- Books, Literature, and Writing
Five Dead Marvel Heroes Who Won't Be Coming Back
What Is Dead?
You can’t keep a good guy down – unless he’s dead.
Here’s the thing; comic book villains get resurrected all of the time – heroes, not so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only one or two Marvel Heroes that are going to stay dead. One of them is Captain Mar-Vell, who I will talk about later in this article. The rest are just waiting for some adventurously creative writer to come along and figure a way to bring them back.
You have to understand that dead in comic books usually means “dead and buried”. After they go through the entire ritual of a funeral, put the body in a coffin, and put the guy in the ground, it’s pretty safe to say that he’s not coming back. That doesn’t mean that it’s a one hundred percent certainty that he won’t. We can always see the dramatic illustration of a lonely grave with fresh soil on the top near the headstone showing a dirty costumed fist bursting through at the last panel of an issue.
Freshly dead heroes have a chance. It’s the ones that have been dead for a while that show a good amount of horrific decay that would make George Romero sit back and scream that rarely make it back to regular face time with the reader. And even then… well, it’s happened before.
But sometimes, we have heroes that are so beloved that we find them making a guest appearance (or ghost appearance) briefly. I can remember at least three instances when Captain Mar-Vell has shown the reader that he’s active in the afterlife – still fighting the good fight and being a guide to any hapless heroes who find themselves at the wrong side of the veil. Its thoughts like this that give fans and writers a warm feeling after a good reading.
At the same time, when a comic book company decides to kill off a hero that has his own title, it’s a major change in the comic book universe. I’m sure that a memo has to come from the editor and chief to say the hero is now dead. Other authors need to make sure that any plot developments that are in the works that involve this character’s involvement after his death, need to change or be addressed as “this story has taken place before the events of Dead Hero comic #666” in a small note within the panel with a cute sign off from the writer with a dash like “- Smiling Stan”.
It’s a big deal.
Plus, there’s usually a funeral issue. The bigger the hero, the bigger the issue.
For example, when Jim Starlin decided to kill off Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), he made a true piece of art. He decided to kill off a hero to cancer. The issue was about death and dying. It was about the five phases everyone goes through and how they deal with the coming of the inevitable end. To this day, it still remains as a pivotal issue in the Marvel Universe continuity. It’s also a hard issue to read or contemplate. Starlin has been known for making good plots involving death and suicide throughout his career and this story was no exception.
The point is that death is a big issue in the Marvel Universe and it is rarely taken lightly.
Here are the top five heroes that have passed on:
I’ve always liked this character and I originally caught it back in the seventies when Jim Starlin had done his limited run on the title.
Originally, this character was the creation of Stan Lee and Gene Colan who were fresh on the heels of the new scifi plots of alien invasions. Mar-Vell, who was a captain in the alien Kree invasion force, was sent by his quite psychotic superior Colonel Yon Rogg to spy on earthlings. He grew to admire the people he was sent to spy on and eventually became their champion. He then worked against his former commander and turns against his people. After a bit of wandering and fighting the good fight, he manages to get trapped in a place called “The Negative Zone” (Yes, it’s the same place that the Fantastic Four travel to). He is freed when career side-kick, Rick Jones, finds a pair of negabands (which he wears on his wrists), slams them together, and switches places with Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel has always had a hard time of it as many fans have confused him with the Fawcett Comics (later DC) creation of the same namesake “Shazam” character. There were some big similarities with the characters. However, the big one was that it involved a teenager who was able to “transform” himself into a hero. Marvel’s DC counterpart would transform into another person. Marvel’s version was a matter of swapping places.
Captain Marvel’s biggest adventure was when he fought and defeated Thanos the Titan, who was planning to wipe out all life in the galaxy for Death.
Starlin’s run of Captain Marvel ended with his fighting a character called Nitro – a man who could explode and reassemble himself. Nitro was tasked by the Lunatic Legion to steal Compound 13, an experimental nerve gas that could wipe out all life on Earth. While fighting Nitro some of the gas escaped from the canister and Marvel had to seal it with his bare hands to stop the leak. He managed to survive the gas somewhat. What Marvel didn’t know was that the gas was carcinogenic and only through his negabands was he able to slow down the cancer (the Kree call it “Black End”) for several years before it took him.
