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I assume the missing word in the topic is “superhero”? Because I can think of some better deaths in all of comics history if we’re not limiting ourselves thus.

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I agree with Nich. Morpheus, for one.

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BlackBandit said on July 17th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I’m actually pretty happy with how Jean’s Grant Morrison death has stuck. I feel like it pushed the X-Men, particularly Scott, forward, which is what a good character’s death should do. I don’t look forward to her eventually coming back. And I’d disagree that Grant needed more/better editing on New X-Men. It’s pretty much a fantastic run, all it needed was one steady artist, or several good ones (i.e. no Igor Kordey, Jesus, his shit looked bad).

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Rob Bartlett said on July 17th, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I think Bob Harras was trying to make the best of a bad situation. I don’t think bringing back Osborn was the best idea per se, but you have to remember that

1) Spider-Man’s adversary list had been gutted for a while. Octopus was killed off (And would be brought back), Venom had been overexposed and made a good guy, and then there’s the whole Hobgoblin thing. A snapback was probably looking really good.

2) We had both the silver-age reversion trend going on, and Marvel’s really starting to say “You know what? We’re a character factory.” The Goblin was appearing on the cartoon, that sort of thing. It had to feel really strange not having the character’s most iconic villain used in the comics.

Also, Jean Grey, circa 2010, with the all the appearances in cartoons, games and movies is iconic. But 1986? Not so much. The iconic X-Men were the Bronze Age lineup. And considering X-Factor was kind of a terrible book for a long, long time (Really, the Beast is much less interesting in his “balder” incarnation), I don’t think her revival filled something that was missing, so much as was a squeeze from the cash cow the X-Franchise was becoming.

Of course, Morrison killing her off again seemed kind of pointless now that she had been around longer than the first time she was killed off (And in fact, I think she’s soon going to be dead for longer this second time around), but that may have been because of the movie continuity. (On some level, it sucks to have the industry now be the tail and the adaptations the dog, but on the other hand, Spider-Man 3 at its worst wasn’t Clone Saga or One More Day)

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Regarding Jean Grey, her death and subsequent retconning both took place back when I was still a faithful x-follower. Her death was a horrible but necessary tragedy. She knew there was no way to get rid of Dark Phoenix, and that eventually she would end up murdering everyone, so she let her friends (and the Shi’ar) beat her down until she was killable. Claremont and Byrne took a minor character and turned her story into a major comics event. Even if they did it by accident, the result resonated through the next few years of X-Men storytelling.

Her revival felt like a cheap stunt. What do you mean, the real Jean Grey has been in suspended animation at the bottom of New York Harbor for the past decade? The “Jean Grey” that we thought was dead was just a perfect transporter copy that the Phoenix conjured up so that it could Data its way through the human experience? What a bunch of bull-pockey. I literally felt insulted, and this was one of the events that knocked me out of the Marvel orbit, in terms of actually buying and reading comics.

I agree with Rob, above, that the resurrection of Jean Grey was less about her iconic status, and more about crass commercialism. Someone at Marvel wanted to do a book featuring the five original X-Men, but inconveniently, Marvel Girl was dead. So they wrote a ham-fisted do-over story.

The original character wasn’t “iconic”. She was the token girl. She was the redundant telepath. She was Scott Summers’ girlfriend. She didn’t become interesting until she became Phoenix. If her death hadn’t been so epic, it wouldn’t have felt so cheap when they brought her back. But it did feel cheap. Nice going, Marvel.

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I have a question; was Jean Grey’s rebirth the first major resurrection of a comic book character? I mean, before her I think death was pretty much a permanent thing in comics.

I do agree that her return was cheap, though. But I fell for it. I purchased those early issues of X-Factor and wow did they suck. I thought it was interesting how they were trying to write a mutant comic without being involved with the other X-comics at all, let alone the rest of the Marvel Universe. I guess Claremont doesn’t play well with others. :)

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Lister Sage said on July 17th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

katefan: Bob Layton was the original writer of X-Factor. I don’t think Claremont ever wrote the book.

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William Burns said on July 17th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Interesting that three out of the five are from Spider-Man comics.

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When I finally got around to picking up the “Death of Gwen Stacy” trade a few years ago, I was surprised by how much the story moved me. I was expecting it to be a little dated and hard to appreciate from a more modern perspective due to it being Silver Age Marvel, but damn, that was a well-crafted story.

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Illuyankas said on July 17th, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I quite liked Captain Marvel’s death, and am surprised that didn’t make it in the list.

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solid snake said on July 17th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

What about Illyana Rasputin? She was just a kid who died from a horrible disease and by killing her showed that the are really powerless. Also what about Edward Kovacs? Or for the really sadistic people Jason Todd. The fans were given the choice and the choice was death.

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Are you familiar with the death of Methor in _T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents_?

Even though a large part of the motivation for killing him off seems to have been that the writers didn’t know what to do with him (multiple plots involved him losing his powers) they still gave him a dramatic, noble death. As well as his buddies taking immediate revenge in no-nonsense, thorough fashion.

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I’m with Andrew Drucker, way back at thread start. Morpheus HAS to make any top five comics deaths unless we’re limiting it strictly to superheroes.

Making this a Top Five REALLY forces you to cull in a way that a Top Ten wouldn’t. I, personally, would bump one of these (not May. Not Stacy. Probably Kraven) in favor of Thomas and Martha Wayne (yes, they count, dammit).

