9 Times DC Heroes “Died” But Were Obviously Coming Back

Damian Wayne

In the real world, death is the end, but for the heroes of DC, permanent death is more of a theoretical concept. It makes sense when you think about it; characters who have been around for decades can’t disappear for good or publishers would have a serious deficit where superheroes are concerned. For DC, that means you can bump off Batman or Superman, but they’re going to have to come back sooner or later or risk a full-on fan uprising.

And that’s pretty much how things go in the DC Universe. A character everyone loves sacrifices themselves for the greater good, their friends and readers get emotional, and life goes on. After a little while, they come back – maybe a little stronger, sometimes a little wiser, but they almost always come back.

Almost all of DC’s biggest heroes have met their maker at some point, but those ends weren’t exactly permanent. In a lot of cases, fans focused more on counting the days until they came back than mourning the losses.

1. Superman


How’d He Go?: DC let the world know it was going to eliminate the Man of Steel, and that’s exactly what they did in 1993. Doomsday had come to Earth, and nobody could stop him as he tore his way across North America looking for a Kryptonian to fight. Superman met his challenger, and the two engaged in the toughest fight of Superman’s life. They beat each other so badly that both the hero and destroyer expired with their last punch.

How Long Was He Gone?: The “Death of Superman” event was immediately followed by “Funeral for a Friend,” “Reign of the Supermen,” and “Return of Superman.” Superman came back after about one year in the DC Universe and about seven months in the real world. 

How’d He Come Back?: After Superman perished, his body was taken from his crypt by the Eradicator, an ancient Kryptonian device that was masquerading as one of the new Supermen in the DC Universe. It placed Kal-El inside the regeneration matrix, which eventually revived the hero. When he returned, Superman sported a black costume with silver bracers and a silver “S” symbol… and for some reason, he had a mullet.

2. Damian Wayne

Damian Wayne

How’d He Go?: In Batman Incorporated #8, Talia al Ghul sent The Heretic/The Fatherless, a fully-grown clone of Damian, to eliminate her and Batman’s son. The young Robin fought against his berserker clone — he put up a pretty good fight – but in the end, he was impaled on a sword. 

How Long Was He Gone?: Damian remained dead for about a full year, and it was a tough one for Batman/his father. The kid was truly gone, and while it seemed like there was no possible way to bring him back, Bruce wasn’t willing to accept that as an answer.

How’d He Come Back?: Bruce didn’t take his son’s passing lying down, and he did absolutely everything possible to resurrect him. He met up with Frankenstein’s Monster, he tried the Lazarus Pit as a possible option, and finally, he literally went to hell and back in Batman and Robin #38 to bring him back. He got his body from Darkseid, and successfully resurrected the boy a year after he passed.

3. Batman


How’d He Go?: Bruce Wayne/Batman met his end in Final Crisis, which featured Darkseid attempting to mind-control the Dark Knight. Batman escaped Darkseid’s control and successfully shot the Apkolopitan overlord with a super-bullet capable of slaying a New God. At the same time, Darkseid fired off his Omega Beams, killing the Caped Crusader. He was later seen being held in Superman’s arms, a lifeless and charred corpse.

How Long Was He Gone?: Bruce was gone for a good 23 months in the real world, and that’s a long time for DC to bench one of its most popular characters. Of course, others filled his shoes while he was out of the picture, notably Dick Grayson’s celebrated Black Mirror story arc, but the DC Universe just isn’t the same without Bruce Wayne.

How’d He Come Back?: So, here’s the thing: Batman never actually passed away. It was all an intricate plot of Darkseid’s and Batman’s return was detailed in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. Batman’s consciousness was lost in time, having been displaced in the timestream by Darkseid. He had amnesia and had to overcome his missing memories to make it back to the right time and place: present-day Gotham City. He had to fight his way through six time periods before he could make it to the present-day, but he did. When that happened, the Omega Energy still threatened to destroy the universe, which was Darkseid’s plan all along, so the Justice League stopped his heart (actually killing him) to let the energy dissipate. He had some visions, woke up, and put his costume back on to once more become the Dark Knight.

4. Martian Manhunter

Martian Manhunter

How’d He Go?: Martian Manhunter went toe-to-toe with a ton of powerful enemies over the years, but his end didn’t reflect that. In the opening of Final Crisis, the Apokoliptan operative Libra opted to prove his villainous chops to the Secret Society high council by ruthlessly taking out the Martian superhero. He showed no mercy with the Manhunter, setting him on fire in front of the Secret Society so they could watch him succumb to his greatest fear.

How Long Was He Gone?: Martian Manhunter spent a little under a year being truly dead before a brief reanimation in Blackest Night. By the time he was finally brought back to life in a more permanent way, he had spent about 13 months out of commission.

How’d He Come Back?: J’onn remained dead for a while and returned during Blackest Night as a zombified member of Black Lantern Corps. He fought as part of Nekron’s forces trying to finish off his former allies on Earth. When Blackest Night led to Brightest Day, J’onn J’onzz was resurrected by the Entity, along with several other long-passed heroes and villains. 

5. Resurrection Man

Resurrection Man

How’d He Go?: Mitch Shelley’s superpower’s unique nature makes it possible for him to die, but he cannot stay dead. Essentially, immortality is his superpower, and every time he returns to life, he does so with a new superpower. This often relates, in some way, to the manner in which he was slain. He’s perished so many times, and in so many ways, there’s really no demise that’s more significant than any other.

How Long Was He Gone?: His deaths don’t last long at all. An instant after he dies, he’s fully resurrected in a perfectly regenerated body.

