Every time a well-known comic book character dies, fans react with a peculiar mix of heartbroken emotion and eye-rolling derision. We all know that the death is highly unlikely to stick, as no one in comics stays dead except Uncle Ben, but we also still generally feel the emotional weight of the death because we are so invested in the characters we read every month. In the end, most fans know to treat death as an impermanent state of being, and instead concentrate on the quality of the stories being told. It's the only way to stay sane when the character you just watched die in a violent fashion could very well be alive and kicking a few issues later!
In Marvel Comics' history, most of their major characters have died and been resurrected multiple times. This article will look at the 10 characters who have died the most often.
10 PROFESSOR XAVIER - 4 TIMES
Professor Charles Xavier has made a habit of dying in the pages of Marvel comics (and twice on the big screen). There have been several 'fakeout' deaths, like when Wolverine stabbed him to death, but it turned out Xavier was really a shape-shifting War Skrull, or when Grotesk (the last survivor of a subterranean race) killed him, but he turned out to be a changeling impostor.
But Xavier has bitten the dust properly four times, including when the alien parasite Brood Queen used his body as a host for a baby Queen (yuck); when his son Legion accidentally killed him with a telekinetic attack when trying to kill Magneto (whoops); when Bishop accidentally shot him in the head after trying to shoot Cable (double whoops); and when a Phoenix-influenced Cyclops killed him in Avengers Vs X-Men!
9 ROGUE - 5 TIMES
Rogue, like her mentor Professor X, is no stranger to dying. In the classic Secret Wars event in 1984/85, she died in #11 (along with the rest of the heroes), but everyone came back to life in the final issue. Then when the Ancient Sorcerer Kulan Gath transformed Manhattan into a version of his barbarian time period, Rogue died in battle (but Doctor Strange reversed it with magic).
She sacrificed herself to stop The Adversary in 'The Fall Of The Mutants', then she and Gambit were impaled by the savage villain known as Vargas in Chris Claremont's early 2000's X-Treme X-Men run. Her latest demise came in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, where she was stabbed in the back and incinerated by the undead villain the Grim Reaper. Ouch.
8 IRON MAN - 5 TIMES
Iron Man has died five times in Marvel comics history, but has also come really close to death on a few other occasions (such as when Captain Marvel blasted him into a coma in Civil War II or when he became braindead after deleting his own memories, before reformatting himself with a backup of his own brain).
His deaths that stuck (sort of) include when he was killed by Carina in the 'Korvac Saga', when Thanos killed him in Infinity Gauntlet and when he sacrificed himself (along with the rest of the West Coast Avengers) to save their East Coast teammates in the world of Death. A Kang-controlled Tony also sacrificed himself during 'The Crossing' and was replaced by a teenage version of himself, who then also died during the events of 'Onslaught'.
7 THOR - 6 TIMES
For this entry, we're going to concentrate on Thor Odinson, so won't be counting Jane Foster aka the Mighty Thor's fairly recent death in the pages of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman's epic Thor run. The Odinson's most recent death came during Fear Itself, when Cul (a God Of Fear also known as The Serpent and Odin's long-lost brother) was freed from his underwater prison.
Thor died from injuries sustained during the battle with Cul and his followers, The Worthy. Thor also died during Secret Wars, 'Onslaught' and the West Coast Avengers adventure in the realm of Death, but he did manage to survive the 'Korvac Saga'. He has also died a few times due to Ragnarok, a prophecy which involves his death and resurrection.
6 THE WASP - 7 TIMES
Like some of the other Avengers on this list, Janet Van Dyne aka The Wasp was among the heroes who died in battle against Korvac in the 'Korvac Saga' and was among the members of the West Coast team who died saving their East Coast teammates in the world of Death. She also bit the dust twice during Secret Wars: she was killed by a laser blast, then brought back to life before being killed by Doctor Doom (and then brought back to life again).
