WARNING: This post is full of spoilers for multiple comics titles, films and TV shows released in 2017.
This was one heck of a tumultuous year in the world, both in real life and in the realm of fiction. The Marvel Comic universe was turned upside down by a Secret Empire, the DC Comic universe was besieged by the Dark Multiverse, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. found themselves trapped in the Framework, Asgard was hit by Ragnarok in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the heroes of the Arrowverse were invaded by Nazis from another dimension! And that's just a sampling of the fates to befall your heroes within the pages of your favorite comics and on the big screen.
As you might imagine, then, with so many dramatic events going on, there were certainly going to be some heroes who did not make it out alive. This is comics, after all, and death on any scale -- be it individual or some kind of space-based genocide -- is just another day most of the time. Still, we want to pay tribute to those we lost. So here, we will pay tribute to 20 heroes who paid the ultimate price in 2017. We are counting all superhero-related media (comic books, films and television). Once again, spoilers abound, but if you're ready for all the death, read on!
In 1994, Mark Gruenwald finished out his long run on Captain America by introducing a number of new patriotic-themed characters who could theoretically be the next generation of heroes in the case of Cap's passing (his Super Soldier Serum seemed to be slowly killing him). One of these heroes was Jack Flag, a "cool" young hero who fought crime with a special boombox (hey, it was the 1990s).
After his initial appearances, Flag went into character limbo for years before making a comeback following Civil War. He was working with Captain America when Steve Rogers returned to take the name back in 2016. When Steve revealed that he was a part of Hydra, he proved it by pushing Flag to what appeared to be his death. However, he survived for another nine issues before his family pulled the plug on him in Captain America: Steve Rogers #10.
Red Racer was introduced in the Grant Morrison crossover known as Multiversity, which introduced characters from different Earths within the Multiverse. Red Racer came from Earth-36, which was a world based on the comic book series, Big Bang Comics, which was, itself, based on Golden Age/Silver Age versions of the main superhero characters (with Red Racer, of course, being the Flash analogue). In Multiversity, Red Racer is also a huge comic book fan.
During the Superman storyline, "Multiplicity," someone is hunting down the Supermen of the Multiverse and the other heroes have to step in to help out. In the end, the good guys needed a new Ultima Thule (the special ship designed to travel through the Multiverse), so Red Racer sacrificed his life by building a new ship, condensing a thousand years into just a few minutes. The effort killed him in the process.
At the end of the first season of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends were visited by Hourman of the Justice Society of America, who warned them that their death was impending. With that knowledge in mind, Rip was able to prepare for the next mission to 1942, where the had to stop a nuclear bomb from going off. Rip sent the team to different parts of history to save their lives. In 2016, Nate Heywood then found the Waverider (in a state of suspended animation) and rescued everyone. They then met the Justice Society in 1942.
Later, we learned that Rip had re-visited the Justice Society and entrusted them with pieces of the Spear of Destiny and scattered them through history. When Rip was turned evil, though, he hunted the members down. He found and killed Doctor Mid-Nite in the year 3000, taking his piece of the spear.
Besides his rather Shakespearian introduction in the pages of Uncanny X-Men (where he was obsessed with Kitty Pryde, then called Sprite, which is the name of a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest, which is where the name Caliban came from, as well), Caliban is best known for two things -- he gets turned into a bad guy a lot and he seems to die a lot.
Both of those aspects of his personality were at play in the film Logan, where Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant) is forced to work as a tracker to hunt down Logan and Professor X. He ultimately decides to go back to his earlier, heroic impulses and sacrifices himself to kill one of Donald Pierce's Revers by triggering a pair of frag grenades.
In Logan, Professor X is not only in his nineties, he is also suffering from a severe brain disease. The disease causes him to suffer seizures that force his telepathic powers to strike out wildly, paralyzing or killing anyone in his vicinity. The only way that he can keep from having seizures is when he is given a special medicine, which the surly and resentful Logan has to work as a limo driver to pay for.
After a young mutant, Laura, shows up (on the run from the company who created her as a clone of Logan), Xavier decides to help Logan escort the girl to safety. They are attacked, however, and Charles is fatally wounded by a new clone created by Transigen, the same company that cloned Laura. Another X-Man, Caliban, also died in that same battle. We left Caliban off of the list because we didn't want too many characters from one film, but both were resounding deaths in the context of the film.
As noted, in Logan, Wolverine broke out of a routine that he had gotten used to for years (driving a limo, drinking, buying medicine for Xavier, rinse and repeat), so that he could save the first new mutant that he had seen in decades. The young mutant, Laura, was a clone of Logan himself. She was created by the evil genetics corporation, Transigen, along with a group of other young mutants cloned from other X-Men.
In the end, Logan is able to protect Laura and get her to safety, but not before he is killed by X-24, another clone designed to replace Laura and her friends. Laura buries Logan and tips the cross that marks his grave so that it forms an X, befitting Logan's status as the last member of the X-Men.
