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

DC Comics
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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