The conclusion to the The Death and Return of Superman video is that DC, by killing and reviving Superman, "broke death". By which they mean that other titular characters who died subsequently were not permanently dead, they came back to life through one literary device or another (hidden power, alternate universe replacement, altered timeline, cloning, reincarnation passing of the mantle/costume to another, etc.).

Both DC and Marvel have done this countless times. But I suspect that Superman was not the first. So, who between DC and Marvel broke death first, and with which character? For the sake of argument, let's say Elseworlds, What If's, and other "one-shot" don't count.

2 Answers 2


Not sure if you count "posession" as brought from dead, but if so, a candidate for the first one is Jim Corrigan

Jim Corrigan is the name of three fictional characters that have appeared in numerous comic books published by DC Comics. The first Corrigan initially appeared in More Fun Comics #52 (February 1940), a deceased cop acting as host to the cosmic entity the Spectre, and was created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily.

This definitely predates Superman, who was first killed in 1961 Superman #149.

An runner-up would be Lightning Boy - killed fighting Zaryan the Conqueror but resurrected via sacrifice of Proty. Unfortunately, the resurrection was later than 1961 (Adventure Comics Vol 1 #312, September, 1963)

What makes this one extra interesting was that it was (according to my brief research) one of the very few instances in which a superhero died, and the story was retconned so that he stayed dead (the retcon was that - as was much later discovered - Proty who was a shapeshifter assumed the form and the place of the hero).

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    I think I left a loophole that allowed this Jim Corrigan. His concept seems to be centred around being a "reanimated corpse." I meant established heroes who die and return. I didn't know about Superman being killed before his 90's death, though.
    – MPelletier
    Jun 1, 2012 at 7:06
  • "Superman, who was first killed in 1961 Superman #149" - as I understand it, that story was like a "What If?" tale, so it doesn't quite fit the OP's question. Really interesting to know about it though. Jan 28, 2013 at 16:30

What about the "death" of Alfred Pennyworth in the 1964? He was crushed by a boulder while riding a motorcycle (Detective #328), so Bruce stuck him in a refrigerated coffin, and replaced him with Aunt Hattie.

The death of Alfred

Two years later, the fans were restless, so they had it turn out that Alfred had just been sleeping the whole time, while his loyalty to Batman kept him alive (Detective #356).

This breaks death in a few ways.

  1. Alfred's death is treated with no gravity. He is quickly replaced, few tears are shed, and he doesn't even get a funeral.

  2. After dying, he is never mentioned for two years.

  3. When he's brought back, it's with a "regeneration beam" that turns him into a supervillain (The Outsider). The writers didn't trust the resurrection of the character to be interesting enough on its own, and instead cover it up with a gimmick.

  4. Once Alfred is all back to normal and comes home, he is treated by everyone as if he'd just been on vacation.

The Outsider about to transform back into Alfred.

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    I think this may be a better fit for original question
    – AncientSwordRage
    Oct 24, 2012 at 7:23

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