Ever since their inception, superheroes have embodied the best of humanity. They represent symbols of hope, justice, willpower, and perseverance, among other things. Whereas anti-heroes and supervillains choose to kill and are often apathetic to collateral damage, superheroes choose to walk a different, much lighter path.
Many well-known characters — namely Batman and Superman — are adverse to killing, but there are those who’ve considered the heinous act to be an imperative factor in deterring evil, even going as far as to kill their fellow superheroes. As mentioned, some characters have made their stance on killing well-known, while others haven’t. Although some superheroes have never killed before, that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to.
Here are 15 Superheroes You Didn’t Know Were Really Okay With Killing.
15. Wonder Woman
The upcoming Wonder Woman movie is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated blockbuster movies releasing next year, especially since it’ll be the first ever female-led superhero movie (we can just pretend Supergirl, Elektra, and Catwoman never happened, right?). It’s also based on the most iconic female superhero of all-time. Judging by the footage released at Comic-Con earlier this year, as well as Gal Gadot’s brief role in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it seems that Princess Diana will be exhibiting her warrior side — albeit with a much-needed dose of optimism.
Wonder Woman is an Amazonian warrior and a true master of hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting, both of which are augmented by her nigh-indestructibility as well as her superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes. In the movies, she’s plainly admitted that she’s killed things from other worlds before, but in the comics, she’s killed more than just monsters and abominations — she’s killed people, too. In fact, she once killed Maxwell Lord, who was compelling Superman to kill Batman.
14. Iron Man
Although he has always been a core member of Marvel Comics, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has arguably become as recognizable as A-list superheroes like Batman and Superman. A lot of that is thanks to Robert Downey Jr., who helped pioneer the Marvel Studios’ ambitious shared universe by starring in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008. Since then, he’s racked up quite the kill count, giving his comic book counterpart a run for his money.
In Captain America: Civil War, we see Tony struggling with all the death he’s caused, which is why he advocates signing the Sokovia Accords and establishing a supervisory organization. However, it took some time and a lot of death to get to that point (75,157 kills, to be exact). Death may weigh heavily on his mind, but Tony Stark has never been opposed to killing, especially if it meant protecting the world. Like Wonder Woman, we’re not just talking about extraterrestrial threats, either — he’s killed people, too.
Thor, the God of Thunder, is one of Asgard’s greatest warriors and one of Earth’s greatest defenders. For ages, he safeguarded the people of Asgard, but it was clear that he wanted more than just to be the peoples’ protector. His father, Odin, thought it best to banish him to Earth, where he could learn humility and return to Asgard a worthy successor to the throne. We see all of this play out in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, which explained the essential parts of Thor’s origin.
Although Thor is nowhere near as powerful in the movies as he is in the comics, he’s still shown the same propensity for killing if he finds it necessary, as well as the need to preserve life. For example, Thor once killed Loki in the comics and was consequently banished from Asgard. Things are a bit different for the God of Thunder on the big screen, of course. Still, Thor has killed countless enemies in his time, including Ragnarok, Malekith, and Skurge the Executioner, and many, many, others.
This entry may come as a surprise to many people, especially longtime fans of the character both on-screen and off. Peter Parker’s Spider-Man may not be a ruthless killer like some of his other Marvel counterparts, though he has certainly killed his fair share of enemies over the years (we’re not counting the times in which villains went around masquerading as the web-slinger).
The thing is, Spider-Man can’t be faulted for everyone’s death. There have been many instances in which Spidey was trying to save someone or something and what he did indirectly caused someone to die. The biggest example of this, of course, is when he tried to save Gwen Stacy from falling and accidentally snapped her neck. Then, there was a time Charlemagne died attacking Peter while he was fighting Wolverine.
Although there are more examples of people accidentally dying because of Spider-Man, there are far more examples of him killing people and other sentient beings for the greater good. But disregarding all those people, it’s worth noting that Spider-Man has attempted to kill Norman Osborn several times, but he either stopped himself from doing or so or failed to finish the job.
11. Green Lantern
Green Lantern is one of many identities in the comic book world that could refer to any number of characters — such as The Flash and Robin — though people tend to associate the name with the Silver Age character Hal Jordan. What once began with the magic-wielding, Golden Age character Alan Scott eventually passed on to Jordan, then to Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz, and Jessica Cruz, who are all members of the vaunted Green Lantern Corps.