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Mary Warner said on July 17th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I stopped reading comics around 1995 and didn’t start again until 2006. So I had no idea Osborn was back until I flipped through a Thunderbolts and there he was. It was very shocking to say the least. I couldn’t believe they could be stupid enough to undo one of the greatest deaths in Marvel history. I’ve since read the story of how it came about, and Harras’s reasoning makes little sense to me. Norman was never that sort of arch-villain, not until after the resurrection anyway.
I still don’t like seeing Osborn running around alive, and I’m so relieved that he’s no longer appearing in every single Marvel book.
(As for Harry’s resurrection, which apparently happened the exact same way, I didn’t know he was dead until a couple of months before he returned, so it doesn’t bother me as much.)
I wanted to be the one to bring up Illyana. Her death was so heartbreaking; it really got to me. I have no idea when or how she managed to return, or why she’s an adolescent again.
Adam Warlock deserves some recognition too. His dead was memorable, surreal, and it felt very necessary to the story. Then the same writer who killed him felt the need to bring him back. I still don’t know why he was resurrected. I’ve only read the first two issues of Infinity Gauntlet, so I don’t know how necessary his return was to that story.
Is Adam still around? I haven’t seen him since the early ’90s. I really liked the Infinity Watch, at least the few issues I’ve read.

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“When death is common, resurrections have to be common or else you start running out of people to kill.”

Well, the alternative is to create new characters. But that’s *hard*.

It’s far easier to resurrect Captain America or Batman than to create new characters who can fill their shoes.

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Wow. Lots of interesting choices, some of which I chose not to include and some of which I’m saying, “D’oh! Forgot about that one!” :)

Morpheus: Yes, you’re right, I was just thinking superhero books. Because yes, Morpheus’ death is a classic tragedy, right down to the Furies. I have a pet theory that he was the one who kidnapped Daniel…but that’s another post, probably. :)

Captain Marvel…gotta admit, I’ve never read “The Death of Captain Marvel”. An unforgivable oversight in my comics lore, I know, but he died before I really got into comics, and it wasn’t until recently that I read any CM stuff. And without that, well…who wants to start at the end?

Illyana Rasputin: Sorry, but all of the Legacy Virus deaths felt to me like blatant, nasty editorial fiat, the worst kind of “who isn’t popular enough to sell a book?” deck-clearing deaths. The story was moving, I agree, but I just couldn’t get past the mean-spirited arbitrariness of the concept. (This is also why I didn’t include Mastermind’s death.)

Jason Todd: See Illyana Rasputin, only with the added factor that the story had to be crafted so that it would make an equal amount of sense if he lived or died. It’s hard to write a tragedy if you’re not sure that the protagonist is actually going to bite it. :)

Rorshach: I really only counted “ongoing universe” deaths. Rorshach’s death was memorable, but not in the context of a larger story.

As to Norman…my pet theory is that he was resurrected by Mephisto, too, as payment for bringing back Aunt May the first time (from when she died in ASM #400) and we just didn’t see the reality manipulation.

And as to Jean, and Grant Morrison…sorry, but part of writing in a shared universe is learning how to play in the sandbox. Killing off a bunch of characters to make your story more “dramatic” is not cool when you know that someone’s going to need to use those characters later (Jean Grey, but even moreso Magneto. No sane editor should ever have let that death get past him, not with Ian McKellen signed for two more sequels and a potential spin-off movie of his own. Yes, it’s “tail wagging the dog”, but it’s also smart business practices and you kind of have to have those if you’re, you know, a business.)

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Honestly, if we’re talking best deaths in superhero comics, we need to START with Skurge the Executioner, and work from there.

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I have to disagree regarding Morrison’s death of Jean and Magneto. Morrison was trying to do something BIG with his final X-Men story – create a future devoid of old X-Men baggage where being a mutant was exciting again. Magneto’s return from the dead diminished his power as a symbol, which was telling. Jean’s (what, laughably third?) death, meanwhile, lead to Scott moving forward in a new direction – courtesy of a /literal/ telepathic push from Jean’s spirit in the future. Jean’s death was necessary for the story Morrison was trying to tell.

(Besides which, given the levels of power she was displaying, Jean as the Phoenix could only logically gone one of two places – uber-powerful nice Jean solves every problem the X-Men face or Dark Phoenix rehashed.)

Morrison’s run was all about creating a different future for the X-Men and upsetting the status quo, the deaths of Magneto and Jean occurring alongside /billions/ of mutants now existing and forming their own “mutant culture”. He wasn’t trying to limit stories, he was trying to create new petri dishes for creative writers to tell their own X-Men tales. Sadly, 80% of Morrison’s bold new direction was immediately gutted by Marvel Editorial like a fish as they feared any sort of change to their one of their most popular franchises (ironically in a series where the new and strange are feared and hated by those who don’t understand them).

Which leads me to this – John, you mention the “shared sandbox” mentality. Yes, a degree of “courtesy” to other writers is good if you’re not trying to step on their storytelling toes but there’s playing in a sandbox and then there’s just flat-out shoving your head in the ground like an ostrich. Morrison wasn’t trying to pave it over – he was trying to revitalize the meandering X-Men series and expand the sandbox with fresh blood (and yes, bloodletting).

And in as regards to your movie marketing argument – Magneto and Jean are never now, and will never be, “dead”. There’s X-Men: First Class, Ultimate Universe, past stories, future stories, ecetera. If your concern is truly about that struggling company known as Marvel staying out of the poorhouse, well, shit – they can just reprint some classic stories like The Best of Wolverine. Make up a new mini-series set in the past. Pull a Deadpool and put out a fuckload of one-shots of varying quality. It’s not rocket science. God forbid they make movies with characters who are dead in the comics or don’t have spin-off-able moneymaking qualities in the comics! Last time I checked, Batman hasn’t had a story where he fought Sal Maroni and made out with Rachel Dawes under the moonlight but hey, Batman comics and The Dark Knight still rake in metric tons of cash. Go figure.

And since we’re on the subject of “deaths in comics”, it’s not like they just don’t have hacks like Austen resurrect Magneto and Xorn(!) five minutes and/or months later. Quite frankly, deaths in comics are about as permanent as a sunburn, so hissy fits over them are about as useful as underwater umbrellas (and yes, I’m aware of the irony of this being paragraph number six in my little screed). Hell, even Fraction’s had little Jean psychic flashes appearing in his stories now for the past few years.

