Superhero deaths have become infamous for having little of the impact they should, mostly due to the fact that they are used almost entirely for shock value, just to be undone at a later time. Deaths like those of Captain America, Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, or even Superman are all played for maximum dramatic impact, despite the fact that they only become momentary plot beats rather than permanent changes to the universes they inhabit.
But some deaths stay with readers more than anything because they are just so shocking and disturbing. When characters like Wolverine or Deadpool throw down and hold nothing back, it’s all but guaranteed to get messy, and someone is probably going to wind up dead. Whether played for shock value or not, the demises on this list are guaranteed to leave an impact on some of your favorite characters.
Be it in an alternate universe without superheroes, a universe with superheroes with a little too much power, or just a mainline story arc, here are the most violent superhero deaths in comics.
15. Joker Beats Jason Todd With A Crowbar
Arguably one of the most iconic moments in Batman history, the death of Jason Todd’s Robin at the hands of the Joker might not explicitly show any gore, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly shocking.
Traveling to Ethiopia on the trail of Joker, Robin is tricked into believing a woman working for the Clown Prince of Crime is actually his long-lost mother. Meeting up in an abandoned warehouse, she hands him over to Joker, who proceeds to mercilessly beat him with a crowbar. Though fans might not have liked him, and even voted for him to be killed off, the implication of such brutal violence towards Batman’s trusted sidekick is a little harsh.
The next panel shows the Boy Wonder battered and unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. Joker leaves Jason and his impostor mother Sheila in the warehouse with a time bomb. They try to escape, only to find that the door has been locked. In his last moments, Jason throws himself on the bomb in an effort to save her, though she still gets fatally wounded. It’s a rough ending for a character many fans didn’t like at the time, but thankfully, he would be revived many years later as the fan-favorite Red Hood.
14. Superman Beats Green Arrow
DC’s Injustice universe has not been kind to its heroes. In the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, we see characters like the Joker and Shazam fall to a power hungry Superman first hand. Some characters however, such as Green Arrow, were only hinted at being killed off. It wasn’t until the popular comic book spin-off detailing Superman’s rise to power came out that we actually find out what happened to Oliver Queen.
After the destruction of Metropolis, Superman begins his ascension to the power-mad villain from the game. Batman leaves the Justice League and enlists the aid of Black Canary and Green Arrow to investigate Supes’ Fortress of Solitude. Upon arrival, Superman catches them and fighting ensues, trapping the Arrow in the hideout with an angry Man of Steel.
Oliver accidentally shoots one of Superman’s parents, who he brought to the fortress to keep safe, which leads to Clark punching Oliver, fatally wounding him. Readers then see the next few panels from Green Arrow’s point of view, as Superman closes in to finish the job. It’s not necessarily as gory as some of the other entries on this list, but the image of a bloodthirsty Kryptonian pummeling his former comrade to death is certainly one of the more violent moments in DC history.
13. Rorschach Gets Vaporized
Alan Moore’s Watchmen is chock full of gratuitous violence and memorable deaths, but none are as sudden or upsetting as Rorschach’s demise at the hands of his former teammate, Dr. Manhattan.
Following the death of The Comedian, Rorschach discovers that former Watchman Adrian Veidt was behind the murder. Adrian reveals a plan to unite the United States and Soviet Union by faking an alien invasion in the hopes that they would put aside their differences against a perceived common enemy. He also admits to having staged an attempt on his own life, as well as framing Rorschach for murder, all in the name of his grand plan. While most of the team begrudgingly agrees to keep Adrian’s secrets, Rorschach leaves, intent on telling the world the truth in spite of the chaos such a revelation could cause.
As he’s leaving, he is confronted by Dr. Manhattan. What ensues is a rather moving scene, where Rorschach refuses to back down, accepting his death as the price to pay for his convictions. With a mere motion, Dr. Manhattan vaporizes his former teammate, leaving nothing but a blood smear in the snow. It’s an appropriate end for ultra-violent vigilante, and an iconic moment in a series full of them.
