To quote Bruce Springsteen: “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.” And superheroes (and villains) are no exception to this rule. How else is a writer supposed to exemplify the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good? Or get quoted in USA Today and sell more poly-bagged, variant cover copies?
Superhero deaths are so ubiquitous that they’re actually starting to lose their sting. When Wolverine and the Hulk were killed, were readers surprised? Outraged? Not really. They knew their heroes would be coming back. Admittedly, maybe not as a Hulkverine hybrid, but still.
But even if superhero deaths are a dime a dozen, how many times has an entire team died? Would comic creators ever be crazy enough to murder off an entire group of heroes, all at once?
To further quote the Boss: “Everything that dies, someday comes back.” Most of the mass deaths in this list have since been retconned or otherwise undone – or simply occurred in an alternate reality to begin with. But, as noted above, that's comics: No one stays dead for long. Just look at Red Hood or the Winter Soldier.
But enough stalling. We know why you’re here. Let’s check out 15 Times Entire Superhero Teams Died.
15 The X-Men
“Days of Future Past” takes place in the far-flung future of 2013, after robotic Sentinels have taken over and murdered or imprisoned most of the mutant population. Out of options, Kitty Pryde – now all grown up and going by the much more sophisticated Kate – phases her mind backward to her 1980s self, where the younger Kitty then rallies the X-Men to stop Mystique from assassinating Senator Robert Kelly and setting off the events that would form her nightmarish future.
Along the way, future X-Men are gruesomely killed off, just to remind viewers how much worse things could be. Speaking of ...
In "Fall of the Mutants," all of the X-Men die for reals.
While confronting a demon that’s wrecking up both Dallas and the timeline, the shaman/cyborg Forge remembers that he accidentally summoned a demon called The Adversary years ago, and this is probably him. Forge needs nine friends to sacrifice their lives to stop the devil, and the nine X-Men volunteer, all of them dying as heroes.
Of course, they don’t stay dead, as Roma, Guardian of the Omniverse, almost immediately shows up and blinks them back to life.
14 The Mighty Mutanimals
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were toned down more than a little when the original comic was adapted into a kid's cartoon, but, really, that was probably the best call. Turtlemania spread and the cartoon became a gargantuan hit, spawning toys, movies, and another comic book – this one based on the goofier cartoon. From this kid-friendly comic spawned the Mighty Mutanimals, a superhero team of non-turtle mutants, with names like Ray Fillet, Mondo Gecko, and Merdude.
They were all assassinated.
Here’s how that happened: The Mutanimals started as guest stars in the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, then graduated to their own mini-series, and then their own ongoing title. A cartoon was quickly planned, then cancelled.
This didn’t sit well with the Mutanimals creator, Ryan Brown. He didn't want his characters to become afterthoughts in the Turtles universe, so he had the Gang of Four kill all of them, subtly titling the storyline "Megadeath" and choosing to traumatize children instead of collecting royalties or something. His argument was basically that the Turtles could use the Mutanimals’ violent murders to learn about death.
Why was this guy writing a kids’ book again?
13 Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos
Shiklah is a giant purple demon-slash-sexy lady and the ruler of Marvel’s Monster Metropolis. For a while, she was in a relationship with Deadpool – as well as Werewolf By Night, Dracula, and a gorgon, because the lady knows how to have a good time.
During Secret Wars, the Battleworld version of Shiklah ended up engaged to Dracula, because Deadpool was dead for some reason. Searching for the Scepter of the Manticore, Shiklah borrows the count’s army of monsters – the literally Howling Commandos – which includes Man-Thing, Frankenstein’s Monster, and a symbiote-possessed centaur, because sometimes life is awesome.
Anyway, Shiklah goes a little power mad, kills Dracula, and then goes after God Emperor Doom, despite the ghost of Deadpool advising her not to do something that stupid. Sadly, Shiklah ignores him, and she and her Howling Commandos are killed by Doom's army of Thors – the appropriately named Thor Corps – forcing the eight-year-old inside of everyone to weep, just a little.
