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You Decide – What Was the Most Shocking Death at the Hands of Superhero?

With the opening chapter of Trinity War involving a superhero (seemingly, but not really) causing the death of another hero, we thought it’d be interesting to see what you folks think was the most shocking death at the hands of a superhero.

Read on for the choices!

NOTE: After the events of the Kid Marvelman storyline, I really didn’t think that the death of Johnny Bates seemed all that shocking. I mean, the storyline had guts raining down over London! Bates’ death didn’t seem all that shocking in comparison. Especially since we had seen Marvelman kill already in the series! But fair enough, if you think Bates’ death would be your pick, feel free to say so in the comments!

43 Comments

Sigh. I though that abomination that was Emerald Twilight was retconned for good, instead of just the parts that show how clueless and unworthy Kyle Rayner is.

1. Superman killing the pocket universe Kryptonians
2. Hal killing Kilowog
The other DC stuff didn’t “surprise” me….
I was reading DC/Superman when that happened and it didn’t sit right with me (still doesn’t)…. And then when Hal went postal, that also didn’t fit right because you had issue 46 where Coast City is destroyed and he wasn’t crazy; then issue #47 when he was hanging out with Ollie and wasn’t crazy and then suddenly with #48 he’s back in Coast City and goes nutso…. If 47 happened, then issue 46 leading directly to 48 maybe then I could see it… But still a stretch and the Johns-rewrite doesn’t really help all that much…to me.

Bernard the Poet

July 15, 2013 at 4:50 am

Back in the ‘Eighties, Batman faced a Soviet super-assassin called the KGBeast. At the conclusion of the story, the villain is trapped inside some sort of cellar with Batman standing at the doorway. Batman says something along the lines of ‘you’re a tough guy, chum, and part of me is curious to see if I could beat you in a fair fight, but ….nah.’ Then he shuts the door and leaves the KGBeast to die of thirst/starvation.

That was pretty shocking.

In the later story, Batman: Year Three, Batman noted that he then contacted the police to pick up the subdued villain.

so he didn’t kill him?

Yeah, it’s particularly bad when Superman or Batman do it.

@ Alex

RetCoooon!

DC had a lot of their characters the bad guys don’t they? A lot more than Marvel does. Even with the Punisher and Wolverine and now, the (allegedly) Superior Spider-Man.

Bernard the Poet

July 15, 2013 at 8:15 am

@Alex
“In the later story, Batman: Year Three, Batman noted that he then contacted the police to pick up the subdued villain”

I didn’t know/ had forgotten that the story had been ret-conned away. I can’t say I’m surprised – leaving the KGBeast for dead, hardly squares with Batman’s treatment of the Joker.

Nonetheless, I think it is still relevant. When the story was first published, the audience were meant to believe that Batman had engaged in an extra-judicial execution. And the writer believed that his story was consistent with Batman’s known character.

By-the-by, does anyone remember who wrote that story? I’m leaning towards Mike W Barr. He was DC’s number one commie-basher and he would have been writing Batman around that time, but I don’t think it was.

Bernard the Poet

July 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

@Mike “Superman killing the pocket universe Kryptonians”

I agree it was shocking, but it may also be the best thing John Byrne ever wrote. He establishes that Zod and the gang are mass-murderers and that Superman is the last man on Earth. There is no higher court for Superman to pass judgment for their crimes on to -it is his sole responsibility. What else could he do, but kill them?

Jim Starlin generally wrote a Batman who was willing to kill. In addition to the KGBeast, Starlin’s Bat also let Deacon Blackfire’s cult tear him to shreds and tried to kill the Joker at the end of “Death in the Family.”

@ Bernard the Poet
It was Starlin actually.
Now, Mike Barr is far from innocent. His Detective #569-574 and Son of the Demon run were pure awesomeness, the rest of his work really wasn’t. He had Batman kill Ra’s in Batman Annual #8 and in Year Two, Batman dates a nun, allies himself with Joe Chill and starts to use the gun Chill used to kill the Waynes.^^

“I agree it was shocking, but it may also be the best thing John Byrne ever wrote. He establishes that Zod and the gang are mass-murderers and that Superman is the last man on Earth. There is no higher court for Superman to pass judgment for their crimes on to -it is his sole responsibility. What else could he do, but kill them?”
The thing is, you do not have to write your character into a corner where he has no other option but to kill in cold blood. IMO, Byrne should not have written that scene, especially considering that he had absolutely no intention to do anything after it because he was leaving the title right after it.