Following some major public relations disasters for S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson stepped down as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Mace, the superhero known as the Patriot, took his place. Mace had super-strength and helped the cause of Inhumans everywhere when he admitted that he was an Inhuman, as well. However, it turned out that his super powers were actually given to him via a serum (a la Captain America).
Mace and the other main members of S.H.I.E.L.D., though, were captured by the Life Model Decoy known as Aida. She placed them in the virtual reality world known as the Framework. In this alternate reality, Mace is still a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, despite the fact that Hydra now rules the world. He is tragically killed in battle with the head of Hydra in this reality, Mace's S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague, Leo Fitz! Sadly, when you die in the Framework, you did in real life.
Few superheroes have had quite the varied career as Rick Jones, who has served as a partner to Hulk, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Rom the Spaceknight. Later in his life, Jones gained the ability to become one of the world's greatest computer hackers. It was his hacking that led various groups of heroes to the secret town where S.H.I.E.L.D. was using a Cosmic Cube to alter the memories of criminals.
When a Cosmic Cube-created version of Captain America took over the world, Rick Jones was one of the main rebels against his old friend, Captain America. HydraCap did not want to kill him, but Rick would not capitulate to Cap's demands and so he was killed by a firing squad at the beginning of Secret Empire.
The journey to heroism was a long and winding one for Yondu, head of the group of pirates known as the Ravagers. Yondu had broken from the greater society of Ravagers in disgrace when he began delivering Ego's children to the living planet. However, Yondu couldn't bring himself to deliver Peter Quill to Ego. Instead, he effectively adopted him and taught him how to be a pirate.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter learns the truth about Yondu (that Yondu saved him from Ego early on) soon after learning that his "real" father, Ego, was evil. Yondu ended up sacrificing himself to save Peter's life following the destruction of Ego. The rest of the Ravagers honored him after his heroic death, thus officially forgiving him for his earlier trespasses he committed for Ego.
Introduced in the first Iron Man film, Agent Phil Coulson soon became a major part of the Marvel Cienmatic Universe, appearing in a number of films and then starring in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. Coulson was then added to the Marvel comic book universe along with Nick Fury Jr. (which, in effect, added the Samuel L. Jackson version of Nick Fury to the comic book world).
Coulson starred in a couple of different S.H.I.E.L.D. comic books. Things changed, however, when Coulson learned the truth about Captain America (that he was secretly part of Hydra). Captain America wanted him quieted, so Cap turned to one of his most loyal superhero friends, Deadpool. Cap asked Deadpool to kill Coulson and Deadpool did just that, murdering Coulson to gain favor with his favorite superhero, Captain America.
During the lead-up to Marvel's Secret Wars in 2015, a number of alternate versions of Earth were destroyed by Namor and the Cabal. A few of these heroes banded together to form a new version of the Squadron Supreme. One of the members who survived the destruction of his planet was Nighthawk, who was from the reality that was featured in the Surpeme Power series.
Nighthawk gained his own series spinning out of Squadron Supreme. It was written by David Walker. Once it ended, Walker followed it up with the short-lived series, Occupy Avengers, where Nighthawk joined the team. Sadly, though, he was murdered by Hydra goons during Secret Empire. His name and costume was taken up by his associate, the reformed villain known as Nightshade.
Throughout Secret Empire, there were two notable factions of heroes. One of them, led by Hawkeye, tried to collect fragments of a Cosmic Cube so that they could recreate a Cosmic Cube and return Steve Rogers to his normal self, thus ending Hydra's threat in a peaceful fashion. The other faction, led by Black Widow, did not wish to wait to see if they could use the Cube on Cap. Instead, she planned to kill him and end the threat that way.
However, she also wished to keep the young heroes under her charge from becoming killers like her, especially Spider-Man (Miles Morales), who was shown killing Captain America in a vision by the inhuman Ulysses during Civil War II. When it seemed like Spider-Man had a chance to compete his "destiny," Black Widow stepped in and instead took a killing blow from Captain America himself.
In the Marvel Netflix Universe, Scott Glenn's Stick was one of the best translations of the original comic book material, as Stick played a very similar role on Daredevil that he did in Frank Miller's Daredevil run. Glenn played Stick as just the right blend of wizened mentor/wise guy.
He returned in The Defenders, where he memorably escaped from captivity by cutting off his own hand. He realized that the Hand needed Danny Rand for their mission to work, so the practical side of Stick decided that the only way out of the situation was to kill the innocent Danny Rand. The rest of the Defenders try to protect Danny, but then Stick knocked out his guard, Luke Cage. This worked out poorly for Stick because he now was unprotected himself when Elektra showed up and murdered him.
While it is best known as being the comic book that launched comic book superstars like the Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), people sometimes forget that Showcase continued to try to launch new features for many years after those two heroes. One of the lesser heroes it introduced was Nightmaster, a rock and roll musician who gained a magic sword and become a fantasy superhero.
