Movies & TV / Columns

Alternate Takes 12.29.12: Top 10 Superhero Deaths

December 29, 2012 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

Welcome to Week 234 of Alternate Takes, my name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.

The winner of the next Comic Book Knockout is Comic Book Fight Club. This means that the people who refused to vote for their favorite characters in the last superhero knockout, and instead demanded on voting on who would win a fight between the two characters, will actually have their votes make sense this time.

The Knockout will start with the first Alternate Takes of 2013.

I said last week that I would list the comic book storylines I chose for the Knockout I discontinued last week, so here they are (in alphabetical order).

“Age of Apocalypse” by Scott Lobdell (X-Men crossover)
“All Star Superman” by Grant Morrison
“Born Again” by Frank Miller (Daredevil)
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” by Marv Wolfman
“Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller
“Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Claremont
“Death of Captain America” by Ed Brubaker
“Kingdom Come” by Mark Waid
“Kraven’s Last Hunt” by J.M. DeMatteis (Spider-Man)
“Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman
“Reign of the Supermen” by various authors
“Season of Mists” by Neil Gaiman (Sandman)
“Sinestro Corps War” by Geoff Johns (Green Lantern)
“The Great Darkness Saga” by Paul Levitz (Legion of Super-Heroes)
“The Judas Contract” by Marv Wolfman (Teen Titans)
“V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore
“Watchmen” by Alan Moore
“Year One” by Frank Miller
“All in the Family” by Garth Ennis (Preacher)
“American Gothic” by Alan Moore (Swamp Thing)
“Authority” by Warren Ellis
“Avengers Forever” by Kurt Busiek
“Batman R.I.P.” by Grant Morrison
“Brief Lives” by Neil Gaiman (Sandman)
“Civil War” by Mark Millar
“Dangerous Habits” by Garth Ennis (Hellblazer)
“Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont (X-Men)
“Deus ex Machina” by Grant Morrison (Animal Man)
“Doll’s House” by Neil Gaiman (Sandman)
“E is for Extinction” by Grant Morrison (X-Men)
“Final Crisis” by Grant Morrison
“From Hell” by Alan Moore
“Gifted” by Joss Whedon (X-Men)
“Green Lantern: Rebirth” by Geoff Johns
“House of M” by Brian Michael Bendis (X-Men)
“Identity Crisis” by Brad Meltzer
“If This Be My Destiny” by Steve Ditko (Spider-Man)
“Infinity Gauntlet” by Jim Starlin
“Knightfall” by Doug Moench (Batman)
“Marvels” by Kurt Busiek
“Mutant Massacre” by Chris Claremont (X-Men)
“New Frontier” by Darwyn Cooke (DC crossover)
“New World Order” by Grant Morrison (JLA)
“No Man’s Land” by Various Writers (Batman)
“Planet Hulk” by Greg Pak
“Planetary” by Warren Ellis
“Return of Barry Allen” by Mark Waid (Flash)
“Rock of Ages” by Grant Morrison (JLA)
“Secret Wars” by Jim Shooter
“Sins of the Father” by James Robinson (Starman)
“Super-Human” by Mark Millar (Ultimates)
“The Death of Gwen Stacy” by Gerry Conway (Spider-Man)
“The Death of Jean DeWolff” by Peter David (Spider-Man)
“The Death of Superman” by Various Writers
“The Elektra Saga” by Frank Miller (Daredevil)
“The Galactus Trilogy” by Stan Lee (Fantastic Four)
“The Kindly Ones” by Neil Gaiman (Sandman)
“The Korvac Saga” by Jim Shooter (Avengers)
“The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb (Batman)
“The Surtur Saga” by Walt Simonson (Thor)
“Ultimates 2″ by Mark Millar
“Under Siege” by Roger Stern (Avengers)
“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore (Superman)
“Whys and Wherefores” by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man)

I appear to be one of the vocal minority for “The Amazing Spider-Man” #700, because I liked the story. Let’s talk about the death of Peter Parker.

When I bought the book, I thought I was going to hate it. I was ready to rip it apart. I am a huge fan of Peter Parker and Spider-Man has been my favorite comic book hero since I was a kid in the ’70s. I have followed him through thick and thin and even the Clone Wars didn’t turn me off him (I just pretend it never happened).