First appearing in Marvel Presents #1 back in 1975, Ulysses Bloodstone was an immortal monster hunter who had been fighting all kinds of monsters over a 10,000 year period.
Bloodstone was born in the Hyborean age. He was a hunter who fought off an entity called the Hellfire Helix’s agent, Ullux’l Kwan Tae Syn (a Cthulu wannabe). As he fought the agent by a meteor, the meteor exploded imbedding a bit of it in Bloodstone’s chest. As the crystal was blood red, he took the name “Bloodstone”.
The bloodstone granted him enhanced strength, speed, and stamina, as well as eternal youth (pretty good deal if you have to put up with having a rock in your chest). In his time, he amassed a great fortune, learned several languages, and became adept and many martial arts fighting styles. He used all of his resources to fight and kill monsters – hibernating for ten year stretches after extensive injuries.
Eventually, he discovered that the Hellfire Helix actually needed a host and it had chosen Bloodstone to be it. During the millennia that Bloodstone had been hunting monsters, the Helix had agents reassemble the meteor that Bloodstone had destroyed.
In his final battle, Bloodstone faced off against the Hellfire Helix, and destroyed the meteor, the Helix, and by doing so himself – aging 10,000 years at once, turning to dust.
Omega the Unknown
Omega the Unknown also known as Model X3Z (but his friends call him “Sam”) was a product of the Protarans. The Protarans, being a mechanized race, foreseeing their own extinction created their penultimate model X3Z as their planet’s legacy.
His powers consisted mainly of flight, super strength, and the ability to draw energy from Earth’s biosphere for force beams. He was a trained warrior and was bred for battle.
Their ultimate creation was a being named James Michael Starling, an awkward adolescent boy who was home schooled by his “parents”. He was in the process of moving to New York City when he got into a car accident and discovered that his “parent” were actually robots. He slipped into a coma and while in the hospital, a mechanical being attempts to take his life when it is stopped by Omega.
Omega and Starling had some kind of symbiotic relationship where Omega would act as his protector in the event Starling was ever under attack. When he wasn’t being Starling’s “body guard”, Omega would fight low level supervillains like Electro, Blockbuster (aka The Man-Brute), and Nitro.
Omega’s death came about in Las Vegas when he attempted to foil Ruby Thursday of the Headmen’s plans. Ruby Thursday, who can shift her appearance at will, made herself look like a normal woman, and police thought Omega was assaulting her. They shot Omega dead. His last act was to bequeath Starling his powers. Starling, who was having problems accepting this, threatened to wipe out the Earth’s biosphere. However, he saw what he was becoming and turned his power inward, disintegrating himself.
The Omega the Unknown series ran from 1976 – 1977 in a 10 issue run but was canceled due to bad sales.
Perhaps the more underrated yet interesting characters that have died within the Marvel Universe was Jacques Duquesne who was The Swordsman. Like many of the Marvel mystery men at that time, the Swordsman had no powers, but he was a master of all bladed weapons.
The Swordsman, at one point, had been a member of a circus and had trained the young runaway, Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye), in the use of the swords while another man known as Trick Shot, showed him how to use the bow and arrow – which he excelled at.
One night Barton caught Duquesne stealing money from the carnival’s paymaster and attempted to stop him. Duquesne beat the hell out of him but was stopped from killing Barton by Trick Shot. The Swordsman escaped.
Years later, he applied to the Avengers, but was turned down through the word of Hawkeye. He later applied a second time and was accepted – only to betray them later as an agent for the Mandarin.
The Mandarin armed the Swordsman with advanced tech for his swords (with some that actually shot lightning at his opponents, triggered by a button on the sword’s hilt). He spent much of his later time working for other supervillains like Egghead and The Red Skull battling the Avengers yet again.
Eventually, he reapplied to the Avengers and this time for good. He fell in love with his fellow Avenger, Mantis, and served faithfully until his death.
