Comic books have been a vital part of cultural iconography for several decades. When radios and televisions were too expensive for leisure purposes, the low-priced comic books connected youth and adults alike. With larger-than-life characters coupled with dramatic storytelling, comic books are still a hot commodity in many companies. Despite being fiction, there have been several heartbreaking moments and even deaths that made the readers teary-eyed. Take a look at the 15 most tragic deaths in comic books:
15. The Human Torch
Johnathan Storm had no idea what would happen when he would accompany his sister Susan Storm, scientist Reed Richards and pilot Ben Grimm on a space mission. Bombarded with cosmic rays, each of them became endowed with incredible powers.
Susan developed the power of invisibility, Richards developed the power of elongated stretches, Ben became a strong gigantic rock-skinned creature and as for Johnny, he had the coolest power of all as he could create and manipulate flames without burning himself.
With the alias of the Human Torch and founding Fantastic Four by having his fellow victims as superhero members, Johnny has saved the day countless times with his teammates and on his own as well.
However, his death was a matter of fighting alone too as when Annihilation Wave tried to break the Fantastic Four’s Negative Zone portal to reach Earth, Johnny sacrificed his life in order to make sure that the Second Great Annihilation War does not happen. As he mentioned in his will, his friend Spider-Man joined the team after his death.
Cousin and occasional sidekick of Super-Man, Kara Zor-El is not as much of a reputed superhero but her involvement in various storylines has cemented her status as a force to be reckoned with and even got her very own line of comic books.
However, the beautiful yet strong superhero was strictly created to take advantage of the Superman comic book sales, and not much thought was put into her role as a character. Therefore, DC Comics vice president and executive editor Dick Giordano had the idea of killing her off.
At least the writers had the courtesy of killing her off in a respectable way as in the Crisis on Infinite Earths story arc, Supergirl sacrificed her life so her cousin and his allies can escape from the antimatter universe created by the Anti-Monitor.
At the end of the heart-pounding journey, the day was saved but with a heavy price as the grief-stricken Superman cried uncontrollably while holding the corpse of her dead cousin.
13. Archie Andrews
Two of the only non-superheroes on the list and still manages to sell his line of comic books as much as any other entry. Created by Bob Montana in 1941, the casual student from Riverdale High School is one of America’s most loved fictional characters.
His friendship with Jughead Jones and frequent on-and-off relationships with Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper touched countless readers who strongly felt that his adventures can be related to them.
In the finale of the comic book series Life with Archie which features an adult Archie Andrews, the beloved comic book character was shot dead in Pop Tate’s restaurant while protecting his gay friend, newly-elected senator Kevin Keller who made some enemies due to his campaign against gin usage and for his activism for the rights of the city’s homosexuals.
CEO and publisher of Archie Comics, Jon Goldwater addressed the story by stating:
“It’s been an unbelievable week. It’s the most dramatic scene in the history of Archie Comics. It’s the death of Archie, it’s his demise.”
Goldwater further called it:
“The most important comic this company has ever published.”
Perhaps one of the biggest tragedies that Marvel Comics showcased to their fans. Peter Parker, the man behind the mask of Spider-Man, breathed his last in the story arc Ultimate Spider-Man.
As the intense battle with Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin was reaching its end, Spidey feels that the fight is too much for him to bear despite being helped by Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch. Mustering up all his might, the hero throws a truck on his nemesis and it explodes. The impact kills the wounded Osborn but fatally damages the Spider-Man as well.
As the severely injured Peter lies motionless on the street, his friend Johnny Storm, girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, and Aunt May run to check him if he is alright.
Gathering up the very last ounces of strength he has left in him, Spider-Man dies with a smile on his face as he looks deep into the eyes of her beloved while uttering his final last words:
“It’s okay… I did it. Don’t you see… it’s okay. I did it. I couldn’t save him. Uncle Ben. I couldn’t save him… no matter what I did. But I saved you. I did it. I did…”
11. Lori Grimes
Portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies in the post-apocalyptic horror drama The Walking Dead, Lori Grimes is one of the most-watched characters on television but some fans might not be familiar with the fact that she is originally a character from the comic book of the same name. While the character died in the third season, her comic book counterpart died quite similarly in the 48th issue.
Her death was caused by a gunshot in the back during a prison assault led by the Governor. To make matters worse, Grimes was at the time pregnant with her child Judith who died as well due to being crushed by her mother’s weight. Her sad demise causes her husband Rick and son Carl to be emotionally broken and heated friction between them as well.
10. Gwen Stacy
Peter Parker was merely a teenager when he was bitten by a radioactive spider that gave him superpowers and that is the age when hormones take control of the mind. Young and in love, the beautiful Gwen Stacy was the only thing in his mind besides crime-fighting – a fact very well-known by Norman Osborn aka The Green Goblin.
