The amount of superheroes who have died at some point in their comic book career is shockingly high. However, the number of supervillains who have killed superheroes is comparatively low. Heroes die though all sorts of different means. They’re often the subject of a heroic sacrifice, and they routinely kill each other. Seriously, superheroes kill people all the time.
But incidents where superheroes are killed by their villains are actually pretty rare. One might think this would be the most obvious way for a costumed crime-fighter to go out, but it seems either supervillains are incompetent, or comic book writers can’t find many ways to make getting murdered look heroic.
The pages of Marvel Comics are rife with amazing and deadly villains. Bad guys like Loki, Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, and Kingpin all have intimidating reputations (and rightfully so), but that doesn’t mean they’ve managed to actually kill their rival heroes. In the Marvel universe, antagonists often seem to come up just short of gaining their ultimate vengeance. However, every so often, a supervillain gets lucky and actually manages to cut down a superhero. It’s so rare, it’s a tragic surprise each time it happens.
Bullseye Skewered Elektra With Her Own Sai
The death of Elektra, in Daredevil #181, is one of the most infamous moments in Marvel Comics history, and it was incredibly graphic for that time period. Daredevil’s former love interest, Elektra, was facing off against his antagonist Bullseye due to a professional rivalry. Readers everywhere were shocked when the murderous Bullseye gained the upper hand, and ran Elektra through with her own sai.
Elektra survived long enough to drag herself to Matt Murdock’s doorstep, before dying in his arms. She wouldn’t be dead for long, however, as ninja resurrections became kind of her “thing.”
Doctor Octopus Erased Peter Parker And Stole His Body
Marvel made quite a big deal about the milestone issue of Amazing Spider-Man #700, which was the culmination of the “Dying Wish” storyline. Still, nobody expected the results to be so… extreme. Long-time Spider-Man foe Doctor Octopus, dying a slow death, was able to swap his mind with Peter Parker’s, taking over the body of Spider-Man and leaving his opponent to die in a decrepit shell.
Before Peter died in Ock’s body, he managed to force Otto to live through his lifetime of memories, which helped the former villain set out on a righteous path as the Superior Spider-Man. Doc Ock would hold the title for more than a year, before Parker inevitably returned.
Captain America Was Sniped By Crossbones, Then Shot In The Gut
The comic book Civil War was a hard-fought and bitter conflict that saw Captain America and Iron Man duking it out over the Superhuman Registration Act. Cap took his forces underground to fight the government’s new rules, and Iron Man hunted him with all of his resources. This eventually led to an all-out battle between the two sides, before Cap ended it all by surrendering himself.
Things took a turn for the tragic in The Death of Captain America when, on the way up the courthouse steps, Captain America was sniped in the back by long-time minor antagonist Crossbones. To make matters worse, another villain, Doctor Faustus, had brainwashed Cap’s girlfriend, Sharon Carter, resulting in her finishing off the First Avenger with several shots to the stomach. Steve Rogers, of course, returned in due time.
Magneto Gave Jean Grey An Aneurysm
Grant Morrison’s lengthy run on New X-Men was chock full of weird plots and bizarre twists, and the series’ climax was no exception. One of the team’s new allies, Xorn, was revealed to be Magneto in disguise, in what is still an incredibly controversial, and currently retconned, development.
Magneto set the X-Men up for a great fall, and his attack on them included giving the powerful psychic Jean Grey a magnetic aneurysm. This quickly killed the founding X-Man, but it also sent Wolverine into a rage, and he beheaded Xorneto. The Xorn stuff was eventually written out of continuity, but Jean Grey has remained dead, despite a time-traveling younger version of herself showing up.
Wolverine’s Evil Son Daken Chopped The Punisher To Bits
Wolverine’s life has stretched for more than a century, so it’s never surprising when things from his past come to the surface. The existence of his son, Daken, was one such reveal. Although the boy had similar powers (and claws) as his father, he grew up with a burning resentment for his old man.
Daken was a morally corrupt character, and he had no problem joining Norman Osborn’s team of Dark Avengers when the Spider-Man antagonist briefly took over what remained of SHIELD in Dark Reign. Daken served as that team’s Wolverine, and was sent after Frank Castle, the Punisher, in an early mission. Daken got the better of the crafty old soldier, using his claws to slice the Punisher to pieces, ending with a decapitation. Castle’s body parts were collected by a group of underground monsters, who resurrected him as a Frankenstein-like monstrosity. Marvel comics: always keeping it fresh.
Thanos Destroyed Drax The Destroyer
Drax the Destroyer is so-named because he has only one mission in life: to destroy Thanos. That made for a particularly awkward situation when the Guardians of the Galaxy were forced to team up with the Mad Titan during the events of The Thanos Imperative. The Marvel universe was facing an incursion from the Cancerverse, where the concept of Death was defeated and immortal, twisted versions of superheroes and supervillains sought more living space.
The Guardians needed Thanos because he was the only one who could permanently kill beings from the Cancerverse, but Drax ignored this necessity and took the opportunity to slay his mortal enemy. The nature of the Cancerverse quickly brought Thanos back to life, however, and he responded by completely obliterating Drax. The Destroyer also returned to life before the story was completed.
Nitro Detonated On The New Warriors
The superhero Civil War is still one of Marvel’s most important event comics, and it started things off with a bang. Literally. A new iteration of the New Warriors were filming a superhero reality show in the town of Stamford, Connecticut, when they encountered a group of C-list villains and attempted to bring them in.
This ragtag bunch of bad guys included Nitro, a villain with the amazing power of blowing himself up. Unbeknownst to the Warriors, Nitro had been juicing up his powers with Mutant Growth Hormone, allowing him to explode and take out most of the New Warriors, along with more than 600 innocent American civilians. This incident sparked the government’s decision to begin registering superhumans.
Bastion Stuck An Arm Through Nightcrawler
The major event House of M ended with the Scarlet Witch casting a spell, declaring there should be, “No More Mutants,” which sapped most of Earth’s mutants of their powers and prevented any more from being born. That lasted until the birth of a mutant child named Hope, who was eventually taken into the future by Cable to be raised in relative safety.
The duo returned when Hope neared adolescence, setting off the events of Second Coming. During this crossover, several anti-mutant factions attempted to kill Hope, including the advanced Sentinel from the future known as Bastion. The villain had Hope dead-to-rights, but Nightcrawler teleported in at the last moment to block Bastion’s attack, leaving him with a robotic arm stuck in his torso. Nightcrawler used the last of his strength to teleport Hope several hundred miles to safety, dying a hero.
Thanos Wiped Out Almost Everyone With The Infinity Gauntlet
Thanos has a well-earned reputation as one of the biggest and baddest of Marvel’s many supervillains, and mostly because of his actions during Infinity Gauntlet. After finally getting his hands on all six Infinity Gems, the Mad Titan used his new omnipotence to wage a brutal war on the universe, all in an attempt to win over Lady Death.
Thanos wiped out half of all existence with a single snap of his fingers, but his hand-to-hand destruction of Earth’s mightiest heroes was far more graphic and disturbing. One by one, Thanos easily slaughtered characters like Cyclops, the Hulk, and Thor, finishing the entire team off by slapping Captain America to death. Thanos also turned Wolverine’s bones into spongey rubber, in a particularly gruesome and imaginative death. In the end, all of Thanos’ actions were reversed, but his feats are still darkly impressive.
The Descendants Boot-Stomped Eric O’Grady To Death
The Descendents were a group of cyborg bad guys that blurred the lines between artificial intelligence and legitimate sentience. They certainly displayed a human capacity for cruelty, as Eric O’Grady, the third Ant-Man, tragically discovered. O’Grady, known as the Irredeemable Ant-Man, was generally a lecherous character and not much of a superhero, but his death showed his true heroic streak.
While attempting to rescue a child from the Descendents, O’Grady was forced to make a last stand to buy the boy time to escape. The Descendents showed him no mercy, brutally stomping the Secret Avenger to a bloody death. To add insult to injury, they replaced him with a robotic duplicate to infiltrate and betray his old team.
