It’s a common lament (to the point of becoming trite and utterly meaningless) to say that death in comic books means nothing anymore.  To be honest, there has never been a time where comics as a whole have treated the subject in a consistent and final manner.  In the Golden Age, many heroes had their demise as an origin (See Captain Triumph, Kid Eternity and more), while even in the more “realistic” Bronze Age of comics, Gwen Stacy’s tragic end was followed almost immediately by resurrection fakeouts and the eventual return of her clone.  Of course, comics are not alone in this, as one of my biggest complaints about the huge 35th anniversary Super Sentai crossover movie was the presence of several dead heroes in the Ranger Army.  This decision reputedly caused the writers (one of whom was part of the writing team that had carefully crafted Black Condor’s demise) nearly to come to blows over their presence in the story.  During the Blackest Night crossover, DC Comics tried to address this elephant in the room, but shot themselves in the foot by using the story about how death should have meaning to resurrect several of the writers’ favorites, leaving them with little more than an ‘E’ for effort…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced “Do-ra-go-nu Ren-jā”) has a lot of candidates in mind, but probably puts Barry Allen at the top of the list, asking: What’s the most ill-advised resurrection in pop-culture history?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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12 Comments

  1. December 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm — Reply

    “This decision reputedly caused the writers (one of whom was part of the writing team that had carefully crafted Black Condor’s demise) nearly to come to blows over their presence in the story.”

    At least they gave a sort of explanation in Gokaiger, with him returning one more time because he won a game in the afterlife. I’m assuming the others came back through similar means, or like how Mikoto Nakadai came back in the Dekarange/Abaranger crossover by being summoned unintentionally from Hell, or even the loose storyline of the Zyu2 footage that says Burai was able to briefly revive by descending from Heaven, but it wasn’t permanent (and was difficult for him to remain) since he was still technically dead..

    As for the question, the revival/revamp of Superman Red/Superman Blue. Don’t get me wrong, I did love the character designs and everything, but they just didn’t really work for the core DCU Superman for me.

    Or maybe the revival of Darth Maul in Clone Wars. As cool as he looked as a cyborg, and as much as I loved the comic his look was loosely inspired by, it just felt a bit like they were doing it just to bring in a popular character rather than to craft an interesting story.

  2. Frank
    December 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    Jean Grey I, Jean Grey II…. She’s like a bad penny.
    Guardian (Alpha Flight)
    Batman ( I would have really liked Dick become Batman permanently)

    IMHO, if a character dies, he/she should stay dead. Permanently.

  3. December 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    The pointless, ill-explained, and grotesquely tragic revival of Val (Karate Kid) Armorr in Countdown to Final Crisis. It tarnished his legend, made no particular sense, and ruined the Legion’s streak of actually letting heroes die.

  4. Ray
    December 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm — Reply

    I think the absolute worst example of Comic book resurrection is Supermans death/return. Now, I am by no means an Idiot who thinks that killing off Superman permanently is a good Idea… However that simple reason is why it should never have been done. I loved the story, I read it at least 4 times and it was a good tale, IMHO, however I knew from the get-go it was never going to be a permanent death. Like pretty much every other fan out there I was waiting for Supes to make his comeback.

    The Reality of that notion was it was a super slap in the super faces of Super hero death. We all knew it wasn’t gonna be real. We all knew it would end with the blue boy scout back as blue and boys coutish as ever, and low and behold, he did. It was a publicity stunt in all it’s glory, and we lapped it up for exactly what it was.

    I always thought they told the story better with Batman. Not his death, where he really just joyrider the TARDIS back in time and quantum leaped around to the present day, but the time they broke him. they took him out of commission, beat him to a pulp, and rebuilt him to get his self back. You didn’t have to kill the character and resurrect him to make him great. you just had to knock him down, and let him climb back up. When he did, you saw him, not as a cliche. but as a stronger character. More to the point of it, a REAL person can make a comeback, a real person cannot come back from the dead. this makes it more relatable for our sense of fantasy.

    • December 1, 2013 at 4:43 pm — Reply

      I’m in the camp that thinks it would have been a great story opportunity to have kept Superman dead, at least for a while longer than they did. He left some sizable shoes to fill, and I really hoped for a story in a similar vein to Kyle Rayner’s story with someone attempting to fill those shoes and stumbling along the way. We did sorta get a glimpse of that sort of story through Superboy and Steel, as well as all the other books tying in to show other heroes trying to pick up the slack he left behind, but with Superman returning it just didn’t live up to the potential of the story it COULD have been.