His death occurred when Kang the Conqueror was searching for the Celestial Madonna – who was among three women: The Scarlet Witch, The Mantis, and Agatha Harkness. Assisted by Rama-Tut to help free the most powerful Avengers from Kang, the Swordsman and Hawkeye were able to fight against Kang. When Kang discovered that the Celestial Madonna was actually Mantis, he decided that if he couldn’t have her then no one could. The Swordsman blocked a lethal energy blast meant for Mantis with his body, killing him.
As part of the creation of the Celestial Messiah, Mantis married the eldest Cotati, a race of tree people. The Cotati resurrected the Swordsman’s body and possessed his corpse, so the Mantis could conceive the child. Shortly afterward, the Swordsman’s body turned to dust.
Doctor Anthony Ludgate Druid is the sorcerer you call when Doctor Strange is fighting other guys in another dimension.
Don't get me wrong, Druid was no slouch at his job. As a matter of fact, at one point, he led the Avengers. Of course, this was at a time when the Avengers team wasn't made up of their best and brightest. However, when almost everyone else wasn't available to answer Earth's call for trouble, Druid, and his team did.
Who was Doctor Druid?
Doctor Druid was a telepath and magician who did a lot of adventurous exploring. He was an accomplished mesmerist and trained under (who he thought) a Tibetian lama who was actually the same Ancient One who trained Doctor Strange.
He was the Ancient One's backup plan.
Druid's powers were based on the Celtic pantheon of gods. As part of that package, he had a vulnerability to iron. He was a master hypnotist and could levitate and had some precognitive abilities.
Druid didn't do a lot from his introduction to when he joined the Avengers. What he did was study and be knowledgeable in the occult. When the Avengers were attacked by the Masters of Evil, Doctor Druid stepped up and eventually led a cursed armored Thor (whose bones would not heal if broken), Captain America, Photon, and She-Hulk. The only real problem with his tenure was that the team was infiltrated by a character named Terminatrix whose influence corrupted the team AND Druid. After that Druid rejuvenated himself with magic.
Unfortunately, the damage was done and no one trusted him. Eventually, he met his end at the hands of Daimon Hellstrom (The Son of Satan) after Druids power went out of control and he'd gone insane.
He is survived by this son who has taken his mantle.
Do you like it when comic book characters return from the dead
Death in the comic world is usually something transient. That's why its hard to do an article like this. Even after I initially wrote this back in 2012, I found that a few years later I had to update it with a different hero who "wasn't coming back." Even now, I hear stories about Doctor Druid being brought back after the Marvel reboot.
Which just isn't fair.
No one knows if it will last with any character. Marvel does a pretty good job at keeping their characters in the ground and won’t bring them back outside of a universal reboot. Well, at least better than their DC counterparts.
That being said, it’s still a dicey thing.
For example, twenty years ago if you had told me that they’d bring Normal Osborne back from the dead, I’d have said you were crazy. The Green Goblin is dead and so was the third guy who took the name. And like so many other villains, the person dies but the costume lives on.
Not in Norman’s case.
No, he proved to be even sicker as a ruthless businessman than a costumed super villain (as most ruthless businessmen are in reality). His son, Harry had said that his father made sure that one of Oscorps’s campuses would have an unobstructed view of the George Washington Bridge from his office – just so he could remember the day he killed Gwen Stacy.
With most bad guys, you can’t count them out for a while. As with some vampires, you should just put a revolving door on the coffin lid. They come back.
Unlike villains, though, heroes stay dead.
And there is some lesson to be learned with that. Death happens and it is to be taken seriously. The loss of a good person is something to be mourned – not for them, their problems are over, but for us. We’re the selfish bastards who’d want one more day with the deceased.
In taking them away from us, we mourn people who have never existed. They are life and death without a body that ever made them live in actuality. We as readers grow to love these characters and the more beloved the character, the more of an impact they have to us.
For example, the great detective, Sherlock Holmes was killed off by Arthur Conan Doyle at the conclusion of The Final Problem. His fans went crazy. When Doyle brought the character back (due to his own financial woes) the public rejoiced.
Can you think of a celebration of a man who came back from the dead who never existed?
Such is the miracle of fiction.
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi