The Shortest Deaths In Comic Book History
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The Shortest Deaths In Comic Book History

The very nature of death in modern superhero comics means that the list of resurrected comic book characters is almost exactly as long as the list of characters who died—nearly everyone comes back to life eventually. Because most comic book characters who died were loved by at least some fans, it's unsurprising the common trope is to bring them back from the dead. Nothing sells comics like a resurrection. 

However, sometimes the trope is stretched to ridiculous lengths, and looking at the shortest “deaths” in comic history proves that. Readers don’t seem to mind when their favorite characters return after a few years cooling their heels in the afterlife, but a death that lasts a matter of months is almost insulting. In those cases, it seems the original demise was simply a plot device designed to make headlines and sell comic books, and was never intended to stick.

  • No comic book character has a greater reputation for death and resurrection than Jean Grey - fitting for an individual who frequently goes by the name Phoenix. Even so, the trope was taken to its extreme in a 2005 X-Men event titled Phoenix: Endsong.

    With the Phoenix Force in full control of a newly resurrected and now virtually immortal Jean, it is up to Wolverine to keep the cosmic entity at bay by stabbing his all-time crush to death again and again. Bringing Grey back to life over and over takes a toll on the Phoenix Force, allowing Jean to overcome it and return herself to the afterlife. That’s nothing compared to the toll this incident took on poor Wolverine’s heart.

  • Kevin Smith’s famous Daredevil storyline Guardian Devil featured the Man Without Fear taking on traditional Spider-Man foe, Mysterio. Having seen through Mysterio’s tricks and defeated the glass-domed illusionist, Daredevil stood triumphant, only to watch his opponent commit suicide via a gunshot to the head.

    Although a talented writer, Smith had a reputation for missing deadlines, and delays in the publication of this series meant that by the time it was actually finished, Mysterio was ready to come back to life. He popped up in Spider-Man titles a couple of weeks after killing himself, acting as if he’d been gone for a while.

  • Frank Castle is a man without superpowers in a world full of them, and his love of vigilante executions always places a target on his back. It was no surprise when fate finally caught up with the Punisher in late October 2009, as Wolverine’s son, Daken, cut Frank to ribbons on Norman Osborn's orders.

    The Punisher's pieces were collected by a group of sewer-dwelling monsters who resurrected him as Franken-Castle, a rather self-descriptive moniker, just 20 days later. It wasn't long before Castle returned as a more youthful version of his normal self, making this a rather positive death experience overall.

  • Steel (1 Month)
    Photo: DC Comics

    Sometimes, comic book characters disappear so briefly they couldn’t even be legally declared dead in the real world. Such is the case with John Henry Irons, better known as Steel, who died in September of 2001 and returned in October.

    Steel was killed by the Black Racer in the Our Worlds at War storyline, but a few issues later Superman struck a deal with Darkseid that included Irons's resurrection. Steel barely had a chance to unpack his bags in the afterlife before being whisked away.

  • 2011’s Fear Itself event featured Thor and his fellow Avengers facing his uncle, Cul, the God of Fear. Prophecy had once foretold that Thor would need to give his own life to defeat this opponent, and the God of Thunder bravely faced his fate and made the ultimate sacrifice in Fear Itself #7.

    However, it didn’t prove to be much of a sacrifice after all when Thor was revealed to have already started on his path from the afterlife in Fear Itself #7.2, an epilogue issue released a month later.

  • Batman (1.5 Months)
    Photo: DC Comics

    When the ominously titled Endgame story arc concluded in April 2015, it ended with a vicious battle between Batman and the Joker that left both combatants dead. Jim Gordon took over as a mechanized version of the Dark Knight for a while, but only a month and a half into his tenure Gordon learned Bruce Wayne was actually alive and well - albeit, an amnesiac. From that point on, it was only a matter of time before the real Batman regained his memories and put the cowl back on, and it was eventually revealed that the Joker had escaped his fate, too.