Often known as the deadliest foe Spider-Man has ever encountered, the Green Goblin did not have any super strength like Spidey’s other terrifying villains like Venom or Carnage but was a reflection of ultimate evil as he always struck Peter where it hurt the most: his close ones.
However, the Green Goblin crossed the line in the storyline The Night Gwen Stacy Died as he kidnapped her. While clashing with Spider-Man on a bridge, Goblin throws her off. Shooting a web strand on her legs, Spidey catches her but the whiplash effect breaks her neck; resulting in Peter Parker accidentally killing her.
A heartbroken Spider-Man cries over her corpse and vows to take revenge. Even though Parker later started a new relationship with their mutual friend Mary Jane Watson and eventually married her, he never forgot the memories shared with his first love Gwen.
9. Jor-El and Lara
One can only imagine how different the world would have been if the last son of Krypton was not sent to planet Earth. Some comic book characters are created to die and that is where Jor-El and Lara come in as the Kryptonian couple is the very representation of noble sacrifice.
Knowing that their home planet was on the verge of being destroyed, the couple put their newly born son Kal-El in a space capsule and set the coordinates for planet earth for his safety.
As their son departed, the two emotionally cried hoping that he will make his new planet a much better and safer place to live in. Crashed in Kansas, the capsule was found by farmers Johnathan and Martha Kent, and the rest is history.
As Kal – named Clark Kent by his adoptive parents – grew, he questioned his existence but the holograms of Jor-El and Lara were occasionally there to guide him; signifying the impactful sacrifice of his parents.
8. Robin (Jason Todd)
When Batman witnessed Jason Todd, a young street orphan, successfully attempting to steal the tires of his Batmobile, he knew the kid was special. After helping the Dark Knight in catching criminals on one occasion, Batman was convinced to take him under his wing and train him to be his sidekick.
While he lacked the athleticism that Dick Grayson – the first Robin – had, Batman was able to utilize his rage as his motivating direction when it came to fighting crime. Within six months, Jason became the second person to earn the right to become Batman’s sidekick Robin.
As Jason grew older, so did his anger as the Caped Crusader noticed that he was becoming violent more than usual. Unfortunately, it was his anger that took the best of him as his emotional decision to find his biological mother lead him to the Joker. Surprisingly, it was his own mother who lured him to the Joker in order to get him killed.
The Joker beat him mercilessly with a crowbar and left both of them locked in a warehouse filled with explosives. Unfortunately, Batman was not able to save them as both died in a blaze of fire. Following the tragic loss, the Caped Crusader cited it as his biggest failure and became very reluctant when it came to choosing future partners.
7. Professor Charles Xavier
In a world where the mutants hoped to be labeled as a part of society instead of being the black sheep, Professor Charles Xavier is the biggest piece of the puzzle. Dedicated to the betterment of his species after graduating from Oxford University, Professor X founded Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters where he not only provided education to the mutant students but also guided them to control their powers along with using them for good.
Among all the students, his favorite was a mutant who had the ability to continuously project beams of destructive force from his eyes. That student was none other than Scott Summers – who would later take the alias of Cyclops and eventually become the leader of the X-Men.
How horrible it would be if Summers would be the one to kill his beloved mentor? Well, that is exactly what happened in the storyline of Avengers vs. X-Men. While the battle between two of the most prevalent teams in Marvel Comics was itself a big deal, the story concluded with an even bigger end.
The power of the Phoenix force corrupts all and after defeating Emma Frost over its ownership, Cyclops did the unthinkable as he gave a glimpse of his might by killing the very professor who took him under his wing. After taking the life of Xavier, Summers took the mantle of Dark Phoenix.
6. Benjamin Parker
The beloved Uncle Ben has been one of the most beloved comic characters in Marvel Comics despite the fact that he is not even a supporting character. With only a few appearances before his orphan nephew became Spider-Man, the impact of Benjamin Parker is still felt in the world of Spidey even to this very day.
Currently reduced to mere flashbacks in the mind of troubled Peter Parker, Benjamin Parker is without a doubt the most influential character in his nephew’s life.
After the plane accident that took the lives of Richard and Mary Parker, their young son Peter only had his uncle and aunt Ben and May Parker to look up to. Once received his power by encountering a radioactive spider, Peter discovered that he had been endowed with Spider-like superpowers and attempted to earn some money by being a wrestler and a television star.
After shooting a minor television appearance, Peter saw a burglar but refused to offer any help to the security guard running after him; citing that catching criminals was not his job. With the unsuspecting turn of events, the very same burglar killed his beloved uncle in an altercation. Repenting his decision to not catch the criminal, Ben’s murder became a motivating factor for Peter as he set himself a new goal of fighting crime and becoming Spider-Man.
