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8 Absolutely Ridiculous Ways Comic Book Characters have been Brought Back from the Dead

DC Comics
DC Comics

By Scott Meslow

You may have read headlines recently, at websites like the New York Post or Rolling Stone, reporting that Batman's beloved sidekick Robin will be killed off in a comic book scheduled to hit shelves tomorrow. You may have even been sad about it. But never fear, Robin fans; in comic books, death is a well-traveled country, from whose bourn many travelers return. And indeed, comics writer Grant Morrison is already hedging on the Boy Wonder's death. "You can never say never in a comic book," says Morrison. "Batman will ultimately always have a partner." If the series does attempt to revive the fallen Robin, it will be in very good (or bad) company. Here, eight of the most ridiculous ways that comic book heroes have been brought back from the dead:

1. Bucky Barnes

The demise of Captain America sidekick Bucky Barnes was originally introduced via flashback, and Bucky's death was a vital part of Captain America's character. Our hero long struggled to deal with his guilt over failing to prevent the boy's death — guilt that turned out to be misplaced. More than four decades later, it was revealed that a brainwashed Bucky had been operating as a Soviet assassin called the Winter Soldier all along. Since his resurrection as the Winter Soldier, Bucky has actually been "killed off" and come back again, with his apparent death in 2011's "Fear Itself" arc later revealed to have been prevented by an injection of something called infinity formula. 

2. Jean Grey

The best arc in X-Men history saw fan-favorite Jean Grey (then called Marvel Girl) die twice — first, as she guided a spaceship containing the rest of the X-Men back to Earth, which exposed her to fatal levels of radiation but allowed her to be reborn as the exponentially more powerful "Phoenix"; and second in "Dark Phoenix," when the immensity of her power corrupted her, causing her to destroy an entire galaxy and then disintegrate herself in a moment of remorse. It was a deft, moving story about the consequences of even the noblest person having too much power — so of course, it was retconned six years later, when it was revealed that "Phoenix" was a separate identity, and that the real Jean Grey had been healing in a protective cocoon on the ocean floor all along.

3. The Flash (Barry Allen)

Much like Bucky Barnes, the death of the second superhero known as The Flash gets an asterisk, because it was revealed 23 years after his "death" that he never died at all. Allen stopped a galactic supervillain called the Anti-Monitor from destroying the Earth by creating a "speed vortex" — better known to us mortals as "running really fast" — that converted his body into pure energy. But even though his nephew, Wally West, picked up the Flash mantle in his stead, Allen came back into being after gestating for 23 years in a deus ex machine called the "Speed Force."

4. Robin (Jason Todd)

Though many comic book characters have come and gone, only Jason Todd — the second Boy Wonder to serve as Batman's sidekick — has been killed off at the behest of fans. In 1988, DC Comics held a telephone poll asking fans whether or not Todd should be killed off, and by a margin of less than 100 votes, fans said yes. Todd's brutal demise in 1988's "A Death in the Family," in which the Joker beat Todd with a crowbar and left him to die in an explosion, provided one of the most memorable moments in the history of Batman comics. But in 2005, when Superboy punched the universe so hard that it created shifts in the real world — an action that, perhaps not coincidentally, allowed writers to muck around with the comic's continuity as much as they wanted — Todd was brought back to life, and has subsequently served as both supervillain and superhero.

5. Superman

When news broke that DC Comics planned to kill off Superman after a climactic battle with Doomsday in 1992, it made international headlines — despite the fact that DC always intended to bring him back. Superman's death paved the way for the introduction of a series of proto-Supermen, including a teenaged clone called the Metropolis Kid, a cyborg called The Man of Tomorrow, and an armor-clad metalworker called The Man of Steel (later played by noted thespian Shaquille O'Neal in a 1997 film called Steel). After a brief tussle over which of the new heroes was the "true" new Superman, it was revealed that Superman was alive because his body had been placed in a machine/lazy plot device called a "regeneration matrix" at his Fortress of Solitude.

6. Robin (Stephanie Brown)

Yes, another Robin has also been killed off, though her time in the ground was a lot shorter than Jason Todd's. Stephanie Brown was originally introduced as the daughter of a Batman villain called the Cluemaster, but became a fan favorite as the Spoiler, a superheroine who eventually became the girlfriend of then-Robin Tim Drake. When Tim retired, Brown convinced Batman to let her become the next Robin, but her short-lived tenure ended when the villainous Black Mask tortured her in an attempt to learn more about Batman. Though Brown was shown dying from her injuries in a hospital bed with Batman at her side, it was revealed four years later that she had actually faked her death to prevent more villains from using her against Batman. Though she subsequently had a brief tenure as Batgirl, Brown hasn't appeared in recent comics, with no explanation as to her whereabouts. So for all we know, she's dead again.

7. Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Following the same model that made the "death" of Superman a mainstream story, Marvel killed off its own defender of the American Way in 2007 when Captain America was the target of an elaborate assassination scheme by the supervillain Red Skull. Ironically enough, it was Bucky who stepped in to take the seemingly deceased Rogers' place, but less than two years later, Marvel revealed that the gun used to "kill" Rogers actually caused him to become unstuck in space and time, briefly allowing Red Skull the use of his body before he regained full control and resumed his superheroic duties in the present.

8. Spider-Man

Given everything you just read about comic book character "deaths," you'd think fans would blow them off by now — but the seeming "death" of Spider-Man in December 2012, which was also reported in mainstream news outlets, was so polarizing that some Spider-Fans made actual death threats against writer Dan Slott. In the controversial issue, Peter Parker switched bodies with the villain Doctor Octopus for reasons too ridiculous to explain — and that's saying something given some of the far-out explanations above. After they pulled off the switcheroo, the cancer-ridden body of Doctor Octopus succumbed to disease before Parker could switch back. Parker was then revealed to be alive in the very next issuefighting with Doctor Octopus' psyche as they both attempted to control his body.