Nightmaster went into character limbo for decades before returning to prominence during Infinite Crisis when he was part of the magical superhero team known as the Shadowpact (which was headquartered in Nightmaster's Oblivion Bar). The Oblivion Bar served as a refuge for the world's heroes from the Dark Knights during the Dark Nights: Metal event. Nightmaster covered the escape of the other heroes when the Dark Knights arrived. He was then killed by the evil versions of Batman.
Robert Kirkman's Invincible, in many ways, is based on the evolution of the relationship between the heroic Invincible and his father, Omni-Man. Omni-Man was the Image equivalent of Superman and when his son became a teenager, he gained superpowers and became a superhero like his father. However, he was shocked to learn that his father actually was on Earth as an advance agent by an evil alien race!
Invincible had a bloody battle against his father to keep him from invading the Earth and ended up succeeding by appealing to the love that his father had for him. Omni-Man had softened in the years since, becoming a true hero. Tragically, he died in a final battle against the remaining war-driven members of his race. Invincible has gone from seeing his father as his greatest enemy to now weeping at the loss of his dad. It's been a tremendous journey.
In the world of comic books, there is an odd little twist that comes from being fans of minor superheroes. Obviously, you'd like to see your favorite older characters make appearances again, but at the same time, history has shown that when minor superheroes suddenly pop up, it's often because they're about to be treated like cannon fodder.
That was the case with the Atomic Knights, who were a classic Silver Age group of heroes who fought in radiation-proof armor in an alternate future where the world has suffered through a nuclear armageddon (the radiation has mutated much of the world -- hence the Knights riding mutated giant Dalmatians). Modern versions of the team have been re-introduced a few times over the years, but they always seem to end up as cannon fodder, which was the case in Wonder Woman #33, when they attempted to capture Grail and instead were annihilated.
During the first two Thor films, Thor has been greatly aided by his heroic friends, Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim and Volstagg the Valiant, best known as The Warriors Three. In the first film, they came to Earth along with Lady Sif, to help return Thor to his home to help stop Loki from taking control of Asgard.
In the sequel film, Thor: The Dark World, the Warriors Three and Sif once again help Thor, this time stalling an invasion by the Dark Elves so that Thor, Loki and Jane Foster could escape. In the most recent film, Thor: Ragnarok, Odin's oldest daughter, Hela, returned to Asgard upon Odin's death (Odin could have made this list, as well, by the way), and tried to bring about Ragnarok. Along the way, she murdered all three members of the Warriors Three, with almost less than a thought. Only Hogun was able to battle a bit before himself perishing.
In the television series, The Gifted, the X-Men no longer exist. Before they disappeared, however, they entrusted the future of the mutant race to a handful of younger mutants, including Thunderbird. Thunderbird was convinced to take on the job by his friend and fellow mutant, Pulse. Pulse had the ability to cancel out electronics as well as other mutants' abilities. He appeared to be killed on a mission, but was instead taken prisoner.
Pulse shows up again working for Sentinel Services. He was a member of their Hounds, mutants who were brainwashed into helping Sentinel Services. Dr. Roderick Campbell brought Pulse with him to capture Otto Strucker, the father of Reed Strucker. Strucker proved too powerful to be restrained by Pulse's powers and exploded, injuring Campbell and killing Pulse. Before he died, he asked his friend, Thunderbird, to forgive him. Thunderbird vowed to avenge him.
After the Particle Accelerator exploded, Professor Martin Stein found himself bound with Ronnie Raymond as the new being known as Firestorm. Ronnie was later killed in battle and Martin ended up re-bonding with Jefferson Jackson to form Firestorm once again. When given the opportunity to join up with the time-traveling Legends of Tomorrow, Stein was so excited to join that he even knocked Jackson out so that he would not prevent them from joining.
Eventually, though, Stein wished that he could quit to spend more time with his family. He began to develop a way to separate himself from Jefferson. During their battle with the invading villains from Earth X, Stein was fatally wounded. Jackson merged with him to keep him alive, but it was instead slowly killing Jackson, as well. So Stein took the serum, severing their bond and killing Stein in the process.
One of the interesting things about The Gifted is the way that the show has taken minor mutant characters and made them major players in the series. One of these characters was Dreamer, who was based on the minor Morlock character, Beautiful Dreamer. Dreamer had the ability to read people's memories and also to alter them. In one episode, she had to alter Blink's memories to give Blink motivation to risk her life to help the mutants (by making her believe that she was in love with Thunderbird).
She was captured, along with Blink and the two Strucker children, Lauren and Andy, by Dr. Campbell. Campbell wanted Lauren and Andy to use their powers together so that he could study them. They refused. Campbell threatened to kill Dreamer and Blink if they continued to refuse. He then showed he was serious by murdering Dreamer in front of them.