Superman, the Kryptonian hero who was born Kal-El and became Clark Kent, first appeared in 1938 in an Action Comics #1 story published by DC Comics. He would later also be recognized as the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, the Big Blue Boy Scout, and the Last Son of Krypton. His legacy will never die.
Throughout nearly 80 years of history, Superman has joined various other DC Comics heroes in life-threatening adventures to save the world from the hands of several menacing supervillains. Along with Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter, he was a founding member of the Justice League as it was first conceived by writer Gardner Fox in 1960’s The Brave and the Bold #28.
But although Superman is known as one of the most powerful superheroes to have ever been created by DC Comics, or any other comic book publisher, this hero has died on multiple occasions and in numerous different adaptations, only to be inevitably brought back to life by miraculous instances that, at times, could’ve only happened with the help of Superman’s family and friends.
This is Justice League: 17 Times Superman Came Back From The Dead.
17 THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN
Inarguably the most well-recognized comic book to have killed Superman and brought him back to life, The Death of Superman (Superman, Vol. 2, #75) was published in 1992, a time when comic book sales had been in a constant decline for years.
In The Death of Superman series of comics, we see the hero fighting Doomsday to protect Metropolis, but being unable to defeat this overpowering enemy without losing his own life. It is later seen how the world reacts to the death of Superman and how it manages to survive without him, similar to the live-action Justice League film.
As Superman was revived in less than a year after the publishing of Death, the series went on to become The Death and Return of Superman. Though a portion of DC Comics fans expressed their disappointment in the publisher’s short commitment to the killing of this hero, this comic book went on to become one of Superman’s most iconic story arcs of all time.
16 Revived by the Phantom Stranger
In 1977’s Justice League of America #145 storyline, a villain named Count Crystal became an unstoppable force as the demon Azgore bestowed on him immense powers to destroy the Justice League.
As Count Crystal murders Superman, the Phantom Stranger has to summon the rest of the Justice League of America (which, in this story arc, consisted of Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, and Red Tornado) to go into another dimension and bring Superman back to life.
The Phantom Stranger saves Superman from being consumed by Azgore in the other dimension, which prompts the demon to become angry with Count Crystal and kill him. Taking advantage of the Count’s death, the Phantom Stranger is able to revive Superman and Hawkman (who had also been killed).
15 Saved by Jonathan (Smallville)
Clark Kent died and came to life several times during the course of Smallville’s 10 seasons. The first time that it happened was on the twentieth episode of season 3, titled “Talisman”, which began to set up the show for its season finale.
In the episode, Clark bleeds to death due to injuries from the Starblade, which was in Jeremiah Holdsclaw’s (a season 3 main villain) possession at the time. Martha and Jonathan Kent arrive home to find a bloody and unconscious Clark on the floor, and it is Jonathan – through the powers of Jor-El – who is able to summon powers to heal his wound.
Clark remains unconscious even after his wounds are healed, which prompts Martha and Jonathan to keep monitoring their son overnight. He awakens the next morning, weak and still in recovery, and explains to his terrestrial parents what he has learned about his destiny.
14 ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
Superman dies once again during the twelfth and last issue of the All-Star Superman comic book series, going on to meet his father Jor-El in a higher plane of existence that looks like their home planet of Krypton.
While in the Krypton-looking limbo state, Jor-El and Superman have a conversation about the hero’s destiny on Earth, and Kal-El is presented with a choice of either staying with his father or descending back to Metropolis to fight Lex Luthor. Lex, who had gained special abilities from a powerful serum for 24 hours, is eventually weakened as this time runs out, leaving it up to Superman to come back from the dead and defeat his nemesis yet again.
The All-Star Superman comic books were published between 2005 and 2008, and in 2011, this series was turned into a direct-to-video animated movie.
13 BATMAN USES A MAGIC WAND TO REVIVE HIM
Doctor Light, a supposedly weak villain in the DC Comics universe, managed to hypnotize Superman and force him to commit suicide with a magic wand.
It all happened during World’s Finest Comics #207, in which Doctor Light came to the conclusion that he could not kill Superman with just any weapon, and that his strength was no match to the hero’s. So the villain found a magic wand that would pierce through Superman’s body and hypnotized him to do it to himself. If you can’t kill Superman, make him do it himself, right?
Thankfully, Batman shows up at the end of the story arc and is able to use the very same magic wand to reverse this spell, which revives Superman and defeats Doctor Light.
