The very concept of death in superhero comics has become a running joke. Characters die and return with such alarming frequency that some, both in and out of universe, have referred to death as having a revolving door. The greatly lessened consequences associated with dying in the Marvel and DC universes has the side effect of allowing those publishers to kill their most important characters off in an effort to sell more comics, confident that fans will accept it when that superhero returns to life in a matter of months.
With all that being said, nearly every major superhero from either Marvel or DC has died at some point. Superman got punched to death. Batman’s died several times. Even Spider-Man has been snuffed out a time or two. The real special feat these days is to be a superhero who has never died. Only a handful of notable characters carry that distinction, and that number gets lessened with each passing year.
A few ground rules, before we start: alternate universe/timeline deaths don’t count, nor do the surprisingly numerous situations in which the entire Earth was temporarily destroyed.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by day and vigilante Daredevil by night, is a popular character that didn’t quite get the widespread respect he deserved until his Netflix series dropped and created a brand new generation of fans. Daredevil has been at the center of some truly epic storylines, featuring all-out battles with the Kingpin, Bullseye, and the Hand, but somehow he has survived the decades without an actual, on-the-record death.
Daredevil made his debut in 1964, so that's a run of more than 50 years! Of course, that doesn't mean he's come away unscathed; in fact, the recent "Death of Daredevil" storyline, while not technically delivering its headline-making title, put the superhero out of commission (for now), even if Matt Murdock ultimately survived in severely shattered form.
When it comes to the most popular DC Comics characters, Batman and Superman are always numbers one and two, but third place remains a close competition between Wonder Woman and Dick Grayson, the original (and still fan-favorite) Robin and current Nightwing. While the other three heroes have all died before, Grayson has managed to avoid the grim reaper’s touch for nearly a century.
This even included a stint where Grayson served as Batman, while Bruce Wayne was thought dead. Some question Batman’s decision to place children into danger by recruiting Robins, but it’s turned out pretty well for the first edition.
The real-world history of Shazam, who used to be known as Captain Marvel before legal chicanery got in the way, is an interesting one. However, the in-universe history of young Billy Batson has been surprisingly conflict-free, despite the fact that he's been around for over 75 years.
The cape-and-spandex-clad hero spends most of his time as a child, but can transform into a Superman-esque he-man with the use of a magic word, “Shazam!” This mirrors Shazam’s real-world transformation from the property of Fawcett Comics to DC Comics.
For all that is made of Batman putting children’s lives at risks with his constant recruitment of Robins, the two most prominent individuals to perform that role have made it out just fine. Tim Drake is the second-most famous Robin, after Dick Grayson, and neither of the two has died, even when their mentor has on several occasions. Tim Drake eventually transitioned into the persona of Red Robin, and found a niche as the go-to tech guy on the Bat-team.
As of 2017, Drake is thought dead by Batman and his allies, but we, the readership, know that he’s actually being held prisoner by the mysterious Mr. Oz, who may or may not be Ozymandias from The Watchmen.