Comic book fans have learned to take any “death” with more than a grain of salt. As soon as a character is bumped off, fans are wondering “how long until they come back?” Indeed, many major comic book deaths were done with the plan already set for the big return. Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Hulk are just some of the more famous examples of characters who were never meant to stay dead for long. In some cases, a character can be brought back after a period of time because the writer has a good idea for them (like Bucky Barnes).
In some cases, however, the death may have indeed been meant to be permanent but the reaction changed that. Some deaths come off very badly done with fans not at all happy with how the character met their end. It could have been a stupid story or some out-of-character moment or just overall lame. A few cases had the death so dark that the fans revolted against it and the writers had to find a way to bring them back fast. Here are 20 comic book deaths that resulted in so much backlash that they had to be undone fast.
20 Alfred Pennyworth
This is going back in time a bit. In the 1960s, DC wanted to shift up the Batman books majorly. Thus, loyal butler Alfred sacrificed himself to save the Dynamic Duo and was remembered as a hero. For a time, Dick’s Aunt Harriet came to live with them but the writers quickly realized that Alfred left a huge hole in the Batman mythos. So in a wild turn, it was revealed recurring villain the Outsider was Alfred, having been saved by a scientist’s experiments. He was back on the job and the death has never been referenced since.
19 Green Arrow
For decades, Oliver Queen had been a steadfast hero in the DCU. In a 1996 storyline, Oliver was stuck on a plane with his hand on the “dead man’s switch” of a bomb that could destroy Gotham. He refused to cut his hand off and thus went up with the plane. While son Connor did well in the role, fans still missed Oliver badly. Kevin Smith managed to bring him back with Hal Jordan using his Parallax powers to restore Oliver to the cocky archer fans love.
18 Jason Todd
This was a major story back in 1988. When Jason Todd, the second Robin, was caught in a bomb by the Joker, DC offered fans the chance to call a hotline and vote on whether he would live or die. They voted for death and Jason was gone. This led to a lot of backlash as some fans contended they’d only voted that way as a joke, not thinking DC was serious. It took a long while, but in 2005, Jason was restored (via a convoluted method) and is now the anti-hero Red Hood.
17 Ted Kord
It took a while for this to happen but fans are grateful it did. Long a bit of a joke character, Ted Kord still had appeal the lovable Blue Beetle. The kickoff of “Infinite Crisis” had Ted discovering former ally Max Lord had gone bad and, in a shocking scene, Lord put a bullet in his head. While Jamie Reyes was good as the new Beetle, fans missed Ted and hated his end. Finally, DC restored him to life in “Rebirth” and fans are happy to see him and Booster Gold back together as the wacky comedic pair.
16 Conner Kent
This clone of Superman had a rough attitude at first, but fans soon enjoyed his great adventures. Even when he seemed to have tough times like being brainwashed to attack the Titans, he was still a top notch hero. In “Infinite Crisis,” Conner fought the insane Superboy Prime and succumbed to his injuries. Fans felt the wrong Superboy had died as Conner was a good character. He was brought back in “Legion of 3 Worlds” and recently made a return to the current DCU.
Bumping off the first X-Man was one thing but the way it was done was even worse. When a huge conflict erupted between the X-Men and the Inhumans, Cyclops (a semi-villain by now) led attacks on the Inhumans. He appeared to sacrifice himself to Black Bolt which was bad enough. It then turned out that Scott had died earlier and Emma Frost had created the illusion of him to push her own plans. While the full details haven’t been given, Scott is back in the saddle and fans are happy for it.
14 War Machine
It’s always annoying when a comic tries to liven up a big event by writing a character off. Such a case was in Civil War II with War Machine taken out in a brutal fight with Thanos. It served no purpose but to push Carol Danvers (his lover) into accepting some out-of-character moves to try and make up for his loss. The whole event was hated and so it was no shock when Rhodey was brought back to life by Tony Stark shortly after.
13 May Parker
A key part of the Spider-Man mythos, May Parker was a great support to Peter in helping him out in both his lives. In a powerful storyline, May confessed she’d always known Peter was Spider-Man before passing away in bed. Fans soon missed her and how she brought true warmth to the comics. It turned out it had been an actress hired by Norman Osborn with the real May held captive. She was back, finding out Peter’s secret and more lively than ever.
This feisty crime-fighter had bonded quickly with Hawkeye and they were married. They seemed to split up but had gotten back together when Mockingbird was killed by Mephisto. It was a shocking loss of the character and sent Clint on a bad tailspin for a while. In “Secret Invasion,” it was revealed it was a Skrull imposter who had been killed and the real Bobbi Morse was back. While she and Hawkeye are split, Mockingbird is better off back to life.
