In recent months, some popular comic-book super-heroes "“ including Batman, the Martian Manhunter and the Wasp "“ have died in the line of duty. Yeah, right. Death means nothing for super-heroes, who have a habit of returning to life in various inventive ways. Here are some of the most memorable examples.
1. Lightning Lad
One of the original members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightning Lad (now called Live Wire) was also one of the first super-hero resurrections. When he died in action in 1963, it was a shock to young readers, who weren't used to seeing a good guy die in the comics. Two months later, however, his comrades found a way to revive him. Through the use of lightning rods, one of them could take their life-force into his body. Being selfless and heroic, six of them volunteered (including the legendary Superboy and the not-so-legendary Chameleon Boy). The cliffhanger: which one would be struck by lightning first, reviving Lightning Lad and sacrificing themselves, thereby becoming (as the title of the story suggested) "The Bravest Legionnaire"? In the end, it was Proty, a blob-like alien who had been Chameleon Boy's pet. Lightning Lad was alive, and none of the real Legionnaires had to die.
2. Professor X
In the third X-Men film, Professor Xavier, the leader and mentor of the X-Men, was killed by Phoenix, only to return in the end. (You missed that bit? One reason to sit through the closing credits.) In the comics, Professor X was killed in 1967 in a blatant attempt to increase sales (in true TV drama style) by killing off a major character. Two years later, when Marvel Comics' editors realized that the team still needed his leadership, they decided to bring him back. Readers discovered that it wasn't Professor X who had died, but the Changeling, a villain who could change his form to look like anyone else. Suffering from a terminal illness, he decided to mend his ways and made a secret deal to replace Professor X while the professor was on a secret mission. Through his sacrifice, the Changeling was redeemed for his crimes.
You might wonder how, after dying in the awful movie Daredevil (probably of embarrassment), martial arts master Elektra (played by Jennifer Garner) returned for her own, even worse, spin-off movie. In the comics, that was all explained. Elektra, created by writer-artist Frank Miller, was killed by the assassin Bullseye in 1982. She was so popular, however, that another writer resurrected her in an occult ceremony by a mystical ninja cult. Though fans had predicted that she'd return to life, not everyone was happy with it "“ especially not Miller, who had always wanted to maintain the power of her death.
Superman is the most famous comic-book superhero, and some would say he's the greatest. Whatever the case, his death was certainly the most profitable. The Death of Superman, a 1993 story in which he died in his girlfriend Lois Lane's arms (after saving the world, naturally), made front-page newspaper headlines and sold 100 times more Superman comics than usual. Nobody really expected DC Comics to kill him (not permanently, at least), but the question was: how will he return? DC kept readers waiting for several months, in which other heroes tried to step into his shoes. Eventually, one of these heroes, the Krypton Man (a less ethical version of Superman), used Kryptonian technology to return the original guy to life. He also sacrificed himself in the process, so if Superman dies again, he'll have to find some other way to come back.
Patsy Walker has one of the most interesting histories of any comic-book character. She started in 1945 as the wholesome, popular heroine of a humorous comic for girls. In the 1970s, she became a super-hero called Hellcat, fighting alongside the Avengers. She later married a superhero called Son of Satan, which was probably not a smart idea. As her enemies became more demonic, she was driven insane, eventually killing herself in 1994. Another bad move. In 2000, we discovered that she was trapped in Hell, in the "arena of tainted souls." A super-hero team called the Thunderbolts, using magical powers, entered Hell to save another dead superhero, Mockingbird (the wife of their leader, Hawkeye). In a story like the Thracian myth of Orpheus in the Underworld, they were tricked into saving Hellcat instead. (For the record, Mockingbird was also resurrected in a recent comic.)
When World War II hero Captain America returned in 1964 (having been frozen in ice for 20 years), it was thought that his young sidekick, Bucky Barnes, had died in action. This gave the good Captain several years of angst, in which he blamed himself for Bucky's death. In 2005, however, it was revealed that Bucky was found during the war by the Russian Army, who had "reprogrammed" him as a Soviet assassin during the Cold War. (He still hadn't aged much, because he'd been kept in "stasis" between assassination gigs.) Last year, when Captain America was shot by government agent Sharon Carter (who was under the control of the dastardly Red Skull), Bucky took over as the new Captain America. As Bucky, Sharon and the Red Skull have all "died" in the past, only to return to life, we can probably assume that the original Captain America will also be back.
Some heroes' powers make them easy to resurrect. Introduced in Image Comics' Invincible, the Chinese-American adolescent heroine Dupli-Kate had the power to make several copies of herself. She soon struck up a romance with the title hero, the teenage Invincible, until she was killed fighting the Lizard League in 2007. She returned a few months later, however, revealing that only some of her duplicates had died, while the original was hiding somewhere"¦ which doesn't seem terribly heroic, but at least it makes some kind of sense. If you were being chased by a gang called the Lizard League, you'd probably hide somewhere too.
8. Aunt May!
Non-superhuman characters don't get resurrected quite as often, but Spider-Man's loving Aunt May is an exception. When she died peacefully in 1995, fans didn't rush out to protest. She had been an old woman for the past 33 years of comics, and as Spider-Man had been married for some years, she no longer needed to look after him. Her final scenes with Spidey and his wife were actually very poignant. But while fans didn't complain en masse about her death, they weren't happy with other changes that were happening to Spider-Man at the same time. Faced with plummeting sales, Marvel Comics set about fixing things, which included changing just about everything else they had recently done. Hence, it was revealed that Aunt May had been kidnapped and replaced by an actress, who was given plastic surgery to impersonate her, as part of a scheme by the villainous Green Goblin (who, as you might guess, was thought dead). As the actress had fooled Spider-Man and his wife, even on her deathbed, that was one heck of a performance!
A few special mentions:
Some deaths are simply needless. Three members of this team, after fighting evil since World War II, were killed in 2006. They weren't exactly resurrected, but were replaced by a new group of Freedom Fighters with the same names, similar costumes, similar powers and no great difference in personality. Cool death scene, though.
Killed in battle, he was resurrected when his ex-girlfriend, the Scarlet Witch, used her magical powers to create an alternative world in which (among other things) he still existed. Even though that world was later destroyed, Hawkeye somehow managed to survive.
He was thought to have died in 1986, but he had actually been ambushed by plant-based aliens, who replaced him with another plant-based alien which had taken his form. Got that?
As a robot, this super-heroine has been destroyed no less than four times, but is still fighting fit. They have plenty of electronic geniuses with soldering irons over at Marvel Comics!
This DC Comics hero, able to change his body into practically any material, was sliced in half with a sword. Fortunately, he was able to join himself together again "“ one of his powers that had never previously been revealed (but was very convenient).
The super-hero and powerful cosmic being killed herself (to save the universe from her destructive power) in 1980. But like the original Phoenix, she rose from the ashes (for reasons too complicated to explain). She's now dead again, but X-Men readers don't believe it for a minute.
She died saving the universe, with great hoopla, back in 1985. Soon after, however, the entire history of the universe was changed. Years later, it was revealed that she was still alive after all.
When the most popular member of the Fantastic Four was killed in a battle with the nefarious Doctor Doom, his teammates followed his spirit to the gates of Heaven itself, where he was restored to life by a powerful cosmic being called the Creator.