This is how comic books work, ladies and gentlemen — so don't mourn too hard for our dearly departed Robin.

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19 Unusual Socks for Snazzy Feet
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iStock

Kick it in one of these pairs of cool socks.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. ART; $15.99

Make your feet a canvas with these artsy socks. This set of eight pairs features classics including van Gogh's Starry Night and Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

Find it: Amazon

2. BOB ROSS; $12

Look at all those happy little trees! It's impossible not to smile while wearing these Bob Ross socks.

Find it: Amazon

3. ALIEN VISITOR; $11.50

I want to believe—in fancy footwear. These alien socks are perfect for Ufologists and other conspiracy theorists who always have an eye on the sky.

Find it: Amazon

4. SHARK CREW SOCKS; FROM $10.98

shark socks
Amazon

These fun socks make it look like sharks are eating your feet.

Find it: Amazon

5. TAPATIO; $10

These socks are hot! Just like the hot sauce they show.

Find it: Amazon

6. LIBRARY CARD; $10.25

Out of Print makes a variety of book-themed products for bibliophiles—and, even better, they donate one book for each pair of socks purchased. This particular pair looks like the library cards you might have found in libraries back in the day.

Find it: Amazon

7. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE; $10

Here's another excellent selection from Out of Print. This pair of socks is dedicated to Where the Wild Things Are. The bottoms say "Let the Wild / Rumpus Start."

Find it: Out of Print

8. STUDIO GHIBLI; $12.50

Lovers of the films by Studio Ghibli will get a kick out of these striped socks. Each pair features a scene from a different movie: Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Howl's Moving Castle.

Find it: Amazon

9. HELLO PUPPY DOGS; $12.95

These adorable socks have polka dots and giant dog faces on the front. Each pair comes with floppy ears that peek over the edge of the socks. The breeds include what looks like a Pomeranian, a Boston terrier, and a French bulldog.

Find it: Amazon

10. EINSTEIN; $12

These are the perfect socks to wear while filling up a blackboard with equations. The pair comes with a picture of Einstein sporting some cool shades.

Find it: Amazon

11. CONSTELLATIONS; $11.50

These fun socks feature a few constellations, including Ursa Minor and Orion.

Find it: Amazon

12. DOCTOR WHO; $14.95

Doctor Who Tardis Women's Knee High Socks
Jet

Doctor Who fans are going to want to get their hands on these knee high TARDIS socks.

Find it: Jet

13. POKEMON; $2.42

Pokemon Ankle Socks
AliExpress

Show off your love of Pokemon with Pikachu, Charmander, Psyduck, and Squirtle socks.

Find it: AliExpress

14. SAILOR MOON; $9.99

Defend the world against evil in the name of the Moon, with these Sailor socks. The pack of six comes with Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Jupiter, and Chibiusa.

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15. THE LITTLE PRINCE; $10.25

According to the pilot in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic book The Little Prince, the titular character probably hitches a ride off of his planet (B-612) and across the universe on a flock of birds. These Out of Print socks depict the pilot's drawing of the Little Prince taking to the skies.

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16. PENCILS; $10

Pencils are key for crosswords, drawings, and jotting down important notes. Celebrate the beloved writing utensil with these incredible socks.

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17. STORM TROOPER; $25

Stormtrooper socks
Buckle

These cool socks look just like Storm Troopers from the Star Wars franchise. They fit shoe sizes 9–12.

Find it: Buckle

18. SUSHI; $19.99

Sushi socks
Amazon

At first, this looks like a plush platter of sushi. When you unravel the "food," you'll discover it's actually two pairs of socks rolled to look like salmon and cucumber sushi.

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19. LEGO; $12

LEGO socks
Lord & Taylor

Stepping on LEGO bricks hurts, so protect yourself! We recommend this pair of LEGO-themed socks, plus a pair of slippers for good measure.

Find it: Lord & Taylor

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Open Einstein
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You Can Now Print 3D Replicas of Einstein's Childhood Toys
Open Einstein
Open Einstein

For children, playtime is an essential part of cognitive development. Now, you can give them toys that befit their genius: 3D replicas of the ones that Albert Einstein himself played with.

The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, and IKEA have launched Open Einstein, a site where you can download a 3D printing kit that allows you to make exact replicas of the wooden blocks the Nobel Prize-winning physicist played with during his childhood in Germany. "Play empowers children to create and learn for the rest of their lives," the site declares. "It is a fundamental right for all children."

The 3D printing kit provides designs for 36 toy blocks of various sizes and shapes. Einstein's wooden boxes of blocks, made by the German company Anker-Steinbaukasten, are currently held by a collector named Seth Kaller. (According to his website, you can buy them if you have $160,000 on hand.)

A dark image labeled 'Open Einstein' with wooden blocks in the background
Open Einstein

The 3D printing kit contains model instructions for only a fraction of the 160 blocks in the original set, which Einstein reportedly used throughout his childhood to erect complex structures at home. He wasn't the only famous fan of the toys: Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and other notable creatives played with the same blocks.

If you're looking for a particularly erudite toy to nurture your child's mind, blocks—whether Einstein-related or not—are a pretty good choice. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that playing with blocks can enhance problem-solving skills, fine-tune motor skills, and boost creativity.

Your child may never come up with world-changing scientific theories, but if nothing else, hopefully the set will impart some of the genius's sense of creativity. Or at least his delightful playfulness.

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