Death is an important part of life, even in comic books, which rarely pull punches when it comes to killing off characters in a variety of imaginative ways.
Throughout the long history of DC Comics, characters have died (and continue to die) – though many of those characters get a chance to come back, drastically altered by their death, or near-death, experiences. In comic books, no character is really safe. It’s not always the villains that kick the bucket. Sometimes superheroes meet their untimely ends, too. Sometimes that happens at the hand of a dastardly villain. Sometimes that happens at the hand of an ally.
Some of those superhero deaths in DC have left a lasting impression on comic book fans, mostly because of the brutality involved. Sure, maybe those DC pages were not quite as violent as the images of Negan bashing in Glenn’s skull in The Walking Dead comic book series, but they’re still violent enough to keep fans talking about them years after they happened.
Here are the 15 Most Brutal DC Superhero Deaths.
15. Jason Todd killed by Joker
One of the least liked superheroes in recent history is Jason Todd, who took over as Robin after Dick Grayson became a member of the Teen Titans. So when DC asked fans via a telephone poll to decide on Jason’s fate, fans hated him enough to vote to have him killed off. DC did exactly that in the “Death in the Family” story arc of Batman.
As if that weren’t brutal enough for the poor guy, Jason got beaten to a bloody pulp with a crowbar by Joker and then left for dead. That wasn’t enough either: Joker also left behind a bomb, leaving Jason to finish dying in the resulting explosion. This time, Batman was too late to save him, which left the Dark Knight convinced he should never have a crime-fighting partner again.
14. Superman killed by Doomsday
Perhaps the most shocking death in all of DC Comics history came in 1992 when the company released “The Death of Superman” story arc. This pitted Superman against his most challenging rival to date: Doomsday.
Superman went after Doomsday to save the world, because that’s what he does, but he soon realized that the villain was nearly indestructible: Doomsday matched him blow for brutal blow. Superman gave his all to the battle, though, and in the end, he took Doomsday down. But Superman paid a dear price for saving the world: the wounds he sustained in the fight were severe, and led to his death
13. Green Arrow blows himself up
In the comic books, Green Arrow is a dedicated social justice warrior and much more a hero than anyone ever gives him credit for. In Green Arrow #99-101, the superhero otherwise known as Oliver Queen sacrificed his own life to make sure that millions of others stayed safe.
Here’s how that story played out: the Russians planned on planting a bomb that releases a bacteria that would destroy millions of buildings in Metropolis, killing the people inside of them. The bomb works when two people put their hands in the detonator. While the bomb is in transit on a plane, for some reason, Green Arrow put his arm in the detonator, knowing that if he removes his arm, the bomb explodes.
Superman showed up and suggested that they just cut off the appendage with his heat vision, but Oliver refused.
12. Martian Manhunter’s murder
In DC Comics’ Final Crisis #1, Martian Manhunter dies after getting trapped on a prison planet. J’onn J’onzz arrived there undercover to keep an eye on things and report back regularly to Batman. Then, after the villains escaped, he got left behind.
That’s when the villain Libra received instructions from Human Flame to kill Martian Manhunter. Libra stabbed the superhero with a spear-tipped staff in front of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. J’onn’s death transformed him back into his true Martian form. Before he passed on, though, he sent a message to the Justice League, filling them in on his life as well as the history of the Martian people.
11. Shazam’s eyes burned out by Superman’s heat vision
The Injustice: Gods Amongst Us title is probably the most brutal of any of the DC Comics series, maybe because it served as a prequel to the video games. This is evident in Injustice: Gods Among Us #20, when Superman decided to kill Shazam with his heat vision.
The murder of Shazam is brutal and violent. Shazam didn’t approve of the way Superman handled things during the comic book series, believing that the current path would basically be genocide. Superman responded to this criticism by using his heat vision to burn through Shazam’s eye sockets.
10. Guy Gardner’s arm ripped off by Hal Jordan
The brutality of Injustice: Gods Among us continued into another prequel story arc, in which Superman is the leader of the world, using his superpowers to force peace on Earth. Guy Gardner, aka Green Lantern, didn’t approve, though, so he visited Superman to confront him, but Superman refused to listen.
Guy eventually learned that Superman allied himself with the villainous Sinestro Corps, so he leaves Earth and builds his own army out of the Green Lantern Corps. His fellow Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, sided with Superman, mostly because he believed that Guy killed John Stewart. The truth is that Sinestro killed John Stewart and manipulated Hal into believing otherwise.
9. Captain Atom ripped apart
The Kingdom Come comic book mini-series imagined a DC Comics world set in the future where traditional superheroes were much older and pretty much out of touch with modern times. Others took up the mantle of superhero, including some of their children, but these new superheroes were actually more like dangerous and irresponsible vigilantes.
When this created a very dangerous scenario, Batman decided that he had to do what he could to prevent a war between the two groups of superpowered individuals that would annihilate the world.
But the battles between the groups of superpowered groups had already begun: Captain Atom went toe to toe with Parasite and lost after Parasite ripped him apart. This created a super nuclear explosion that irradiated and destroyed the state of Kansas.
