Is there anything more of a cop out than a comic book death? Throughout the near-century long history of the genre, character deaths have been used to entice emotional reactions from readers and to shake up the status quo of a title. However, they almost never stick. Publishers will kill off our most beloved heroes and the most vile villains in memorably ways and then turn around and bring them back a year later. Uncle Ben is just about the only major character who has never been resurrected permanently, and even then writers have definitely tried!
Everyone remembers how Superman, Captain America, and Jason Todd died. But then there are deaths, usually that happen during a large comic book event, that get overshadowed by the demise of another character or by the consequences of the event itself. We feel for these guys; they usually perish with a heroic sacrifice or status-quo shattering action and then have their memory swept away by writers who want to one-up themselves. We’re calling these guys out! Here are 16 Comic Book Deaths That Totally Got Upstaged.
16. Quicksilver upstaged by Sokovia Event
Bet you didn’t see that coming! In 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron we are introduced to the Maximoff twins, a man and woman who are mutan- er, “talented“ siblings with the powers of super speed and telepathy/magic, respectively. In the film’s epic climax, the Avengers fight to keep Ultron from activating the device that will bring about humanity’s destruction. The team is (of course) successful and Ultron tries to flee in a stolen Quinjet; on his way out, he tries to kill Hawkeye using the jet’s guns. At the last second, Quicksilver pushes Clint Barton out of the way and takes the hailstorm of bullets himself. The death of Pietro Maximoff pushed his sister over the edge, causing Wanda to go into a rage in which she rips Ultron’s “heart” out with her magic.
The problem is… Quicksilver’s death is barely mentioned again. The Avengers return to their new base and regroup, joking it up about Thor’s hammer as they say their goodbyes and form a new team. Even right after, when Hawkeye carries Pietro’s lifeless corpse to the Hellicarrier, he makes a sarcastic joke. The actual Sokovia Event has much, much larger repercussions on the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it leads directly to the events of Captain America: Civil War, it causes Tony Stark to reassess his methods of heroics, and it sends Bruce Banner and Thor off to distant planets/dimensions. But Quicksilver’s death hasn’t even got so much as a mention since it happened.
15. So many heroes upstaged by Captain Marvel
There are so many characters who died in the legendary Kingdom Come storyline that we’d be here all day if we tried to list them all. In an alternate future timeline, the superheroes of the good ‘ol days are long gone. Instead they are replaced by violent vigilantes with zero qualms about killing their villains in cold blood; the public absolutely loves this new breed of hero, which forces the old guard into retirement (minus Batman, of course). However, after a mass catastrophe on a mission led by one of these new heroes, Superman decides to come out of retirement and end this recklessness once and for all.
Over the course of this tale Aquaman, Red Arrow, Hawkman, Blue Beetle, Joker, and many, many more are killed. But nobody ever remembers that. No, the big death that everyone remembers from Kingdom Come is the death of Captain Marvel. After spending most of the story brainwashed by Lex Luthor, Superman is able to break the mind control spell on Billy Batson for long enough to convince him to stop an oncoming nuclear missile. Batson turns back into Captain Marvel and uses his powers to stop the bomb, though he is killed in the process.
14. Havok upstaged by Apocalypse
2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse featured a large cast of characters, some great and some completely forgettable. Sadly, Alexander Summers (better known as Havok) was one of the latter. He was a major player in X-Men: First Class before appearing as a cameo in Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Whilst introducing his younger brother Scott to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Havok witnesses a mental attack on Professor X from Apocalypse via Cerebro. Havok uses his powers to destroy the device, blowing up the entire school and causing an amazing slow-mo Quicksilver scene. Sadly, the speedster isn’t able to save Summers (he was too close to the explosion).
Scott returns to the X-Mansion and spends a moment looking for his brother before coming to the grim realization that he’s gone. Of course, the plot allows no time for any grieving; the young heroes have to hurry up and follow Stryker! Then that’s it. Alexander Summers is gone just like that, with no remorse or second thought from any character other than his little brother. It’s kind of sad, actually.
13. Superboy upstaged by Ted Kord and Jason Todd
For some odd reason, Infinite Crisis is probably the least memorable of the Crisis trilogy. Crisis on Infinite Earths is about as iconic as you can get and Final Crisis gave us the death of the Dark Knight and Darkseid. But then there was this story, which only had two really memorable moments: The first was when Superboy Prime (an alternate universe Superboy) punched reality so hard that Jason Todd was brought back to life. The other was the brutal and shocking death of Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle.