Without writers like Morrison taking bold chances, superhero comics would stagnate into straight-up continuity masturbation. I thank God that at least Scott and Emma’s interesting, prickly and often funny relationship has displayed some staying power, with both new writers like Fraction and Whedon and even classic writers like Claremont seeing the myriad possibilities therein. Personally, I wish Morrison was given the power to do MORE killing and creation but c’est la vie. I’ve probably said too much on the subject already.

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Lister Sage said on July 17th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

KDBryan: “superhero comics would stagnate into straight-up continuity masturbation”

Would?

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William O'Brien said on July 17th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Pretty good list. Just off the top of my head I would throw the death of Lightning Lad in there as an honorable mention.

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I’d throw in the death of the Ancient One. His death allowed Dr. Strange to ascend to Sorcerer Supreme and provide a huge driving force in his life.

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Uber Geek said on July 18th, 2010 at 12:11 am

Although Gwen Stacy hasn’t been resurrected (yet), she has been retconned to be a dirty, filthy slut.

I think one of the first resurrections was that of the Golden Age Comet, who died in the forties and was brought back in the Silver Age to join the Mighty Crusaders.

And Grant Morrison’s X-Men run was the worst ever. Seriously, have you actually read what he had “Magneto” say and do? The man totally ignored all past continuity in his stories. plus, he kept trying to force the worst mutant ever (Beak) down our throats.

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LazyCustomizer said on July 18th, 2010 at 12:40 am

I like the list, and the responses. I’d also like to nominate Ted Kord for a slot on the “Best Death” list. Even though I didn’t like what it did to the character of Maxwell Lord, Ted’s bravery and integrity still gets to me.

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Uber Geek said on July 18th, 2010 at 12:59 am

And another thing. Much like Kraven, the best Norman Osborn Green Goblin story was the one he died in. The character’s original hook was that his identity was secret. After it was revealed that he was someone Spider-Man (barely) knew, he got amnesia and forgot about being the Goblin. The stories after that involved him regaining his memory, becoming the Goblin, and attacking Spider-Man, and then losing his memory again after he was defeated, and Spider-man covered up his real identity (that’s another thing. Why did he bother covering up for him instead of, I don’t know, turning him over to the police?). The only time where he really did any thing was when he killed Gwen, which I guessed coloured people’s perceptions of his earlier appearances.

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DistantFred said on July 18th, 2010 at 1:02 am

Okay, I’m totally going to have to sign on with Brad Hanon here: Skurge’s death was a fantastic story- it showed the redemption of a long time villain in a way that worked perfectly, it had EPIC level prose and action in the death itself, and his appearances since then have all worked WITHOUT outright resurrecting him. (BTW, it’s kind of weird that he’s still dead after JMS took over… in some ways it’s almost like the Executioner being dead is the ONLY thing that JMS actually took from Simonson’s run. Everything else was pretty well reverted to Kirby era characterizations)

William O’Brien: Which time? The original? Or the Reboot Legion ‘quits the team to kill the insane, no longer human Element Lad?’

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Rob Bartlett said on July 18th, 2010 at 1:04 am

Villain deaths and revivals are part of the idiom, although Magnus’s decapitation made it a tighter corner than most. (I have to say though, whatever piss in the sandbox Morrison’s story was, Claremont’s retcon just so he could not do anything with the character in Excalibur struck me as even more petulant)

I do think Osborn’s revival went a little beyond the pale, but I think my point is someone was going to do it.

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The thing is, KDBryan, killing someone off is not, by definition, a creative act. People say, “Oh, Morrison opened up so many storytelling possibilities with his run,” but what exactly can you do with a dead Magneto that’s more interesting than a living one? Killing a character off is waving the white flag and admitting that you’ve run out of interesting things to do with a character, and killing a character off in a shared universe is an insult because it’s insisting that if you can’t do anything with the character, then certainly the clods you’re surrounded with won’t be able to, either.

Or to simplify it, if Grant Morrison’s predecessors had written comics the way Grant Morrison did, he wouldn’t have been able to write his iconic runs because the Doom Patrol, Animal Man and the X-Men would all be dead.

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I agree with those who felt that Skurge the Executioner’s’ death was the best ever. He was a minor character who went out in a major way. With one sacrifice he made good on all the evil he had done in his past. He took one for the team and took it like a man. The fact that I remember those panels and the narration that went with them (he stood alone at Gjallerbru) shows how much of an impact that death had on me. Suddenly I wanted to have this guy around more just to see him get his just respect from Thor and the rest of the Asgardians.

Cable’s death (?) in the very recent X-men storyline was great too. His sacrifice was the last thing that adopted daughter Hope wanted but he made it so that she could live and save all the mutant race. He knew he wasn’t coming back from this one and in the past couple of years he really went from a goofy character that Rob Leifeld created to one of the most important x-characters. He showed courage and self sarifice and died on his feet, his way. That I will remember until sadly they bring him back.

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Tom Galloway said on July 18th, 2010 at 2:14 am

Sigh, young’uns. : -) No consideration at all yet for the death of the Doom Patrol?

Final issue of the original series. The DP have been captured (with the exception of semi-members Mento and Beast Boy) on a small deserted island. Their foes, Admiral Zahl and Madame Rouge, give them a choice, which is being shown on live television; the island will blow up and kill the DP or the DP can have the fishing village of Codsville, Maine blown up instead, killing its 14, never amounted to anything significant, residents.

The DP unanimously choose to sacrifice themselves for the village. Island go boom. The villagers decide to rename the place Four Heroes in memorium.

Admittedly lessened by all four of the DP being resurrected over the years, but still quite powerful.

As for first significant resurrection, I’d go with Lightning Lad.

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Re: Morrison killing Magneto in “Planet X”:

He really didn’t need to kill off Magneto for any thematic purpose for the story. That said, he left a pretty blatant out (“I always come back, haven’t you noticed? Perhaps that’s my secondary mutation. To always come back.”) for Marvel to use to bring him back eventually.

And then Marvel went about it in the most complicated way possible.

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Uber Geek: Beak was awesome because he was the worst mutant ever.

