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Superhero Series That Ended With the Death of the Main Character

In Drawing Crazy Patterns, I spotlight at least five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics).

Today, we take a look at an interesting narrative techniques that comic book creators sometimes use. When a comic book series is slated for cancellation, creators will often take that opportunity to then kill off their main character. We don't mean stuff like Thor dying at the end of his 1998 series during Ragnarok, as that was clearly intended for him to return from. Similarly, we're not talking Peter Parker "dying" at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #700, as, again, that was just part of an overall plot where he was going to return. We're talking about deaths that, at the time, were intended by the respective authors to be their actual final deaths (as an aside, I'm also not going to use Hitman, as that doesn't seem to fit in with these others, as it would have been more shocking had Tommy made it out of that series alive). I'm only counting superheroes that had their own series, so sorry, Manhunter!

DOOM PATROL HEROICALLY SACRIFICE THEMSELVES

The Doom Patrol were known as the world's strangest heroes and so it is only proper that when their series was canceled, they got one of the strangest final issues ever at the time. What's weird about this issue is that writer Arnold Drake, the co-creator of the series (with artist Bruno Premiani) was leaving DC Comics period at around this time and was starting to work for Marvel. So he was going to be off of the book no matter what and note that Editor Murray Boltinoff actively had him eliminated from the opening page where the creative team talks to the reader directly about how they could "save" the Doom Patrol (again, unlikely to ever have been a realistic scenario where the book was going to be un-canceled, especially with Drake gone)....

Okay, so Madame Rouge, one of the Doom Patrol's main enemies, had reformed and was in love with the Chief, the head of the Doom Patrol. But then the Brain turned her evil again and she just went NUTS. She killed the Brain and she started attacking the Doom Patrol with such deadly attacks that they had to leave the United States because of their fear for innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire. She teamed up with another Doom Patrol foe, Captain Stahl, and they ultimately captured the Doom Patrol and Stahl made them an offer - they could be killed or a small fishing village with very few people in it would die instead. He figured that their heroic resolve would crumble in the face of imminent death. He was wrong.

Of course, they all were eventually revived, but that wasn't the intent at the time!

VIGILANTE HAS A SAD ENDING

Introduced in the pages of the New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Adrian Chase was a respected judge who decided that his court wasn't serving justice enough, so he became the costumed killer known as the Vigilante. He was basically the DC Universe's Punisher (not that the Punisher was a unique concept, either, but you know what I mean).

Marv Wolfman launched the series, but Paul Kupperberg eventually took it over and he decided to have the series end at #50. He set the storyline into place with Vigilante #37, where Chase sort of kind of accidentally kills a cop. From that point forward, he was just slowly descending into madness. It came to a head in Vigilante #50 (by Kupperberg and artists Steve Ervin and Jack Torrance), when Vigilante fatally wounds one of his best friends in the police force. His only answer at this point was to kill himself...

It was a "Mature Readers" book, so it wasn't as shocking as if it had happened elsewhere, but it was still pretty darn shocking.

THE EXILES MESS WITH OUR HEADS

Here was a comic book series that actually led to new rules about soliciting comic books! You see, the Exiles were a sort of X-Men riff initially intended to be a Malibu Comics series, but then the creators of the book, Tom Mason, Dave Olbrich and Chris Ulm, gave the idea to Steve Gerber to use for the Ultraverse, the shared superhero universe created at Malibu Comics. The idea of the series is that a group of people got superpowers from a fatal virus. The doctor who was treating the virus decided to put them together and form a superhero team.

Gerber's idea was that we always see people pulled off of, say, farms in Siberia and crowds in Germany and see them become effective superheroes, but what if that DIDN'T work out this time? What if a bunch of essentially random people getting through together onto a team was just a recipe for disaster?

So, in Exiles #4 (drawn by R.R. Phipps and Dave Simons), one of the members of the team, Amber Hunt, screws up and she sets off an explosion that kills pretty much everyone on the team (one member, Ghoul, was off on another mission. He would become a longtime member of the Ultraforce after this).

The problem was that Malibu had solicited a #5 to hide the ending of Exiles #4, which was the final issue of the series. Diamond Comics made sure that that was a no-no from that point forward. You were not allowed to solicit non-existent comic book issues.

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