12 Saved by Lionel Luthor (Smallville)
Clark Kent has two deaths and two resurrections during the fifth season of Smallville. On the third episode, titled “Hidden”, Clark is just a mortal young man who has been stripped away from his powers due to disobeying Jor-El’s strict orders (which all takes place on “Arrival”, season 5’s premiere).
In “Hidden”, a former Smallville High student named Gabriel Duncan shoots the mortal Clark Kent, who has no powers to be unaffected by the bullet nor to regenerate his body after the damage. He is rushed to the hospital so that the bullet can be removed and his wounds can be treated, but Clark essentially dies, and has to be brought back to life by Jor-El (using Lionel Luthor as a vessel) once again.
11 RED TORNADO REVIVES THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
Justice League of America #65, also known by T.O. Morrow Kills the Justice League - Today! is another case of the entire JLA (including Superman) being defeated.
In this story, T.O. Morrow is in full attack mode against the Justice League, and creates duplicates of characters such as Hawkgirl, Mera, Steven Trevor, and Jean Loring to defeat Hawkman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Atom. T.O. then generates other creatures to attack the remaining members of the JLA, eventually killing off the entire team.
It is then up to the Red Tornado to use his computerized mind in order to find T.O. Morrow (his creator) and attempt to save the world. Thankfully, by the end of the story arc, the Red Tornado succeeds in defeating T.O. and reviving the entire JLA team by using the same duplicate characters that had once killed the original heroes.
10 SHOVED OUT OF LIMBO BY THE GHOST OF HIS DAD
During “Void”, the eighteenth episode of Smallville’s season 5, Clark Kent dies yet again and has to be brought back to life.
Clark and Lana break up in “Hypnotic”, the episode prior to “Void”, as Lana walks in on a hypnotized Clark having sex with a girl named Simone Charcot. Troubled by their break-up, Lana experiments with a Kryptonite-based serum that promises to get her to a spiritual place where she could reconnect with her deceased parents once again.
As Clark rushes to save Lana from this dangerous experiment, a rogue doctor injects him with the serum instead, essentially killing him, and sending his mind into a void/limbo where he meets up with Jonathan Kent (who had died on episode 5x12, called “Reckoning”).
Jonathan talks Clark out of staying in the limbo where he finds himself, and essentially shoves him back into his body on Earth. Clark wakes up back to life and sees a worried Lana by his side.
9 SUPERMAN: RED SON
What if Kal-El’s ship from Krypton had landed in the Ukraine, and the boy had been raised in the 1950s Soviet Union? That is the premise of Superman: Red Son, a Mark Millar comic book series that ran for three issues in 2003.
In Red Son, Lex Luthor is the President of the United States, and a Soviet Superman faces Brainiac as the villain is invading the White House. Though Lex and Superman eventually defeat Brainiac, Superman realizes that the singularities powering Brainiac’s spaceship are on the verge of an explosion, and decides to take the ship to outer space to save lives on Earth.
As the spaceship leaves Earth and explodes with Superman inside of it, the hero is presumed dead for many years. He only comes back to Earth one thousand years later, alive and well, to attend the funeral of Lex Luthor (who, for story reasons, lived for that long).
8 MARTIAN MANHUNTER FLIES HIM INTO THE SUN
After Smallville’s two death/resurrection instances take took place in season 5, it wouldn’t be until season 8 that the show would put Clark Kent through resurrection again.
During the season 8 premiere, called “Odyssey”, Clark finds himself mortal again, having had his powers stripped away from him by the Orb. As a mind-controlled Oliver Queen – not the Arrow version, of course – shoots Clark through the heart, Smallville’s hero literally dies, and has to be rescued by the Martian Manhunter, who flies him into outer space for the sun to heal Clark’s body and restore his Superman powers.
Back on Earth, Clark Kent finds himself healed and once again powerful, but learns that Martian Manhunter is now powerless due to how close they got to the sun (being fire/heat the Manhunter’s biggest weakness).
7 HE-MAN ONLY KILLED A CLONE
In all of comic book history, there were several franchise crossovers that bordered on unnecessary, and that was certainly the case of DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe, in which characters such as He-Man, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Constantine, and Madame Xanadu entered the DC Comics universe to face the Justice League.
Though the DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe story arc is arguably forgettable, it does culminate in a Superman death that happens in the series’ second issue. He-Man, a non-DC character, stabs Superman on the chest, which, by all means, causes readers to conclude that he is now dead. A few issues later, however, it is revealed that the dead Superman was actually a copy, and that the original one is alive and well.
The DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe crossover lasted for six issues.
6 SAVED BY LOIS (SMALLVILLE)
On the premiere episode of Smallville’s tenth and final season, named “Lazarus”, Clark Kent once again died and came back to life.
It all started on the season 9 finale, “Salvation”, where Clark was stabbed with a Blue Kryptonite-infused knife, prompting Lois Lane to travel back in time to avoid everything from even happening. In “Lazarus”, Clark still feels the effects of the Blue Kryptonite knife inside his body, and therefore dies, having his soul transported to The Abyss of Life and Death. He is only brought back to life as Lois successfully pulls out the knife from his body and allows the rays of sunlight to heal his wounds and restore his powers.
It is during “Lazarus” that Smallville begins to set up the character for the life he would later live as an adult Superman. The hero’s suit is shown to be frozen in the Fortress of Solitude, and Darkseid appears, materializing himself from a dark cloud.
5 KILLED AND REVIVED REPEATEDLY BY GOG
1999’s The Kingdom was a sequel to the 1996 Kingdom Come comic book series created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Though the follow-up failed to capture the attention of DC Comics fans in the same way that the original material did, The Kingdom marks one of the most interesting (if not bizarre) examples of Superman dying and coming back to life.
In the comic book, a character named William Matthews becomes the villain Gog as he is granted incredible powers by a group called the Quintessence. Gog’s abilities include absorbing the powers of anyone he is capable of defeating, and as he kills Superman, he goes on to become just as powerful as the Man of Steel.
What makes The Kingdom so strange (and fascinating) is that Gog then proceeds to go back in time multiple times to kill Superman again and again. The hero is essentially killed and brought back to life repeatedly, over and over, making Gog more powerful with each of the deaths.
4 SAVED BY AN ANDROID DOPPELGANGER
Published in 1966, The School for Superman Assassins! comic book series was one of the very first instances in which Superman was killed and then brought back to life.
In the story, members of an organization called Galactic Crimeteers are trained to kill Superman by practicing with an android that bears Superman’s likeness and personality. One of those trainees, called Murder Man, manages to defeat the Superman android and decides to take on the real character. But as he comes to Earth and actually succeeds in killing the real Supes, the android (which had been programmed to be just like the real superhero) is reactivated and comes to the rescue of the real Superman.
Superman is then brought back to life by his android.
3 REVIVES HIMSELF TO SAVE LOIS
On the sixth episode of Smallville’s season 10, Clark Kent essentially dies (but comes back to life) for the last time in the TV show. The episode is called “Harvest”, and it shows Clark being buried alive by villagers who had been mistakenly drinking Blue Kryptonite-infused water for a long while.
Clark Kent rises from the dead to save Lois from danger and the villagers from themselves. In the aftermath of the episode, the police arrests the villagers, and Clark and Lana’s coverage of this story makes the first page of the Daily Planet newspaper.
It is also i n “Harvest” that Clark explains his Kryptonian heritage to Lois, and proclaims that she is ‘the one’ for him, and they have sex for the first time in the Smallville television series.
As DC Comics transitioned from its New 52 stories to its Rebirth era, it became increasingly clear that the publisher wanted to bring back the version of Superman that existed before the events of Flashpoint, which meant that the character had to temporarily die in order for his alternate version come back to life.
In Superman #52, Superman is poisoned by Kryptonite after battling Denny Swan (a.k.a. Energy Superman), and undoubtedly dies. Then, immediately after, the pre-Flashpoint version of the hero decides to join this present dimension in order to carry the Superman legacy, effectively becoming the official Man of Steel once again.
This is considered “one of the more pointless comic deaths” of recent times, but it is a genuine example of Superman being essentially murdered and then coming back to life.
1 JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
The worst kept secret in Hollywood for the last year and a half, after his death during Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, has been that Superman was poised to come back to the DC Extended Universe in 2017’s Justice League. While one might think that this is a spoiler for the film, there has been extensive coverage in the press regarding Man of Steel 2, including news that Matthew Vaughn is being considered to direct the sequel.
Superman’s return in Justice League is likely inspired by The Death of Superman comic book storyline previously mentioned on this list, coming back just as the combination of Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg need him. You've got to love Superman's dramatic sense of timing!
Did we miss any of Superman's many resurrections? Let us know in the comments!