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Now That Wolverine Has Died, Take A Look Back At Other Notable Comic Book Deaths

Because we all know deaths in comic books are permanent...

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Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #121) / Via

The death of Peter Parker's girlfriend is probably the most famous and groundbreaking of comic book demises because it actually lasted. Any comic book collector - from the most savvy to the novice - knows that nobody really dies in comics; there are always creative ways to bring beloved characters back from the dead. And the same could be said of Gwen, as she returned in clone form and in alternate timelines. However, the actual Gwen Stacy never did come back, and remains dead to this day in Peter Parker's life.

Gwen's death also marked the first time a character of this magnitude actually got killed. Before, it was unheard of to have the hero not save the damsel in distress - such ideas were heresy. The death of Gwen Stacy was a benchmark that, thanks to its sales, led to (some would say too many) future comic book demises.

Rest in peace, Gwen.

Superman (Superman #75) / Via

Ask any lifetime comic book fan what they thought of the Man of Steel's death in 1992 and you will be bombarded with a litany of cynical opinions. True, only the most gullible of fans thought Superman would stay dead, but most fanatics of the medium simply saw it as a marketing gimmick for DC Comics to kickstart their declining sales.

And the gimmick worked. Superman #75 was a cultural event, creating lines down the block at local comic book shops as fans wanted to make sure they had a first print edition of the historical comic. The problem was DC printed so many of them that this issue really isn't worth anything. I recently found a copy in a bin at a sidewalk sale for the whopping price of $1.00.

The death of Superman was the first of the "we all know he's coming back" trend of killing popular heroes for big sales, then bringing them back through some sort of genre convenience. (Superman himself was resurrected via a healing chamber in his Fortress of Solitude.)

Ultimate Spider-Man (Ultimate Spider-Man #160) / Via

Now this is where it gets tricky to explain to non-comic book fans. This isn't Spider-Man dying, per se, but his alternate timeline version. Basically, the Ultimate series of books is Marvel's way of selling more comics featuring your favorite characters without messing up the original timeline of the character your grandfather grew up reading. There are neat little differences between the main Marvel universe and the Ultimate one, but unless you wish to spend all of your free time reading comics, sticking to one timeline will do.

The Ultimate Spidey died in 2011, so by this time, everyone thought he'd eventually be brought back, just like everyone else. But he's still dead, being replaced by the far more interesting Miles Morales. Ultimate Spidey's death is one of the few that left no ambiguity, ranking it unique amongst the superhero bodies.

Robin (Batman #427)

Again, a little comic book nerd clarification - this was Jason Todd, the second Robin, who got the ax (the first Robin was Dick Grayson). Beaten to death by the Joker, and then to add insult to injury, he's left in a building that blows up. Ouch. Not a pretty way to go.

What made this death unique was that it was the result of fan voting. Jason Todd was not a very popular Robin, so when DC mulled the decision to kill the character, they decided to let the fans choose. Back in 1988, there was no Internet, kids, so DC put out an ad with a 900 number asking fans if they wanted to see Robin killed off or not. The vote to kill Robin won by a narrow margin. It would be interesting to try this gimmick again today, with the power of the Internet providing a much larger and easier vote count.

But don't worry! There were what seemed like 137 more Robins after this!

The Flash (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8) / Via

Although he was replaced by his sidekick, the first Flash's death is remarkable because it held true for twenty-three years (until some ridiculous comic book nonsense brought him back to life in 2008). And it really was the last time comic book fans could read the death of a beloved hero and think it final, before every death was followed by the thought: "Well, that was dramatic, but he/she will be resurrected in about 8 months."

Wally - Flash's sidekick who takes over for him after he dies - held the Flash mantle for over twenty years, which created a whole generation of fans who grew up as Wally being THE Flash. This can lead to a lot of Barry vs. Wally Internet debates, at which point it's best to walk away from the computer, head outside, and breathe some fresh air.

Archie (Life with Archie #36) / Via

Like Ultimate Spider-Man, this is another death in the "don't worry, it's a separate timeline" series of comic book demises. Real, teenage Archie is still alive and well. But this made headlines earlier in 2014 just because it's Archie! How they gonna kill Archie?!

Well, they did, and they did it remarkably well. Funny, touching, and sad, this death pulled at the heartstrings of Archie fans, even though it's an alternate timeline. But it was also a sign that the trend of killing popular characters to boost sales needs to stop if it's reaching all the way up (down?) to Archie. If Archie can be killed, is nothing sacred? I ask you - is nothing sacred?!

Catwoman (Justice League of America #4)

The most egregious of the "you know they are not really dead" in perhaps all of comics. Catwoman is shot point blank in the head, leaving the reader feeling there is no doubt (and no silly comic book convenience) that Selina Kyle is dead and not coming back. And an absolutely stunning, brutal, unforgettable death, with amazing art and panel layout. But, of course... the VERY NEXT ISSUE it is revealed that it wasn't really Selina Kyle, it was the Martian Manhunter just pretending to be Catwoman. Oh, you silly Manhunter! Is there no end to your rambunctious pranks? Suffice to say, the ol' bait and switch didn't sit well with fans (nor did DC care, either).

This latest death is the most recent example to treat each and every comic book death (including Wolverine's) with the largest grain of salt you can possibly find.

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