I know they killed Superman and brought him back. Which mainstream DC or Marvel hero type character was the first to be killed off in a comic book, never to return?

  • 6
    How mainstream are we talking? Second-stringers on a team, sidekicks or heroes with their own books?
    – phantom42
    Feb 15, 2013 at 17:02
  • 3
    Also just as a note Jean Grey was killed off in the Dark Phoenix Saga before the Death of Superman storyline. She was intended to stay dead, but was retconned back to life a few years later by a different writer; Superman was always going to be returned to life at the end of his storyline.
    – Monty129
    Feb 15, 2013 at 17:31
  • 22
    The only person who stays dead in comics is Uncle Ben. Feb 15, 2013 at 17:47
  • 8
    It used to be Bucky and Jason Todd too, but...
    – Monty129
    Feb 15, 2013 at 18:02

6 Answers 6


That dubious honor may belong to Marvel's Kree character, Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and designed by artist Gene Colan and first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967).

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel in his first appearance costume (green and white) and his later retooled outfit where he gained his negabands, cosmic awareness and superpowers in general.

The good Captain was dogged by copyright battles, low ratings, and a lessening of interest, at the time in space-based or cosmic adventuring heroes. Captain Marvel's fan base was small but consistent and Marvel eventually decided to put Mar-Vell out of his misery in one of the earliest graphic novels, The Death of Captain Marvel written by Jim Starlin. Originally published in 1982, this was the first of Marvel's graphic novels and it has been said, quite correctly, that it revolutionized an industry that had started to grow fatally stagnant.

enter image description here

After years of battling various cosmic foes of all size and evil, Marvel finds himself felled by that most human and realistic of diseases. He had cancer and a great deal of this graphic novel examines how his super powered friends react to the death of one of their own from a disease that could have afflicted any of them. Though Starlin allows for a bit of the expected super heroic melodrama, overall the Death of Captain Marvel is distinguished by a quiet, contemplative mood as Marvel deals with his impending death. In the end, its rather touching and truly thought provoking.

Marvel created legacy versions of the character to maintain their copyright including:

  • Cross-genetic power transfers - the first attempt to create a legacy/backup for the character came with Ms. Marvel back in the seventies. An accident with alien technology transfers the powers of Mar-vells energy bands to Carol Danvers. Ms. Marvel attempted to bring Mar-Vell's powers to Earth but with little success. The character limped along fighting her main nemesis Deathbird until she lost her powers to the mutant Rogue. She later gained new powers as the hero Binary.

Ms Marvel

Ms. Marvel's first appearance, her most well-known costume and her overall transformation as a character from 70's hero clone, to independent superheroine to an editorially-confused mess as Binary.

  • Unrelated characters who happen to take on the same name (and a version of the chest emblem): in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, a woman named Monica Rambeau gained the ability to become any sort of electro-magnetic radiation, and took on the name Captain Marvel, apparently unaware of Mar-Vell's existence. By sheer coincidence, her makeshift costume (which becomes permanent) Includes a black "starburst" chest emblem, similar to what's on Mar-Vell's red and blue costume (but with sixteen points instead of eight). She was an Avengers through the second half of the 1980s, chairing the group for a short time. She changed her name multiple times as others become Captain Marvel, going through Photon, and currently using Spectrum.

    Monica Rambeau assembles costume

  • Genetic descendants - Mar-Vell's lover, the Titanian Elysius, impregnates herself with Mar-Vell's genetic material giving birth to a son, Genis-Vell. While originally going by the name Legacy, Genis bore the mantle of Captain Marvel for fifteen years or so before his untimely death. Interestingly enough, just before his death, he changed his name to Photon (then being used by Monica Rambeau, who was a bit annoyed about having her name stolen twice by the same guy.)

  • Genetic descendants, part two - Elysius actually impregnated herself with Mar-Vell's genetic material twice, the second time conceiving a daughter, Phyla-Vell (pun intended (genus, phylum)). She may technically have claimed to be "Captain Marvel", but her brother was the one using the name officially at the time. She later took on Quasar's name, and was a part of the mid 2000's version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

  • Space-time resurrection using the reality-altering Mkrann Crystal and the Phoenix force, but we the readers already knew it wouldn't take.

  • Captain Mar-Vell has even been reborn in an animated form as a BLUE Kree and aids the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes against Ronan and the Kree acquisition of Earth.

  • The new Captain Marvel (a phrase all too familiar to Marvel's readers) is once again Carol Danvers. After giving her a new set of powers as Binary, she again loses those powers and her Ms. Marvel powers mysteriously return. In a fit of political correctness, Ms. Marvel has now assumed the mantle of Captain Marvel, in a suit that is far less suggestive and more heroic appearing completing the legacy for which she was originally created.


30 years later, the Kree Captain Mar-vell is still dead. And he appears to be and will likely always remain dead, despite his guest appearances, time travel stories and other tricks which always end up with the good Captain returning unceremoniously to the grave.