Killing Peter Parker in the Ultimates Universe was bad enough. Killing the character I grew up reading is just wrong. The biggest complaint was the fact that Doctor Octopus is now Spider-Man, in Peter Parker’s body.

However, something strange happened when I finished reading the main story in “Amazing Spider-Man” #700. I liked the story. I actually found it touching. Now, I know there are a lot of people who complain because Peter Parker will be back – no one stays dead in comic books – but that never bothers me when it comes to reading a story. I knew Han Solo would not die after Empire Strikes Back, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie. I knew Superman would not stay dead in “Death of Superman,” but that doesn’t mean it is not one of the best comic stories out there.

Here is why I loved the death of Peter Parker.

There was a scene early in the story where Peter dies, only to come back. Technically, he was dead for three minutes, and in that time he passed on to the other side. While there, he saw Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy and more people that he still blames himself for allowing to die on his watch. It is at this point that they tell him that the scales balance in his favor. Every death that happened ended up serving a greater purpose and Peter Parker remains a true hero.

I swear that those panels actually choked me up a little bit (and I know that is silly coming from a comic book story, but this goes deep into my childhood memories). He came back and decided to try one more time to switch minds with Doc Ock. He gets the gold Ocktobot that Ock used to do the mind swap but fails in his attempt to regain his body. However, the unexpected happens.

His memories and everything that made Peter Parker the great hero he is flooded into Ock’s mind. Doctor Octopus sees everything that Peter went through as he formed into a hero. Suddenly, Peter’s life and Octopus’ mind melded into one. What this issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” showed was Peter Parker, on his death bed, saving Doctor Octopus. This was about the rehabilitation of Octopus as he saw what it really means to be a hero.

Some people online claim Peter died a meaningless death. Those people are wrong. Peter saved one man as he died and helped the world keep one of their greatest heroes. With Octopus’ mind and Peter’s sense of responsibility, Spider-Man might be a greater hero than ever.

The people who hate Peter Parker’s death will never accept anyone else’s point of view – that is the way comic book fans think. There are people who believe the fact that Peter helping Octopus get a second chance in life and helping save that man is not important. I’m not a regular comic book fan, and I actually believe everyone has a right to their opinion.

My opinion is that “The Amazing Spider-Man” #700 was a great story, one that showed Peter Parker that he did good, allowed him to finally accept that he was a true hero, and allowed him to die a hero as well, saving his greatest nemesis. I may be in the minority, but I thought it was a nice death for my favorite character.

With that said, here is a look at the ten most important superhero deaths in comic book history (of which almost every one of them returned from the grave).

10. Captain Marvel

I had a spirited debate with someone on Facebook last year about the “Death of Captain Marvel” storyline from Marvel Comics. I said, as someone who was alive when it happened, that it was one of the biggest “event stories” in comics at the time. He said, as someone who wasn’t even born yet when it happened, that it wasn’t and he knows this because he knows his Marvel history. The guy was a tool.

Jim Starlin wrote “The Death of Captain Marvel” in 1982, and it was Marvel’s first true graphic novel, revolutionizing the comic industry at the time. I was 12 when it came out and I remember it selling out everywhere. Captain Marvel wasn’t a really important character, but when he died of cancer it was a huge moment in comic history and really affected a kid like me. The story is about a superhero dying a death that many, many real people die from every day, and showed its effects on other superheroes. It was powerful stuff and one of the most important events in Marvel history, turning the graphic novel into a force in the industry.

9. Professor X

This one is very new, and almost didn’t make it as a result. However, heading into Marvel Now!, there needed to be a major incident to kick off the new direction for the comic company. That came in X-Men vs. The Avengers and it culminated when Cyclops killed Professor X, his father-figure, in a battle to save all mutants. This helped kick off Marvel Now! with Cyclops a militant villain, Wolverine hating him more than ever, and Captain America trying to finally stand up for mutant rights as well as normal humans.

8. Bucky Barnes

I doubt anyone reading this column was alive when Bucky Barnes was alive to begin with. He died when Captain America ended up frozen, and his death was depicted in “The Avengers” #56. However, this death remained a reminder of how a hero could die in the face of danger and his death carried with Captain America throughout his entire career. Bucky was one of the first major heroes to die. There used to be a quote that no comic book death was forever except Bucky Barnes, Uncle Ben and Jason Todd. Of those three, only Uncle Ben remains dead.