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I didn’t like the Death of Gwen Stacy story when it appeared and I still don’t like it. One line in the story blew my suspension of disbelief and I never read a Gerry Conway story again without suspecting he was going to drop another load of bricks.

Nobody dies from a fall, they die from the stop at the end of the fall. Whoever lettered the story knew this, or maybe John Romita, because the point at which Gwen Stacy’s neck snaps is when Spider-Man used his web to stop her.

Now that would have been a heck of a story. As it was written, though, not so much. I think, in fact, I quit reading Spider-Man regularly a few issues after that.

How about the death of Meatball in Daredevil back in the forties? Before my time but the story is available. And Ferro Lad in the Sun-Eater LSH story?

Or the death of the first Bizarro in Superboy? Or the first Metallo in Action around the same time?

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@MaryWarner: Adam Warlock most recently returned during “Annihilation: Conquest”. As part of a plan by the High Evolutionary to help the Kree get past their evolutionary stoppage. Which gets co-opted by Ultron…

Later Warlock joins up with the new Guardians of the Galaxy along with Gamora, Drax and Moondragon. Then he got overwhelmed by his Magus personality thing. As part of the set-up for the current “Thanos Imperative” arc…

I love Cosmic Marvel so much right now…

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Lister: I know Layton was the writer, but the fact that X-Factor was almost never seriously addressed in the X-titles showed that Claremont did not seem to want anything to do with the title beyond lip service. that is what I meant by him not playing well with others. Apologies for not being clear.

Wolverine catches Jean’s scent and rather than chase the lead he dismisses it as him going crazy, which is weak at best. Rogue sees an ad for X-Factor and thinks the team should follow up, but they never do (A company that advertises they will deal with your mutant problem and the X-Men don’t pursue it? Guess the X-Men were too busy dealing with angst that week to bother). Magneto sees Scott Summers and what he assumes is his wife who looks like Jean Grey dressed in X-Factor uniforms and does not bother telling the X-Men (who he was allied with at the time).

But this was nothing new for Claremont. When The Brood landed on Earth-the aliens who like to implant their eggs in the bodies of super humans so their offspring will inherit their powers-instead of logically alerting every single super hero on the planet to beware, he decided to write the story so the X-Men keep it to themselves.

And Genosha? Don’t get me started.

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magnuskn said on July 18th, 2010 at 7:19 am

***spoilers***

I must say, I thought Cables death ( which just happened ) to be very well done. Normally I am one of the people who really hates to see characters dying, but in his case he died happy, having seen his second life mission fulfilled.

***spoilers***

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Nobody dies from a fall, they die from the stop at the end of the fall. Whoever lettered the story knew this, or maybe John Romita, because the point at which Gwen Stacy’s neck snaps is when Spider-Man used his web to stop her.

Now that would have been a heck of a story.

I think a later comic had the Green Goblin taunt Spider-Man by saying that’s exactly what happened. See here.

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Tales to Enrage said on July 18th, 2010 at 8:57 am

Man, Skurge. That is a classic. Thanks for bringing it up, Brad Hanon.

Probably the best thing about it is that the death itself isn’t described or shown. All you get it “He stood alone at Gjallerbru….and that is enough.” I think we’d all like to do something so amazing that all you have to do is mention the location for people to know what it was. Skurge did.

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fsherman said on July 18th, 2010 at 9:13 am

“The original character wasn’t “iconic”. She was the token girl. She was the redundant telepath. ”

She was telekinetic. Telepathy only developed later.

Agree on Skurge. Walt Simonson’s run was awesome.
Also on the DP, which I was going to bring up myself. Even though they’re perfectly frank that if the sales pick up, they’ll bring them back, it still packs a punch.

Ferro Lad’s was the first death I encountered in comics and as a kid at the time it really shook me. Karate Kid’s death did too, because by that point I never expected another death of a major character (it always seemed to be trivial characters or ones who no longer appeared anywhere regularly).

Warlock’s death … damn. An incredible run, capped by an incredible end. Shame he had to be brought back.

While the death itself isn’t one of the epic ones, Manhunter’s death is one of the few nobody’s ever undone–obviously because they have clones if they really want to use him, but it’s still worthy of note.

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Has it been established that Morrison wanted to kill off Jean Grey? I always assumed it was Marvel editorial telling him he had to do her in, not the other way around.

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Katefan, the separation between X Factor and the X Men was deliberate. They were brewing up a big confrontation between the two and teasing the fans with near misses. The X Men were thought dead at the time, so X Factor never went looking for them, and Madelyne Pryor was using her own powers to keep the X Men away until she was ready to use them for her revenge on Cyclops.

As for the topic at hand, I enjoyed X Factor for the most part, and I still hated how Jean Gray came back and undercut the Dark Phoenix storyline.

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Skurge. Definitely. That’s not only one of the top five deaths in comics, it’s one of the top five SCENES in comics.

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Jonathan said on July 18th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

The first death of Thanos

I agree with everyone who said captain marvel

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“People say, “Oh, Morrison opened up so many storytelling possibilities with his run,” but what exactly can you do with a dead Magneto that’s more interesting than a living one? Killing a character off is waving the white flag and admitting that you’ve run out of interesting things to do with a character, and killing a character off in a shared universe is an insult because it’s insisting that if you can’t do anything with the character, then certainly the clods you’re surrounded with won’t be able to, either.”

I’m not sure that killing Magneto off is really all that insulting. Morrison’s point was how cyclical superhero comics are. The Magneto story before Morrison’s run ends with Wolverine gutting the character, and Morrison does the same at the end of his Magneto story. The fact that the character died this particular time is pretty irrelevant. Magneto has been killed/de-aged/depowered about a gajillion times. Anything that’s done to him at this point is kind of meaningless, because nothing sticks for very long. Anyone who read the Morrison death scene and thought it was actually meant to be permanent seriously missed the point. If anything he was putting the character back where he found him.