But both of those happenings completely overshadow the death of Superboy. The character had been a staple of the DC Universe for as long as we can remember; seeing him beaten to a bloody pulp by his own alt-universe self is a pretty disturbing image.
Hell, it even messed up Batman really bad. Bruce goes so far as to contemplate using a gun to kill Superboy Prime, suddenly willing to break his one rule to stop this menace. Alas, whenever people talk about this event it’s Ted Kord and Jason Todd who are brought up first.
12. Vision upstaged by Hawkeye
During the early 2000s, the Avengers title were on the skids, so much so that it had the potential for cancellation. Brian Michael Bendis took over the series and decided that the best way to get sales back up was to completely disassemble the team and start anew. The result was Avengers: Disassembled, a story where half of the team was killed off. When the dust had cleared Luke Cage, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Woman, and Spider-Man made up the new group.
Early on in the story, an evil Scarlet Witch possesses She-Hulk. In a fit of confusion and rage, she violently rips Vision in half. It’s a brutal scene; you see chunks of “flash” and even Vision’s metal “spine” tearing as he is killed. The only issue is that the death of Hawkeye later in the story was much more memorable.
When Scarlet Witch stages a fake Kree invasion, the already-ailing Avengers come to the defense of New York. The mothership descends on the city, and Hawkeye makes the ultimate sacrifice when one of his explosive arrows in detonated while still in his quiver; the ship is destroyed and New York City is saved, but Clint Barton is killed in the process.
11. Jimmy Olsen upstaged by Lois Lane and Joker
The elseworlds story Injustice: Gods Among Us is one of the most expansive (and fun) in the DC continuity. The game and its comic book prequel ask the question “What if Superman went off the deep end?” After his wife and unborn child are brutally killed by the Joker, Superman decides to go full dictator; he starts murdering villains and overthrows the government of the U.S. before declaring that the entire world is under his rule. Of course, Batman leads an opposition of heroes to bring him down.
The story starts off with a bang (literally) as Jimmy Olsen is shot and murdered by the Clown Prince of Crime and Harley Quinn. It was a really shocking twist that made us realize that this event was going to be like none before it. Sure, Zach Snyder copied this move in Batman V. Superman, but seeing Superman’s best pal shot dead in the street was horrific to say the least.
But it was quickly overshadowed when the Joker used Kryptonite-laced fear toxin to trick Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn baby. If that wasn’t enough of an upstaging, Superman then punches the Joker’s heart out in a fit of rage. This scene has become one of the most iconic within recent memories and completely overshadows the loss of the beloved reporter.
10. War Machine upstaged by Bruce Banner
Although it was a very hit or miss event in the eyes of critics, and has had nowhere near the impact of the original, Civil War II brought along with it some crazy occurrences. It all starts when the Avengers exploit the powers of Ulysses, an Inhuman with the ability to see into the future. The team sees that Thanos is going to attack and move to ambush him before he can cause any damage; it goes about as well as you’d expect. In the ensuing battle, War Machine is killed via a cosmic punch through the body, angering Tony Stark and causing the 2nd Marvel Civil War.
But then a few issues later, this status-quo shattering event is completely upstaged. Dr. Bruce Banner gets confronted by his ex-teammates and begins to Hulk out. Before he can transform into the behemoth, Hawkeye shoots him in the head with an “anti-Hulk” arrow. This came completely out of left field and kept us talking for months after it happened. Unfortunately this also meant that the death of Rhodes became somewhat of an afterthought.
9. Deadpool upstaged by Wolverine
Now wait a minute! Deadpool can’t die, can he? Yes, he can. In 2015’s The Death of Deadpool story arc, Marvel decided that he was going to be a casualty of their upcoming Secret Wars crossover event. In his 250th and “final” issue, the Merc with a Mouth met his end when the 616 Universe and the Ultimate Universe collided, killing everyone who inhabited them. Deadpool went out in a way that was unusual for the character; he was surrounded by loved ones as he realized that he no longer needed to try and be anyone else but himself. It was kind of touching.
But there was another death, one year prior, that was so powerful that still lingers to this day: the death of Wolverine. The hype from this was insane! Wolverine was un-killable, so to see him finally meet his demise within the 616 Universe (and not an alternative timeline like usual) was something that just felt poetic; Wolverine finally found peace after saving a group of innocent people one last time. Wade Wilson just kind of… died. It also didn’t help matters that Deadpool came back almost instantly after Secret Wars had ended, while Logan is still dead in the main continuity.
