Doomsday is not on this list. We here at WASDUK know the difference between a useful archetype that is relevant to culture and a cheap frill to bloat comic sales. The deaths on this list are important, as their impacts, even when largely unnoticed, are truly ground-breaking.
This is a case of fans getting what they want and, then, demanding it should not have happened. Or, is it? In short, the Ani-Mator shoots Cypher, though the bullet is intended for his girlfriend, Wolfsbane.
The reason for this death being so relevant is that the comic creators gave into the letters they received. Nobody liked Cypher. His wikipedia page even notes rants from Marvel personnel about how he always hid behind trees during fights and, otherwise, just stood around.
Cypher had a pretty useful power, which allowed him to understand and speak any language. Thus, he was useful when mutated or alien beings showed up, as they did not all speak English. Characters like Bird-Brain were only able to function with him around. Furthermore, Cypher’s powers are best used in support. He does not need to be in fights as much as he needs to be covert and working both interrogative and humanitarian acts for the X-Men.
Sadly, the comics just had no place for him. Writers and artists wanted him to fight, but he had no capability to do so. Then, a lame, short-lived villain called the Ani-Mator (REALLY?!) is thrown in as an executioner. Surprisingly, fans wrote tons of letters expressing how sad they were, so Cypher was revived when Warlock’s ashes were sprinkled on his grave. The remains fused with Cypher’s corpse and reanimated him. Does it sound like a cover-up? Of course it is. The angry letters from fans can’t be uncovered, and the writers didn’t like him. This is the classic case of the jocks in the locker room picking on the dork. Now, the dork is back and he has our support. Game on, broheim!
9) The Joker
After lacing the Scarecrow’s fear toxin with kryptonite, the Joker baits Superman to a remote location. In order to pull off such a feat, the Joker first shoots Jimmy Olsen in the face, and then he and Harley kidnap Lois Lane. While all this is going down, Superman is telling Batman about how happy he is to have heard 2 heartbeats from the same person. Lois is pregnant with Superman’s son!
The Joker is pure anarchic terror in the Injustice: Gods Among Us comics. When the Man of Steel tracks down the Joker, he and Harley are in surgeon outfits and are slicing and dicing his beloved, but she is not dead. Superman triggers the fear-toxin and begins to hallucinate that Lois-Lane is Doomsday. Superman grabs her and jettisons her into space, where she and the baby perish at Superman’s hand.
What makes this such a relevant death is highlighted by the conversation between Batman and Joker that follows. When asked why he did it, the Joker compares Batman to a really hard video-game. He wanted an easy-mode to finally see his plans come to fruition. Next, he compares duping the big-gun to how he killed a dog by using a cat as a club. The pictures of the events may paint thousands of words, but the disgusting metaphors and seedy jab at low-skilled gamers won’t leave one’s mind anytime soon. It is actually a relief when Superman punches completely through the Joker’s chest. However, when a man has the power of the gods, can he truly be justified in killing 3 mortals in less than a day?
8) Optimus Prime
Hot Rod has good intentions. They didn’t include him being captured and getting the big-dog shot in the chest several times. The latter is also nearly the transverse of the situation described in the last entry. In summation, the animated Transformers film from 1986 began with a no-holds-barred approach. A giant transforming planet named Unicron shows up and kills an entire civilization and it is revealed that the Autobots are losing the war.
The Decepticons pin down the Autobots on Earth and launch a full assault. The battle shows some never-before-seen violence that includes Star-Scream using Megatron to kill Prowl. Where was all this during the television run?
Megatron corners Prime and the two are going at it. Prime actually wins! He is about to sever the Decepticons as a team, and then Hot Rod gets in the way. Megatron quickly turns the table and fills Prime with enough holes to rival a pin-cushion. The end result sends the Autobots into chaos. They scatter across the universe and the audience is set-up for an amazing game of cat and mouse among the stars.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the film is not so good. Prime’s death, whose memory is far stronger than the re-watchablity, proved to be a gimmick to sell toys. Megatron became Galvatron, and Hot Rod, who rookied Prime into death, arises as Rodimus Prime, the new leader of the Autobots.
Therefore, the entire death sequence was a set-up that, in the end, only proved how great Grimlock was. Sure he was stupid, but he kicks a hole in Unicron’s ass while screaming, “Grimlock kick butt,” and he and the Dinobots beat the crap out of the all-mighty Devastator when it assembles at the beginning.
Again, he isn’t the smartest screw in the box, but Grimlock had character and spunk, which is far more than what we can say about Rodimus Prime, Galvatron and the other wannabe’s from generation 4. In fact, the new Prime was so flat and boring that Optimus Prime came back to life! His death and rebirth would forever let hardcore fans smell the crap before it consumed us. We’re talking about you, Mr. Bay.