I’m not too bothered about the most recent Jean Grey death. It opened the way for Scott and Emma, which has been pretty fun, depending on the writer. And it cleared the X-Men’s lineup of a redundant psychic type powered character (which the X-Men have way too many of to begin with), and one who’s way too powerful to be interesting in a fight, even at non-Phoenix levels.

If the character is iconic (and I think thats a pretty big if), its because of cartoon and movie appearances, as someone said way upthread. Her role in the comics has basically been token girl/girlfriend/wife who occasionally goes crazy and/or dies. If that’s the best anyone can do with her in almost 50 years of publication than maybe she’s not all that essential after all.

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Oh yeah, and I’ll add another vote for Skurge. That was a death that was both incredibly moving and incredibly fucking awesome.

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John 2.0 said on July 18th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I know it’s not exactly comics, but I want to nominate Dan Turpin’s death at the end of Season 3 of the Superman Animated Series. When he rallies the citizenry of Metropolis to fight back against Darkseid, and he actually manages to turn the tide of battle, only to be casually omega’d out of spite.

The pan down to “Earth’s Greatest Hero” on his tombstone always chokes me up a little.

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Black Bandit said on July 18th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

All the haters on Morrison’s X-Men run: Really? Did you actually read it? He killed what, two characters? Characters that he wrote “outs” for so another writer could use them down the line? Saying that if all writers were like Morrison, he wouldn’t have been able to write X-Men/Doom Patrol/etc. is ridiculous. While he doesn’t always bat a thousand, he does a hell of a lot better than almost any other writer I can think of, and shows a lot of respect for the properties he works with. Who brought the JLA back to being the big 7? Grant. Who got the X-Men back to their roots as a school for those who are hated and feared? Grant. Who wrote probably the second best Superman story of all time, touching on everything that makes Superman the best? Grant. Save the hate for someone who legitimately should be shot for coming within 8 feet of a keyboard, like Claremont or Loeb.

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I would have to agree that Morpheus should be at the top of any greatest death list. Gaiman was laying the foundations, setting up, and foreshadowing that death for practically the entire series, and yet it still came as a horrible shock. I mean, in hindsight, it was inevitable, but at the time it was just, DUDE. MAIN CHARACTER. And then he spent an entire volume worth of comics mourning him and laying him properly to rest.

Anybody mention any great manga deaths? Because I’d like to throw Princess Emeraude from Magic Knight Rayearth out there. That hit me like a hammer blow right between the eyes when I was fourteen. It turned the whole standard save-the-princess plot right on its head. Rayearth One ended with the three heroines back in our world, clutching each other and sobbing “It’s not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR!” And damnit, it WASN’T. And that’s a hell of a thing to put in a comic aimed at tween girls.

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Ambriel, the X-Men were not considered dead at the time. Look at the examples I presented. All three instances were from a period of the X-Men run where the X-Men were allied with both Magneto and the Hellfire Club.

I don’t believe for an instant that Claremont would have agreed to any confrontation with X-Factor, not with the way he had segregated the X-books from the rest of the MU and had no control over the X-Factor comic. The Brood storyline is an excellent example of his desire to play in his own sandbox. Rather than working with other writers and editors to create what could have been an interesting crossover instead the X-Men made the utterly nonsensical decision to not only keep The Brood problem to themselves, but to also mind wipe the knowledge of their existence from the very people who brought the problem to their attention, Havok and Polaris!

So unless you have some sort of information detailing plans on some big X-Men/X-Factor confrontation I don’t believe it ever happened or was ever going to happen.

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I’m not going to cavil with the list, I’m just going to point out one thing that I think has been missed here: there is only one person who appears on the list twice, and that’s J.M. DeMatteis.

He writes fantastic deaths. Kraven, Aunt May, Harry Osborn – hell, even Vermin. He gave every one of them fitting send-offs. His Spectacular Spidey run with Sal Buscema got me into comics and I have only realised in recent years how mature and sophisticated, but still fundamentally classic superheroics, that run was.

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I always liked the death of the other Jean — Jean DeWolff, that is. There was no build-up to it at all; the storyline opened with her bloody corpse and flowed outward from there. I loved that story.

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Uber Geek said on July 19th, 2010 at 12:02 am

No one has mentioned Colossus yet? He sacrificed his life to cure the Legacy virus in X-Men #390.To me, it was one of the best deaths ever. Of course, much like Aunt May’s death in ASM #400, they couldn’t leave it be. And since then, very little has actually been done with him, so what was the point?

Also, I agree Skurge’s death was awesome.

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Gustopher said on July 19th, 2010 at 12:25 am

Crispin Allen’s death in Gotham Central really got to me. I do wish that they let him just be dead, rather than make him into the new Spectre, but it was a great death, with realistic consequences and emotions for those involved (up until the whole Spectre thing and Montoya becoming the Question…)

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Mary Warner said on July 19th, 2010 at 12:45 am

J M DeMatteis also wrote a pretty good death for Nighthawk, a character who managed to stay dead for over a decade afterwards (despite showing up a few issues after his death– it’s complicated, but that didn’t count).
I don’t know how Nighthawk managed to come back, nor can I figure out why anyone would think such a resurrection was needed. I sometimes think that some writers just like to bring characters back simply to show that they can.

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Munkiman said on July 19th, 2010 at 12:56 am

So agree that the problem is rampant death, not resurrection. I’ve been saying that forever.

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Munkiman said on July 19th, 2010 at 1:13 am

“The thing is, KDBryan, killing someone off is not, by definition, a creative act. People say, “Oh, Morrison opened up so many storytelling possibilities with his run,” but what exactly can you do with a dead Magneto that’s more interesting than a living one? Killing a character off is waving the white flag and admitting that you’ve run out of interesting things to do with a character, and killing a character off in a shared universe is an insult because it’s insisting that if you can’t do anything with the character, then certainly the clods you’re surrounded with won’t be able to, either.

Or to simplify it, if Grant Morrison’s predecessors had written comics the way Grant Morrison did, he wouldn’t have been able to write his iconic runs because the Doom Patrol, Animal Man and the X-Men would all be dead.”