12. Daken Kills Punisher
Following the repercussions of Civil War and the Secret Invasion story arcs, the Marvel Comics universe was a tumultuous place to be a hero. With former Green Goblin Norman Osborne running the S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement H.A.M.M.E.R. and taking on the alias Iron Patriot, the true Avengers were driven underground in the wake of the Dark Reign arc.
Frank Castle, however, isn’t really the kind of guy to just walk away from a fight. After a failed assassination attempt on Osborne, the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. commissions Wolverine’s son Daken to kill the Punisher.
The result is an epic showdown on a rainy rooftop, where Daken dismembers Frank bit by bit. Daken even toys with his prey, sadistically taunting him as he makes mincemeat out of the Punisher. With some stellar art by John Romita Jr., it’s a messy scene literally ending with Castle falling to pieces. Daken kicks his remaining body parts off of the roof into a gutter, as subterranean creatures called Moloids carry Frank Castle’s remains into the sewer.
11. Superman Blasts Black Canary
In another casualty of Superman’s Injustice reign, Black Canary dies via a blast of heat vision to the stomach. It’s a powerful scene, especially given the circumstances leading up to it.
During a battle between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps (which Superman had just recently joined), a nanotech-enhanced Black Canary squares off with the Man of Steel. Taunting him about the death of his beloved Lois Lane, Canary gets Superman to fly into a rage as she shoots him with a Kryptonite bullet. As he falls, she believes victory is assured.
With the aid of a yellow power ring, he creates pliers to pull the bullet out of himself, and takes his opportunity to strike back. Having let her defenses down, Black Canary is helpless to avoid a sudden barrage of heat vision which burns through her abdomen. Readers are left with the image of the once heroic Man of Steel brutally dispatching yet another former ally.
As Superman stands over her, she struggles to tell him that everything he’s done has been streamed to the whole world, and that now, nobody will believe that he is the savior he claims. It’s a high price to pay for such a small victory, but Black Canary dies content with her death having meaning.
10. Death of Superman
Before he was a punchline for his appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Doomsday was the DC baddie best known for finally being the one to put Superman in the ground.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the hyper-powerful villain caught Superman off guard, resulting in one of the most grueling fights in DC history. Superman, with the assorted aid of other superheroes, tries to slow down Doomsday’s rampage across Metropolis, which results in countless homes destroyed and an entire district of the city being leveled. Time after time, countermeasures from other heroes such as Guardian and Supergirl prove ineffective, leading Superman to the conclusion that he has to throw everything he has into the fight.
The two titans lay into each other with all their might, landing blows with enough force to level all of Metropolis. After a long series of battles, they each succumb to death, unable to continue the fight. No one ever foresaw the Man of Steel going out by being beaten to death, so suffice to say, this dramatic arc made headlines the word over.
9. Max Lord Shoots Ted Kord
There have been several iterations of Blue Beetle over the years, each bringing their own twists and turns to the table, but none of the character’s storylines were quite as sudden or brutal as the one that featured the death of Ted Kord.
In the lead-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis, villain Max Lord is confronted by Blue Beetle. Lord intends to enact a plan that will put all metahumans on the planet under surveillance and be directly controlled by humanity. When he offers Lord a chance to join his evil scheme, Kord’s reply is simply “Rot in Hell.”
Lord responds by producing a gun and shooting Blue Beetle at point-blank range in the head. It’s a grisly panel, silhouetting the splaying blood and bone against the flash of the gunshot for maximum impact. Rarely are superhero deaths this sudden or blunt, and while Blue Beetle might not be the A-lister that Batman or Wonder Woman are, his death manages to stand out for being as unceremoniously violent as it is.
8. Bart Allen Kicked To Death
Bart Allen’s brief time as The Flash might not have been the most memorable rendition of the character, but his death at the hands of the Rogues definitely left an impact on the superhero’s legacy.