The Green Lantern Corps is one of many Lantern Corps that exist in the universe, with green embodying willpower. Each member represents the finest soldiers of their respective worlds, and they usually try their absolute hardest not to kill. However, if necessary, the Green Lanterns would do whatever is necessary to protect not only their world but the universe itself . Sometimes the Guardians of the Universe would even decree that Green Lanterns would be authorized to use deadly force against an unrelenting threat, like fighting the Yellow Lantern Corps.
Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, is one of the oldest X-Men in the Marvel Universe, having appeared in the very first X-Men comic back in 1963. Although several other mutants have been portrayed as anti-heroes over the years, Cyclops has almost always been seen as the ideal hero, a man willing to follow Professor X’s marching orders and protect his fellow mutants as well as the general public. Though sometimes, within the comic book world, he’s not able to control his actions.
Cyclops has killed people (or attempted to kill people) when he wasn’t himself. The optic-blasting superhero has shown an inclination to kill if he believed it was for the greater good, however, and he’s even killed people for personal reasons in teh past. For example, after discovering that his wife, Madelyne Pryor, was a clone of Jean Grey created by the geneticist Mister Sinister to have Cyclops and Pryor produce a viable offspring, he apparently killed Sinister in retaliation.
9. Black Widow
Ever since her debut as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, actress Scarlett Johansson has become synonymous with the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Despite having a role in several movies, Black Widow’s backstory has eluded movie-going audiences for the most part, though Marvel Studios could be saving that story for a potential Black Widow movie.
But given our knowledge of the comics, we know enough of Black Widow’s origin to safely say that she’s definitely killed her fair share of people — some criminal, some not. She is more reserved in the movies than she is the comics, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is willing to kill, whether she is ordered to or not.
A prime example of her willingness to kill is displayed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which she kicks Jasper Sitwell off the roof of a building because Captain America didn’t have it in him to kill (or appear to kill) a defenseless person. Although Sitwell (temporarily) survives his encounter with Black Widow in the movie, he was less fortunate in the comics.
8. The Spectre
The original and most recognized character who embodied the essence of the Spectre is Jim Corrigan, the Golden Age character who became a founding member of the Justice Society of America as well as the All-Star Squadron. When he was murdered and denied entry into the afterlife, Corrigan was sent back to Earth to embody the Spirit of Vengeance.
As an element of the Presence, the divine creator of the DC Universe, the Spectre has virtually limitless power; the power of a god, for all intents and purposes. As Corrigan, Spectre spent years ridding society of evil, fighting crime alongside his fellow Justice Society members in the most brutish, supernatural fashion possible.
When the time came for Corrigan to move on, the Spectre famously possessed Hal Jordan and adopted the Spirit of Redemption. Despite occupying a Green Lantern as his host, the Spectre didn’t halt his mission of vengeance, which unsurprisingly means a lot of killing. We don’t know what his kill count is, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Spectre has killed more people than even the deadliest supervillains.
7. Black Panther
Audiences were introduced to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War earlier this year, which set up the character’s story to continue in his own solo movie releasing in 2018. Although various parts of T’Challa’s origin story were changed for the big screen, in the comics, he did eventually become the Black Panther — a ceremonial title passed down throughout generations, though one must typically earn the title first — after his father was killed.
The Black Panther is an elite warrior and defender of Wakanda. It should be noted that T’Challa would do anything to protect his people and those he loves, even kill, which he has done in the past, although he has never killed anyone of considerable importance (read: an established character). For example, when the Skrulls once captured his wife, Storm, T’Challa decapitated a Super-Skrull in retaliation before allowing himself to be captured.
Along with Captain America and the original Human Torch (not to be confused with Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four character), Namor the Sub-Mariner, was one of the three most popular characters published by Timely Comics in the early 20th century. The trio were later being incorporated into Marvel Comics. Namor — the son of a human father and an Atlantean mother — is considered Marvel’s very first mutant. However, he wasn’t regarded as a mutant until long after the X-Men were introduced.
