In this feature we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ’em out!
Last time around, I detailed the first superhero to die in the line of duty. A bunch of people then wrote in to ask, then, who was the first superhero to come BACK from the dead. So that’s what we’ll do this time, as we take a look at the first superhero to RETURN from death!
I’ll admit that I COULD be missing some obscure “now in the public domain” character from the 1950s, but I do not believe that I am. You see, superheroes dying in comic books during the 1940s and 1950s were quite rare, so the idea of then bringing them BACK was even rarer (even though that approach had already been used in a few different comic strips of the time, most famously Daddy Warbucks’ rather disgusting return from the dead upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
So as far as I can tell (and if I’m mistaken, I am sure one of you fine folks will let me know otherwise), the first superhero to return from the dead did not occur until the Silver Age in the pages of Adventure Comics.
In 1962’s Adventure Comics #304, Jerry Siegel and John Forte gave us one of those classic “Legionnaire X has become a crazy jerk out of nowhere! It must be because he/she is, in fact, a crazy jerk and not because of some elaborate well-intentioned plan!” stories, as Saturn Girl becomes the leader of the Legion and then goes around sabotaging her teammates. As it turns out, she had discovered that a Legionnaire was destined to die, so she was trying to manipulate the fates so that it was SHE who died. As it turns out, fate had other plans…
As you can see, they’re practically screaming at us, “WE WILL BE BRINGING HIM BACK! DO NOT WORRY!”
But they actually held off returning him for a while, even playing with that idea a little bit, like when it looks like he has returned from the dead, but it’s really his identical twin sister, who joins the team as Lightning LASS. That sort of lulled readers into thinking, “Well, there you go. He has been replaced by his sister. There’s no need for him to return.”
And then we got 1963’s Adventure Comics #312 (with one of the all-time great covers, a detail of which is featured as the banner image this week), where writer Edmond Hamilton (along with artist John Forte) ultimately did bring Lightning Lad back. Go to the next page to see how it happened!
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