Despite the lack of a cape, Angel and his former agency colleagues were surely a superhero team for the ages – except for that one time they didn't save the world at all, and the Buffyverse basically ended.
In the Angel series finale, "Not Fade Away," Angel and company have decided they've had enough with Wolfram & Hart's evil-causing nonsense, and set out to end the Circle of the Black Thorn once and for all. Seeing as how the Circle are the physical instruments of a trio of other-dimensional demons older than time, things do not go as planned.
By the end of the episode, Wesley is dead and Lorne has disappeared. Angel, Gunn, Illyria, and Spike meanwhile, find themselves bruised and battered, standing in an alley, and facing down the entirety of Hell. Despite the overwhelming odds, they go out fighting, gracing the small screen with one of the greatest, most moving finales of all time.
Then a comic book spin-off came out three years later, revealing that Angel didn’t actually die at all – which, given Joss Whedon’s history, is kind of amazing in its own right.
11 Young Justice
Young Justice is one of the greatest animated series of all time, focusing on Justice League “sidekicks” growing up and becoming heroes in their own right. Formed after the League refuses to grant membership to Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash, the Team grows to include Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis, before becoming an even larger ensemble in season two. After being unjustly cancelled, the show was recently revived, with season three scheduled for 2018.
Anyway, in the episode "Failsafe," everyone dies. Everyone. The Justice League is killed before the opening titles, leaving the Team to fend for themselves against an impossible alien threat.
Artemis and Aqualad die early in the fight. The remaining Team, along with a not-so-dead Martian Manhunter, try to take out the mothership, only for Superboy to get lasered. Robin and Kid Flash blow up. A second mothership appears. And then Martian Manhunter put his fist through Miss Martian’s chest.
You see, it was all a telepathic dreamworld training exercise that went horribly, horribly awry. Miss Martian's subconscious went rogue and took over, meaning Manhunter had to kill dream-her to wake real-her up and free her comatose teammates.
Maybe just invest in a Danger Room next time, guys.
10 Suicide Squad
Originating in the late '50s as a covert military group, it wasn't until the 1980s that the more familiar, "force bad guys to not be bad guys" version of Suicide Squad was created. And while that team had a buttload of casualties over the years, most missions ended with (almost) everyone walking away. Not until the Squad’s third go-round, under General Rock, did the team finally live up to the name.
Rock recruited members of the old Injustice League – a group of D-list villains that had formed to stop the Justice League, failed spectacularly, met later in line at an unemployment office, became thieves, tried to rob a bank and actually stopped a diamond heist instead, then straight-up joined the Justice League as the Antarctica branch, where they promptly lost a fight to a group of penguins.
After all that, Rock, for some reason, brings them to Iceland because he thinks they might be able to stop a biological weapon from exploding. Surprisingly, the Squad does manage to stop the bomb, but Big Sir, Clock King, Cluemaster, and Multi-Man all bite it in the process, dying as the heroes they so obviously weren’t.
9 The Transformers
For a kid's cartoon about cars that turn into robots and punch other robots, The Transformers was never afraid to kill off its heroes. After all, how else were they supposed to sell toys?
That’s not the hard cynicism of adulthood talking, either – Flint Dille, story consultant on The Transformers: The Movie, admitted to wiping out the characters corresponding to the 1984/85 toy line because the figures had been discontinued. The show needed to make room for all the new characters/toys debuting after the movie.
As a result, the movie – premiering after the second season finale and set twenty years in the future – killed (or implied the death of) all of the existing Autobots. Among the casualties: Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, and, of course, Optimus Prime.
Optimus' death, specifically, was received so poorly by children that last minute edits were made to G.I. Joe: The Movie to spare Duke – and the G.I. Joe bottom line – from a similar fate.
