As a general rule of thumb, those who fight crime often risk their lives in the process. It is an inescapable truth about those who maintain the law, and, in the case of comic books, those who protect the universe from mass destruction. The benefit that comics provide, however, is that when an especially gifted crime fighter– or superhero– dies, they’re typically resurrected a few issues later so that they can get back to the monthly grind of stopping criminals and monsters.
That being said, this resurrecting practice means that writers can bring back superheroes just for the sake of killing them again… and again… and again. This isn’t in reference to B-level heroes either, we’re talking cultural franchises like Superman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman, who have become big names over the years.
So, before they bite the dust once more, here are the 15 Superheroes Who Have Died The Most.
Superman’s most famous death, and arguably the most publicized death of any superhero, came in the 1992 storyline The Death of Superman. In it, Superman is forced to put a halt to a killing spree that has spread across the United States and defeat the seemingly unstoppable being known as Doomsday.
The storyline culminates with a brutally drawn-out brawl between the two, and Superman, who suffered massive injuries, dies in the arms of a heartbroken Lois Lane in Superman vol. 2 #75. The Death of Superman received widespread acclaim from fans when it was released, and elements of it were later used in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and The New 52 version of Superman, who also died.
Outside of his spat with Doomsday, Superman has died at the hands of The Murder Man, also known as Zunial. The alien life-form took him out with a Kryptonite radio wave in Superman #188, which was only the second time we had seen the Man of Steel meet an untimely fate. Similar fates befell him in Justice League of America #145 (1977) and Action Comics #583 (1986).
14. The Wasp
For whatever reason, The Wasp has a lengthy history of dying in the midst of some of the Avengers’ biggest battles. In The Avengers #170-176, The Wasp was one of several team members who fell during their fight with the cosmic villain Korvac.
She went down twice during the Secret Wars saga: once involving a deadly laser blast, and the other at the hands of Doctor Doom. She also died in West Coast Avengers Annual #2, and during the limited series Infinity Gauntlet, when Thanos destroyed half of the universe.
Unfortunately, these deaths have nothing on Secret Invasion vol. 1 #8, where The Wasp not only dies, but unwittingly poses a threat to the other members of the team. In a shocking twist, it is revealed that the Skrull version of Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man) has essentially turned The Wasp into a giant bomb. Thor is then forced to use his hammer to send her into outer space before she blows up.
To her credit, however, The Wasp has also managed to find her way back, alive and ready for the next adventure. Hopefully a similar pattern doesn’t befall The Wasp that will be played by Evangeline Lilly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Hawkeye died during the Korvac Saga and the Infinity Gauntlet series, when Thanos destroyed half of the universe. Outside of this, the bow-and-arrow specialist has been put in a series of increasingly desperate situations, where he has proven himself a heroic figure time and time again.
In West Coast Avengers Annual #2, he felt that the titular team should take their own lives to rescue their East Coast counterpart, who had been trapped in the realm of Death. Hawkeye also died at the hand of Onslaught, the mutant entity created by Magneto and Professor X.
The most notable of these deaths came in Avengers Disassembled, when teammate Scarlet Witch lost control and sent an army of Kree and Skrull soldiers to battle The Avengers. In the midst of this battle, Hawkeye’s arrow pack caught fire and he decided to sacrifice himself to blow up the Kree ship. Scarlet Witch did redeem herself in House of M, however, when she altered the world’s timeline and brought Hawkeye back from the dead. Classy move, Wanda.
Wolverine is one tough son-of-a-gun to kill. However, he still died on several occasions. His first death was in the legendary X-Men story arc Days of Future Past, which, like the film, involved time travel and a dystopian future. Kitty Pryde is the one who goes back in time in the comics, while an aging Wolverine is wiped out by Sentinels.
Wolverine’s deaths after Days of Future Past have been brutal, if not inconsequential to his overall timeline. He died in Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe from a beheading and in Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe after being thrown onto an electrical panel.
In Uncanny X-Men #223, Wolverine and the team are forced to sacrifice themselves to stop the Adversary from taking over the world. In Age of Ultron #9, Wolverine dies at the hands of a younger version of himself, not dissimilar to the clone that appears in the film Logan. Still, the most concrete death this mutant has been met with was in the aptly titled miniseries Death of Wolverine, where he was killed after being encased in adamantium.
11. Hawkman & Hawkgirl
Hawkman and Hawkgirl offer a unique take on the concept of superheroes and death. As SR‘s Andrew Dyce wrote, both heroes “are inextricably linked, regardless of the comic incarnation.” Hawkman and Hawkgirl shared in a bonded immortality, but with this bond comes a curse: with each new life they live, they would be drawn to each other, and would eventually fall in love with one another. As this love blossoms, however, their next death would become imminent and they would be forced to start over again.
As to be expected, Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been killed and reincarnated quite a few times throughout the years. So much so, in fact, that’s its difficult to determine just how many times they’ve died.