Trapped and left without his powers after a surprise attack orchestrated by the villainous speedster Inertia, Bart is left at the mercy of Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, and Heatwave. Bart does his best to kill Inertia in the hopes of preventing a disaster, but fearing his powers will come back at any second, the Rogues collectively lay into him with all of their weapons. Once he is down, they take turns brutally kicking him to death.
It’s a harsh end for a fairly young Scarlet Speedster, and while the panels don’t go overboard showing his mangled, bloody corpse, the image of a young hero dead at the hands of The Flash’s most notorious enemies is a haunting one for readers. Especially moving are the images of his former Teen Titans team members paying tribute at his funeral.
7. Blob Eats The Wasp
When the Ultimatum story arc hit Marvel’s Ultimate universe, it was immediately met with controversy following one particular set of deaths. A heavy arc even for Marvel’s more serious world, heroes were dying incredibly vicious deaths, and one of the most devastating was the death of The Wasp.
In the wake of a calamitous wave hitting Manhattan, Hank Pym and Hawkeye are searching for The Wasp, only to find that she has been killed and cannibalized by The Blob. The artwork is nothing short of macabre, depicting the disgusting Blob feasting on the mangled corpse of the former Avenger. Enraged, Hank Pym grows into Giant-Man and bites The Blob’s head off.
Even in a universe known for being a little more gritty than Marvel’s regular fare, the gore in this scene is pretty extreme. Depictions of cannibalism and the death of a character, as well as hero Hank Pym murdering a villain by chomping his head off, triggered some allegations from fans that Ultimatum was putting shock value above storytelling. True or not, the Wasp’s end stands as a standout death because of its explicit violent and gore.
6. Dormammu Chokes Ultimate Doctor Strange
The Ultimatum event for the Marvel Ultimate universe saw the surprising deaths of a great many characters, but one of the most memorable is the gruesome demise of Doctor Strange at the hands of his nemesis Dormammu.
After a series of disasters throws the Marvel universe into disarray, New York is left flooded with thousands dead. As superheroes scramble to recover, Dormammu, channeling the power of The Human Torch, attacks Doctor Strange in his home, The Sanctum Sanctorum. The battle is brief, ending with Dormammu swaddling Strange in his magical cloak and cutting off circulation to his head.
This panel is disturbing for a plethora of reasons. In the wake of so many other superhero deaths, including that of Professor X and The Wasp, the death of a major character like Doctor Strange is like pouring salt on fan’s wounds. The real shock value here comes from the portrayal, however, which wouldn’t be out of place in Marvel’s MAX line.
The grotesque illustration shows the veins in Strange’s head literally bursting out of his skin, his face swollen and purple as his eyes bulge out of his skull. The Ultimatum arc certainly wasn’t lacking in disquieting death scenes, but Doctor Strange’s sits at the top.
5. Deadpool Shoots Spider-Man In The Head
Time and time again, Deadpool has proved that he is an insane deviant with no scruples about committing murder, but in most depictions, he seems to have a code that makes him more of a hero than a villain.
In Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, this aspect of the character is entirely done away with. After an experiment leaves Deadpool with a voice in his head commanding him to kill everyone, he goes on a murderous rampage to eviscerate every superhero and villain in the Marvel universe.
One of the most shocking deaths comes when he executes former friend and ally Spider-Man. While the nihilistic tone and ultraviolence of the story are obviously not directed towards a younger demographic, the image of such a kid friendly character getting his head obliterated isn’t just dark, it’s excessive. The panel even seems to show a significant chunk of his head entirely gone, leaving little to the imagination.
Deadpool would go on to take out the Avengers and more, but Spider-Man’s death at the hands of the Merc With A Mouth is the most impactful death in the saga. It’s effective in showing how far from reality Wade Wilson really is that he would dispatch his former pal with such ruthless efficiency.