8 New Warriors
The New Warriors, a C-list group of super-nobodies have become the stars of a reality television show to try and shed that image. So when Microbe, Namorita, Night Thrasher, and Speedball find themselves facing down Cobalt Man, Coldheart, Nitro, and Speedfreek, there’s a cameraman at the ready, recording the whole thing. And when it all goes sideways, there’s video proof.
Nitro explodes, killing the New Warriors, his comrades, and over 600 other people in Stamford, Connecticut, including a playground full of children. The Stamford Incident, as it comes to be known, is the main impetus for the Superhero Registration Act and the first “Civil War” storyline.
Now, in the interests of factual integrity, Speedball didn’t actually blow up during the blow-up. Instead, he was thrown for miles; killed two more guys while unconscious; lost his powers; gained new, far more emo powers; and changed his name to Penance, and was generally just a bummer to be around. So, yes, technically, Robbie Baldwin, the guy beneath the costume, survived, but fun-loving superhero Speedball sure didn't.
7 Jack of Fables
Fables is an ongoing series about fairy tale characters living secretly among regular, boring humans – kind of like Disney’s Once Upon A Time, except with more sex and violence and better writing and characters.
Jack of Fables was a spin-off series about Jack Horner – the same Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Jack and Jill,” “Jack the Giant Killer,” and pretty much any other tale involving a guy named Jack. After stealing a bunch of Fabletown’s cash, Jack’s exiled and forced to live out in the real world. While there, he befriends other Fables - including Humpty Dumpty and Lady Luck – and clashes with the super-meta Literals, like Pathetic Fallacy and Bookburner. Eventually, in a move out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Jack pisses off the series' artist, gains weight, and is then turned into a dragon.
Meanwhile, his son, Jack Frost, has grown up into a much less sociopathic hero than his father and is looking to slay a dragon to prove it. Guess which one? The two Jacks slug it out, surrounded by all of the characters that have appeared in the series to date. Then they all die – which, if you’ve read any fairy tales at all, really isn’t that surprising.
6 Rising Stars
Rising Stars was a limited comic series spanning 24 issues, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The story followed 113 "Specials," folks who gained super powers following the appearance of a mysterious light in the sky over their hometown of Pederson, Illinois.
But not all of these Specials were good guys. It doesn’t take long before Critical Maas, a telepath, mind-controls an army of specials and takes over Chicago, forcing Poet (John Simon) and numerous other Specials to liberate the city. Afterward, John convinces the Specials to work together for the good of humanity and everything is fixed forever. Or at least until Randy Fisk - John's half-brother - wins the presidency and blows up a gathering of Specials with a bomb specifically designed to kill all of them. No one survives.
John, absent from the party, gains all of the released Specialness, then flees the planet, crash-landing on an alien world in a way eerily similar to how Rising Stars began.
Somewhere, a baboon lifts up a lion cub and begins singing.
5 Doom Patrol
Doom Patrol is usually seen as DC’s X-Men – even though Doom Patrol was first and the X-Men clearly ripped them off.
In any event, the Chief, a sociopathic bald man in a wheelchair, collects untrained misfits, grants them superpowers against their will, and then creates a team to go fight bad guys.
A "hero" who experiments on his "friends" is almost certainly going to make some enemies along the way, and Chief's Doom Patrol was no different. In the final storyline, master of disguise Madame Rouge, along with the help of Captain Zahl, a vengeful Nazi U-boat commander, sets out to finish the DP once and for all.
After the government evicts Chief, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man, and Robotman from their home for being too dangerous, the team relocates to an island, where Rouge and Zahl give them two options: Let a town of 14 people in Maine explode and save themselves, or go kablooey and save the New Englanders. To the villains’ surprise, the Doom Patrol elects to save the innocent bystanders, so Captain Zahl unleashes his DP-negating bombs, along with a bunch of regular bombs, and blows them all up.
4 Fantastic Four and the Avengers
Sometime after Professor Xavier mind-wiped Magneto, it was revealed that some of the supervillain’s evil had actually seeped into the prof’s X-brain, eventually turning Xavier into Onslaught, a sentient psionic entity of pure hate.
