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Back Issues: Devastating Deaths

Back Issues: Devastating Deaths


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*This column contains spoilers for major character deaths in comics – you have been warned!*

The comic book universe as we know it would look very different without the assorted range of interesting characters that populate the worlds, from colourful mutants, to gadget-slinging vigilantes, to scheming villains, to the civilians on the sidelines who support our favourites through countless troubles. Many of us, after years of dedicated reading, become so attached to these characters that they start to feel like friends, albeit ones who live Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 01.13.38far away. The characters are your loyal companions; they’re there for you in times of sadness or stress, to cheer you up on rainy days or in those awkward teenage years when you couldn’t quite figure out how to make friends. You grow with them.

Unfortunately these characters can’t last forever, and writers will eventually get to the point where they have done all they can with the story and the character, and so they’re killed off. Although few writers try and tear at our heart strings quite as badly as, say, George R.R. Martin, there are still some truly devastating deaths within the comic world.
For this new segment, Back Issues, I’ll be exploring a different weekly theme and basing it off the characters, stories and worlds I’ve come to love over the years. Up this week is ‘Devastating Deaths’ and I’ll be discussing everyone from Lori Grimes, to Gwen Stacy to Jason Todd to Captain America along with others on my (rather depressing) journey of the most tragic deaths I’ve come across.

Gwen Stacy

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Like I said above, we can grow very attached to characters and end up utterly floored by their demise, but you don’t have to like a character all that much to be affected by something that happens to them. Take Gwen Stacy for instance. Now, I was never her biggest fan by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not that she did anything in particular, but I first got into Spider-Man and his adventures after I saw the movie adaption. Needless to say, I had a huge hard-on for Spider-Man and Mary Jane, and to find out that Gwen was his original one true love did not a happy Mary make. Of course, I got over myself a little and warmed to her when I actually read the comics I was judging beforehand. Even so, she was never a favourite of mine.
Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 00.50.30 Nonetheless, in that fateful issue The Night Gwen Stacy Died, you could’ve mistaken me for the biggest Gwen fan girl of all time with the buckets I cried. I think I was more devastated for Peter Parker than anything else. He tried so hard to save her and when he caught her he truly believed that that was it; that it was another time where he saved the day after a life-threatening experience and everything would go on as it should. When he realised the thing that killed her was the pull-up on the web, it was a really harrowing moment. To see how easy it was for a character to just drop out of the comic world was a stark parallel to how scary and sudden death is in real life too.

Jason Todd

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Although Jason wasn’t as popular as the original Robin, he was still Batman’s right hand man, and to see one half of the twosome beaten half to death with a crowbar only to be left to his demise is pretty tough to witness. The culprit responsible is, unsurprisingly, the Joker, who committed the acts against Jason before leaving him in a warehouse which explodes before Batman can save him. Oh, and his mother was there too.
His horrific death was made even more distasteful when I found out that he was actually killed off by comic fans themselves. For the Batman: A Death in the Family story arc, DC Comics held a poll so fans could decide whether Jason would die by the Joker’s hands or not. By a very close margin of just 72 votes, he was voted out.
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Despite this, his character was resurrected in the Under the Hood storyline where he took on the mantle of the Red Hood and became an anti-hero not dissimilar to Batman, except for his acceptance and willingness to use lethal force.

Lori And Judith Grimes

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 01.09.14 Love her or hate her (and for many it’s the latter), Lori Grimes’ sudden death was a huge shock. Not only was she a main character in a popular series (and was most certainly not going to be brought back), she was also a strong woman who, despite making a lot of bad decisions, had been through a lot. It’s easy to read The Walking Dead and seeing people drop like flies, but you always hold out hope that the main characters will survive. Even though it’s unlikely to see them all reach the end of the series, it still gives you a jolt when one of them actually dies, whether by zombie or fellow man.
To top off her death and making it infinitely more tragic is the fact that she was carrying her baby daughter, Judith, Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 01.29.37when she was shot. This, tragically, led to her falling on Judith and crushing her. Lori’s husband Rick and son Carl were fleeing from the Governor and had to leave the bodies, which was horrifying in itself as we, the reader, know what their fate is to be. Plus Rick’s last cries of “Don’t look back!” are heart-breaking to read.
I think the reason these deaths hit me hard is because Judith died as well. It’s always so hard to accept children dying, even if it is in a comic book. The aftermath of Lori and Judith’s death caused Rick to spiral into depression which he was only pulled out of because of Carl and their future together. However, Lori’s death had long-lasting repercussions and caused him to go a little loopy for a while.

Captain America

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One of comic’s greatest heroes fell at the hands of Red Skull and the brainwashed Sharon Carter in the aftermath of Civil War. Although it was very depressing seeing ol’ cap sprawled on those steps bleeding out surrounded by posters and debris, it was mildly uplifting to hear his final wishes were for the crowd to be kept safe. It was just so Steve and it was a great way for him to go out.
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In the same vein, although Tony Stark and Captain America were on opposite sides of the civil war, there was always a begrudging respect between the two despite their differences. The panel showing Tony in his Iron Man armour on his knees in front of a slain Captain America brought a tear to my eye when he admitted that “It wasn’t worth it.”

Spider-Man And Aquababy

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 02.01.41In the lead up to his demise, Peter Parker accidentally gets shot by The Punisher while protecting Captain America. This causes him to be in a weakened state when he finally faces off against Norman Osborn and his cronies. After putting up a good fight, a truck explosion leaves him in critical condition and he ends up dying in front of Aunt May, Mary Jane, Gwen and Johnny Storm. This was especially sad as he references not being able to save his Uncle Ben and that he was happy he could save Aunt May. I’m surprised I managed to ever open the book again; my tears should’ve stuck the pages together forever.
Similar to what I said earlier about my weakness for children dying in comics (sure who isn’t affected by that?), things were pretty safe in the comic world for a long time; there were certain characters that just didn’t die. Like children. Then in an issue of Aquaman, where he faces off against his nemesis, Black Manta, his son Arthur Jr. is locked in a box and left to suffocate and, as Aquaman couldn’t save him on time, he actually did die. It was pretty messed up and a total shock.
What comic deaths really affected you? Do you agree with some on my list? Let me know in the comments!