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Anyone Can Die / Comic Books

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  • The gritty crime series 100 Bullets establishes from early on that any character can die at any point.
  • As per Zombie Apocalypse standards, this is true in Afterlife with Archie. Even Archie himself is not theoretically safe as he's been killed off before.
    • The first issue alone kills off Jughead, Archie's best friend, and his dog Hot Dog. After becoming infected, Jughead proceeds to attack and infect his parents, Mr. Weatherbee, and Ms. Grundy.
    • In the second issue, Jughead murders Big Ethel in front of the entire school before finally being contained.
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    • In the third issue, Midge is revealed to be infected and later infects Moose.
    • In the fourth issue, Vegas fends off Hot Dog to protect Archie and becomes infected.
    • In the fifth issue, Betty's parents and Coach Kleats have become zombies as well.
    • In the seventh issue, Jason is either killed by a zombie or by his own twin sister.
  • The X-Men story arc known as Age of Apocalypse was especially brutal — starting with Xavier's accidental death before the X-Men are founded (prompting a new future, where Magneto founds the team and Apocalypse starts his takeover much sooner), it becomes one of the darkest Alternate Universes ever. Heroes are villains, villains are heroes, and it becomes a veritable bloodbath by the time all is said and done. Of course, said reality ceased to exist once the X-Men successfully Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but that doesn't make it any less shocking to have seen all those people — mutant and human alike — dropping dead like mayflies...
    • And now it's been reestablished and is even grimmer than back in the 90's. Uncanny X-force (Wolverine's death squad) presented us with Age of Apocalypse Wolverine as the new Apocalypse, armed with a bunch of reinterpreted A-listers as his backing band.
  • For All Fall Down, it's a central theme of the book.
  • This is a major selling point of Avengers Arena. It's also the reason why the series is hated by fans of Runaways and Avengers Academy.
  • In keeping with the fact it's an Elseworld story, the Batman Vampire trilogy features quite a high body count across the three stories with the only survivors being Dr. Arkham and (possibly) Ariane. And yes, this includes Batman himself.
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  • Black Science opens with Jen's death, then two more major characters before the end of the sixth issue. The effect is diluted when alternate-reality clones are introduced as potential replacements.
  • Convergence:
    • The deaths come thick and fast, and surprisingly some A-list characters perish without any more comment than mooks. In Convergence #3 the pre-Flashpoint Joker is killed in as dramatic a fashion as the reader might expect, but only a few pages earlier the pre-Flashpoint Riddler is blown up with a group of relatively minor Batman villains without any indication he might be more of a 'celebrity' than any of them.
    • Possibly the entire Seven Soldiers of Victory, minus the Star Spangled Kid in World's Finest Comics #2. Green Arrow and Speedy fall to their deaths, and once the dome covers Metropolis, Stripesy dies of pneumonia. The fate of Vigilante and Crimson Avenger is ambiguous, though Vigilante is sure they can't survive the fight with the Qwardians, and both he and Crimson Avenger are in bad shape when last we see them. Shining Knight and Scribbly may or may not be going to their deaths as the issue ends. World's Finest is one of the more downbeat books to come out of the series.
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  • Standard operating procedure for any comic book summer Crisis Crossover, it's very well-known that as soon as it's Crisis Season, nobody's safe. Although it's also very well-known that anybody who's ever had a solo title will be back.
  • DC and Marvel kill characters all the time. The measure of a good death is how notable the character is and how long it sticks. To that end, the series most faithful to this trope was Crisis on Infinite Earths. It destroys an infinite number of earths, some with important characters, but its most notable for killing Supergirl (which stuck for 18 years) and Flash (Barry Allen stayed dead for 23 years.) After this, you have one earth and most of its old continuity was thrown out (for about 20 years.)
  • For a long time, the informal rule in Diabolik had been that new characters appeared only once or died in their second appearance, threatening The Tyson Zone when it concerns the few characters that actually survived and had more appearances. So, to establish that nobody is safe, the authors wrote the 2012 story "The Return of Gustavo Garian", where they killed off Gustavo Garian himself, the oldest recurring character and the first named character to appear, even introducing Diabolik to the readers. It got the desired effect, as when the stories "Altea's Courage" and "Bettina's Betrayal" were announced the readers were caught by surprise when Altea and Bettina did not die. Now we can say the only characters safe from this are Diabolik himself, Eva Kant and Ginko... And we're not sure about the last two: after all, Diabolik is the only recurring character they actually need.