I think what KDBryan meant was that by narrowing the possibilities, in a way, Morrison opened up new possibilities. Seems confusing, but think about it. By making later writers unable to use Jean Grey, he forced them to come up with newer stories instead of rehashes of old stuff. To be creative instead of just referencing old stories.

I do think that Magneto was always intended to return, though, and that this was a good idea. Magneto needs to stick around. But I don’t think they should have retconned away his actions in Planet X. I may not have read a lot of X-Men, but it seems very in character for Magneto, based on what I understand of him. He should never be a hero, he works better as the Holocaust survivor trying to prevent the same thing happening to the mutants by killing the entire race he sees as persecuting mutants.

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Gustopher said on July 19th, 2010 at 6:33 am

“I do think that Magneto was always intended to return, though, and that this was a good idea. Magneto needs to stick around. But I don’t think they should have retconned away his actions in Planet X. I may not have read a lot of X-Men, but it seems very in character for Magneto, based on what I understand of him.”

Since Magneto had been using Kick before and during Planet X, and Kick was Sublime, I think it is pretty safe to say that Morrison intended to leave Magneto’s responsibility for his actions an open question, so when he did return (as he doubtless would eventually), the next writers could decide how to deal with it.

Magneto did act mostly in character, so either he was partially in control of himself, or Sublime was doing a Magneto impersonation. He was also far enough out of character that he was pretty clearly not in complete control.

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@Black Bandit: Read it, enjoyed it, own it. Doesn’t mean that I think it’s above criticism. :) A good writer can write a good story without relying on the “This is Significant! Somebody DIES!” card, especially in a comic book universe where that’s less and less interesting every year.

@Munkiman: I don’t think they should have retconned away his actions in Planet X, either. I would have left it as, “The entity in the Kick drug influenced his mind.” But that would have been a lot easier to do if Morrison hadn’t ended the storyline by killing Magneto, something that needed to be retconned away anyway.

@Uber Geek: Again, sorry, hated the Legacy Virus storyline too much to include any of its deaths. :)

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Dr. Creaux said on July 19th, 2010 at 9:31 am

Despite the reasons for Jason Todd’s death, the Batman writers turned it into an excellent source of character development for Batman.

I always felt that there was three deaths in comics that should never be reversed because their deaths were such driving factors in the “main” heroes’ stories: Uncle Ben, Bucky, and Jason Todd.

Of course, I’m now down to one still dead on that list, but such is life…in comics.

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@Dr. Creaux: How was Bucky dying any driving at all for Cap? He did not even die in the real series, but in a later retconned in flashback.

I’ll give you Uncle Ben of course.

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“a generation of fan-turned-pro writers with meter-length hard-ons for the Silver Age has undone just about everything good about Crisis”

This encapsulates everything wrong with comics today.

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Skurge’s death should have been on this list, if not because they not only haven’t undone it (unlike every death that did make the list), then because they established that bringing Skurge back to life would destroy the universe.

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A lot of bad came with the Crisis too, though. Yeah, I think Wonder Woman and Superman’s reboots were great and necessary, but the latter’s was done without any regard for how it would affect Wonder Girl. Donna Troy was never the same, not when technically now Wonder Girl had shown up a decade before Wonder Woman!

Then Ostrander was allowed to make the Hawkworld regular series take place in the present so it fouled up continuity in regards to Katar Hol’s appearance in the pages of Justice League. Then there was Power Girl…

I think the Crisis was a great comic, epic in scope and unlike anything I had ever read up until that point. The art was George Perez at the top of his game and it made me a hardcore Martian Manhunter fan (the scene where he comes through the wall to rescue the other heroes and proceeds to go to town was awesome), but I also feel that in the long run it created more messes than it fixed.

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Dan Coyle said on July 19th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Mary Warner: Nighthawk’s resurrection is a bit of a question mark. In Nighthawk #1, he wakes up in a bedroom on the Richmond estate. They tell him he’s been in a coma ever since Defenders #106. No further explanation than that, though it’s implied Mephisto resurrected him in addition to granting him extrasensory powers for some nefarious purpose.

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I’m going to have to agree with those who found Morrison’s killing of Magneto to be completely well-written. The over-arching theme of his X-Men was to evolve the franchise out of the atrophy that it had fallen into. He put in hooks that any good writer (therefore not Austen) could have used to execute the typical corporate need to recover IP.

Evolution is a key conceit of the X-Men property, but after the 90s they kept spinning their wheels. I enjoyed some bits (Bastion, Cerebro’s X-Men), but I recognize that they weren’t great. I completely lost interest before we got to Morrison’s run. Personally, I think he located the two characters most suffering from stagnation and tried to force them to be the root of a new story. Perhaps you feel that he mishandled your favorite character and that he was denigrated by the way Morrison wrote him (doin’ drugs, bangin underage ho’s), but there you go: The ultimate evolution of Magneto as cackling scumbag. And you know what? He didn’t get sent back to that camp for years. Sadly Morrison’s inheritors sucked. They couldn’t wring a good story from the X-Men, much less unknown properties

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Tales to Enrage said on July 19th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

To further the push for Skurge being in the list, here’s a link that has the full sequence of events. To forestall the major questions, Thor has a bandana around his face because Hela has wounded him in the face, and the automatic weapons come from an earlier arc, where the Asgardians were fighting on Earth. They decided to bring the weapons as a surprise for their mission into Hel.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/08/17/a-year-of-cool-comic-book-moments-day-229/

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Death has never been a permanent thing in comics; there has always been the expectation that a character who is presumed dead is really somewhere offstage, waiting for the proper moment to return. Because of that, it’s almost impossible for character deaths to have any resonance at all. So, when they do, it’s pretty amazing.

The first comic-book character death that I really noticed was Thunderbird in X-Men 95. It wasn’t the character, per se; Thunderbird had been created for the purpose of dying, and his death was really pretty pointless. What struck me was how his death affected the survivors. In many ways, and in retrospect, I rather saw Thunderbird’s death as foreshadowing for what would eventually happen to Phoenix.