4. Hal Jordan Rips Off Guy Gardner’s Arm
So far, the Injustice-related deaths on this list have all been at Superman’s hand. While he might take center stage of the story, he’s not the only superhero who turns bad and kills a former comrade.
During a climactic battle between the Sinestro Corps and the Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern Hal Jordan is revealed as a turncoat when he sides with Sinestro and engages Guy Gardner in combat. It’s an emotional scene, made more impactful by Gardner’s refusal to fight his friend and his attempts to appeal to his better nature. “You can still be the best of us,” is a particularly memorable line.
Under orders from Sinestro, Hal tears off his former friend’s arm, letting him fall to his death in shock. Readers are left with a horrifying panel where Hal Jordan coldly turns his back on everything he believed in by delivering a death blow to his brother in arms. It’s a death that is pretty easy to see coming, but as a transition for Hal from hero to villain, it’s just as violent and impactful as it needs to be in order to make this transformation believable.
3. Old Man Logan Gives Hulk Indigestion
Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan is a deservingly celebrated series, playing with established characters in the Marvel universe and throwing it into disarray. It’s a standout saga that’s full of incredible moments, but arguably the most famous is the grueling deathmatch between a grizzled old Wolverine and The Hulk, who is now leading a clan of inbreeding cannibals.
After Logan’s family is slaughtered by the Banner Clan, the former X-Men member decides to take matters into his own hands. Murdering most of The Hulk’s hillbilly family, Logan soon comes face to face with the Green Goliath himself, who flies into a rage. After a brief battle, Hulk eats Logan, believing the day to be won.
With the aid of his healing factor, Wolverine recovers in The Hulk’s stomach, and proceeds to tear him apart from the inside, clawing his way out of the former Avenger and killing him. The art by Steve McNiven does a commendable job of portraying the grotesqueness of the situation, with chunky strands of the Hulk’s blood dripping from Wolverine’s claws as he bursts free.
After such a sordid history between the two iconic characters, it’s good to see one of them come out on top once and for all, even if it is in an alternate universe.
2. Midnight sodomizes The Commander With A Jackhammer
Writer Mark Miller strikes again on this list with Midnighter, a brutal vigilante who is a part of the superhero team The Authority. While Miller didn’t create the character, he is responsible for one of his darkest and most violent moments.
After the villainous Commander sexually assaults Apollo, Midnighter’s love interest, the black-suited Batman analogue decides to give him a taste of his own medicine. Apollo wounds The Commander, and Midnighter finishes the job by sodomizing him to death with a jackhammer. It’s a scene that wouldn’t be out of place for a masochist like Garth Ennis’s Frank Castle, and it’s exactly the kind of ultraviolence Miller’s fans have come to expect.
While none of the assault is explicitly shown, it is heavily implied, leaving the real horrors to the mind of the reader. Even for a hardcore type like Midnighter, it is excessively gruesome. Mark Millar has shown time and time again in series like Superior and Kick-Ass that he’s adept at mixing extreme violence into his stories, but this moment is easily one of the most brutal.
1. Sentry Rips Ares Apart
The top spot on this list might not be the most impactful superhero death, but it is one of the most memorable for how it was portrayed.
In Marvel’s Siege arc, heroes of the Marvel Universe unite against Norman Osborne’s cabal of super villains in an attempt to wrest control of the government away from him. During a massive battle, Ares comes to blows with the hero Sentry. Sentry, having been taken over completely by an entity known as The Void, rips the God of War in half, to the shock and horror of combatants on all sides. The rendering of Ares’ death is mostly made up of intestine and offal, with very little of his outsides even visible.
What makes this death so powerful is simply how it’s depicted. It’s a full page comprised mainly of gore and the shocked faces of bystanders. In a relatively tame series, such an extravagant display of viscera seems to come out of nowhere, and for that reason, it maximizes the impact of the moment.
Did we miss any particularly stunning superhero deaths? What epic demises do you remember most? Sound off in the comments.
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