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Fate Worse Than Death / Comic Books

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  • In one of the issues of The Walking Dead Michonne goes through this at the hands of the insane, sadistic "Governor" of a small human settlement, who keeps her tied spread-eagle in a warehouse and routinely rapes/beats/tortures her for days before she is freed. However, she gets her own back after she tracks him to his apartment, breaks in, tortures the ever-loving hell out of him (including spoon-raping and amputating some of his limbs) and leaves him for dead (he survives).
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  • Episode #66 of Dylan Dog ends with Harvey Burton being condemned to spend the whole eternity in a void limbo because he cheated the Grim Reaper.
  • One storyline in Hellblazer discussed the possibility of a "Third Place" that souls could go to which was neither Heaven nor Hell. The Third Place was a blank, neutral landscape that numbed the soul and removed all emotion. The characters believed that an eternity of empty nothingness was too horrible to contemplate. In the end, a human takes the place of the realm's supernatural resident for all eternity, thereby suffering a fate worse than death.
  • The Sandman:
    • After the first Despair was killed (in a vain attempt to remove despair and suffering from the world), the man responsible was put into a state of perpetual suffering from which he could not die -- he would suffer for all eternity until time ended.
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    • In the first issue, Dream of the Endless punishes the son of the magician who sealed him away for seventy years (the magician having already died by that time) by trapping him in an endless Dream Within a Dream — while he might eventually die, he will suffer for an eternity in his head first. (Although after Morpheus' death on the hands of the three "Kindly Ones", his successor, the new Dream, shows mercy and lifts the curse. So, the man "only" had to spend six years or so in a coma, hallucinating the most torturous horrors his mind could devise.)
    • In a later arc, Morpheus a.k.a. Dream and his "younger" sister Delirium have a run in with a Traffic Cop after she's driven erratically; Delirium (in a "normal" fit of randomness) curses the officer to forever feel bugs crawling all over his body. Dream points out this is a rather harsh punishment for a very minor inconvenience, but Delirium tellingly counters that it's still better than many of the things Dream has inflicted on others.
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    • ...such as Morpheus condemning Nada, a former African queen, to Hell in a fit of anger after she refused to stay with him and become his queen in the Dreaming, because, as she said, "It is not for mortals to love the Endless". It took the Dream King several thousand years to forgive her and seek her forgiveness after he finally freed her from her torment.
    • Delirium inflicts the most Mind Screwing one of these ever when she is briefly detained by a semi-recurring deformed demoness with a crush on Lucifer, and proclaims "If you don't let me in, I will turn you into a demon half-face waitress night-club lady with a crush on her boss, and I'll make it so you've been that from the beginning of time to now and you'll never ever know if you were anything else and it will itch inside your head worse than little bugses!" Debate still rages about whether Delirium could have actually done that, or just knew the demon's nature and mocked it. Or whether she did do it and they're in a Stable Time Loop or...
    • Loki's punishment mentioned on the Mythology subpage is made even worse by breaking his neck and ripping out his eyes.
  • Thanos of Titan was, for a very long time (as comic books go), transformed into immobile stone, unable either to die or to truly live. As Thanos was in love with the personification of Death, he found this an especially horrible fate, since he expected never to see her. He eventually recovered, and then she sent him back to the world of the living, now equipped with an immortal body to destroy a neighboring universe where Death itself had been killed. He was not happy, to say the least; while Thanos is usually horrifically placid, now he spent about half his time roaring with fury and grief. He succeeded in his mission, and the universe collapsed in on itself... with him at its center. Quite possibly still unable to die. At the end of Infinity Thanos is turned into a statue again by his son Thane.
  • Wolverine clearly regards the tortuous experiment he went through that grafted Adamantium to his skeleton as this, and doesn't wish it on anyone else. So much that In the 616 version of Marvel, he slashes open a vat of molten Adamantium to prevent it from happening to three other victims, killing himself in the process.
  • An issue of the Hellraiser graphic novels (based on the films, in turn based on Clive Barker's short story "The Hellbound Heart") has a pretty horrific example of this trope: when a man visits a clinic offering completely immersive VR experiences (such as sex with a movie star where the correct nerve endings are manipulated by the machine to simulate the sensations being experienced) and finds that the head of the project is keeping a test subject alive and indefinitely hooked up to a faulty machine that, while the subject was "surfing" in water during one test, experienced a glitch that turned the water into boiling lava. This is made doubly horrible by the fact that a fail-safe was installed ensuring that people hooked up to the machines cannot die in the VR simulation no matter what they are subjected to. This leaves the aforementioned test subject surfing/swimming in lava overnight before anyone realizes what has happened, effectively shattering his mind. The head of the project decides to keep the man hooked to the machine and test a variety of tortures on him, such as being slowly eaten alive by insects, having his testicles ripped apart, and worse for the sake of his own amusement... the test subject may be a shell of a human being now, but he can STILL feel pain. Come the end of the story, however, it is implied the test subject will finally be able to die when he is forcefully disconnected from the machine at the very end.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • After Judge Dredd succeeds with his counterstrike against East Meg One during the Apocalypse War, the livid War Marshal Kazan captures them and makes sure that they will be kept alive for the rest of their natural lives so they can be tortured continuously. This ends up biting him when Dredd is released.
