Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Comic Books That Made Us Cry

December 18, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Death of Superman

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…
Last time we discussed our Favorite Comic Book Families. Here’s what some of you had to say:

“Filthy” Jake Fury: “Not going to be in the minority but Bat Family.”

Dexter Plisskin: “My favorite is the extended family of Ultron. Ultron was created by Hank Pym. He created Vision and Jocasta using the brain patterns of Wonder Man and Wasp (Pym’s wife). Wonder Man is the brother of the Grim Reaper. Vision married Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto and sister of Quicksilver. Quicksilver married Crystal of the Inhumans. Ultron then created Alkema using the brain patterns of Mockingbird, the ex-wife of Hawkeye (who was a member of “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” with Scarlet Witch and Quicksiler).


Carl Rood: “The Titans Family”

Steed: “The Bat and Super family I’ve always had a soft spot for.”

Tayo Jones: “The Star man family. James Robinson did a great job exiting the family and the legacy of Star man”

Ken Wood: “Fantastic Four is the obvious one.

Cyclops was never boring.

If you consider Lorna Dane and Alex Summers were an item for so long, can you imagine having a big family dinner with the Magneto/Summers-Grey/Summers-Frost families? Drama.

I’m not really that familiar with the comic but in the TV show, the Queen family is pretty crazy in Arrow, especially if you consider the extended family and dinner guests that would be there.”

Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss our 

Comic Books That Made Us Cry

The holidays can be an emotional time. From nostalgic memories to cheesy movies, we’re surrounded by things that can sway our mood in a second. 

When it comes to comic books and the holidays, I used to have a little ritual as a kid. I would save a few select new comic books to put aside Christmas week and stay up on Christmas Eve reading them before falling off to asleep. I still can see a cover of an old G.I. Joe or Legion of Super-Heroes and it takes me back to being a kid again, reading comic books in bed. 

All that talk of happy memories brings us to this week’s topic. Comic books that resonate in some way. One of the biggest examples, off the top of my head, is Astro City 1/2: ‘The Nearness of You’. I went back and reread the story and it still evokes emotion. It’s a short story about a man named Michael. He’s haunted by dreams of a dark haired woman. The dreams are so intense, so vivid, that it distracts from his life, his sleep, and his work.

I’m not going to spoil the story, because it’s one you should read and enjoy fresh, but I feel confident it might draw a tear or sniffle when you’re done. “No one chooses to forget.”

Such is the power of comic books. We all have that story or two that touches us, for whatever reason, and moves us. For some, a death of a beloved character gets the heartstrings moving. Maybe it’s a situation that a character is going through, where the story and art come together to make us cry.

Superman #75, or ‘The Death of Superman’, is looked back on as a publicity stunt but at the time, people were shocked at the death of an icon who inspired hope. Dying in the arms of his love, Lois Lane, saving the day, his death was a huge event and touched a lot of people. Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman provided several instances that reached out from the page. His saving of a young lady about to kill herself is told over a couple of panels wraps up everything great about the Man of Steel. Issue #6, ‘Funeral in Smallville’ is another story that sums up why Superman is so loved.

Spider-Man is another hero who has had a number of heartfelt moments. One of the most famous is the 1973 Amazing Spider-Man storyline, ‘The Night Gwen Stacy Died’. It’s rightfully considered a definitive moment in comic book history and it’s power is still felt today. The death of Gwen Stacy, girlfriend of Peter Parker, is even more significant because it was one of the first times a major non-superpowered character is killed. Spider-Man failing to save her left a mark on many reader’s hearts and the loss of Gwen, at the time, was a shock.

‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” came out in 1984 (The Amazing Spider-Man #248) and the simple story about a young fan of Spider-Man meeting his hero is regarded as among the most-loved Spider-Man stories of all time. Young Tim Harrison is visiting by Spidey and the two talk for hours. When the young fan asks who Spider-Man really is, he takes off his mask, tells him he’s Peter Parker, and retells the fateful night when his negligence let Uncle Ben die, causing him to fight crime. Spider-Man leaves and the last of the newspaper captions states that the boy’s only wish is to meet the hero in person because he will die from leukemia in a few days. Simple. Excellent.

Daredevil #23 had impact for many, when Foggy was diagnosed with cancer. The scene in the doctor’s office where Foggy gets the results stands out, as the doctor enters the room, Matt Murdock’s radar sense picks up what he thinks is Foggy’s rapid heartbeat. He soon learns that it’s not Foggy’s heart he hears, but the doctor’s. Matt knows bad news is coming and is overcome with sorrow, putting his hand on Foggy’s shoulder. Tears well up in Foggy’s eyes with the only bit of dialogue from the doctor is, “Sorry.” A reminder that the hero can save life time and time again but some foes can’t be vanquished.