Being heroes, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers join together to take down Onslaught. They manage to free Professor X from within the creature, but Onslaught’s still running around – now without even a little bit of good somewhere deep inside.
Trying again, the teams converge on Onslaught, with the Hulk tearing apart the villain’s armor and turning Onslaught into an energy cloud. Thor follows by smacking the cloud real good and disrupting Onslaught’s energy. But this isn’t enough. So the Fantastic Four and the Avengers sacrifice themselves and jump into the field, which, for some reason, works, and Onslaught is dissolved.
The Marvel Universe was then forced to live without its greatest heroes, reckoning with their sacrifice, and – just kidding. Franklin Richards created a pocket universe for the dead heroes to live in, eventually pulling them out and putting them back into the real universe.
3 The Justice League of America
T. O. Morrow is a terribly named supervillain and the creator of Red Tornado. Utilizing a television that lets him see into the future, T. O. steals future-tech, then uses it to attack the Justice League of America.
Most of the time, these efforts failed spectacularly, but in the aptly named "T.O. Morrow Kills the Justice League - Today!" storyline, he does, in fact, kill the Justice League.
After killing half of the Justice Society of America in Earth-Two, T.O. decides to go after the League again. Borrowing a page from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," and then turning it upside down, T.O. creates duplicates of the League's lovers, then has those clones French kiss the team ... to death! Then he puts their bodies on display in case you forgot he was a supervillain.
Somehow, Red Tornado, back in the Earth-Two dimension, hears about this tragedy, tornadoes his way across space-time, and finds the League's actual significant others. They kiss the dead Leaguers and bring them back to life, then they go and beat up T.O. Morrow for having such a stupid name.
2 Legion of Super-Heroes
The Legion of Super-Heroes was a time-traveling team of terrific teenagers, featuring such DC stalwarts as Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Shrinking Violet. Originally a one-off story in Adventure Comics #247, the group proved popular, got their own title, and ran uninterrupted for almost forty years.
Later, after they grew up, another version of the Legionnaires – referred to as Batch SW6 – showed up, though whether they were clones or robots or time travelers was anyone's guess. The two groups operated side-by-side until the "End of an Era" storyline – at which point their entire reality ceased to exist.
Back when rebooting an entire comic universe was still a big deal, DC instituted “Zero Hour,” to try and fix the discrepancies in their admittedly confusing continuity. For the Legion, this meant finally admitting that the SW6ers were from another timeline, and, by traveling into the main one, they broke the universe. Timelines are shifting and colliding, heroes’ memories are fracturing, villains are showing up, and then, with only the two versions of the founding members standing around in space, holding hands, nothing. Their entire cosmos vanishes.
1 The Entire Marvel Universe
For a universe full of some of the strongest heroes to ever grace the pages of a comic book – we’re looking at you, Franklin Richards – the Marvel universe has just ended an awful lot.
Punisher and Deadpool have each killed the entire Marvel universe, singlehandedly. Deadpool did so after meddling by Psycho-Man made him even crazier, while the Punisher was simply getting revenge against superheroes after his family was collateral damage in a super-brawl.
Meanwhile, in Marvel Zombies, a zombie infestation takes over the planet, causing everyone to kill and/or eat everyone else.
And then, finally, we have the original “Infinity Gauntlet” story. Thanos, having collected the Infinity Gems and a fancy glove to put them on, snaps his fingers and kills half the frigging universe – including the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. The heroes that aren't dead quickly team up and race into space to fight Thanos, only to get killed there, on the moon, instead of back on Earth. Thanos goes on to kill Galactus, Kronos, the Stranger, and even Eternity, causing Thanos to become the living embodiment of the universe.
And then Nebula steals the guantlet and undoes everything. Thanos gets so depressed he fakes a suicide and becomes a farmer.
Maybe lock that thing up next time, Thanos.
Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.