    • When the Dark Judges took over the city during Necropolis, Chief Judge Silver was turned into a zombie so that his new undead masters could torment him endlessly.
    • In "Judgement Day", the zombie-controlling villain Sabbat was rendered immortal (even to the point of being able to survive a bullet in the head) by a large magical crystal. Dredd punished him for causing the deaths of billions of people by decapitating him and sticking his head on top of the crystal, remarking that the sentence was "life - no remission."
    • In Judge Dredd Megazine #272, villain Dr. Vallenti was collecting the brains of psychics to create an immortal psionic form. One of the psychics ended up as the crotch of Dr. Vallenti's psionic form. Dr. Vallenti was defeated by the judges and all the psychics were able to escape the psionic body.
  • The Flash: Wally West returned from hiatus in an alternate dimension to find that the supervillain Inertia had murdered his cousin, Bart Allen, who had been serving as the Flash in Wally's absence. This, naturally, made Wally mad as hell: his response was to hunt Inertia down and use his powers to rob the villain of all his speed, rendering him an immobile (but fully conscious and completely aware) statue... which he then placed in the Flash Museum, to stare at a statue of the man he killed for all eternity (his situation has since been reversed).
  • A rather bizarre one happened between Spider-Man's villain Carnage and the Silver Surfer. After trying to possess the latter, the Carnage Symbiote is tossed back onto the original host and is then encased in an unbreakable shell of energy much like the Surfer's own shell of silver. It's stated he's stuck like that for all eternity, but he got better later.
  • The Silver Surfer encountered, at one point, a hideous mutation run rampant on Earth. It began to absorb all the living matter it could find (including people), growing larger and more repulsive at a constant rate until the Surfer flew it to a desolate moon where it could be properly destroyed. Unfortunately, at the last instant before he would have disintegrated the abomination, a coherent facet emerged and explained that at its core it was a thinking human being who had become the victim of an experiment gone awry. Though he begged him to end his suffering, the Surfer refused, since to kill a sentient being was anathema to his moral code. Thus, the Surfer regretfully left the creature to its interminable fate, isolated and alone. Bet the poor guy wishes he had just kept his mouth shut.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • In Dark Empire, Darth Sidious and Jedi Empatojayos Brand end up bound to each other for all eternity. But it was a Heroic Sacrifice on Brand's part.
    • Palpatine has his too-valuable-to-kill engineer Bevel Lemelisk (who designed the Death Star with that airshaft) killed in some Horrible way, then brings him back as a clone. This happened seven times, including flesh-eating beetles, being blown out an airlock, and being lowered inch by inch into a vat of molten copper ("It was what the smelter was making that day"), before the New Republic finally executes him for good.
      Lemelisk: Just make sure you do it right this time.
  • The final fate of Batman in Final Crisis as Darkseid's Omega Sanction didn't kill him; it left him stranded lost in time and cursed with multiple lives, each one worse than the previous one. Darkseid did the same thing to Mister Miracle in Seven Soldiers (which was, ultimately, a setup for FC). The same thing (though not caused by Darkseid) also happened to Donna Troy.
  • In Fables, where a character's Popularity Power determined how difficult they are to kill, Goldilocks gets one of these. She's attempting to murder two of the other characters when she gets an axe buried in the side of her head, takes a tumble down a cliff-face, gets hit full-on by a speeding semi-truck and then hurled into a river. And because her injuries were so severe she couldn't reach the surface or the shore, she describes it as "always drowning, never dying" after getting pulled out weeks later.
  • Batman:
    • In a Catwoman issue, the villain Black Mask decided to "improve himself" not by killing Catwoman, but by torturing and killing everyone close to her, leaving her alive to suffer through it. Catwoman, obviously not a fan of this trope, shot him in the head. During Blackest Night he became a Black Lantern and tried to finish the job; cue Poison Ivy getting hold of his undead, unkillable (but not uninjurable) butt. Solution? Giant pitcher plant.
    • The fate of some Arkham Asylum prisoners in Death of the Family: Joker stitches them together still alive, hangs them from the ceiling and tattoos their backs with pictures that represent his history with Batman.
    • The final fate of villain Doctor Hurt. He breaks his neck after slipping on a banana peel, gets dosed with Joker Venom, and thrown into a coffin and buried alive by The Joker. Since Doctor Hurt is apparently immortal...