7. Colossus

1993 introduced the X-Men universe with the Legacy Virus. A terrorist from the future named Stryfe released the virus on the world, targeting people possessing the X-factor, basically all mutants. The virus causes the mutants powers to go out of control and then kills them. The first casualty is Piotr Rasputin’s little sister Illyana (Magik). Many mutants either die or are infected and realize they will soon die, and one human (Moria MacTaggert) even dies after finding a cure. Luckily, The Beast replicates the cure, but realizes someone will have to die with the virus to release the cure into the air. That person was Colossus, who chose to sacrifice his own life so no one else would have to die like his sister. It was a selfless act of courage and one of the best heroic deaths in comics.

6. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

Hal Jordan is the best of the Green Lantern corps (sorry to Kyle Raynor fans). He is one of the most important characters in the entire DC Universe, and in 1994 he went full evil. In that story, Parallax takes over Hal’s body when he goes insane after Mongul destroys Coast City and murders the seven million citizens Hal swore to protect. Hal recreated Coast City and brought the dead back to life, a direct violation of his duty. When the Guardians attempt to punish him, Hal heads to Oa and kills Sinestro, Kilowog and all the Lanterns sent to stop him, before destroying the Guardians and the entire Green Lantern corps. He becomes Parallax and ends up as a major villain.

In 1996, Hal finally regained control of himself long enough to make one last sacrifice in the story “The Final Night.” The Sun-Eater shows up in our universe and extinguishes the sun, putting earth on a ticking clock where it begins to freeze and everyone begins to die. Hal uses his powers as Parallax to fly into the dead sun and reignite it, saving the entire planet at the price of his own life. It was the perfect case of retribution for a fallen hero.

5. The Flash (Barry Allen)

Barry Allen, one of the biggest superheroes in the DC Universe at the time of “Crisis of Infinite Earths,” gave up his life to save every other hero and helped merge all the parallel earths together. It is also interesting that his return helped usher in the DC New 52 rebooting almost 25 years later. That means that Barry Allen was dead for 23 years, unheard of for a major comic book hero. His death ushered in one major reboot and his rebirth ushered in the second, and it remains one of the most important death and rebirths in DC Comics history.

4. Captain America

I’ve made it clear in the past that I absolutely loathed the “Civil War” storyline. It also didn’t help that I was 100-percent on the side of Captain America and writer Mark Millar made it clear in interviews that he saw Iron Man as the true hero. However, the one thing that did result from the battle was the death of Steve Rogers, Captain America. Outside of Superman, this was the longest lasting character to die a realistic looking death. It also made me hate Iron Man even more. Cap didn’t stay dead for long, but the death itself was the perfect end result of the ridiculous Civil War between heroes.

I want to take the time here to explain why Batman’s death is not included here. His death happened in one storyline but then it showed him immediately displaced out of his own time. The fact it immediately showed he was not dead makes it ineligible for my purposes of this list.

3. Robin (Jason Todd)

Sure, a lot of people hated Jason Todd as Robin. Part of it was because Dick Grayson was so beloved, and part of it was because Jason was an ass. This made DC Comics decide to use a publicity stunt and ask the fans to vote whether or not Jason should live or die. In a controversial vote, fans chose to kill Jason Todd. The problem is that the voting was done by a 1-900 number, and it was later revealed that hundreds of votes were cast by one person (kind of like the Knockouts here at Alternate Takes). However, it was decided and The Joker killed Jason Todd in “A Death in the Family.”

While it was clearly a publicity stunt, the fact is that his death had huge consequences in Batman comics ever since. Batman has a lot of trouble trusting anyone, especially those close to him thanks to losing Jason (as well as Barbara Gordon’s paralyzing bullet). It affected a character more than almost any death outside of Uncle Ben.

2. Jean Grey

Once upon a time, comic book fans weren’t desensitized to character deaths. That made the death of Jean Grey, one of the original X-Men, one of the most shocking in comic books at the time. “The Dark Phoenix” saga has since been slightly ret-conned as it turns out the being killed here was only a shell of a body with the Phoenix force in it, and Jean Grey was in a space shuttle, at the bottom of a lake. However, this is about comic book deaths, and for years this was one of the biggest.