8. Ant-Man upstaged by Spider-Man
Eric O’Grady is probably the least popular of the three characters to have been Ant-Man. Everyone loves Hank Pym and now, thanks to the feature film, Scott Lang is popular as well. But O’Grady was kind of a jerk, evidenced by the fact that his first solo series was called The Irredeemable Ant-Man and featured him stealing the suit, impregnating and then abandoning his girlfriend, inappropriately soliciting women, and using his powers to spy on people in the shower. Even so, his exploits were funny in a kind of scummy way (think It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). We most certainly felt bad in 2012. when O’Grady, who had held the title of Ant-Man for over six years, was beaten to death by a bunch of henchmen while saving an innocent child. Even for a guy like Eric, that was a terrible way to go.
In true Ant-Man fashion, however, another insect-based hero stole the spotlight. In December of that same year Marvel released The Amazing Spider-Man #700, which saw the end of an incredible 50 year run for the title and the death of Peter Parker. There was nothing else that year that could have possibly had more gravitas than Spider-Man’s death (especially the way it happened).
7. Drax and Starlord upstaged by Nova
The Thanos Imperative was a 2010 mini series from Marvel comics that saw all of its cosmic heroes come together to stop the Cancerverse from entering our world via a rift in the space-time continuum. In a shocking turn of events, Thanos escapes from the Nova Corps’ containment, murders Drax the Destroyer in cold blood, and then tricks an alt-universe version of Captain Marvel into summoning Lady Death to claim him. When she refuses, the entire alternate universe begins to collapse, and Starlord and Nova agree to stay behind and fight the Mad Titan. They are presumably killed when the Cancerverse collapses. Aren’t comics strange?
But remember, this was 2010. Just about nobody knew who any of these characters were other than Nova and Thanos. And because of this, the heroic deaths of Drax and Starlord were pretty much brushed over. Marvel fans grieved for Richard Ryder without giving a single thought about Peter Quill or our beloved green and red destroyer.
6. Wonderman upstaged by Hal Jordan (Parallax)
Wonder Man is one of the most underrated superheroes of all time. Many people haven’t even heard of the character; heck, even a web engine search will ask “Did you mean Wonder Woman?” Simon Williams made his first appearance in the ninth issue of The Avengers as a disgraced millionaire who was turned into pure energy by Baron Zemo and tasked with destroying the team.
Williams eventually came over to the side of good and acted as a C-list hero for years. With cool energy-based powers and a costume that is so campy it’s amazing, Wonder Man is a great character. In 1994, as a part of Force Works (a team assembled by Iron Man to rival his old one), Wonder Man died stopping an invasion of Earth by the Kree.
Despite his monumental sacrifice, DC pulled one over on their rival. That same year was the one that saw Hal Jordan go crazy and become the villainous Parallax. There was no topping this series of events; Jordan had his city destroyed, murdered a bunch of his teammates in cold blood and stole their rings, finally killed Sinestro, and released the power battery of Oa in one fell swoop. This is by far one of the most shocking events in comic book history, and there was no way the death of a former B-list hero was going to outshine it.
5. Barry Allen upstaged by Supergirl
During Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC fans witnessed one of the first true mega-crossovers in comic book history when the Anti-Monitor threatened to destroy every universe that existed in DC comics. At the story’s climax the Flash comes face to face with the villain’s superweapon and is faced with a grim choice- He can either use his powers to stop the weapon (most likely resulting in his death) or he can allow it to fire, destroying the existence of several “Earths.” Barry Allen chooses the former, and is reduced to dust as he absorbs the power of the weapon. “Wait a minute!” You may exclaim, “Everyone remembers the death of Barry Allen!” Well yes, they do. But this list isn’t about which ones are the most remembered, it’s about which ones got upstaged.
When you look up Crisis on Infinite Earths, what’s the first image you see. It’s Superman sobbing and holding a dead Supergirl in his arms. That’s right, it’s Kara Zor-El’s death that most people associate with this story rather than Barry Allen. Perhaps this is because Allen was replaced pretty quickly with his former sidekick, Wally West, and Supergirl didn’t reappear until her character’s Post-Crisis resurrection in 2004.