    • Invoked by name by Batman in Batman, Inc #2, upon defeating the villain Lord Death Man, who has the ability to keep coming Back from the Dead. Batman throws him off a building and has Catwoman lock him inside a very cramped safe note  which is later launched into orbit. In The Stinger at the end of Morrison's run, we learn that Ra's Al Ghul has recovered Lord Death Man's body, and has begun using him as an undying source of "Lazarus Blood".
  • The Doctor Who Magazine story Hotel Historia, an otherwise light-hearted and frothy tale, is ended with the Tenth Doctor sealing the race of marauding aliens into a nebulous state where they can neither touch nor interact in any way with anything. Ever.
    Evil Alien: Have mercy!
    Doctor: This is mercy. Don't make me regret it.
  • Empowered:
    • Narrowly averted in book 3, where the squad of Ninja that decided to claim the bounty on returning one Kaburagi Kozue (AKA Ninjette) to her clan in New Jersey decide to facilitate her return and prevent future escapes by amputating her arms and legs. It is not as if she would need them to bear heirs for the Kaburagi Clan, right? Fortunately, she's rescued just in time.
    • Played straight in book 6, which introduces the concept that a sizeable minority of superheroes are left undead after being killed, as a result of Faustian Bargains they made to gain their powers; many of them end up getting buried alive while fully conscious. And a certain villain likes to kidnap the SuperDead and super-science them into zombie slaves, still fully conscious but incapable of controlling their bodies... and those are the lucky ones.
  • In Mutopia X, two of Kaufman's henchmen are walking inside a warehouse belonging to one of Kaufman's deposed drug lord rival Frankie Zapruder. One of the henchmen is talking about Zapruder. The other henchman says "What a terrible way to end your life." To which the other henchman replies "Who said anything about him being dead?", to which Zapruder is being suspended on top of the warehouse by chains, the poor victim later gets horrific revenge on Kaufman in a method that is left to the reader's imagination.
  • Zera, the formerly drop-dead angel from David Hine's Spawn, was so loved by God that she could never die. She is later reduced to a floating head in a jar and later devoured by vicious dogs.
  • In the alternate Marvel Universe Ruins, the Gamma Bomb that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk instead turned him into a huge mass of gigantic tumors with horrific maiming all over the body, and Rick Jones claims that he is still being kept alive in a CIA facility.
  • In a Ghost Rider annual written by Warren Ellis, the Scarecrow (not the Batman villain) creates a haunted house sewn together with live human beings. Upon defeating the Scarecrow, Ghost Rider breaks every bone in the Scarecrow's body. Ghost Rider then twists every bone in the Scarecrow's body so the bones will not heal properly, thus leaving the Scarecrow as a permanently paralyzed and disjointed mess. The Scarecrow later got better.
  • In The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, Thanos turns Nebula, his alleged granddaughter, into a floating corpse who is an intermediate between life and death, not being allowed the luxury of death.
  • The Jim Corrigan Spectre saved his original flame from death, but in the process made it that she could never die. Said ex attempted suicide on numerous occasions and was left a comatose, burned wreck. In the end, Corrigan finally let her go.
  • In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth it is said that Dr. Destiny's reality-warping abilities are so powerful that all he need do is look at you and you cease to be real.
  • The graphic novel A History of Violence (which the movie resembles In Name Only). Tom, the protagonist, was involved in a retaliatory strike against the local mafia when he was a teenager, along with his best friend. They killed a number of mooks, as well as the crime lord for that family, and stole a large amount of cash from them. Unfortunately, Tom's friend couldn't keep his mouth shut, and terrible off-screen things involving an axe happened to him. Tom, meanwhile, had to flee and disappear into obscurity. Twenty years later, Tom finds out that his friend is still alive.
  • Nemesis the Warlock does this twice. Firstly the completely evil Torquemada is briefly trapped in a time-loop where he is burnt at the stake again and again and again. He gets better. The saga concludes with Nemesis forcibly merging with his enemy to prevent a planet exploding. They become a sort of living ship that can do nothing but travel on an infinite loop around the planet. The very last panel shows the 'ship' alone in space with the caption A million years later...
  • Superman:
    • The Phantom Zone. Trapped for all eternity in a featureless white void, never aging, never dying, unable to touch and feel. In Action Comics v2 #13 we see the reaction of Xa-Du, the first prisoner in the Phantom Zone.
      Xa-Du: What's happening? Why can't I see?! I can't hear! Why can't I feel anything? Isn't anyone there? Won't someone talk to me? Please.
    • In the Supergirl (Rebirth) storyline "Escape from the Phantom Zone", Xa-Du has found a way to escape the Zone that involves boiling other inmates and turning their souls into fuel for their armor. And he wants do this to Supergirl and Batgirl.
      Mook: Thing is, ya can't die here. But ya can sure change shape. So when we boil ya down an' funnel ya inta Lord Xa-Du's ecto-armor, ya spend yer life as melted jelly. Imagine it. I'd go crazier.