How’d He Come Back?: Through his unique ability, as well as the “tektites” in his blood, Shelley comes back from any deadly situation. Shelley is still going strong in the 853rd century (he is immortal after all), and he acquires a device called the Resurrector that kills him in distinct ways so he can predict the superpower he will gain when he comes back.

6. Green Arrow (Connor Hawke)

Green Arrow (Connor Hawke)

How’d He Go?: Green Arrow/Oliver Queen was never the type of guy to avoid a fight. When he learned of Hyrax’s plot to bomb American cities, he found a way to make it onto a plane carrying one to Metropolis. Ollie was the only one remaining after a firefight on the plane and he was stuck with a bullet in his gut and the failsafe in his hand. Superman arrived and offered to cut off his friend’s arm to save his skin, but Ollie wouldn’t hear it. Arrow piloted the plane safely away from Metropolis and, with Superman at his side, Ollie removed his hand, detonating the device and sacrificing himself to save the day.

How Long Was He Gone?: Ollie expired in Green Arrow #101, leaving his son, Connor, to take over the role in his place. Ollie returned in Quiver, which was published seven years later.

How’d He Come Back?: Throughout most of his superhero career, Ollie worked side by side with Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. Jordan went a bit off the rails at one point, and he merged with the fear entity known as Parallax. He was able to overcome the entity using willpower, giving him the power to reignite the Sun, and just before he succumbed to the rigors of being a cosmic god on borrowed time, he resurrected his buddy as one final act of good.

7. Nightwing


How’d He Go?: After Dick Grayson left the identity of Robin behind, he became Nightwing, and over the long course of his crimefighting career, he’s died a couple of times in the main universe as well as notable Elseworlds. He died and came back as Deadman in the Injustice universe, but his big end came in the Forever Evil event when he was captured by the evil alternate universe heroes of Earth 3 and had his secret identity revealed. They then trapped him in a device that was set to explode as long as his heart kept beating. Lex Luthor stopped his heart to save the day, enraging Batman in the process.

How Long Was He Gone?: He was revived by the end of Forever Evil series, but he wasn’t back on the streets as Nightwing for two years.

How’d He Come Back?: Lex Luthor stopped Nightwing’s heart with adrenaline, so while Grayson technically died, Luthor was able to revive him soon after. Grayson took the opportunity to stay out of the spotlight with his secret identity revealed, so he let the world think he was still a goner while he infiltrated the evil organization Spyral.

8. Hal Jordan

Hal Jordan

How’d He Go?: After Hal Jordan’s home city of Coast City was wiped out by Mongul, the Green Lantern snapped. He sought to recreate what was lost with his Ring but was punished by the Guardians of the Universe for abusing his powers. He didn’t take that well, and headed for Oa, killing any Green Lantern who got in his way. By the time he arrived on Oa, he was completely mad and possessed a ring for each finger. He destroyed the Central Power Battery and tore through the Green Lantern Corps and all the Guardians, save for Ganthet. He called himself Parallax and caused a great deal of intergalactic chaos. Eventually, he returned, looking for redemption. In “The Final Night,” he got the chance, having sacrificed himself to reignite the Sun.

How Long Was He Gone?: Hal Jordan effectively died twice. The first was when he was corrupted by Parallax, erasing the Hal Jordan readers had come to know and love. That happened in 1994, and it wasn’t until 1996 that he sacrificed himself to save the Solar System. When he came back in 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth, the heroic Hal Jordan had been gone for a decade.

How’d He Come Back?: Hal Jordan’s road to Rebirth was long and circuitous. In the 1999 series Day of Judgement, he was chosen to become the new Spectre, and he remained the DC universe’s spirit of vengeance until Rebirth in 2004. The story explained that Parallax was the entity of fear, long imprisoned in the Central Power Battery. It managed to escape through influence upon Jordan’s power ring, and it bonded to his soul when he brought down the Battery. Ganthet managed to break the connection, sending Jordan’s soul into the afterlife, but before that could happen, Ganthet managed to bond the soul back to his corporeal body, which resulted in his resurrection.

9. Flash


How’d He Go?: Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, Barry Allen had retired from being the Flash, but he came back for the fight against the Anti-Monitor. During the battle, the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon was primed to destroy the universe, so Barry ran around it incredibly fast. He ran so fast, he broke the limits of how fast a Flash could possibly run, and it came at a price. Running around the cannon so quickly brought down its outer casing, which made it possible to destroy the device, but doing so caused him to age into oblivion. He literally aged as he ran, and ultimately faded into the Speed Force.

How Long Was He Gone?: Barry Allen is one of the DC Universe’s most significant ends. His end seemed permanent for a long time, and it had an impact on his friends and allies. He didn’t return to the DC Universe for 23 years, which is an insanely long time to keep a beloved character out of print. Granted, there were some appearances in Elseworlds/alternate reality stories, but canonically, the Flash was gone.

How’d He Come Back?: Flash’s return to the mortal world defies an easy explanation. Grant Morrison brought him back in DC Universe #0, which is narrated by someone who associates himself with “everything” as he recounts his past. He discussed the Justice League, with a focus on both Hal Jordan and Superman. As he tells the story, his text boxes begin to evolve from yellow on black backgrounds into one that features a lightning bolt. As his story continues, he begins to remember who he is, and as it comes to a close, a yellow lightning bolt strikes in front of the moon with the words, “and now I remember.” It turned out that Allen had been consumed by the Speed Force, which left his soul alive while his body was destroyed. Flash villain Eobard Thawne discovered this and found a way to get the ball rolling in the chaos of Infinite Crisis to pull his nemesis out of the Speed Force so he could have the privilege of ending the hero himself.