Heroes will live and heroes will die. It’s a line often repeated in comic books that see some of our most beloved superheroes make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect the innocent and save the world. Sometimes those deaths seem finite and definitive, like when Superman met his end in the early ‘90s. Other times, death seems mysterious and often too vague to be deemed final, like when Jean Grey was left inside the White Hot Room.
Over many decades of continuity and storytelling, we may have seen many superheroes die, but we have also seen them resurrected and returned to the land of the living, as if death is just another part of the journey to save the day. They didn’t die in that explosion, they escaped; they did die and were resurrected by magic or science or aliens, they were sucked through a wormhole and travelled through time. No matter how ridiculous the reasoning might be, superheroes almost never stay dead, even when they have been gone for years. There are some superheroes who have died more often than most and have been brought back from the dead in kind. Here are the superheroes who die the most, but keep coming back to us.
15. BUCKY BARNES
Sometimes sidekicks get the worst of it. Captain America’s sidekick Bucky met his end in the same accident that led Steve Rogers to be frozen in ice. At least that’s what we thought happened. Years after Cap was revived in the modern age, we saw the return of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier during Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America in 2005.
We have ultimately seen Bucky return from the dead many times since. In Fear Itself, with Bucky serving as Captain America, he is seemingly killed in battle, only to eventually return in secret as the Winter Soldier again. It also was believed he was killed in Secret Empire, during Hydra Cap’s rise to power, but it wasn’t long before Bucky returned to help save the day, thanks to Namor and his subaquatic hiding skills.
14. IRON MAN
Tony Stark might be an ordinary human, but he’s died and come back more times than you realize. When the Avengers fought Michael Korvac and Carina in “The Korvac Saga,” Iron Man was one of the many who died in battle. As a member of the West Coast Avengers, Tony and his team sacrificed their lives to save the Avengers. He also died in Infinity Gauntlet.
When James Rhodes took over as Iron Man, Stark faked his own death. In “The Crossing,” it was discovered that he was controlled by Kang for years and sacrificed himself. Tony was also killed fighting Onslaught in the ‘90s. More recently, he was punched into a coma by Captain Marvel at the end of Civil War II, and now the Iron Man suit is worn by an AI hologram of Tony Stark.
13. CAPTAIN MARVEL
The mantle of Captain Marvel has been held by several different characters over the years, and most of them have died, yet we keep getting a new one. The original Captain Marvel, known as Mar-Vell of the Kree, died of cancer in “The Death of Captain Marvel.” Despite his death remaining permanent, the character has returned on a number of occasions.
His son Genis would take on his mantle in the ‘90s, but he too would meet his end on several occasion before Zemo permanently killed him. His daughter Phyla was also Captain Marvel, but she died too. A Skrull sleeper agent took on the role, not knowing he wasn’t the real Mar-Vell. He choose to die a hero instead of living as a Skrull conqueror. Carol Danvers now owns the role.
Batman never dies. He might just be a normal man in a suit, but Batman has a knack for coming back from the brink of death. He’s had his heart stopped on many occasions, but ultimately came back and saves the day. In Emperor Joker, the Joker gains the powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk and uses them to kill the Dark Knight over and over again.
Many villains have tried to put an end to Batman before, but no one has succeeded yet. He made it through Batman RIP to face off against Darkseid in Final Crisis. After getting blasted with the Omega Sanction, it was believed that Bruce Wayne had been killed, but in reality he had been sent back in time. He eventually returned to the present, and will return again following his banishment to the Dark Multiverse in Dark Nights: Metal.
11. MR. IMMORTAL
When you’re immortal, you can never truly be gone. Craig Hollis is a mutant who was gifted with the ability to basically never die. As Mr. Immortal, he formed the Great Lakes Avengers with a group of misfit and wannabe superheroes. As a true immortal, Hollis has been visited by Deathurge, the herald of Oblivion, who has prepared him for his destiny to live to see the end of the universe. Deathurge has taken many of those closest to him to prepare him for his destiny.
Mr. Immortal has been shot, stabbed, drowned, had his head cut off and been blown up, but nothing keeps him down for long. The only downside to his abilities is the fact that upon resurrection, Craig experiences an uncontrollable rage that few can calm him down from.
10. BOOSTER GOLD
The time traveling hero Booster Gold has been through a lot over the last decade. He saw his best friend Ted Kord die, became a legitimate hero in his own right, and turned into the savior of time itself. In the year-long series 52, he seemingly met his end when he was caught in an explosion, however, it all ended up being a ruse. He was actually Supernova in disguise the whole time.
While Booster Gold has never exactly died, he has been wiped from existence a few times. When Superman and Wonder Woman hook up, the relationship causes him to disappear from existence. In Booster Gold: Futures End #1, it is discovered that the pre-New 52 Booster Gold has survived the altering of the timeline. He hasn’t been seen during Rebirth, but he’s due to return soon.
9. CHARLES XAVIER
The visionary behind the X-Men has died quite a few times. In X-Men #42, all the way back in 1968, it was believed that Charles Xavier had met his end; however, it ended up being Changeling who died in his place. Professor X actually did die in Uncanny X-Men #167 when he was infected by the Brood Queen, but a cloned body brought him back to life.
His own son killed him in “Legion Quest,” leading to the creation of the Age of Apocalypse universe. He was shot and killed by Bishop is “Messiah Complex,” but came back from that, too. Then, in Avengers vs. X-Men #11, Xavier was killed for good by Phoenix-powered Cyclops. He hasn’t returned from this death yet (though he has been spotted recently in Astonishing X-Men book), so it’s just a matter of time before he’s officially back.