A lot of these I disliked, but the only one that really shocked me was Barry killing Professor Zoom. That was because (a) I was 12, and (b) guys like the Flash just didn’t do that sort of thing back then. Now it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill device, alas.

Whole lotta neck-snapping going on.

Jake Earlewine

July 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

That list was for weenies. None of the deaths on the list were a tenth as shocking as what the Homelander did in “The Boys.” Like eating babies. And blowing women to shreds with the power of his orgasm, like Superman would realistically do to Lois Lane if they had sex.

Not only was “The Boys” violent, but it was gripping, thought-provoking, and endlessly entertaining. And even though it lasted 72 issues plus 18 issues of mini-series, it was a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end — something Marvel and DC have forgot how to do.

Jake Earlewine

July 15, 2013 at 9:30 am

And it had a happy ending!

Yes, whenever you pick up an Ennis comic you can expect gratuitous violence and gore. There’s nothing shocking about it unless it’s your first exposure to his work.

Barry Allen killing Thawne was kind of shocking.
From the Sandman, when Loki torched a lady took me a little off guard.

None of the big names really shock me though when they kill because I know it isn’t as simple as it seems.

” Not only was “The Boys” violent, but it was gripping, thought-provoking, and endlessly entertaining. And even though it lasted 72 issues plus 18 issues of mini-series, it was a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end — something Marvel and DC have forgot how to do. ”

They haven’t forgotten how to do it, they just have no interest in killing series as long as they can milk every last dollar out of them. ” Welcome to Capitalism, Hope you survive the Experience “.

But yes, the Boys was awesome. And the really shocking deaths were in the final arc, after all the evil costumed supers were defeated. To say the series went out with a bang is the understatement of the century.

And since I got the X-Statix Omnibus on sale this week (for $30!), I think it deserves special mention for creating a truly unsafe atmosphere. Many of these deaths were big shock moments, the “someone will die this issue!” kind of schmaltz. X-Statix/X-Force created an atmosphere where even the most important and likable characters could receive painful, unceremonious ends at any moment.

Barr was especially bad in the old Outsiders comic, what with Katana and Geo-Force killing left and right. The first story in issues #1-2 ends with Batman sneering at the idea of turning over the villain, the warmed-over Nazi Baron Bedlam, to the World Court. Geo-Force hurls the guy — who is, by the way, totally helpless and defeated — down to a howling mob who tear him to pieces. Quoth Batman, in response: “I like the way you think.” *big grin*

There’s so much wrong with that scene it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, it’s not really clear that the World Court would have jurisdiction here anyway, what with Bedlam’s crime being a failed coup d’etat within the borders of a single country. This would pretty clearly be a job for he International Criminal Court, which has an excellent track record where convicting Nazis is concerned. Second, the story falls into the bizarre situation of a bunch of American superheroes smiling benificently about saving a hereditary royalty where the royals carry out summary executions rather than holding a trial or something vaguely resembling due process. Liberalism and conservatism, I expect…but monarchism?

Flash killing Reverse-Flash was pretty shocking. It also set off the Trial of the Flash storyline which was one of the first (and still one of very few) stories where heroes have to deal with the repercussions of their actions.

Thanks for listing Colossus and Riptide, ’cause that was the most shocking to me, and yet so understated that I would’ve forgotten it.

There was no build-up to it (e.g. Colossus acting crazy or stressed), it just flowed from the heat of the moment when Colossus was so pissed off that he took out a serious threat to all the people around him. And because that was already such a bloody battle, no one really argued, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. That’s when the X-Men started turning a corner into a grittier era for me. Not totally sure I loved that era, but it was certainly a shocking way to introduce it.

I’d also mention Daredevil killing the chopper pilot in the Born Again finale (also quick, necessary, and understated) and Capt. America shooting the Ultimatum soldier (although maybe that was less shocking ’cause the cover kind of gave it away).

@ buttler:

Both excellent points.