5. Jean Grey
Of all the mutants in Marvel Comics, Jean Grey might be the most unusual one and that is an idea shared by former best friends and current bitter rivals Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto. Born with telekinetic and telepathic powers, Grey has been a vital part of numerous memorable moments in Marvel Comics such as founding the X-Men, their numerous victories over the Brotherhood of the Mutants, and most notably, marrying her longtime lover and teammate Scott Summers aka Cyclops.
Like many of the X-Men, Jean Grey is not a stranger to death as she has died multiple times. In fact, as Phoenix Force, Grey had the power of being resurrected after dying. However, there was one death that stands as the most remarkable one of all: her suicide in the storyline The Dark Phoenix Saga.
As a step necessary that guaranteed the safety of not only her fellow X-Men but also the entire universe, Grey killed herself after sharing an immensely emotional goodbye with Summers. The story concludes with Uatu the Watcher stating:
“Jean Grey could have lived to become a god. But it was more important to her that she die…a human.”
4. Flash (Barry Allen)
The greatness of Flash can be determined by the fact that Batman once stated:
“Barry is the Kind of man that I would’ve hoped to become if my parents hadn’t been murdered.”
When a lightning bolt strikes a case of chemicals and falls on the unsuspecting Barry Allen, he discovers that his reflexes have been increased, his strength enhanced, and above all, his running speed reached the speed of light. Donning red clothes and a mask, Allen takes the alias of the Flash as an homage to his childhood comic book superhero, Jay Garrick the original Flash.
In the storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen pays the ultimate sacrifice of being a superhero: giving up his own life for millions of others. In order to destroy the anti-matter cannon constructed by Anti-Monitor, Flash runs so fast that his skin starts to peel off; much to the shock of the readers and his fans.
Knowing that he will very well die if he continues running, Flash does not stop at all. In fact, he runs faster to the point of being reduced to a skeleton and dying. The Fastest Man Alive played a part in saving the universe but paid the ultimate sacrifice a superhero can hardly bear.
Known as the last son of Krypton Kal-El in outer space, Daily Planet’s news reporter Clark Kent in Metropolis, and above all, known as Super-Man to everyone. Undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and greatest superheroes of all time, Super-Man is a household name and has saved the world thousands of times from numerous foes.
Among all of the comic book characters, none of them has ever been a representation of justice quite like him and the fact that he is the undisputed leader of the Justice League of America proves it.
In one of the best-selling DC Comics storylines The Death of Superman, the Man of Steel faced off with his toughest opponent yet, the ancient Kryptonian Doomsday. With only killing in his mind, Doomsday proves to be a handful for Super-Man as both combatants valiantly fight to the point of shattering windows due to the shock waves created by their punches.
The end of the battle saw a bloodied Super-Man dying in the arms of his lover and co-worker Lois Lane. The funeral of the fallen hero was attended by his fellow superheroes, some Kryptonian species, and even President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
2. Captain America
The United States Government could have taken anyone from the army in order to experiment with their super-soldier serum but at the end of the day, the physically weak Steve Rogers was chosen due to his undying love for his country.
Upon the experiment’s success, Rogers took the alias of Captain America due to his patriotic spirit and became the most excelling Marvel Comics character during the actual World War II.
Fearless and heroic, a time came when not even his adamantium shield could protect Rogers from his death. In the aftermath of the story arc, Civil War witnessed the unthinkable as the hero was, as per the orders of Red Skull – taken into the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D. and fatally wounded by the snipers of Crossbones.
To add insult to injury, Captain America received the final blow from none other than brainwashed agent Sharon Carter – his first love. The tragic incident convinces Rogers’ best friend Bucky Barnes to kill Iron Man; believing him to be responsible for the loss.
1. Thomas and Martha Wayne
Among the countless comic book stories and their media adaptions concerning the origin of the Dark Knight, the horrific murder of young Bruce Wayne’s father and mother has been included in every single one of them due to the fact that their deaths are not only the most painful experience a young son can experience but also because the moment was single-handedly responsible for making the world familiar with undoubtedly the greatest human superhero of all time, Batman.
Apart from the Caped Crusader himself, philanthropists Thomas and Martha Wayne were two of the very few citizens of Gotham who were a symbol of hope for the godforsaken city. While exiting a theatre with their son, their paths came across a mugger who kills them with a gun but does not hurt poor Bruce.
Heartbroken by the loss of his beloved parents, he vows to avenge their deaths by attempting to eradicate crime and corruption from the city and eventually succeeds by becoming Batman.
Did we miss any of the tragic deaths in comic books in our list above? Please let us know in the comments below!