For a character like Namor, who’s been around since the dawn of superhero comics, he has undoubtedly amassed quite the kill count. Although there is some contention over whether or not he should be responsible for some of his actions, particularly when he was one of the Phoenix Five, Namor has still slaughtered people in droves in the past. He hasn’t shied away from killing before, and he likely won’t in the future, especially when it’s for the greater good.
As with many other characters in the comic book world, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, shares an incredible amount of similarities with the aforementioned Namor — namely that he’s the son of a human father and an Atlantean mother who later grew to be the King of Atlantis and Ruler of the Seven Seas.
Determining who the stronger man is between the two aquatic heroes is the subject of a never-ending debate. However, there is no denying that Namor has killed far more people than Aquaman. The person Aquaman is most well-known for killing is Black Manta’s father, who had once attacked Arthur’s father. Although he has seldom killed people, Aquaman’s stance on the subject weighs closer to Wonder Woman’s train of thought than Batman or Superman’s.
With power like his, Aquaman is always on the frontline defending the world from monstrous sea creatures and extraterrestrial threats alike. In fact, he once had the ability to completely dehydrate someone simply by using the waterbearer’s hand, which of course results in instant death.
4. Captain America
Captain America is one of the most recognizable superheroes in the history of comic books, having made his debut early on in the Golden Age of Comics. Not only is he a founding member of the Avengers, but he has fought alongside virtually every major hero, in every major battle, in the Marvel Universe. Now, with the success of Marvel’s Captain America trilogy as well as The Avengers movies, Captain America’s recognition has been amplified to a world-wide audience.
Steve Rogers had the heart of a soldier before he became Captain America, and when he was endowed with his iconic superhuman strength, he was finally able to fight for his country. While at Timely Comics, Cap killed or tried to kill virtually every Nazi he came across. But, since the outset of the Silver Age of Comics, he has veered away from blindly killing his enemies. He’s rarely even spotted with a firearm nowadays, opting instead to use his vibranium shield on the battlefield. Still, if not presented with another option, Captain America will not hesitate to put an end to his enemies in the name of justice.
3. Jonah Hex
Although not necessarily a superhero, Jonah Hex is one of the most notable anti-heroes in the DC Universe, while also being one of the oldest, chronologically. Before he became a bounty hunter, Jonah Hex was a lieutenant in the Confederate Army who willfully surrendered to the North after the announcement of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
After the Civil War had ended, Jonah Hex turned to a life of bounty hunting, which eventually led him into a form of crime-fighting. However, it soon became evident that he did not share the same moral code as his fellow DC counterparts. In fact, he willingly killed his enemies and those who meant to do harm to the innocent. He was living in the Old West, after all.
Jonah Hex may not be adverse to killing, but he has always tried to fight for the greater good. Interestingly though, many of those fights involved Jonah Hex fighting Batman, with the former even coming out on top once or twice.
Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, made his big screen debut in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and he’ll be returningto headline the movie’s sequel next year. The overwhelming success of Gunn’s film introduced fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an entirely new set of cosmic heroes, though Star-Lord wasn’t always a superhero.
Before he became a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord was a space pirate and member of Yondu’s crew of Ravagers as well as one-time draftee of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. Although he was convicted for galactic-level genocide before, Star-Lord was never a villain. He was just someone trying to play hero but didn’t know how to go about doing so.
When he joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord finally found his calling as a superhero, though his inclination to kill in order to defend the galaxy never waned. Star-Lord is said to have caused the deaths — directly or indirectly — of over 350,000 people, a number that makes the reader wonder just how much of a hero this guy really is.
1. Green Arrow
Fans of The CW’s Arrow, especially those who’ve watched the entire series thus far, may be under the impression that the Green Arrow is a killer, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, has led both a lavish and an agonizing life, having been a billionaire playboy before being stranded on a remote island. It was on that island that he mastered his skills as an archer, learning to hunt for his own survival, and he subsequently became a crime-fighter by bringing down China White’s heroin operation.
As one of the charter members of the Justice League, Green Arrow has fought countless villains, both small and large. Unlike many of his fellow Leaguers, however, particularly Batman and Superman, the Green Arrow doesn’t share their unwavering devotion to sparing all life, even that of their enemies. If necessary, the Green Arrow has shown an aptitude for taking life. That quiver isn’t filled with hugs, folks.
Which other heroes are surprisingly fine with taking a life? Sound off in the comments.