  • A lot of major characters from Elephantmen are killed off by the time the series ends. Even some of the enhanced Elephantmen suffered brutal injuries throughout the comic, and a couple of them don't survive.
  • This was used extremely sparingly in ElfQuest, starting with One-Eye's complicated and drawn-out death, followed by Kureel in the second long arc. Later examples in the backstory include Crescent (which gets referred to very often), Rillfisher (already alluded to in the main arcs as a trope example), and Thiro (whose death triggered an important moment in the relationship between Leetah and Rayek). Then the Shards war happened, and death suddenly became a whole lot cheaper.
  • Marvel Comics' Exiles, a book about a group of six characters from alternate universes who are pulled into MORE alternate universes to save them from being "broken" and thus eventually return home, is known for being quite lacking in Comic Book Death, especially for a series with all these alternate universes running around. This is established in the very second issue, where Magnus (son of Magneto and Rogue) dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Although it doesn't have a lot of deaths Exiles does have a number of key ones. The most notable is likely Sunfire. She (this version being a Japanese lesbian instead of formal guy in the main verse) is killed by team leader Mimic when he neglects to tell the team that he was infected with the Brood (chest burster aliens). Sunfire's death was despite the fact that she was one of the more popular characters.
    • An even sadder version would probably be Thunderbird; a version of John Proudstar who underwent Apocalypse's Four Horsemen Treatment (he became War). Thunderbird becomes permanently brain damaged and becomes a vegetable after punching through Galactus's armor and setting off a device that causes a full powered Galactus to run away from Earth. To understand how insanely badass this was, in the main Marvel Universe it usually takes divine intervention to stop Galactus, and usually he's half starved with barely a tenth of his full power. The version Thunderbird takes out was scary enough to cause a planet full of Skrull to run away. However, he gets better just before the end of the original run.
    • Or how's about the real kicker, Mimic? One of the few remaining original Exiles members and close friend to other mainstay Blink, Mimic was possessed by the serial killer Proteus and killed just as it looked like his team members had figured out a way to save him. It was with a whimper that he died, literally, rather than the expected bang, which just made the death even crueler.
  • Narrowly averted in Gold Digger when Cheetah — one of the most beloved core characters — was very nearly written out of the series by way of killing her off... but was spared on the outcome of a coin toss. Yikes.
  • A comedic example: Marvel's Great Lakes Avengers. Er, X-Men. Er, Champions. OK, Initiative. Their big day in the sun, the 4-issue miniseries GLA Misassembled, featured as the gimmick that one member would die each issue. This doesn't count Mr Immortal, of course.
    • It should be noted, though, that only one member of the original team died and stayed dead during the miniseries, so it was a bit intentionally misleading. And the second issue cheated by introducing a new character who is killed within seconds of joining the team.
  • Marvel's answer to Green Lantern: Quasar has died so often that when the mini-series Annihilation was announced in 2006. The first question asked by a fan of the creative team was basically "Does Quasar have any chance of surviving this series??" The answer was, "no."
  • Kirkman's Invincible keeps you guessing about who'll die and who'll return from fatal injury, whether one's talking about villains, heroes, or innocent bystanders. The tone is set early on, when the Invincible world's equivalent of the Justice League is introduced as fleshed-out characters, and then brutally killed off by Omni-Man. Their replacement really, REALLY suffers throughout the series as well, especially against the Lizard League, and against the invasion of evil parallel-universe Invincibles. The series also tends to keep you guessing, since the government has insane medical technology (along with various aliens having even more ridiculous medical technology), and a lot of characters have ways to circumvent death and/or the ability to survive wounds that would be fatal for normal people. The Sorting Algorithm of Deadness is hard to apply, as a result.
    • Self-parodied with the issue #100 storyline, "The Death of Everyone". The only named character who dies is the villain, though millions of nameless civilians die.
  • This happens often in Judge Dredd. Even the best villains are usually dead by the end of the story they're introduced in. Judge Giant, Dredd's frequent sidekick and one of the most easy-going and humorous characters, was instantly killed after a terrorist casually shot him In the Back during the "Block Mania" storyline. Meanwhile, violent death practically counts as natural causes for the Chief Judges.
  • Vertigo's The Losers series.