8. THE FLASH
Few characters have dealt with death as often as the Flashes. No matter who wears the costume, this mantle has gone through the ringer over the years. It all started with Barry dying to save the DC Multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths. After running himself to death, he was gone for over 20 years before returning in Final Crisis. Bart Allen, his grandson, even died before being resurrected.
No Flash has seemingly died more than Wally West, though. He’s been sucked into the Speed Force so many times, it’s hard to count. There was the time in Zero Hour, then in “Terminal Velocity,” “Chain Lightning,” and during Infinite Crisis. Wally only just recently returned from oblivion in DC Universe: Rebirth, and now he’s dead again in Titans.
When Superman dies, it’s a big deal. He met his end in a number of “imaginary” Silver Age stories, which were never meant to be considered in-continuity. Superman’s most famous brush with death was in “The Death of Superman” storyline from 1992. For all his strength, Superman finally met his match in Superman #75 when he fell in battle with the monster Doomsday.
When the DC Universe rebooted as the New 52, a younger and angrier Superman took the place of the Clark Kent we all know and love. Just when the character seemed unfamiliar, it was discovered that the older, wiser version of him was still alive. He took his counterpart’s place when the New 52 Superman died in “The Final Days of Superman,” but the two later merged in “Superman Reborn.” Superman always manages to surprise.
6. JEAN GREY
Jean Grey has died so many times that it’s become an ongoing joke among comic book fans. She originally died in Uncanny X-Men #101 before returning as Phoenix. When the Phoenix Force was corrupted, she committed unspeakable atrocities and decided to kill herself off in issue #137 at the end of what is remembered as “The Dark Phoenix Saga.”
Back from the dead, Jean died again in #281, but used her psychic powers to stay alive inside the head of Emma Frost. She died in X-Men #148 at the hand of Wolverine and was killed by Magneto during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run. Phoenix: Endsong saw her die multiple times before heading back to the grave. We know that Jean Grey is expected to return soon, but it’s only a matter of time before she’s dead again.
5. NICK FURY
Marvel’s spymaster Nick Fury has been killed and reborn time and time again. Thanks to an endless supply of Life Model Decoys, he has managed to fake his death many times over. When it was believe he took an assassin’s bullet in Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #15, it was a stand-in. During the “Over the Edge” storyline, it was believed that the Punisher killed him, but it was an LMD the whole time.
When the Infinity Formula that keeps him young is extracted from his blood, the superspy grows old and disappears. Instead of dying, Fury goes on to continue his mission of keeping the world safe. He was responsible for the death of Uatu the Watcher, and gained new abilities in order to take over the job of the deceased. Nick Fury will outlive us all.
The story of Spider-Man is one of death and rebirth, and sometimes that can happen literally. When Peter dies in Spider-Man #17, he had an out-of-body experience where he fights Thanos and convinces Death to let him live. Over the years, he’s been poisoned by the Owl, turned into a giant spider, and reborn in a cocoon. The deaths of Spider-Man are often confusing as hell.
He infamously died during the Clone Saga when he is revealed to be the clone of Ben Reilly, but that is soon reversed, and Reilly dies instead. Peter Parker has even died in the Ultimate Universe, only to be mysteriously brought back. His 616 version was seemingly killed by Otto Octavius when the two switched minds. In the end, Spider-Man is reborn again and returns from the dead.
3. RESURRECTION MAN
When death is your power, dying becomes just another day at the office. First appearing in 1997, Mitch Shelley is Resurrection Man, a superhero who constantly dies but is reborn with a new power each time. Over the span of his existence, Resurrection Man has had the ability to fly, control fire, shapeshift, and do so much more.
The victim of a science experiment, Mitch is more of a reluctant hero than most, but he has been seen to be an active superhero into the 853rd Century. As a member of Justice Legion Alpha, Resurrection Man creates a device that gives him a controlled way to die and allows him to control what powers he gains. When you die practically every issue, Resurrection Man is one hero we will never be very long without.
As a god, Thor dies all the time, only to come back good as new soon after. Existing in an endless cycle of death and rebirth, Thor has died in Ragnarok, only to be brought back again. He dies in Thor #85 during his attempt to break free of the God Cycle, but it is discovered that he entered into his own Odinsleep and returned.
Thor has also died during Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet, and the Avengers’ battle against Onslaught. During Fear Itself, Thor finally comes face to face with the true Serpent of Ragnarok and dies in battle, but Loki and the Silver Surfer fetch his soul from the afterlife and bring him back. It’s certainly possible to kill a god, but Thor doesn’t seem interested in allowing it all to end.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America has died and returned so many times, it’s amazing that he’s still able to function. Following his adventures in the Golden Age of comics, it was discovered in Avengers #4 that Steve Rogers had never died, like initially believed, but had actually become frozen in ice. After awakening in modern times, he died in “The Korvac Saga,” Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet, and “Onslaught.”
Mark Gruenwald seemingly killed Cap when the Super Soldier Serum in his blood finally gave out, but the Red Skull saved him. Rogers famously died at the end of Civil War in Captain America #25, but later returned. He died in Uncanny Avengers, but his death was undone. He was twisted into a Hydra agent, but the “real” Steve Rogers was brought back at the end of Secret Empire.
Did we miss a few? Who else can we count on coming back to life?
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