8. Rorschach disintegrated by Dr. Manhattan
The Watchmen comic book is full of graphic violence, so finding a brutal death in that title is fairly easy. It’s the killing of Rorschach by Dr. Manhattan that most fans remember most.
In the comic books, Veidt sent an alien monster to destroy New York, prompting humanity to call off its wars and face this greater threat from outside Earth. This is all part of Veidt’s plan to end the war and bring humanity into a utopia. The members of the Watchmen knew about this and in spite of their shock, they decided to keep this information secret, supporting the idea of a united humanity.
7. Black Canary killed by Superman
When it comes to brutality, Injustice: Gods Among Us probably contains the most violence of any DC Comics title. After all, that’s what happens when you pit superhero against superhero. But Superman is especially violent in that series, and is responsible for the deaths of several characters.
Another character who met their demise because of Supes is Black Canary. Using his laser vision, Superman cuts right through Black Canary’s belly. Of course, this probably has something to do with him wearing the yellow Sinestro corps ring, which made him a little crazy, but it’s still a violent end for the siren and songstress.
6. Death of Supergirl
Things got a little confusing for DC Comics after it introduced the concept of multiple Earths. To clean up some of that chaos, the company decided to release the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc that got rid of all those extra Earths and bring story continuity back to the original Earth.
On the original Earth, there was only one Kryptonian, so this new story arc meant that Supergirl had to go, along with the other Kryptonians that got introduced with her. Supergirl battled it out with Anti-Monitor, who kept hitting her with lethal doses of his energy. She kept on fighting, though, until a lethal blow took her out: she sacrificed her life for her cousin, Superman, and died in his arms.
5. Blue Beetle shot by Max Lord
In Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Blue Beetle, aka Ted Kord, began an investigation into the resurgence of the Checkmate organization, a villainous group led by Maxwell Lord. During that investigation, though, Checkmate captured Blue Beetle and imprisoned him in a fortress somewhere in Belgium. While in captivity, Blue Beetle learned that Lord and his organization had plans to allow humanity to control metahumans through surveillance and tracking.
Lord asked Blue Beetle to join the group, but the superhero ultimately refused by saying “Rot in hell, Max.” Lord didn’t like that answer, so he shot Blue Beetle in the head.
4. Bart Allen beat to death by the Rogues
The speedster Bart Allen started out his superhero career as Impulse, but eventually became Kid Flash. After the death of Wally West, though, in “Infinite Crisis,” Bart became the fourth version of The Flash. But his tenure as The Flash didn’t last very long. He got a painfully brutal death in the 13th issue of his own series The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.
In that issue, Bart exposed himself as the Flash to take on the Rogues, but the Rogues had a machine that drained the Speed Force from him, stripping away all of his powers. This also led to Black Flash appearing. Bart continued to fight, even after losing the Speed Force, but eventually, the Rogues killed the powerless Bart by beating him to death.
3. Pantha killed by Superboy Prime
Superboy-Prime caused a lot of trouble in “Infinite Crisis.” Hailing from Earth-Prime (the original Earth), he traveled through various realities and landed on Earth-1, where he ran into that world’s version of Superboy, Connor Kent. Jealous of his alternate self, Superboy-Prime confronted Connor and challenged him to a fight.
Fortunately, Connor had powerful friends: the Teen Titans, Justice Society of America, and Doom Patrol all come to help him fight against Superboy-Prime. Pantha made the mistake of calling Superboy-Prime stupid, though, so he shoved his fist at her and crushed her head. Her head flew off in what is one of the more violent scenes ever depicted in DC Comics.
2. Barry Allen in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”
Supergirl wasn’t the only major superhero to meet an untimely end in “Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Flash, aka Barry Allen, also met his death within the pages of that story arc. Like Supergirl, though, he went out as a hero, by sacrificing himself to save everyone else.
The “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc sought to merge some of the earths together. At the time of Barry Allen’s death, Anti-Monitor developed an antimatter cannon to destroy at least five of the already partially merged versions of Earth.
Barry realized quickly what was going on and figured out that if he stopped the cannon, it would probably destroy him. But he did it anyway, giving his life to succeed. It was a noble sacrifice, and like Supergirl, his death mattered.
1. Batman killed by Darkseid
Final Crisis introduced the world to a new kind of villain, one that proved nearly unstoppable. This supervillain was Darkseid, a “new god” who created a lot of chaos and violence in his wake throughout the story arc.
In Final Crisis #6, Batman, already psychologically abused and tortured by previous encounters with villains, took on Darkseid. Although he shot Darkseid with a radion bullet meant to take down a “new god,” Darkseid survived with just a wound. Darkseid attacked Batman and hit him with his Omega Beams, which seemed to kill Batman instantaneously.
Although it seemed like a brutal death at the time, particularly with a cover of Superman carrying Batman’s body, Batman actually wasn’t dead, but teleported back to prehistoric times. The body believed to be his was just a clone.
Are there any other brutal DC deaths that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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