Jean Grey first appeared in “X-Men” #1 in 1963 and was one of the founding members of the most popular superhero team in Marvel. While Jean was honestly a boring character, she was still beloved as an original. That made it hard to watch as the Dark Phoenix overtook her (thanks in large part to the Hellfire Club) and she slaughtered billions of innocent beings. Her death was necessary punishment for the mass murder and genocide, but it was still shocking and completely changed the dynamic of the X-Men for years to come.

While she was only dead for six years of the comic book, that seemed like forever for a kid reading comics at the time, and is much longer than most characters stay dead for.

1. Superman

If there is any death in comics that means more than the rest, it was the moment that the greatest hero of them all died. One thing that has always been troubling in Superman comics, it was the fact that he was all-powerful and an almost God-like character. If you have a character that is unbeatable (with the exception of Kryptonite), he gets boring and that is what Superman became. Then suddenly, in 1992, the impossible happened and Superman died. The death came in a huge fist fight with the almost indestructible Doomsday and Superman died to beat this foe.

Yes, Superman came back from the dead and this storyline led into the nice “Funeral for a Friend” storyline and the “Reign of the Supermen” follow up that introduced the world to Steel and Connor Kent. However, when it came to DC Comics, this event brought in more readers to comics than just about any other event in comic book history.

Welcome to the 2nd edition of D-Rock’s Corner. This week I will be discussing my “Top 5 Most Anticipated Comic-Book Films in 2013.” Let’s not waste any more time and get started:

5. Iron Man 3

Yes, Iron Man 2 was not as good as the first entry, but not terrible either. However, I am glad to see Favreau step down and give someone new a chance to take on Mr. Stark. So far, from everything I’ve seen from the trailers, Iron Man 3 seems to be headed for a fresher approach to the property. Shane Black did a tremendous job on scripting the Lethal Weapon movies, I think he can also do the same for Iron Man.

4. Kick-Ass 2

I’m not sure how great the sequel will be without Matthew Vaughan behind the wheel, but there is still so much potential for this follow-up. The first one had a great balance between comedy and strong violent action. Not to mention Chloe Moretz breakout role as “Hit Girl” was hilariously shocking. With Jim Carrey added to the cast, this has driven my curiosity level way high.

3. The Wolverine

I’m not even going to talk about the sad, sorry of an excuse prequel that was released in 2009. What I will say is when “Wolverine” is done right, it’s nothing but epic. My interest did drop after Darren Aronofsky pulled out of this project but I’m still hoping they can master a stand-alone film for this character. Plus, I’ve been dying to see the “Wolverine” story that was based in Japan be told on the big screen. Samurai swords versus claws anyone?

2. Man of Steel

The “Superman” character hasn’t been my particular favorite from the DC Universe. I’ve always had a stronger bond with the “Batman” character, because of how dark and brutal Bruce Wayne’s world was. However, when I saw the trailer for Man of Steel a few weeks back, it sent chills throughout me. I’m extremely curious to see what Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan can do to make “Superman” a big screen powerhouse once again.

1. Sin City: A Dame to Kill for

This is undoubtedly my most wanted comic-book film for next year. Back in 2005, I probably watched Sin City four or five times on the big screen, just because of how much I was blown away by the experience. Robert Rodriguez accomplished what so few have attempted, which is making a film look exactly like a comic strip. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the October 4th release date and praying this doesn’t get postponed again.

There is my most anticipated list folks! Which comic-book films are you most excited for? Which ones are you not looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

January 4: Texas Chainsaw 3D
January 25: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
January 29 – The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
February 1 – Bullet to the Head
March 1 – Jack the Giant Slayer
March 8 – Oz: The Great and Powerful
March 29 – G.I. Joe: Retaliation
April 12 – The Evil Dead
May 3 – Iron Man 3
May 17 – Star Trek: Into Darkness
June 14 – The Man of Steel
June 21 – World War Z
June 28 – Kick-Ass 2
June 12 – Pacific Rim
July 3 – The Lone Ranger
July 19 – R.I.P.D.
July 26 – The Wolverine
August 2 – Red 2
August 2 – 300: Rise of an Empire
August 6 – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
September 6 – Riddick
September 13 – I, Frankenstein
October 4 – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
October 25 – The World’s End
November 1 – Ender’s Game
November 8 – Thor 2: The Dark World
November 22 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
December 13 – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

April 4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
May 2 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
July 18 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
August 1 – Guardians of the Galaxy

March 6 – Fantastic Four
May 1 – The Avengers 2
November 6 – Ant-Man

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Shawn S. Lealos

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