Nightcrawler was offered to DC, but they passed. He was picked up as one of the X-Men and then side-stepped to put more focus on Wolverine. Then, he joined X-Factor and fought living bullets, among other oddities in the UK. His rich back-story that included discrimination drew a lot of attention and he became a fan favorite.
Nightcrawler even got to show off his dark side in the Age of Apocalypse arc. He BAMF’d off enemy heads and was cool in the face of impending doom.
Inexplicably, Marvel writers decided that his powers were much, much too phenomenal. Out of the blue, mutants could suddenly see his outline before he appeared. What the- WHAT?! Yes, any mutant genetically had this ability. Fuck you, teleporters!
As a result, this death is VERY important. With the rise of lame movie-versions of comic heroes (Green Lantern, Juggernaut, anyone?) Nightcrawler was also horribly reduced. Fans are quick to sight how clumps like Michael Bay can hack Jason, Freddy, Transformers, and TMNT to intolerable schlock, but the comic writers who inherit really great characters never justly get lambasted for the same crime. Never in the history of Marvel could mutants see Nightcrawler’s outline before he appeared. Suddenly, it was common knowledge. All the villains do it, yo. He is killed trying to save Hope Summers. It’s cheap.
The source history of comics have nearly always been superior to their cinematic incarnations. Nightcrawler’s demise was poorly constructed and, for a brief time, the comics were just as bad as Michael Bay.
Planetary is a genius comic book series where nothing is off-limits. The team is composed of a secret group that explores the history of the unreal. In one issue, they are exploring the remains of giant monsters outside Japan. In addition, the team members have some pretty amazing powers that allow them to explore such fantastic creatures and places.
In an alternate reality, a one-shot story re-imagines the Planetary team as a ruling party that has both eliminated all superheroes and rules with an iron fist. Surprisingly, Superman is one of the easiest kills for them in the beginning of the comic. The team has been studying him, and have identified his main power source as the Sun. They isolate him in an energy field and launch him out of the distance of the Sun’s reach. The result is that Superman shrivels up and is reduced to a screaming shell of a Kryptonian, who quickly perishes.
The death should raise your eyebrows, not only in its cold, calculated manner, but because it makes one marvel at how deadly the overlooked villains and anti-heroes of the comic universes are. Couldn’t Lex or Sinestro have pulled this off decades ago? More importantly, there is nobody to bring him back. Doomsday wasn’t necessary, and the cheap resurrections were done away with to put emphasis on the conflict between both good and evil and freedom against dictatorships.
Last, this kind of plotting and intelligent foe is something Superman has yet to face on a cinematic level. We’ve seen 3 bumbling Lex Luthor’s, Nuclear Man, and Zod and his minions. If the upcoming Superman vs Batman film has any hope for life, then it will depend on Walter White’s portrayal of Lex. If he can access this level of dark brillaince through the script, then we will all be better off for it.
If you knew that you were going to contingently destroy the universe, then would you take your own life. Jean Gray did.
This death has been analyzed for a long time and it is always included in a variety of lists covering deaths and tragedies. What’s surprising is that nobody seems to point out that it parallels the plot of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. In that story, which became an amazing film with Christopher Walken, a man is given the ability to see the future. He meets a politician who will use America to create the second coming of Nazi-Germany. The immortal Hitchcockian question of “What would YOU do?” takes you by the mind’s throat and refuses to relent.
For the Phoenix’s story arc, the X-Men are on the wrong side. They are fighting to preserve the memory of a loved one, but she has been morphed into something new that threatens every living thing in existence. Professor X’s short-comings as a leader, and the team’s selfish, short-sighted unity beguiled many into believing that one girl was more valuable than all. That’s a pretty dark, apocalyptic-laden trick. And, this backwards belief made for one of the greatest arcs in Marvel history.
4) Arthur Curry, Jr.
Black Manta kidnaps and places Aquaman’s son in a device that will eventually suffocate him, and this is over two-decades before Saw would take Halloween over with complex torture-devices. The plot could have played out in a common fashion that didn’t require readers to even skim the dialogue so much as just look at cool Atlanteans. But, this time the plot was different.
This was also during the age of The Super Friends, where Aquaman and Black Manta were present as one-dimensional swimmers. The high respect for this death comes with the fact that DC writers were willing to evaluate their own art. The campy live-action Batman series and The Super Friends were two products that painted images in the mind of the greater population as to how “bad” comics were.
Suddenly, Black Manta steals the heir to the throne and kills him. These were no-longer one-dimensional jokes used to teach kids that fighting was bad because fighting was constantly needed. Huh?
