The frequent deaths, and almost inevitable resurrections, of superheroes has become so noticeable that it’s now constantly used as a talking point whenever someone wants to deride the medium. The fleeting nature of death in the average comic book universe is now an industry-wide shame, right up there with Aquaman’s ability to talk to fish or Powergirl’s costume. With seemingly every big event or crossover almost guaranteed to include at least one heroic sacrifice or dramatic return from the dead, it’s hard for comic fans to argue against this criticism.
However, the temporary nature of the afterlife does not necessarily apply to every character, and to state that death is a revolving door in either the Marvel or DC universe would be a disservice to those individuals who had the dignity to die and actually stay dead. In fact, the lengthy absences of some of these characters, in world where almost everyone gets to come back to life, has led many fans to question why they haven’t yet been given a second chance. We’re not talking about the Uncle Bens or Batman parents of the world, who should definitely stay dead, but legitimate superheroes who bit the dust and never got to respawn.
Casual comic fans will see Jean Grey’s name on this list and roll their eyes. To be fair, Jean was killed, resurrected, killed, and resurrected again in very quick succession during the Dark Phoenix saga and surrounding storylines. However, she was killed yet again at the end of Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men in 2004, and has since stayed dead, other than the standard dream sequence-type stuff. Yes, a teenaged version of Jean was brought to the future along with the other four OG X-Men, but that’s beside the point. The mainstream version of Jean, who became the Phoenix and married Cyclops, hasn’t been seen in over a decade.
Rorschach, one of the protagonists in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work, Watchmen, has been dead longer than many comic book fans have been alive. Dr. Manhattan exploded Rorschach like a microwaveable burrito at the culmination of the mini-series in 1987, and that’s the last we’ve seen of Rorschach. No, there have not been any publications set in the future of the Watchmen universe since, but that’s about to change. Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias have both been hinted at in DC’s new rebirthed universe, so there’s no reason Rorschach can’t return to bust heads and speak in fractured sentences once again.
Only the most hardcore of X-Fan will have heard of Thunderbird. He’s the guy on the famous cover of Giant Sized X-Men #1 that makes most people ask “Who?!” Thunderbird was a part of Marvel’s concerted effort to create a more diverse team of X-Men, but he wasn’t exactly a proud moment in Native American history. Thunderbird lasted only a few issues before he died in a plane explosion, in a move created to shock readers with the sort of thing that was unheard of in 1975. Thunderbird’s younger brother would eventually join the X-Men, but why hasn’t the original received another chance in the last 40 years?