Barry Allen killing Professor Zoom was probably the last time I was really shocked by a superhero killing someone. Some of those more recent stories are perfectly fine, but none of them were much beyond mildly surprising.

Garth Ennis writes really violent comics and hates superheroes. THE BOYS was entertaining enough, but walking over pretty well worn ground.

I was going to vote, but looking at that list just made me depressed.

@Omar…would Geo-Force OR Katana really be considered American superheroes?

” There was no build-up to it (e.g. Colossus acting crazy or stressed), it just flowed from the heat of the moment when Colossus was so pissed off that he took out a serious threat to all the people around him. And because that was already such a bloody battle, no one really argued, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. That’s when the X-Men started turning a corner into a grittier era for me. Not totally sure I loved that era, but it was certainly a shocking way to introduce it. ”

That period from the Mutant Massacre to the Siege Perilous was one of the greatest in X-Men history, since it was where nothing in the team’s lives was stable or certain. And I agree with you about that moment with Colossus, because it was genuinely shocking to see the team’s gentle giant actually use his strength to kill somebody. It was even more shocking than Peter’s previous kill of Proteus, a reality-warping super-bad with a contrived metal weakness, who fell into the idiotic supervillain trap of toying with Peter instead of just killing him. No, this was a case where Peter confronted a man who just murdered dozens of innocent people without any warning, mortally wounded his friend, and laughed while doing it. Snapping the fucker’s neck was completely justified; the tragedy is in the fact that Peter, the kindest and purest-hearted of the entire team, was forced to do that dirty work.

The impact was somewhat reduced by the fact that Peter himself was sidelined with injuries for the next year of comics, though.

Another one; Iron Man killing the Titanium Man (albeit by accident) during his Armor War. And his reaction afterwards at his West Coast Avengers court-martial; “I regret it, but I won’t apologize.”.

While it wasn’t a kill, Wolverine skewering Rachael/Phoenix in uncanny X-Men #207 was the greatist WTF moment in my comic book reading experience. I compleatly agreed with Kitty’s lacing into the runt at the begining of issue #208, and should have been the cap-stone to his characters popularity. It was probably her quick revival in the Excalibur Special Edition that saved him, but to me: Wolverine is the ultimate douch.

There’s a lack of Maxwell Lord shooting Blue Beetle in the poll.

I was surprised by Superboy Prime punching Pantha’s head right off. And also by Black Adam punching the Psycho-Pirate’s mask clear through his face and out the back of his head.

See? It’s not all neck-snapping.

Right now, important people at the big two are glued to this poll, and dreaming up ways to top whatever “wins”.

Steven Caplan

July 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Although it didn’t result in his face, Daredevil dropping Bullseye to his near death (and paralysis) during Miller’s run was shocking for it’s time.

Steven Caplan

July 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Result is his death.

Damn you, autocorrect!

@Omar…would Geo-Force OR Katana really be considered American superheroes?

Yes, they are. Same with the international cast of the Uncanny X-Men that Len Wein introduced. Still American superheroes.

While it wasn’t a kill, Wolverine skewering Rachael/Phoenix in uncanny X-Men #207 was the greatist WTF moment in my comic book reading experience. I compleatly agreed with Kitty’s lacing into the runt at the begining of issue #208, and should have been the cap-stone to his characters popularity. It was probably her quick revival in the Excalibur Special Edition that saved him, but to me: Wolverine is the ultimate douch.

I feel exactly the same. I too wonder why his popularity didn’t take a bigger hit for that dick move and why it was so glossed over. It was terribly hypocritical because before and after that he continued to try to proactively kill bad guys in cold blood. It wouldn’t have been so bad if from that point on he led by example but he continued to do the exact thing he unrepentantly skewered Rachel for.

” I feel exactly the same. I too wonder why his popularity didn’t take a bigger hit for that dick move and why it was so glossed over. It was terribly hypocritical because before and after that he continued to try to proactively kill bad guys in cold blood. It wouldn’t have been so bad if from that point on he led by example but he continued to do the exact thing he unrepentantly skewered Rachel for. ”

The previous issues had been building up Rachel as a ticking time bomb, showing her slipping away into madness due to her traumatic past, and using her powers in cruel and unusual ways (even using her telepathy to make the other X-Men agree with her). Logan probably felt that she was going to become Dark Phoenix Jr., and all it would’ve taken was one murder (even against someone who totally had it coming) to light the fuse.