  • Downplayed in The Mice Templar. A lot of recurring characters are killed throughout the comic, but given the large cast and the tendency to introduce new characters each volume, it rarely feels like most of the cast is in dire jeopardy. Even in the last two volumes, most of the main characters who die are the villains.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid had for its Tag Line "No Ranger is Safe". Boy, they prove it by killing off Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger. And it goes downhill from there.
  • Morning Glories. The kids themselves learn this in-universe during their first week of school.
  • The number of shocking, unexpected deaths in its huge cast was a big part of Negation's appeal.
  • Par for the course in Nikolai Dante, so much so that fans objected to the lack of deaths in the "Prisoner of the Tzar" and "An Army of Thieves and Whores" arcs.
    • The "heroes be damned" arc more than made up for those two arcs though...
  • In the original Old Man Logan: Daredevil, Punisher, the new Kingpin, Hawkeye, Red Skull, Logan's family and the pretty much every member of the Hulk gang (barring She-Hulk and the Bruce Banner Jr.) are all killed. Before the story: all of the X-Men and most other superheroes are dead.
  • Powers does this really well. Not only does powers get killed left and right, on panel and off, regardless of how established the characters are — that's sort of the premise — but it goes for civilians as well. And the Pope. And the main characters. Once Kutter gets his head ripped off you really start worrying for the leading pair.
  • In The Punisher: Born, set during the Punisher's last tour in The Vietnam War, anyone not named Frank Castle is more or less fair game.
  • The Red Ten starts off with the Batman expy being murdered. The subsequent efforts of her allies to track down her killer leads to them getting picked off one by one.
  • Revival is about humanity's relationship with death. Not only are all the revivers dead before the story begins, many characters are killed and/or die over the full run. Some are only briefly introduced but most have significant characterization.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is VERY heavy on character death. Plenty of minor, supporting and even major characters snuff it — sometimes all within a single volume — and that's not counting the times someone happens to receive a Fate Worse than Death. Gods themselves are established as capable of dying, and it's stated that they WILL die when they have no followers left. Even the Endless themselves can be killed, as explained with the original Despair in Endless Nights, and Morpheus (Dream) himself dies at the end of Volume 9, 'The Kindly Ones' — his powers and essence restored within Daniel Hall, the new Dream, as the major plot of Volume 10.
  • Erik Larson's The Savage Dragon has killed off MOST of its cast more than once.
  • It's not uncommon for Sin City stories to end up with dead protagonists despite the narration. Considering the series is in Anachronic Order, readers can always expect to see the characters again even if they have died previously. For instance, Marv died in the very first story of the series and yet he has had many appearances since.
  • While arguably not as bad as Ultimate can be-the main character has yet to die-the main 616 Spider-Man comics can be still be pretty bad about this. Uncle Ben may have been an example of Death by Origin Story and Gwen bit the dust to give Peter even more to angst about, Kraven The Hunter, The Green Goblin, Jean De Wolfe, Captain Stacy, Mary Jane, Aunt May, Madame Webb, Mattie Franklin, Nick from the Bugle, The Hobbgoblin, Ned Leeds, Ben Reily, Harry Osborn etc. didn't know what hit them. Granted a lot of those guys failed to stay dead, but they managed a lot longer than most. (The exceptions to the long death thing being MJ-whom even the writers thought killing off was a mistake and only did it because they were forced to and Aunt May because they needed a cop out at the end of The Clone Saga regarding the fate of baby May Day and the "May's still alive" line being about Aunt May instead was the best they could come up with. Mattie, Madame Webb, and the Hobgoblin haven't been dead long enough for us to see if it'll stick).
  • This is also a major selling point of the Spider-Man storyline Spider-Verse. Dan Slott has said that he cannot vouch for anyone's safety in the storyline. How does he prove it? He has Morlun kill Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends!
  • The '80s series Strikeforce: Morituri, about an alien invasion being defended against by Super Soldiers whose powers would inevitably kill them — and did. Characters were constantly dying and being replaced by new recruits. Characters frequently died long before the projected one year lifespan granted by the Morituri Process. For example: One character died within four issues, perhaps less than four months of time; a second character dies several hours after they're introduced.
  • This is a large part of the premise of DC Comics' aptly named Suicide Squad, about a black ops group composed of expendable Boxed Crooks and B-list heroes sent on frequently lethal missions. In the animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham, no less than three members of the squad meet very gory deaths and another is strongly implied to be killed in an explosion.