Aquaman and Black Manta’s feud is an early Game of Thrones metaphor. Black Manta became so enshrined in his hatred and bigotry that he sought to destroy his greatest foe from the inside. Such rich and shocking plot devices, which show the measures psychopaths are willing to dirge, are often over-looked and forgotten. Unlike the common jokes Aquaman always gets bashed with, this seldom remembered story-arc made him one of the most tragedy laden and deep characters in the comic universes. It’s too bad everyone still remembers Adam West’s Bat-dance rather than this excellent, ground-breaking writing.
3) Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown brought a whole new dimension to the world’s most famous comic-icon, Batman. We all know how sacred Batman’s revenge and duties are. He is the Dark Knight, the Greatest Detective on Earth, and a founding member of the Justice League.
But, what happens when Batman becomes so paranoid and ego-centric that he plots the death of a comrade?
Enter, Stephanie Brown. Tim Drake had already hung-up the Robin suit, so Batman recruits Stephanie, Tim Drake’s love interest, to don the cape and cowl. Together, they take on the Black Mask. Black Mask murders Tim Drake’s girlfriend, Stephanie, and it is all part of Batman’s plan.
This shook the comic-world. Is it possible for good to remain constant in a reality where psychotic villains constantly plot the demise of everyone? It finally all got to Batman, and he didn’t realize he was in the wrong. Fans had their emotional pots emptied when Batman refused to include her name in the Bat-Cave display of all who had worn the Robin uniform.
Stephanie was an essential part of Tim Drake’s life, but if that life conflicted with the Bat, then it was meaningless. The greatest villains always think they are right. They are righteous and can name the faults of everyone to a tee. Batman is, therefore, one of the best villains we’ve ever encountered. Yet, he remains an icon after plotting the death of an innocent girl simply to re-focus his misguided minion. It sticks with readers.
Would Gotham be safer without him?
2) Alexandra DeWitt
Whereas the Batman became a great villain for a limited time, this Green Lantern was completely broken. This was not one of the cases like when Deathstroke had a theory, broke the Green Lantern’s fingers, and exclaimed something like, “Huh, I was right. You can’t use your ring if you can’t concentrate.”
Major Force, who is basically the evil clone of Captain Atom, hunts down Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend and then kills her by stuffing her into a refrigerator after he strangles her. This event came hot on the heels of a time where fans and critics alike were vocal towards the limited roles of female characters in comics. Well, this didn’t help much. Or, did it?
The importance of this death was that it both proved the critics at the time correct and it paved a huge avenue for how important female characters were to the overall psyche of the universe. Rayner later went off the deep end and became Parallax. His feelings for Alexandra were so deep that when he first encountered Hal Jordan, he spoke of resurrecting her to create a better reality.
When Miss DeWitt was alive, she often spoke out about Kyle’s immaturity and she also was hesitant about the Power Ring he inherited. Regardless, Alexandra helped train and focus Kyle as a Green Lantern. She was the primary reason that an unfocused dick with some potential became one of the greatest heroes in DC lore. She was also a main reason Parallax possessed him and sought to change reality as we all knew it. Without her brutal sacrifice on its pages, the Green Lantern comics may never have become interesting again. Her sacrifice helped revive them and, as much as the male-dominant medium wanted the women in the kitchen or hiding behind the stove, her story arc and subsequent death showed how powerless men were without strong female leaders. Alexandra DeWitt is a vastly overlooked, under appreciated, and revolutionary figure.
1) Ted Kord
A single gunshot to the head by Checkmate agents. It was all over for Ted Kord in the blink of an eye. He was the Blue Beetle and he was not able to figure out the entire complexities of the Scarab.
The Scarab, which grants the Blue Beetle all of its power, is an alien technology that is part of a race known as the Reach. Ted had left the Scarab in the wizard Shazam’s cave, so it was unable to aid him. Without it, Ted was still an excellent detective and he had tracked down evil Checkmate agents to their lair. This was always a brief plot turn in nearly every comic. For instance, when Batman was not moonlighting as Bruce Wayne, then he was disguised as Matches Malone. Even though his bat-gadgets were absent, he was still an above-average agent. The same goes for Ted Kord, the Phantom, Clark Kent, and every other costumed hero or heroine in existence.
This is ranked as number 1 overall because it signaled and established the end of an era. The always miss villain groups, their kooky plots, and the heroes in tights had become passe. They no longer fit into modern times, and the heroes were in need of a change. Captain America’s Ultimate version donned military gear and the remaining ghosts of the Silver and Golden Age of Comics were about to be exorcised. The campy looking heroes were not strong enough to overcome real-world plots. Therefore, the end of Kord was the beginning for everyone else. His tragedy easily outweighs the cheap fill-ins, like Superman’s “death” by Doomsday, and the countless resurrections to milk sales. You will always be missed, Ted. We would gladly start a League with you.