The Most Shocking (and Devastating) DC Deaths
With last week’s episode “Death and Rebirth,” season 4 of DC’s Young Justice is now concluded. The emotional fourth season was full of heart wrenching character arcs and further proof that when it comes to super hero deaths, nobody does it quite like DC Comics.
Over the years, DC media has given us a lot of reasons to mourn. Some of the publisher’s most recognizable super heroes, Batman and Superman, were pushed onto their paths by unimaginable grief. Of course, even the Man of Steel himself has fallen at the hands of death — back in the ’90s, when Superman comic sales were low, his writers decided to shake things up with the death of Superman. This event sent shockwaves throughout the DC omniverse. But Superman’s not the only one. Let’s take a look at some of the other deaths in DC media that have devastated readers.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Young Justice season 4 plus, like, a lot of DC comics but … you knew that, right?
DC’s Young Justice animated series has introduced beloved versions of the next generation of super heroes. Their bonds together as a family grow from uneasy partnerships to lifelong dedication. The series is easily one of the best examples of super hero found families around. That’s why the sudden demise of Superboy is so hard to handle.
While on Mars to prepare for his wedding with Miss Martian, Conner Kent, AKA Superboy, is caught in a volcanic accident, along with Saturn Girl. His death causes Beast Boy to struggle with depression. Miss Martian is so distraught she can barely participate in any super hero action. But his death also brings the elder members of the Young Justice team back together after spending time apart doing their own thing. While individuals can die, hope is much harder to destroy.
Wow, so apparently the Super-Family is really not doing so well. Back during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kara Zor-El of Earth-One died at the hand of the Anti-Monitor. Known as the Girl of Tomorrow and beloved by everyone, Supergirl sacrificed herself to save her cousin Superman. Her death was the culmination of a crusade of terror, and proof that even the most super of heroes can be mortal.
Kara’s death was one of the first in DC Comics to happen to a major super hero. Much like Conner Kent, everyone mourned Kara, especially Superman. Her death was also treated as fairly permanent. Through her death, Kara ensured that the convergence of realities could happen with the least amount of destruction possible.
No, this isn’t the start to another show from The CW. Over in the Flashpoint alternate timeline, young Bruce Wayne actually died that night in the alley. During that fateful encounter between Joe Chill and the Wayne family, little Bruce was the casualty rather than his parents. Their child’s untimely death would lead to horrific transformations for both Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne.
With the death of Bruce, his father and mother cope in extremely different ways. Thomas creates the persona of Batman, though his version is much more violent and willing to kill than non-Flashpoint Batman. Martha, on the other hand, becomes The Joker of her timeline. In their grief, Bruce’s parents let their anger consume them — testaments to how every choice defines us.
The Joker’s death is certainly a repeat punchline in DC Comics, but every time it happens the consequences are a real knee-slapper. Even more so than when he’s alive, in death The Joker has the last laugh. His deaths turn his archenemies from super heroes to super-villains.
While there have been many deaths of The Joker, the most notable are the deaths that twisted two of DC Comics’ most exemplary heroes: Batman and Superman. On Earth-22 in the Dark Multiverse, The Joker tormented Batman by killing Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon, bombing a hospital, and murdering the parents of innocent children (whom he later killed). Enough was enough for this Batman, and he snapped The Joker’s neck — unknowingly releasing a toxin that would mutate him into The Batman Who Laughs. And that was only the beginning of that horrific tale.
Meanwhile, on another Earth-22, The Joker tricks Superman into killing not only Lois Lane but also their unborn child. This tragedy completely breaks Superman. He then decides to kill The Joker. The result is a timeline in which Superman eliminates all possibility of crime or evil — though, in the process, he becomes a tyrant who rules by fear rather than hope.
Originally, during his run as the second Robin, the troubled Jason Todd was not very well-received by readers. After a poll among DC comics readers on what to do with the character, it was decided that Jason Todd would be killed by The Joker.
While his death itself wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it was a turning point for the Bat-Family. Bruce Wayne’s expanded team of proteges was always touched by a hint of darkness, but after Jason’s death, their paths toward grief would cause each character to develop in new ways. And of course, Jason Todd’s death allowed Red Hood to return in his place, creating one of Gotham’s most enduring antiheroes.
In yet another crisis of DC proportions, a betrayal from trusted ally Maxwell Lord causes the death of the second Blue Beetle. This death served as a countdown to Infinite Crisis, the seven-issue limited series sequel in 2005-2006 to Crisis on Infinite Earths.
While Ted Kord wasn’t the first to hold the title of Blue Beetle, he was certainly popular. His antics with Booster Gold always provided much-needed laughs in an increasingly dangerous universe. That’s why his brutal death, a gunshot straight to the head, was so shocking for all who loved Blue Beetle. After some time, Jaime Reyes would step in as the new Blue Beetle.
Long before Young Justice, the Teen Titans made their mark on DC super hero history. This team of former sidekicks was a place for adolescents to grow into capable and worthy heroes. From Nightwing to Starfire, this team had some of the most powerful members around. One of these powerhouses, Tara Markov, would also nearly take them down.
Also known as Terra, Tara Markov joined the Teen Titans with a tough attitude and tougher powers — she could manipulate the earth itself. However, in the groundbreaking arc The Judas Contract, Terra is also revealed to be a traitor. Deathstroke has disgustingly manipulated her into his own double agent and she attempts to destory the Titans from the inside out, though the price of failure is her own life. Even Tara’s clone is later killed by Black Adam.
When we as readers or viewers must reconcile death with our favorite super heroes, we realize that even the mightiest among us can fall. And when they do fall, the effects are catastrophic — but the resulting stories are also some of the most powerful.
Which deaths in DC media stand out to you? Keep the conversation going over at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!