Of course, then it was decided to resurrect Jean Grey, and to do so for the purpose of making a comic that was essentially a Ghostbusters pastiche. That was about the time that I really started losing interest in mainstream comics, to be perfectly honest, and started looking at the what was coming up elsewhere — Cerebus, American Flagg! and so on.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, although no one is really interested — long-term serialized fiction like comics can only maintain and grow a long-term audience when it allows its characters to age, retire and, eventually, die, replaced by a new generation. Creators have to stop ignoring or reversing the work of their predecessors, otherwise, we just get the confusing, barely readable mess both Marvel’s and DC’s lines have become.

L.

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Evil Abraham Lincoln said on July 19th, 2010 at 7:55 pm

As usual, I’ll put in my two cents about Norman Osborn being the mastermind behind the Clone Saga: Even in his first appearance, he was a bit too “out there” to work as a believable mastermind. He spent his last few appearances (pre-death) switching into the Green Goblin, getting his ass kicked, then waking up as Norman Osborn and trying to figure out where the fuck all of these bruises came from? Even his *origin* explicitly stated that his powers were driving him insane. And yet, when they needed a go-to Goblin to wrap up the clusterfuck that was their story, they bypassed the *sane Magnificent Bastard* Hobgoblin for the lunatic Green Goblin. It makes as much sense to me as revealing that Lex Luthor is just a past incarnation of Darkseid, or that clattertrap about Ranma being a descendant of Inu-Yasha that always comes up in Takahashi fandom.

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Evil Abraham Lincoln said on July 19th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

P.S.-As much as I love bitchy redheads, Supergirl’s death was the first one to make me cry.

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Uber Geek said on July 19th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

@Lamar: Thunderbird wasn’t created just to be killed. He was created so the X-Men could have a “native” member, and was killed after the writers realized that there was nothing he could do that Colossus and Wolverine couldn’t do better.

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Katefan, sorry for the late reply. You’re right about it being before the X Men’s apparent death. My mistake. A trip through some dusty boxes reminded me that X Factor was avoiding them because they were hanging out with Magneto. Can’t imagine why Cyclops wouldn’t trust him.

As for the head on confrontation, how on earth could you have possibly missed the Inferno crossover? Even Thor got in on that one.

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Snap Wilson said on July 20th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

@UberGeek Thunderbird was created to be killed. Len Wein and Chris Claremont have both said as much.

All of John’s selections are significant and memorable, as are the suggestions of Mar-Vell, Morpheus and Skurge, and as long as we’re throwing them out, I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Elektra being killed by Bullseye and crawling halfway across town to tell Matt she loved him. If we’re not confining ourselves to superhero comics, the respective demises of Speedy Ortiz and Tonantzin Villasenor in LOVE & ROCKETS definitely qualify.

My favorite Legion death isn’t Lightning Lad (so-so) or Ferro Lad (artfully done even though he was meant to die from the outset and we never really got to know him) but Superboy in Paul Levitz’s “The Greatest Hero of Them All” arc. Even though Crisis had reduced him to being a Time Trapper construct and Not Really Superman, the devastated reactions of his teammates was especially touching.

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Snap Wilson said on July 20th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

@Steve. Just an FYI, the original concept for X-Factor was supposed to include Dazzler (whose series was coming to an end) and not Jean Grey. It was actually Kurt Busiek’s idea to bring Jean Grey back to life (Kurt has a particular fondness for the original X-Men). Kurt told John Byrne, who told Bob Layton and they rolled with it.

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I’m incredibly amused that Grant Morrison killed off Jean (and/or Magneto) to force the franchise to go in new directions…while simultaneously bringing it back to the oft-visited “stories happen at a school” backdrop (or bringing JLA back to a “big seven” – as if that’s necessarily a good thing)

His X-men run was not very good, if for no other reason than it allowed Bedard to use Beak in Exiles. Fucking awful end to that story.

Anyway, Skurge, yes.

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“a generation of fan-turned-pro writers with meter-length hard-ons…”

Perhaps they should be in a different branch of the entertainment business.

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Rob Bartlett said on July 21st, 2010 at 1:12 pm

“or bringing JLA back to a “big seven” – as if that’s necessarily a good thing”

Since the Justice League is more of a combo platter than a mythos in and of itself, I think there are only so many directions it can go in. DC would have to create great new characters in order for the title to get new blood.

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@coren: When was the X-Men ACTUALLY a school before Morrison? Seems you have to go almost back to the pre-Claremont years unless New Mutants are included.

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“When death is common, resurrections have to be common or else you start running out of people to kill.”

I’m pretty sure that more than two-thirds of Dick Tracy’s villains over the past, uh, 70 years or so have ended up six feet under. Of course, those deaths were occasionally circumvented by the creation of sons, daughters, or brothers of the more popular villains when they wanted to retread their territory, but in general, you weren’t going to see The Brow show up again. Maybe death in comic books would be slightly more palatable if it were handled that way.

(Speaking of The Brow, he had himself a great death, and one that seems incredibly gruesome to me for a 1940s newspaper strip. I recommend looking it up.)

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Mister Alex said on July 22nd, 2010 at 9:07 am

Hey, how about that issue of “What If?” where due to some minor change of events, the entire superpowered population of the Marvel Universe was slaughtered in the space of three pages?

Oh wait, that was every issue of “What If?”.

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Ambrael, valid point regarding Magneto. This is also the same team that allowed Wolverine and Rogue into their ranks so it is not like the team did not already have a history of trying to convert bad guys or people of questionable moral nature. The reasons X-Factor was not dealing with X-Men were shallow at best.

As for Inferno, I remember it, I remember seeing a few issues, but I quit buying all X-titles before it because Alex Summers screwed Madeline Pryor. His girlfriend has become possessed by an evil entity and is running amok (and it is obvious she is possessed; Wolverine is shown ripping the psychic manifestation free from his neck, so the thing’s power effect is visible. But Alex is apparently an idiot) and he decides the best way to deal with that and his brother’s lack of IQ by forming X-Factor is by screwing his wife.