11 The Rogues
The Flash is second only to Batman in having the best pack of villains in DC Comics. The Rogues had always been fun with their schemes and challenges but in “Underworld Unleashed” they were tricked by Neron into setting off some attacks that not only killed them but sucked their souls into the underworld. Writer Mark Waid realized he’d made a mistake as the Rogues brought something special to the Flash lore. So he had Wally go to Hell to bring them back to life and once more be among the coolest bad guys around.
10 Iron Man
One of the worst periods for Marvel was in the 1990s when a controversial storyline had Tony Stark turned evil by Kang. To combat him, the Avengers reached into an alternate timeline to bring a teenage Tony Stark to the present. Adult Tony died and Teen Tony took over as Iron Man. Fans hated the entire storyline and were actually happy when “Heroes Reborn” had Tony returned to life. They even accepted how his resurrection was hand-waved to get rid of the entire “Teen Tony” mess.
In his opening arc for Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis made a big splash by bumping off one of the oldest members of the team. Writing off Hawkeye was bad enough but worse was the way it was done as Clint foolishly blew himself up fighting a Kree battleship brought about by the Scarlet Witch. Fans berated just how stupid that was and Bendis appeared to listen. Thanks to “House of M,” Clint was returned to life and many are willing to ignore the dumb death in the first place.
8 Bart Allen
Originally Impulse, this future descendant of Barry Allen had won fans over with his great humor and super-speed attitude. When Wally West was lost in the Speed Force, Bart took over as the Flash. This ended when he was ambushed by the Rogues who brutally gunned him down. It was a bad end for the character who’d already lost some push by being the Flash. Thankfully, he returned, back as Kid Flash and was able to continue his fun run.
7 Martian Manhunter
The “Final Crisis” event is a bit rough to read today. To sell new super-villain Libra as a major threat, the man was shown skewering the Martian Manhunter with a spear. Killing off an iconic DC hero was a big deal but the loss of the Manhunter left a huge hole in the JLA. He was returned in the “Brightest Day” event and fans prefer that as his death was a senseless waste of a great character.
A popular X-Man, Colossus had been through the wringer with the loss of his younger sister to the Legacy Virus. When the Beast discovered a cure, the catch was it required a mutant to sacrifice themselves. Colossus did so, giving his life for his people. The proud Russian had been a fan favorite and his loss was deeply felt. Thus, fans were ecstatic when Joss Whedon’s first X-Men arc had Colossus returned to life (and his sister would later follow) to be back among their ranks.
5 Ralph And Sue Dibny
“Identity Crisis” is much loathed by fans, mainly for the way it begins with the murder of Sue Dibny. The much-loved wife of the Elongated Man was a wonderful character and fans hated how she was bumped off in such a poor manner. Eventually, Ralph ended up also dying and reunited with her in the afterlife. Fans loathed how both characters were knocked off in such a poor fashion. Recently, DC has managed to revive them both and many are happy to see the couple back in form.
4 Hal Jordan
A stunning storyline in 1994 had Hal Jordan, long the heroic Green Lantern, becoming warped by the loss of his home Coast City. Obsessed with “fixing” the universe, Hal became Parallax and tried to wipe out the universe to restart it. He finally sacrificed himself to re-ignite Earth’s sun but fans still held to him being the “true” Green Lantern. In 2004, he was not only returned to life but redeemed as well to be a hero once more.
3 Jean Grey
Her original “death” in 1980 was a massive shock to the X-Men fanbase and led to a major outcry to revive her. That finally happened when it was revealed the Phoenix who died wasn’t Jean at all but rather a cosmic force taking on her appearance. Later, Jean seemed to have been taken out by Magneto and treated as a serious death which robbed the books of some magic. Finally, she returned and was back on track with the X-Men to remain as famous in her resurrections as she was in her deaths.
In Grant Morrison’s final X-Men story, Magneto went on a massive drug-enabled rampage that ravaged New York. It made him out to be a tired man who was almost a joke and would bump off Jean Grey before being beheaded by Wolverine. Fans thought this was massively out of character as Magneto wasn’t quite that bloodthirsty. Almost immediately, Marvel revealed it wasn’t Magneto at all but an impostor with the real Magneto horrified at what this man had done in his name.
The daughter of Cluemaster, Stephanie Brown took up the costumed identity of Spoiler to fight her father. She impressed Batman enough that he had her briefly take on the role of Robin. Wanting to win his favor, Stephanie accidentally started a massive gang war in Gotham and was caught in the crossfire. Her death was bad enough but then there was the revelation long-time Batman ally Leslie Tompkins had let Stephanie die to each Bruce a lesson. Fans were irate to the point DC had to quickly reveal Leslie had helped Stephanie fake her death. She was back on the job and many are happy to leave her brief “death” behind.