    • In The Supergirl from Krypton, Superman takes Darkseid to the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, behind which is The Source. Various carvings on the Wall are described as being the imprisoned forms of gods, would-be conquerors, and others who wished to control the Source. Naturally, Darkseid's face becomes the newest addition to the collection, but later Darkseid's goons blackmail Superman into breaking him free.
    • Invoked by Sam Lane in Who is Superwoman?. After the titular villain -his daughter Lucy- apparently dies while fighting Supergirl, Sam Lane declares he intends to do to the Girl of Steel something worse than killing her.
      General Lane: We're not going to just kill her, Drew.
      Codename: Assassin: Sir?
      General Lane: She killed a Lane today. No, we're not going to just kill her. I've got something in m ind that's far, far worse.
  • Doxta the witch of Black Science uses this phrase as her go-to threat. Her specialty is using magic to excise the target's proudest attribute, like courage or intelligence, and then watching them be miserable for the rest of their lives.
    Doxta: Dying is easy. Living with loss is not.
  • Young Justice: Slobo sacrificed himself to save a teammate and ends up blind and trapped in the future as a living unable to die statue with everyone believing him dead and therefore not searching for him. The worst part was that he was already painfully dying when this happened, and ended up trapped in this state immobile for eternity.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol, the infected are trapped in a perpetual, undying state of agony, constantly starving and neglected.
  • The Detention Dimension in All-Ghouls School. All the girls are terrified of it, and Elle gets sentenced to it at the end of the story.
  • Transformers:
    • In The Transformers (IDW), Jhiaxus accidentally made himself immortal at one point. This did not work out in his favor, as Arcee, whom he'd tortured extensively a long time ago (originally as part of forcibly changing her gender to female, then after that was retconned into being something she'd asked him to do it was changed to him just torturing her afterword For the Evulz) captured him and spent several years killing him, then waiting for him to come back to life before killing him again. Everyone she told this to thought he got off lightly.
    • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers:
      • Fortress Maximus. Pure nightmarish body horror. His optics ripped out, limbless and comatose, plugged into Aequitas' chamber and turned into, as Perceptor described it, a living lock-pick. And Twin Twist, tortured to the point that it drove Topspin to suicide.
      • Overlord is treated to one as well. Let's see, first he's riddled with thousands of tiny deterrence chips that all explode simultaneously. This strips him of his external plating, leaving him a skeletal chassis that's on fire for several pages with no end in sight. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Impactor goes so far as to refuse to kill him, because actually paying for what he's done is exactly what Overlord deserves.
    • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron: Sunstreaker - In the coda, we find out his head is still somewhat active and his life flashing before his optics, over and over. Same case can be argued with Hunter and the torture he suffered at the hands of Bombshell.
  • Rick and Morty (Oni):
    • According to Rick, no one should have to live in a world where a Jerry can beat a Rick.
    • Averted in another instance: Death and child molestation are the only things worse than Gorpathian Anal Probing.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Played for laughs. In chapter "The King of the Klondike", Scrooge McDuck needs money quick, so he resorts to means the stingiest duck in history would never want to consider.
    Scrooge McDuck: "I need more cash, but I can't waste any more time earning it! I must resort to desperate and shameful means! I need to (*shudder*) get a loan!"
  • Astro City: One of the Blasphemy Boys gets controlled by something, and one of the others shoots him through the head. Immediately thereafter, his ghost rises up and says he hadn't been doing any of it. Before he can get further the thing grabs his soul. The last survivor of the team even wonders if the thing had actually killed him, or whether he was still alive.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Volume 1: Several of Wondy's villains consider getting locked into a Venus Girdle worse than dying, including Eviless who is furious that the things can subvert people's personalities so completely that they'll eventually love their captors. Given that her own profession of choice is slave driver some of her anger seems to stem from the hero treating her like a villain while she herself forces people into Happiness in Slavery.
    • New 52 Series: When Hera learned of Siracca she used the winds that the poor child was so tied to in order to dissolve Siracca's own body into the winds, and then using the winds Siracca was now consciously part of to form a sandstorm that killed her family by striping them of their flesh to the bone.
  • The Warlord of Mars volume Green Men of Mars has a radical cult of Tharks that refuse to make peace with Red Martians kidnap their women to serve as food. They imprison the women inside am dungeons where they have their limbs and organs removed slowly. Dejah very nearly suffers the same fate, and even though she escapes physically unscathed, she was severely traumatized and mentally scarred by these events.
  • In Dawn of X, Sabretooth is brought before the Quiet Council for his attacks against humans. Remorseless and defiant to the end, Xavier decided to use him as an example for those who break Krakoa's laws, dropping him into the center of the living island, trapped in permanent stasis yet completely conscious and aware.


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