4. Goliath upstaged by Captain America
Now let’s be clear, this death was more important because of its implications to the Marvel universe rather than the popularity of the character. Goliath was never a heavy hitter in the Marvel continuity. The character was created during the “Blaxploitation” phenomenon of the 1970s and it definitely shows; the character was originally called “Black Goliath” and is described as being a brilliant young mind who pulled himself out of the ghetto.
After a short-lived stint as Giant-Man (as a replacement for Hank Pym), Bill Foster returned to his roots and joins Captain America’s team during Civil War. During a battle with Tony Stark and his forces, Foster is killed by a clone of Thor.
This is often seen as the turning point of the story. After Goliath’s death. members of Tony’s team begin to question whether or not they are on the correct side. Iron Man begins to appear as a “villain” rather than a hero and it’s feared that his methods are going too far. But the entire death is upstaged when, at the war’s end, Steve Rogers is shot and killed in the street after turning himself in. Nothing else in the entire Civil War story comes close to touching the impact of Steve’s death, and sadly the death of Goliath is one of those moments that gets swept under the rug.
3. Anyone who died in 1993 upstaged by Superman
Which comic book character died in 1993? If you said anyone other than “Superman,” then you’re much better at trivia than most people! ’93 featured some pretty hefty deaths on the Marvel side of things: Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic both met their ends during one of their epic battles in October, while Harry Osborn succumbed to his own Goblin poison earlier in May. All three of these deaths seemed like they were intended to be long-lasting, as Doom and Mr. Fantastic didn’t return for two whole years and Harry stayed dead until 2008.
But nothing was going to top the industry-crashing story The Death of Superman in 1993. After a brutal fight with the villain Doomsday, the Man of Steel passed away in the arms of Lois Lane. What followed was a really bizarre story that would only make sense in the world of comic books; four different D-list heroes try to take Kal-El’s place as guardian of Metropolis before Superman himself returned less than a year later.
Let’s also not forget the story’s effect on comic books as a whole; fans felt betrayed by the brevity of Superman’s death and how they had been manipulated by the hype machine to buy these comics as collector’s items. They now have little value due to how many were printed.
2. Captain Marvel upstaged by Elektra
The original Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) was a mainstay of the Avengers throughout the Silver Age of comics. The character started off as a Kree spy who eventually turned sympathetic toward humanity and began to serve as its protector from cosmic threats. In 1982, Captain Marvel discovered that he had contracted cancer after being exposed to “Compound 13” nerve gas. After a hard-fought battle with the illness, the superhero passed away, seeing a vision of Thanos and Lady Death leading him to the afterlife. It was a powerful way for a hero to go. He also has stayed dead for all these years; the mantle of Captain Marvel has been picked up by others, but the original Mar-Vell has never permanently returned.
1982 was also the year that saw one of the most famous deaths in comic book history. In the same year that Captain Marvel tragically passed away, Elektra Natchios was killed when Bullseye stabbed her with her own sai. Her death scarred Daredevil for years and led to the greatest fight between Bullseye and his arch-enemy in their long history. Sadly, even the most casual of comic fan can recall the death of Elektra; they’d be hard-pressed to even recall that there was an original Captain Marvel.
1. Cyclops upstaged by Professor X, Wolverine, Dark Phoenix
You want to talk about getting upstaged? Scott Summers gets upstaged in every single X-Men movie. Despite being the leader of the team, Wolverine takes center stage all throughout the original trilogy. When a group of spinoffs were announced, Wolverine and Magneto got all the attention; Logan now has an entire trilogy of films devoted solely to him! Even in the latest film, Mystique acted as the de-facto leader of the team when Professor X was captured. But the biggest middle finger to Cyclops has to be his role in X-Men: The Last Stand. At the start of the film Scott is still distraught over the supposed death of Jean Grey. He eventually finds out that she is still alive, and then she proceeds to kill him. They don’t even show Cyclop’s death; he just kind of evaporates and then Storm implies he’s gone when she finds his glasses.
But that’s not the worst part. Oh, no… The film then goes on to make a huge deal about killing off Professor Xavier and Jean Grey. Sure, Scott gets a memorial at the end of the movie, but his death is never even mentioned and nobody even seems that sad about it. There were a lot of things wrong with X-Men: The Last Stand, but the upstaging of Scott Summer’s death is just completely unforgivable.
Do you agree with our list? Were all of these deaths truly upstaged, or are we overreacting? Let us know in the comments!