunderbird when he first appeared in 1984’s New Mutants #16 (Chris Claremont, Sal Buscema), but he was actually the second Thunderbird because he took the name and costume of his older brother. The first Thunderbird was killed on a mission for the X-Men, and Proudstar blames them for his brother’s death. He used his superhuman strength and durability to join the Hellfire Club’s Hellions, but later switched sides to join X-Force instead as Warpath.
Warpath left X-Force, but returned to his reservation to find his entire Apache tribe murdered, leaving him the only remaining member of his tribe. That sent Warpath on a pursuit of Stryfe, the supervillain who killed his people, going all the way into Hell itself. As a proud warrior, he couldn’t let his people die in vain.
7. ELEMENT LAD
For our next entry, we’re going to the far future with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legionnaire Element Lad first appeared in 1963 with Adventure Comics #307 (George Pap), where he was known as “Mystery Lad,” since the Legionnaires had to guess his superpower. It turned out he had the power to change chemical elements and took on the name Element Lad. His real name was Jan Arrah, and he’s from a species known as the Trommites, the only one left.
Every native of his home planet Trom had the same power, which was what doomed them when space pirates massacred the Trommites for refusing to use their powers for them. Element Lad brought the space pirate Roxxas to justice for the genocide, and remained a member of the Legion for many years, including as the team’s leader.
We’re going back to the Guardians of the Galaxy one more time with Charlie-27, who first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Gene Colan, Arnold Drake). In 2981 AD, everyone on Jupiter had been genetically engineered to function in the extreme gravity, giving him a massive body with superhuman strength and endurance. Charlie-27 was no exception.
He grew up to join Earth’s space militia and served in the militia of the United Lands of Earth until it was destroyed by the Badoon invasion. Because he had been off Jupiter, he survived to become the last member of his race. Just like the other members, Charlie-27 teamed up to form the Guardians of the Galaxy to retaliate against the Badoon. When Charlie succeeded in helping liberate Earth from the Badoon, he went on to retire to new and unknown adventures.
Speaking of the Guardians of the Galaxy, let’s talk about another member who first appeared in comics in 1969, Yondu. Yondu first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Arnold Drake, Gene Colan), set in the late 13th century. He was a member of the Zatoan tribe, primitive hunters on the planet Centauri IV, which was the first planet colonized by humans outside Earth’s solar system.
The Centaurians were massacred by the alien Badoon, leaving him thinking he was the only survivor of his species because he was in space at the time. When he escaped, he became one of the founding members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. For years, the Guardians attacked outposts of the Badoon until Yondu discovered a small group of native on Centauri who survived in a cave. He stayed with them to help rebuild.
4. RICHARD RIDER
Speaking of the last members of a law enforcement agency, let’s switch to the Marvel universe in 1976 with Richard Rider. In Nova #1 (Marv Wolfman, John Buscema), the Nova Corps (a powerful militia of the planet Xandar) had been almost destroyed by the evil space pirate Zorr. A dying alien who was the last member of the Corps sent his power to Earth’s Richard Rider, a student who became the only remaining Nova Corpsman.
After fighting crime for many years, the planet Xandar was restored, and Rider became part of a larger Nova Corps. After tiring of the interstellar life, he briefly retired until he returned to join the New Warriors. The Nova Corps was later destroyed again, leaving Rider as the only Corpsman once again.
3. POWER GIRL
Power Girl’s first appearance was in 1976’s All Star Comics #58 (Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada). At first, Power Girl (Kara) was a cousin of Superman that arrived on an alternate Earth decades after Superman’s ship on the alternate reality known as Earth-2. Later, she was told she was actually descended from an Atlantean sorcerer and put in suspended animation until modern times.
That origin was retconned again, turning her back into a refugee from Krypton of Earth-2. When Earth-2’s Superman was killed during Infinite Crisis, she was left the only Kryptonian from her world. In the new 52 relaunch of continuity, Power Girl has the secret identity of Karen Starr, and she’s the Supergirl of Earth-2. When Earth-2 was invaded by Apokolips, she and the Huntress went through an interdimensional portal to Prime Earth, leaving the two as the “last daughters” of Earth-2.
The least tragic “last survivor” on this list is Lobo, and that’s because the extinction of his species was entirely intentional. Lobo character was created by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen in Omega Men #3 (1983), an alien Velorpian whose race was wiped out. He was revamped as a biker mercenary and anti-hero in the 1990s to parody characters like Punisher and Wolverine, but became popular on his own.
In 1990’s Lobo: The Last Czarnian (Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley), his origin was retconned so he came from the utopian planet of Czarnia, where he killed all other Czarnians by releasing a plague of scorpion-like creatures. In one version of the story, he did it to win a science fair, for which he gave himself an “A.”
When we talk about superheroes who are the last of his kind, the first name that tends to pop up is Superman, because he’s the hero who established the trend. Introduced in 1933 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, Superman was the only survivor of the planet Krypton, sent as a baby across space to land on Earth. The problem is that his status as the last Kryptonian hasn’t always been consistent.
In 1959, DC comics introduced Supergirl, and later the bottle city of Kandor with thousands of Kryptonians. There was even a Kryptonian dog named Krypto. After 1986’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Superman was rebooted to become the only Kryptonian again. That didn’t last long as Kryptonians from other Earths and dimensions crept back into the DC continuity. Still, he’ll always be special, even if he’s not the only one.
Which is your favorite “sole survivor” hero? Let us know in the comments!
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