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They do exist: 12 comic characters who stayed dead

By Staff | Nov 3, 2015

Uncle Ben and a young Peter Parker walk away from their annual New York Mets game at the close of an emotional story written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Mark Buckingham in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” #33.

Sooner or later, due to marketing, shock value, story or simple nostalgia, almost everyone who has shuffled off the mortal comics coil shuffles back.

Even Darren Cross, a guy who only appeared in the two issues of Marvel Premiere that introduced Scott Lang, was brought back after his name was given to the villain in the “Ant-Man” movie.

But there are exceptions, characters whose deaths have been so foundational in stories, that writers and publishers have resisted the urge to bring them back. They may have brought in alternate reality doppelgangers, clones or successors, but the following heroes, villains and supporting cast members have defied expectations and stayed in the afterlife:

* Ultimate Peter Parker (4 years) – The young wall-crawler who kicked off the Ultimate line of Marvel Comics perished in battle with multiple foes. He was subsequently replaced by Miles Morales, who is making the jump to the Marvel Universe proper after “Secret Wars.” Ultimate Pete hasn’t been gone long, and with the original Peter alive and well now, he may stay gone. Then again, comics.

* Nova (5 years) – Richard Rider was a B- or even C-list hero until he found himself the last surviving member of the Nova Corps. His rising star was cut short by his death at the end of “The Thanos Imperative.” It could stick since new Nova Sam Alexander is the version now featured in other media.

* Ben Reilly (19 years) – Fan opinion of the controversial “Clone Saga” has softened, but Spider-Man’s clone who was revealed to be the real Spidey and then not really still remains six feet under.

* Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) (21 years) – There aren’t many DC entries on this list, thanks to the New 52 reboot making it hard to tell who’s dead, who never existed and who just hasn’t had an origin yet. But while new versions of classic Justice Society characters have populated the “Earth 2” series, this blind superhero perished at the hands of Extant during “Zero Hour” hasn’t been among them.

* Thunderbird (40 years) – James Proudstar’s probably the least famous member of the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men because he didn’t make it past their second mission, dying in the explosion of the fleeing Count Nefaria’s plane. Thunderbird came back briefly in the Necrosha event, but given its zombie-esque nature, I still count him among the deceased.

* Swordsman (41 years) – The first Avenger to die in action, Jacques DuQuesne was killed by Kang while trying to save Mantis. He’s aided the Avengers from beyond the grave a time or two, but always returned there.

* Gwen Stacy (42 years) – They’ve cloned her; they’ve introduced an alternate-reality version as Spider-Woman; they even had Peter Parker encounter her spitting-image, age-accelerated daughter. But Marvel has let the death of the original Gwen Stacy, and its significant impact on the Spider-Man mythos, stand.

* Uncle Ben (53 years) – Alternate versions have been used, for the most part, to explore stories, but no one’s ever gone back and undone the foundational death in Spider-Man’s origin and, hopefully, no one will.

* Batman’s parents (76 years) – See above. Although a villain once masqueraded as Thomas Wayne and in “Earth 2” the real Thomas, not Bruce, is Batman, the core origin – one of the best in comics – remains intact.

* Superman’s biological parents (77 years) – Same song, third verse. Kryptonians have popped up all over the place since little Kal-El rocketed away from the doomed planet, but Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van aren’t among them.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic Support Group.