It felt like Chris Claremont was screwing me.

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@Rob – The Avengers managed to work with just Captain America as a “big” character and three former villains. If that can work, DC with it’s history of legacy characters can surely come up with something (and something better than the Detroit league)

@JG – Aside from New Mutants, Generation X – which ended almost immediately before Grant’s run. Not the same school, but the exact same concept. And it launched around a year after New Mutants ended it’s run – so for something like 15 years there was a book telling stories about young mutants and their school – it just didn’t have Wolverine is all.

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@katefan: Didn’t Havok do that at least partially due to demonic influence?

@coren: True, but it wasn’t the main X-title that had the school, just ancillary ones. There was also a difference in scope; Generation X was only five students hidden away at Emma Frost’s school without interacting much with the “real” X-Men. With Morrison the school was at the forefront serving as background for many stories with the major X-Men as teachers.

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Rob Bartlett said on July 23rd, 2010 at 6:24 pm

coren, well, two of the revamped Justice League’s lineup were legacy characters.

I think the thing about comparing the JLA and Avengers is they evolved in different ways, for several different reasons.

1) Marvel’s universe is more team-based. This tends to mean they can create or foster a larger pool of characters, and writers can nurture them until they become a big deal.

2) Marvel’s books were more popular, to the Flash is always at risk of cancellation, but Daredevil has been plugging along. This pretty much means the major characters at DC were historically “up for grabs”, and therefore the lineup for Justice League always felt more impressive than Avengers. Also, it means there’s usually a larger pool to choose from for the Avengers.

3) Marvel’s better at superheroes that break the mold, while DC is generally better at exploring non-superheroes altogether. Thus, your Warlords or Jonah Hexes don’t really fit in with the JLA.

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JG: That may be true, in regards to Havok. At the time, though, I was so apathetic in regards to the X-Men that maybe I felt anything Chris wrote was seen in the worst possible light.

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Okay, the short short version. When the Pheonix “died”. Madelyne Pryor got a piece of it’s power, which was supposed to wake up Jean Grey from hibernation. This gave her pretty strong telepathic and telekinetic powers, and one thing or another drove her nuttier than she already was. She was mentally manipulating the X Men so she could use them against Cyclops. Then she teamed up with a powerful demon from Limbo and things (by which I mean New York City) generally went you know where in a hand basket.

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American Hawkman said on July 26th, 2010 at 11:47 am

To whoever said that Ostrander was “allowed” to put Hawkworld in the current time, the word you were looking for was “forced” instead of “allowed”. That was an editorial decision, and one Ostrander was ultimately forced into writing an entire arc to straighten out.

For the record? My favorite deaths in comics are Captain Mar-Vell, Skurge, Jean DeWolff, Elektra, and Terra. Good stuff. I also could care less if any of the above were brought back. (As, indeed, some have!)

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Evil Abraham Lincoln said on July 26th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Ambrael: One problem with that statement-Madelyne *didn’t* have any Phoenix-based power until the readers began to use Scott’s abandonment of his wife and son to turn against the character. Read the X-Men and co. Asgard Annuals. When Madelyne was given powers, she became a healer. If she’d been designed to be a pure analogue of Jean Grey, she would have gone all “firebird” as soon as her hidden powers were revealed.

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Would she have? Because RACHEL was still Phoenix then.

Then again, the meme isn’t Rachel Summers dies all the time, now is it?

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The annuals never made it to my particular backwater, so I don’t know what to tell you about that. I can’t cite an issue number, or anything, but in some piece of super villainous exposition, she said said she started using her powers early enough to screw with Cyclops’ mind when he fought Storm for the leadership of the X Men. It was also the Pheonix energy infusion that brought her awake after Sinister cloned her. Before that, she was in a coma or something.

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okay lt’s see
AUNT MAY: one of the reasons i changed spidey’s continuity for my tastes is her death in ASM 400, so Peter stays married AND becomes a father & ben reilly an uncle, it”s called DEVLOPMENT

SUPERGIRL /the FLASH: Barry STAYS DEAD nuff said & linda danvers by PAD was the only time supergirl was really interesting

KRAVEN: who thought bringing him back was a good idea? after the summit that was last hunt he served his purpose so HE STAYS DEAD

JEAN :actually i’m not against her 1st Resurrection (DARK PHOENIX was good but kinda overrated) & nicieza/lobdell made her a great character.and as for Morrison FUCK NEW X-MEN! he fucked the character’s history & characterization & dvlpt just to suit his own sucky plots
his emma frost was fucking annoying, no subtelty at all ;the fact that cyclops trusted her, one of the people that made jean go dark phoenix, without even thinking “i have to keep an eye on her,even gambit is more trustworthy than her…”,he should even hate her by all rights(i swear morrison would make scott & apocalypse best buds sharing a beer while talking about cable ‘s infection). she was not the subtle & cold apathetic antiheroin scott lobdell developped besides sex therapist=teacher now, of course & plumbers are mercenaries!
cassandra nova was pure trash ,how people classify her as one of the best villains is still beyond me,really 50 years & a foetus comes haunting me back because….? i dunno at least onslaught could be seen as xavier id,repressions & nihilism forming a psionic entity bent on destroying free will & make sense
xorn…just xorn:”i impersonate someone all this time to act as a nazi buffoon & to fool the x-men on my asteroid on which i spent time & money which god knows where & then logan can behead me…makes sense”
Now the culture concept and mutant town were nice but if the story doesn’t back it up then it’s trash.& don’t get me started on all i did was die on you… FUCK QUESADA & MORRISON

GREEN GOBLIN: srsly harras chickened out,instead of moving on & saying peter ‘s the real one & letting ben live as the brother peter never had…no …positive evolution is marvel & dc worst nightmare apparently.as for me NORMAN IS WORM FOOD!

as for other great deaths there’s doc ock during web of death,silver surferbizarro, doomsday…

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