Doctor Manhattan killing Rorschach. Omni-Man versus the Guardians of the Globe. Cyclops killing Professor X would have been shocking with better visual storytelling.

Oh, and Spider-Man versus Gwen Stacy.

And Wolverine killing Jean Grey in New X-Men #148.

She’s not a superhero, but Jean Loring killing Sue Dibny was so shocking to me I haven’t bought a DC comic since. And I’d been a loyal reader of DC since the early sixties. It was more than a shock, it was a betrayal. They hired a hack writer of crap political “thrillers” to come in and piss all over everything I held dear.

I read the comic on the bus on the way home from the comic book store. I was so agitated that people on the bus actually asked me what was wrong.

That moment, that writer, those editors, destroyed something that had been a source of joy for me for decades.

Shocking.

bernard the poet

July 16, 2013 at 5:44 am

@ Neil Kapit

I take your point that Claremont showed Rachel was growing more and more erratic in the issues preceding Wolverine stabbing her, but it still felt inconsistent with the characters and the story was never properly resolved. Selene was a bad choice of victim – it is accepted superhero lore that they can kill vampires or robots without a qualm – and Claremont’s decision to show Selene kill an innocent couple in the next issue, only highlighted Wolverine’s perversity.

To be fair to Claremont, we know that he had to abandon a planned storyline with Nimrod and James Jaspers, which would have concluded with Excalibur’s foundation and would have probably resolved the Wolverine/Rachel storyline. That explains why the issues between the Mutant Massacre and Siege Perilous are the absolute nadir of his run. Characters weren’t just dropped they seem to be completely forgotten, plotlines weren’t just dropped they seem to be completely forgotten , new characters were thrown in with little or no introduction, new plotlines had little coherence and the artwork was patchy.

Tales of the Boojum

July 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

Is my count right? Did about two-thirds of these happen in the last sixteen years or so? I kicked my comic book habit around that time and at least three or four of those events (Colossus and Hal Jordan) contributed to that decision. Mockingbird too, but that had more to do with Hawkeye’s utter failure to support her and the inability of the writers/editors to discuss rape at all than Phantom Rider’s death.

As for my vote in the poll, I went with Dark Phoenix, not so much for the act of planetary genocide, but for the consequences (since retconned). The Flash/Reverse Flash also felt like it had some actual weight because we didn’t get to see Barry again after that until Crisis on Infinite Earths at which time all his tabs came due as well (since retconned).

Yeah, I definitely agree that Logan/Rachel “Stabbygate” should’ve been resolved, and it’s a damn shame that the two have never so much as discussed it since. Especially since Rachel was thrust into the comedic Excalibur team upon her return, a completely awful fit for such a troubled character.

On the other hand, I do find myself sympathizing more with Logan than Rachel, because she went for the nuclear option in the middle of an unassuming Upper Manhattan club, whose public purpose was no worse than a brothel for the 1%. There’s a reason why Spider-Man doesn’t storm into Oscorp to kill Norman Osborn, why Superman doesn’t push Lex Luthor off his ivory tower and onto the Metropolis pavement, and why even Wolverine himself prefers quick stabs in dark alleys. The notoriety of such actions would cause far more problems than it would solve.

Still hold that stabbing Rachel was shocking but led to more positives than negatives storywise (if only today’s writers understood that not every shocking moment needs to be shown in full color glory; sometimes a single word on a panel works wonders). The period before the massacre (around issue 188) and period after until Inferno (discounting FotM) had some great X-Men stories in them. I also enjoyed Excalibur; lighter, sure, but still solid fun.

Though they did mishandle a lot plot-wise (like the Brood ship being seen at the end of issue 217 pre-FotM or something and not resolved until almost 2 years later when the X-Men were firmly in Australia; forget a few random mutants as most of Colorado would be a Brood hive).

Partly inspired by this poll, here is a blog post I just wrote up looking back on the events of the “Supergirl Saga” and the execution of the Phantom Zone criminals by Superman. Hope people find this an interesting read. Thanks for taking a look.

http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/should-superman-kill/

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