The Fantastic Four is long known as the First Family of the Marvel Universe. They had their ups and downs with each other but at the end of the day, they were there for one another. Especially when tragedy struck. John Byrne’s writer/artist run in the mid-1980s provided such a moment when Sue miscarries what would have been her second child because of radiation poisoning from the Negative Zone. What really dug it in was Reed Richard desperately trying to find a way to save the life of his wife and his unborn child, going so far as approaching Doctor Octopus. The villain is reluctant but is convinced…only too late.

Too late is something that happened in Brad Meltzer’s ‘Identity Crisis’ miniseries. The brutal murder of Sue Dibny, the wife of Ralph Dibny/the Elongated Man, and her subsequent funeral in the mini’s very first issue, is a much talked about moment that many agree is gut-wrenching in its execution.

Gut-wrenching is something readers of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic know all too well. It has plenty of moments that shock you and leave you numb, wiping a tear away. Perhaps the most devastating moment was the death of Lori Grimes, the wife of Rick, and their baby Judith. Rick and his surviving son Carl are alone outside the prison, zombies taking over their old “home”. Carl doesn’t know about the death of his mom and sister and asks his father why they’re running away from the prison without them. Rick can only tell his son, “Don’t look back.”

Damian Wayne burst on the scene as an annoying prodigy. Over time he grew on us and his death in 2013 shook everyone up. To me, the real impact was felt when they addressed how his death impacted the Batman family, especially Alfred. Alfred’s guilt stands out as a very real moment and even though Damian was a tough-edged superhero, he was still just a kid. Even a reboot and his return doesn’t take away from the story. 

Sandman #8: ‘The Sound of Her Wings’ is the first appearance of Death. But it’s the scene with the baby that I always remember. It’s another one best read without any warning. 

It’s not all doom and gloom that gets us emotional. Sometimes the return of an old friend can bring tears of joy. Like Joss Whedon and John Cassady’s Astonishing X-Men storyline ‘Gifted’. The X-Men are investigating rumors that the mysterious lab BeneTech is experimenting on a mutant they believed to be dead. Most of the team members think its Jean Grey, but while phasing through the laboratory, Kitty Pryde discovers it’s none other than Colussus. Kitty’s scene is touching and is punctuated even more when Colussus collapses to his knees in front of her, asking “…Am I finally dead?”

Strange: The Doctor is Out is overlooked but caught me off-guard when I first read it. Stephen Strange is no longer Sorcerer Supreme and has to find a new path to fulfillment and enlightenment. He takes on a new student, Casey Kinmont, who exhibits an aptitude for sorcery. I won’t give away details on this one but it’s a great tale and you see Doctor Strange in a new light.

Another book that gets me is Shazam!: The Power of Hope. It’s such a simple story and works so well. Captain Marvel uses his powers to instill hope in the heart of children. When Billy Batson, Captain Marvel’s adolescent alter ego, receives a letter from a terminally ill boy in the City’s Children Hospital, he decides to spend a few days in the ward. A true kid at heart, Captain Marvel tries to shed some light in the children’s lives by taking them on flying escapades and amazing them with stories of his exploits. Touching and emotional with a real world impact.

Some books sit with you long after you put them down. Like Pride of Baghdad. The story revolves around the brief freedom experienced by a small pride of captive lions, who escape from Baghdad Zoo during the 2003 invasion of Baghdad by the U.S.-led coalition. As the lions roam the streets of Baghdad trying to survive, each lion comes to embody a different viewpoint regarding the Iraq War. The ending is one you won’t forget.

I have a soft spot for animals so it should be no surprise that Y: The Last Man made me tear up with the death of Ampersand.

If you haven’t read We3, I suggest having some tissues nearby. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely take you on an emotional roller coaster in this three issue series, telling the story of We3, a squad of three prototype “animal weapons,” as they flee captivity. The group consists of a dog, “Bandit” a.k.a. “1”; a cat, “Tinker” a.k.a. “2”; and a rabbit, “Pirate” a.k.a. “3”, who were all kidnapped from a nearby city and encased in robotic armor. They were also given a limited ability to speak through skull implants. Their body armor fields numerous weapons, including mine laying devices, machine guns and razor claws. It’s a book I couldn’t put down and can’t read without getting engrossed all over again.

I can say the same thing about I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura. We meet a troubled little girl named Barbara and all she talks about is how she goes about taking down these awful giants who are supposedly attacking her neighborhood. This is another one I don’t want to give too much away but the resolution is…amazing. A moving book that will always get me.

I jumped around quite a bit and I know I’ve missed some. I’ll leave that for you all. What comics made you cry? No judging in the comments!

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!