There is also the recent miniseries Death of Hawkman, which, true to its title, features Hawkman sacrificing the Nth Metal in his bones to defeat Despero, and shriveling into a skeleton as a result. If history tells us anything, however, it’s that Hawkman always manages to get back into the action.
10. Captain America
Captain America is the first noteworthy superhero to perish in a major way, as it was established that he had been killed during World War II. When he was resurrected in Avengers #4, it was not only a shock for readers who still remembered him, but it also set a trend for other heroes to come back from the dead.
It has not been smooth sailing for the Captain since his return, and he has died at a surprisingly consistent rate over the years. Like his fellow Avengers, Cap went down during the Korvac Saga, the Secret Wars, West Coast Avengers Annual #2, and Infinity Gauntlet.
The most shocking of these deaths came in Captain America vol. 5 #25. Set after the events of the Civil War miniseries, Cap is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D., where he is subsequently assassinated on the orders of the Red Skull. The patriotic hero is shot in the back of the neck, which is followed by three more shots fired point blank into his stomach. He uses his final breath to tell innocent spectators to get to safety.
Batman has done an excellent job at avoiding death over the years. Or, at the very least, an excellent job at bouncing back from death. The first taste of dead Bats appeared in Batman vol. 1 #72, where he ingested a poison that left him dead for several minutes and enabled him to infiltrate a kooky group called The Death-Cheaters of Gotham.
Additional close calls appeared in The Brave and the Bold vol. 1 #115 and the graphic novel trilogy Birth of the Demon, where Ra’s al Ghul impaled Bats with a shovel, and he was forced to dive into the Lazarus Pit to stay alive.
Those wanting something more concrete need only read Legends of the Dark Knight #65, where the Joker successfully murders Batman and dumps his body into a river. Or, Action Comics vol. 1 #770, where Joker is given the infinite power of Mr. Mxyzptlk, and puts it to use by enslaving Batman and killing him over and over again. It’s pretty horrific, especially in one panel where Batman is being eaten alive by vultures. In terms of a death count, all we can say is its pretty high.
Spider-Man has incurred the wrath of countless villains over the years. While he’s finagled his way out of most of these situations, there have been a few where the web slinger wasn’t as lucky– especially when it comes to Marvel’s What If… series.
Spidey has died at least a dozen times in these one-off stories, including What If… Captain America Led An Army of Super Soldiers?, which saw Aunt May, Uncle Ben, and Peter Parker cut down by gunfire. He also died in What If… The Avengers Lost Operation: Galactic Storm?, where Spidey and Mary Jane Watson are caught in the destruction of Earth.
Outside of these non-canon entries, Spidey was killed by Doctor Doom during the Secret Wars, and in Infinity Gauntlet #4, where he is one of the many heroes who die fighting Thanos. Then, of course, there is Ultimate Spider-Man #160, where Spidey swings into action and sacrifices himself by taking a bullet for Captain America. The dreary issue, which also includes The Human Torch and Iron Man, ends with Mary Jane holding Spideys body and a touching callback to Uncle Ben.
A lot of Avengers died during the Secret Wars and the West Coast Avengers Annual #2, and Thor is no exception. The mighty warrior takes a big tumble in both, though, to his credit, he is one of the few members who survives the onslaught of the Korvac Saga.
The concept of Thor’s mortality was explored in Thor #293, when he uses The Eye of Odor to look into the past, before he became Donald Blake. The Eye presents him with an alternate version of Ragnarok, and a counterpart from a past life, who reveals that Thor had already died before he revived for his current lifetime.
In Thor: Disassembled, a subset of the Avengers: Disassembled storyline, Thor is seemingly killed when he attempts to break the cycle of life and death that was created by the Gods, referred to as “Those Who Sit Above In Shadow.” It is later revealed that this is Ragnarok, and that Thor is actually in a form of hibernation.
The hammer-wielding deity also died for a brief time in the series Fear Itself, where he goes toe-to-toe with a giant serpent and loses.
6. Wonder Woman
A recurring topic of debate on this list is what should be considered an official death and what shouldn’t. Some heroes perish in alternate worlds, while others do so within their official canon. But in the wake of The New 52, even that idea has fallen victim to debate, so we’re just going to mention any and all deaths we can dig up.
Wonder Woman has died around five times during her seventy-year existence, most notably in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, where she was transformed into clay– the matter with which she was first created. Some people say it’s not part of her continuity, but she died nonetheless.
Wonder Woman’s death was also the subject of Wonder Woman vol. 2 #124-125. The story involved Superman and Martian Manhunter attempting to save her after a brutal attack from Neron, but ultimately failing. Eerily enough, the issue was released on the same day– August 31st, 1997– that another Princess Diana (0f Wales) died in a car accident.