      But I’m also in the camp that, although a huge fan of Green Lantern, thinks Hal Jordan should have stayed dead as well. His redeeming sacrifice to restart the sun was a fitting end in my eyes. Making him The Spectre after that was almost tolerable, but bringing him completely back to life just hasn’t sat well with me.

  5. Zombi
    December 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    Jason Todd. Nuff Said

  6. Beardomancer
    December 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    Superman. His death was glorious, the constant struggle over who would take up his mantle was decent, yet his inevitable return was predictable. Had he remained dead, the iconic hero could have gone down as THE greatest hero. Superman could have actually do one the thing that he always talks about being so willing to do but never really has to worry about. Time and again we see him throw himself at the biggest bad guys but there’s no true threat to his physical existence within the confines of the DC universe. Wouldn’t his death have meant more, not just to the readers but to the characters, if he had stayed dead?

    • December 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm — Reply

      Yeah, that really didn’t sit well with me either. Here was a chance to create a great series of stories of a world without Superman and the heroes trying to fill the void his absence created, but it was condensed to a few tie-in issues of various comics and the short runs of the 4 replacement/imposters. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Superman and have loved the character since as far back as I can remember, but killing him off really opened the door to some great story potential that they barely scratched the surface of before he came back.

  7. December 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm — Reply

    Most recently, I think bringing Nightcrawler back was pretty lame.

  8. comicfan1974
    December 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm — Reply

    I have to agree with the above comment about Jason Todd. And I have never liked that they brought back Barry Allen. Wally West had been one of those “replacement” heroes who developed over a long time and who really felt like he had truly become the Flash, not merely a stand-in.

  9. Sarah S
    December 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm — Reply

    Bobby Ewing. Put “it was a dream” on par with “jumping the shark” – though, I guess since it led to the Bob Newhart dream sequence at the end of Newhart I can almost forgive it… almost…

  10. Oldcomicfan
    December 2, 2013 at 8:26 am — Reply

    When it comes to comic books, I’d have to say that all the deaths of Superman and Batman that ended up being faked or imaginary stories were the worst. Because in the golden age, they pulled this stunt over and over again, and along with all the imaginary marriages and imaginary children of hero stories, the golden and silver age writers managed to pretty much sour me on the whole Superman Batman comics by the end of the 60’s.

    The Death of Superman arc actually contained the core of a good story, and the seven new Superman introduced some good characters. If the whole thing hadn’t been a cynical publicity stunt, it might have been a good series.

    Looking at other pop culture than comic books, I’d have to say that the resurrection of Mr. Spock was the second worst Pop Culture death and rebirth. They devoted an entire film to it and blew up the original Enterprise as well. They killed of Kirk’s inconvenient son, too, another trope that’s been done to death – any time a hero got a wife and family it got explained away as an imaginary tale or the writers, too lazy to deal with Hero, Jr. and the Ball and Chain kill them off as soon as possible. The Genesis Wave was a total maguffin – another trope – having it regenerate a dead body when it was supposedly designed to rearrange any matter trapped in its matrix into a planet made no sense – and if it also had an unexpected healing factor why wouldn’t it have healed all the Enterprise crew’s many scars and injuries while it was at it? Then linking Spock II’s aging to an unexpected instability in the planet’s core also made no sense. It was just done so that the aging Leonard Nimoy could resume the role. The worst part was that it wasn’t a terrible movie, in spite of casting Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette as Klingons. Of course, Star Trek III did set up the situation for the best of the original cast movies “The Voyage Home” but I often skip III while watching the movies because of all the credibility stretching that goes on. III is almost a parody of a Star Trek Movie.

    The very worst was the resurrection of Data as B-4 at the end of Nemesis. Not only was this unnecessary – since this movie sunk the Star Trek franchise and there were no more Next Gen movies – it cheapened Data’s sacrifice and rendered it meaningless. It’s bad enough when a fallen hero is brought back inexplicably, but to do it in such a cheap fashion – and in the very same movie as the death – was almost a crime. It’s a pity that the editors of the film didn’t realize that Nemesis would have actually been an excellent Star Trek movie if they had edited out all the bits with B-4 and ended the movie with the memorial service and the cast going their own ways. I wish I had movie editing software and knew how to use it so I could recut the movie and make it the way it should have been made.

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