Sin Put Her Hammer Clean Through Bucky Barnes
When Steve Rogers was thought dead at the conclusion of Civil War, his WWII-era sidekick Bucky Barnes, the former Winter Soldier, took up the mantle of Captain America. Rogers would eventually return, but even then he let Bucky remain Captain America for a while so Rogers could instead focus on running SHIELD.
That all changed in a violent way during the events of Fear Itself. An ancient, evil uncle of Thor’s returned to wage war on Earth, supplying some of the planet’s most violent individuals with hammers similar to Mjolnir. The Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, was one lucky recipient, and she shocked Avengers and readers alike by plunging the handle of her hammer right through Bucky’s chest. His death inspired Steve Rogers to put on the mask once again and help defeat Sin and her allies, but it also holds the record for shortest comic book demise. Bucky was brought back before the story was even complete, saved by the timely intervention of Nick Fury and his Infinity Formula.
Thanos Punched A Hole In War Machine
Marvel’s 2016 follow-up to Civil War, imaginatively titled Civil War II, was not received nearly as well as its predecessor. The event opened up with a death that was panned by many as pure shock value, needlessly killing off an important character.
The new Inhuman Ulysses used his predictive powers to forecast an attack on Earth by Thanos, but when several Avengers tried to stop him, he ended up punching a hole clean through War Machine. James Rhodes died on the spot, but his death only served to set Tony Stark and Carol Danvers apart for the purposes of the series’ plot.
Arcade Obliterated Mettle
Avengers Arena was a concept comic built on a very violent premise. It featured long-time comic-relief antagonist Arcade building a complex Murderworld, and populating it with young heroes ranging from the unknown to the extremely popular, like X-23. The heroes were instructed to kill each other, and few of them would end up surviving the experience.
To prove the high stakes, Arcade opened things up by killing one of the youngsters himself, and the unlucky victim was Mettle, a popular member of the Avengers Academy. Mettle was blown to smithereens right in front of his girlfriend, Hazmat, when he volunteered to die so that nobody else had to.
Annihilus Straight-Up Annihilated Quasar
The insectile Annihilus is ruler of the Negative Zone, and he attempted an invasion of the mainstream universe with his titular Annihilation Wave during the cosmic crossover Annihilation. Several space-faring superheroes teamed up to take on Annihilus, including Nova, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Quasar, a former Avenger.
Quasar ended up making a brave stand against the interdimensional warlord to buy his allies some time, and it cost him his life. Annihilus used his Cosmic Control Rod to steal Quasar’s power and turn the hero to dust. It would be many years before Quasar would return.
A Skrull Made The Wasp Blow Up
The mega-event Secret Invasion revealed that shapeshifting Skrulls had been stealthily infiltrating the ranks of Earth’s superhumans for years, slowly replacing vital characters with their own alien soldiers. One such replaced hero was Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, and the Skrulls used his position of influence for several nefarious purposes. One of these was supplying Pym’s ex-wife, the Wasp, with corrupted Pym Particles that made her a ticking time bomb that the Skrulls could set off at any time. They attempted to do this during the final battle between Earthlings and Skrulls, resulting in the death of Janet van Dyne, although Thor teleported her away before she could bring anyone with her. The Wasp was eventually revealed to have survived the experience by shrinking to microscopic levels, somehow.
HYDRA Executed Rick Jones
2017’s mega-event Secret Empire was the result of the long-simmering HYDRA Captain America storyline. Cap used his supreme power within the US Government to allow HYDRA to take over the country, hunting down all those who opposed him. This included Rick Jones, the classic Marvel sidekick who had accompanied Cap and the Hulk on countless adventures, and was responsible for the Avengers’ initial assembly. Jones had become an infamous hacker and had revealed some of HYDRA’s secrets to the underground resistance, which necessitated his execution in the eyes of Captain America. Rick Jones was executed by firing squad in a publically televised event that proved just how much control HYDRA now had over the Marvel universe.