Additional deaths for the Amazonian Princess come at the hands of Circe in War of the Gods vol. 1 #3 and General Steppenwolf in Earth 2, vol. 1.
5. The Punisher
The Punisher (aka Frank Castle) has a reputation for being one of the nastiest heroes in the Marvel Universe. His existence is forged out of unrelenting justice, and killing other heroes won’t get in the way of that. Given this reputation, it’s no wonder he’s been on the receiving end of some nasty deaths himself.
The Punisher goes down for the count in countless What If… issues, including What If… Wolverine Had Been Lord of the Vampires?, where he gets impaled by Wolverine; and What If… The Punisher Had Killed Daredevil?, where a barely-alive Punisher gets taken out by Kingpin.
Punisher’s first official death wouldn’t come until Marvel Knights: The Punisher. Here, he takes a self-inflicted bullet to the head while in an alleyway. In issue #3 of this limited series, however, he is resurrected so that he may become a demon-killing agent of God.
The character would face countless other deaths in spin-off series like Spectacular Spider-Girl #4, where his neck is snapped by gangster Don Barraca, and Punisher MAX #21, where he takes gunshots to the chest.
Robin has had a rough publication history. With the exception of Dick Grayson, who had the good fortune of going on to become Nightwing, the rest of Batman’s sidekicks have incurred one tragedy after another.
The original dead Robin was Jason Todd, whose death was alluded to in Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics, fully aware than fans weren’t crazy about Todd, held a phone-in campaign to let them decide whether or not he would die in the main continuity. The fans voted, and DC made good on their word with the infamous storyline A Death In the Family, where Robin was killed in an explosion orchestrated by the Joker.
Stephanie Brown stepped in as Robin after Tim Drake quit, and though her tenure was short, it was marked by death and destruction. Her inability to take orders ultimately led to her capture by the sadistic Black Mask, who tortured her, shot her, and left her for dead.
Brown later died in Batman #633. Damian Wayne, the fifth and current Robin, was also killed in Batman Incorporated, where he died fighting a demonic monster called the Heretic.
3. The Flash
The Flash, another hero who’s had several incarnations over the years, has also been subject to various deaths over the years. In the series Crisis On Infinite Earth, the original Flash, Barry Allen, sacrificed himself to stop the Anti-Monitor device from destroying the multiverse. Allen’s sacrifice caused the multiverse to collapse onto itself, and merge to become one unified continuity. The death shocked many fans at the time, and seemed pretty concrete, until he returned.
Outside of Barry Allen, Wally West has also taken the big tumble. During Zero Hour, he sacrificed himself to the Speed Force. In Terminal Velocity, he was forced to save his girlfriend Linda Park, and wound up entering the Speed Force yet again– though to be fair, Linda eventually brought him back.
West also died in the story Chain Lightning, where, you guessed it, he saved the day by merging with the Speed Force. It seems even with the speed of light at your disposal, you can’t outrun death.
The Incredible Hulk has the advantage (and disadvantage) of being able to survive nearly anything. In the celebrated miniseries Old Man Logan, Hulk is a psychotic landlord who rules over Logan and his family. Their brutal fight in the final act ends with an aged, deteriorating Hulk swallowing Logan whole, only to die when the clawed mutant tears through his stomach.
Hulk has also perished in the recent series Civil War 2. One of the Inhumans has a premonition that Hulk will destroy all of the heroes, so they joined forces with The Avengers and the Ultimates to investigate Bruce Banner’s laboratory. When they arrive, they discover Banner experimenting with dead gamma irradiated cells, and Hawkeye preemptively puts an arrow through the Hulk’s head. Captain Marvel led an inquiry into the death, but was unable to bring charges against Hawkeye.
There’s also the standalone story Hulk: The End, where an elderly Banner is the last living human. The story ends with him suffering a fatal heart attack, and turning into the Hulk. As the monster sits, however, he knows that he will cease to exist when he transforms back into his human form.
1. Jean Grey
Jean Grey, otherwise referred to as the Phoenix, has developed a grand reputation for dying and coming back to life. This first happened in the masterful Dark Phoenix Saga, where she sacrificed herself to avoid becoming the evil Dark Phoenix. When most people think of the character, this is the one that comes to mind– in spite of the supremely weak adaptation in the film X-Men: The Last Stand.
Jean also died for a brief time in Uncanny X-Men #281. Things got even crazier in the miniseries X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong, where the Sh’iar bring the Phoenix back to life in the hopes of destroying her. As is the case in these comics, they fail, and the Phoenix escapes to Earth to reattach herself to Jean.
Upon realizing this, Jean asks Wolverine to kill her so than it will weaken the Phoenix each time that she is resurrected. Because of this, Wolverine is forced to take her out dozens of times, until Jean is finally able to take control and banish the Phoenix energy.
Death count: unkown
Which superhero death made you cry? Are there any you think we missed? Let us know in the comments!