She also died during Infinity Gauntlet and 'Onslaught', but then had a much more high profile death in Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu's Secret Invasion. The Skrull Hank Pym turned her into a living bomb and Thor sent her out into deep space, where she exploded. It eventually turned out she'd actually been blasted into the Microverse and not killed. Because, you know, comics.
5 HAWKEYE - 7 TIMES
Unsurprisingly, Hawkeye's various deaths also conform quite a bit to the previously established 'Avenger death checklist': Korvac Saga, Secret Wars, West Coast Avengers in the world of Death, Infinity Gauntlet and Onslaught. His sixth and seventh demises were much more specific to him, however.
During 'Avengers Disassembled' he sacrificed himself to blow up a Kree battleship after Scarlet Witch had lost her mind and set both the Kree and Skrull armies on the Avengers. Later, when she altered the world during House Of M, she brought Clint back to life with no memories. But when the mutant Layla Miller restored them, he was horrified at Wanda's actions, so shot her in the back with an arrow, which led to one of Wanda's recreated children wiping him from existence.
4 WOLVERINE - 7 TIMES
Wolverine's propensity for dying was such a foolproof sales tactic that Marvel turned it into its own event with the Death of Wolverine miniseries in 2014. In this story, Logan's healing factor began to burn out on him, leaving him vulnerable to attack from his many, many enemies. Wolvie wound up dying when he was covered head to toe in molten adamantium. But don't worry, Marvel spun stories out for the next few years before bringing the Canucklehead back with 2018's Hunt For Wolverine and Return Of Wolverine!
His other deaths include him perishing alongside his teammates in Secret Wars and 'The Fall Of The Mutants', being murdered by Thanos during Infinity Gauntlet and burning to death in the sun along with Jean Grey in New X-Men. He even traveled back in time to kill his own younger self in Age Of Ultron, following a misguided plan to kill Hank Pym so he never created Ultron.
3 SPIDER-MAN - 9 TIMES
Spider-Man was killed by Doctor Doom during Secret Wars, destroyed by Kulan Gath when he took over Manhattan and also died fighting Thanos in Infinity Gauntlet. He then died again in a later tie-in comic to that story, but in all these instances was brought back to life by a myriad of preposterous comic book resurrection methods. More specifically to the Wallcrawler, he 'died' twice during the 'Clone Saga' when he flat-lined after being poisoned by the Owl and then flat-lined again from complications of being a 'clone'.
Twice he's seemingly been killed (by Morlun and the Spider-Queen) but in actuality went into a cocoon and came back with new powers. He then also 'died' when he was in Doctor Octopus' body, after he and Doc Ock had body-swapped, but he later returned as the true Spider-Man.
2 CAPTAIN AMERICA - 12 TIMES
Captain America has died a lot in comics. We can start with the obvious ones: Korvac Saga, Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet, West Coast Avengers in the realm of Death and Onslaught. He has also faked his death twice, and died when the Super Soldier Serum gave out on him in the finale of writer Mark Gruenwald's seminal 10-year run on the title. His most famous death was in the wake of the universe-changing Civil War storyline.
In a masterful Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting tale (Captain America #25), he was shot by a mind-controlled Sharon Carter. Tony Stark blamed himself for that one (and he was right to). Later, in 2018's Captain America #700, Steve Rogers time-traveled into the future and then back into the past, before dying in order to safeguard America's future.
1 JEAN GREY - INNUMERABLE TIMES
Without a doubt, Jean Grey is the character most prone to dying in Marvel Comics' illustrious history. Jean's original death and resurrection at the end of the classic 'The Dark Phoenix Saga' story was a life-changing moment for many comics fans. It had real weight, as readers had never seen anything like it before. Unfortunately, Jean didn't stay dead, mostly because dying and coming back to life is very on-brand for the Phoenix Force.
It's all in the name, really. The reason her death tally is impossible to calculate exactly is because, during the X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong miniseries, Wolverine killed her dozens of times in order to weaken the Phoenix Force. It was forced to bring her back to life each and every time and eventually became weak enough for her to regain control of it. All in all, though, it wasn't exactly a nice experience for Jean or Logan to go through!