  • 2
    Do antagonistic phrases like "in a fit of political correctness" help make this question more clear? Nov 27, 2017 at 18:17
  • This is a pretty complete list! Just a couple of nit-picks: Marvel's Captain Marvel was never the subject of "copyright battles," and it was no the copyright they had to keep alive. It was the trademark. MF Enterprises had produced a Captain Marvel comic before Marvel, and sued Marvel over the trademark. Marvel wound up with it, and having that trademark is what forced DC to not use the name on the cover of their Captain Marvel comic when they licensed the original character in the 1970's. Dec 17, 2017 at 21:58

The first character that comes to mind would be Thunderbird from the X-Men. I am not sure he is the first one but he died way before Captain Marvel (1975 for Thunderbird, 1982 for Captain Marvel).

As for DC, Ferro Lad died in 1967

  • On the other hand Thunderbird was only around for a few issues before getting killed. Mar-Vell fits the 'established' part of the question much better (though 'never to return' would presumably disqualify Mar-Vell too as temporary as the returns were, but I guess it was close enough for the asker). Mar 17, 2017 at 1:58
  • @suchiuomizu - While there have been apparent returns of Captain Marvel, he hasn't actually come back form the dead per se (yes, I'm handwaving his return in the X-Necrosha storyline, but that explicitly included the purely temporary return of many characters from the dead); his longest "return" was when he was impersonated by a Skrull who fell deeply enough into the role that he pretty much believe he was Mar-Vell.
    – RDFozz
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:47

The real answer is Junior Juniper, of Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos. He is oft-considered the first major comic book hero to die. Look it up.

  • Junior Juniper was killed in his fourth comic book appearance (one longer than Thunderbird; two if you take into account that X-MEN 94-95 were originally supposed to be published in a single comic, GIANT-SIZE X-MEN 2). Still somewhat questionable as to how "established" he was.
    – RDFozz
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:55

Rex Cosmos (February 1935 – October 1936)

…if you assume he's not surviving his "comic book death" in which he is overwhelmed by a rush of water.

Issue #1 of New Fun Comics (later titled More Fun Comics) was published by National Allied Publications, which later became DC Comics (this is usually marked as the first comic book for the modern company).

In this inaugural issue, Rex Cosmos is the star of the story 2023: Super Police, which is about a team of interplanetary police officers who protect planet Earth. While he doesn't have any "superpowers", Rex Cosmos reminds me a lot of Marvel's Star-Lord in both his job and his skills, so I think he counts for the purposes of this question.

In More Fun Comics #14 (his 14th apperance), Rex and his sidekick Axel just survived a fall off a cliff because "The draft of air must have broken our fall and pushed us onto this ledge". They look through the underground area and find a river with a boat. As soon as they get in, a sudden gush of water overwhelms them.

Rex Cosmos — More Fun Comics #14

And that's the last we ever see of Rex Cosmos. Since the character has never been revived, it's reasonable to conclude that he drowned.

However, the bottom right corner clearly says "Next Issue: The Demented", so the intention likely wasn't to kill him off, especially since he just survived an even worse fake-out death.

Bob Merrit (August 1935 – March 1938)

…if you assume he's not surviving his "comic book death" in which he is shot.

The DC Comics Wikia says that Bob Merrit's superhero ability is "Science", so he is on-par with many of the geniuses of DC and Marvel. His first appearance was in New Fun Comics #5, but he gets shot in More Fun Comics #30 after 24 appearances.

Bob Merrit — More Fun Comics #30 Bob Merrit — More Fun Comics #30

Avoiding the hot twisted cables of the fallen balloons, Bob lands his rocket ship and races towards a —

– lone transport standing at the entrance of the great cave, a group of Asiatics loading in great haste, the last of the stolen gold. As Bob tops a rise the bark of a rifle reverberates and Bob, spinning around, falls—

As with Rex Cosmos, we never see Bob Merrit after this, and the character has never been revived. The bottom right caption merely says "To be continued—", not giving the name of the next issue. While definitely ambiguous, I think it's even more plausible to assume that Bob was fatally shot. Heck, if it lacked those three words, I would say it was a given.

There may be other heroes in these early stories that have more definitive deaths without a "to be continued"; I'm willing to bet it certainly wasn't Captain Marvel in 1982.


One contender is Comet: http://www.comicvine.com/the-comet/29-45912/

DC's new Comet from Redline Comics. The version appearing in Pep Comics #1-17, who was one of the first superheroes to die in a comic, is in the Public Domain.

That was 1941.

He WAS revived, but only in 1960s.

  • 3
    If you count that, you can also count Captain America. He was also revived decades later (if you believe the movie, even over half a century).
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 15, 2013 at 21:49

Ferro Lad would be another contender for the first Silver Age death. Adventure Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes 1967.

If we were counting later revived heroes, then Lightning Lad died in like 1962 for an extended period before being revived.

  • Ferro Lad was already mentioned in Grendel's answer from 2013. That said, Grendel didn't specify the issue in which Ferro Lad died, or include much information about the character in general, so you could make your answer a worthwhile addition to the thread by editing it to flesh it out a bit in that regard. Adding an image of Ferro Lad would be nice too. I'd also remove the part about Lightning Lad, as he didn't remain dead, and therefore isn't relevant to this thread. Jun 3, 2023 at 19:28

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