  • Teen Titans. Yes, a superhero team primarily comprised of teenagers has its members die so often that they have a memorial hall that gets increasingly more crowded with every passing year. If you're a major enough character, you can expect Death Is Cheap to kick in and see you come back eventually, but again, that's only if you're at least a high-level B-lister. It's bad enough that Teen Titans is the second most famous DC example of this after the aforementioned Suicide Squad.
  • In Marvel's Transformers Generation 1 comic, any character whose toy was no longer available would almost certainly be killed off to make room for the new merch. While Death Is Cheap in Transformers, Meddling Executives prevented most of these characters from coming Back from the Dead unless they had a new toy out. The writers also introduced a large number of important characters without toys for the sole reason of killing them off.
    • This got even more extreme in Transformers: Generation 2, in which the writers got more freedom, and suddenly even characters who did have toys on the shelves weren't safe.
    • The IDW Publishing mini-series The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers was built around an Anyone Can Die attitude — the Wreckers being an elite Autobot suicide squad, whose previous incarnations tended to suffer heavy losses. Authors James Roberts and Nick Roche promised that the mini would live up to the tradition — and made good on that promise. As of Issue 4, four of the initial eleven Autobots were dead (along with three major Decepticons), and the final issues and prose story brought even more carnage.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • The mega-crossover Ultimatum in 2008-2009 basically exists to brutally kill massive numbers of characters for the shock value. It was originally meant to end in a Cosmic Retcon, undoing most of the deaths, but it was dropped at some point. The Ultimate X-Men were hit the hardest, with only five members surviving. How much of it is Comic Book Death remains to be seen.
    • Ultimate Marvel in general. They killed off Spider-Man and replaced him with a new one.
  • Commonplace in The Walking Dead, where usually at least one main character dies per graphic novel. The eighth volume, Made To Suffer, seriously ups the ante by killing off a total of ten characters (only two of whom are villains) ...over half the cast at that point. The only consolation is that most of them died of head wounds, ensuring they don't have to become zombies... and when that's the bright side, you know you've got a Crapsack World. Oh, and also, their sanctuary is destroyed, kicking them back out into the zombie-infested outside world. Sucks to be them. It has not gotten better since the Made To Suffer compilation came out.
  • Watchmen has a high death rate for major and minor characters. Not only do The Comedian and Rorschach die, but many secondary characters die as a result of Ozymandias' fake alien attack on New York, showing that no characters are safe.
  • Marvel's What If? series has this as one of its many main draws. As they tend to be one-off stories that have no basis in canon to them, they're free to not only kill as many characters as it wants, but free to kill whoever they damn well want to as well. This means that Spider-Man can die in some tragic fashion, Kingpin's reign can actually come to a bloody, permanent end and Doctor Doom, the patron saint and codifier of Actually a Doombot, won't be able to count on said Doombots to take his place.
  • The Wicked + The Divine had killed off three major characters by its eleventh issue, including the Decoy Protagonist.
    • Subverted in Laura's case as of Rising Action. While Laura metaphorically dies after becoming Persephone, it isn't her body that her parents find Ananke burning. Inanna is actually killed, but it's Ananke, not Baphomet, who kills him. In Commercial Suicide Ananke kills Tara at Tara's request, and in Rising Action, Persephone kills Ananke.
  • In Wonder Woman Vol 1, Steve Trevor was killed off, after being a major character for about 30 years, as part of a complete revamp of the character in the early seventies.
  • Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Force (later renamed X-Statix) took a pretty lethal approach to its cast, killing off all but the two newest members of the titular team in the first issue and continuing to bump off regulars with regularity. It's stated that the team's membership has a very high turnover rate, and that before the series began the roster had been killed and replaced several times. The series partially serves to explore the idea that if superheroes were real, most of them wouldn't live very long.
    • It's not strictly germane that one of the longer-running characters had, as a super-power, the fact that she was already dead. She still died in the last issue and her follow-up miniseries didn't even really bring her or any of the others back.
    • This is inverted in one storyline, in which one of the three leads is predicted to die, but they don't know which one. Each deals with their potentially impending death in their own way, and it's a slow, quiet tale for a series in which characters often get blown up with no advance warning. The issue in which the doomed character is revealed bears the simple title, "Someone Dies."


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