After being dead for twenty-three years, Barry Allen completes his journey back to life in next week's The Flash: Rebirth. With death in comics long ago reduced to a minor inconvenience, who'll be resurrected next?
Barry Allen, the Flash of the Silver Age of comic books and generally considered the most iconic version of the character, gave his life in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. His return in last year's Final Crisis was just the latest and biggest in a recent spate of resurrections from both DC and Marvel that have restored long dead characters like Captain America's sidekick Bucky Barnes and the second Robin, Jason Todd. (Really makes a mockery of the old saying, "Nobody stays dead in comics except Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben." Well, at least Uncle Ben is still dead. Unless you count that alternate reality version from a few years ago. Which I won't.)
First of all, I really should mention the four most notable dead comic book characters: Captain America, the Wasp, the Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman. (And no, I'm not forgetting Batman. If I understood anything that happened in Final Crisis – and that's a pretty big if – it's that Batman isn't really dead.) It's a fair bet that all four of these characters will be revived eventually, despite Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada's claims that death is now a more permanent thing on Earth-616. Oh, and there's always Jean Grey, but considering she's already on her fourteenth death, it's probably a reasonable conclusion that she'll be back soon enough. But none of these characters have been gone more than five years – what about some heroes and villains who have been gone long enough for us to miss, maybe even to forget? Let's consider only those who died in that most ancient time known only as…the twentieth century.
Since writer Geoff Johns has already promised all four Flashes will figure prominently in The Flash: Rebirth, perhaps he could find time to bring back Johnny Quick as well, who merged with the Speed Force way back in 1996. One of the three Golden Age speedsters (along with the original Flash and Max Mercury, who met a similar fate in 2002), Johnny got his powers from reciting the mathematical formula "3X2(9YZ)4A." Since his death, his daughter Jesse has kept up the family business as Liberty Belle, but if there's one thing we all could use more of, it's geriatric speedsters.
Speaking of which, there's a bunch of Justice Society old-timers who deserve a comeback. To be sure, some of them, such as original Starman Ted Knight and original Sandman Wesley Dodds, lived full lives that were brought to fitting conclusions, and are in no need of resurrections. Specifically, the heroes lost in 1994's ill-fated Zero Hour event – the original Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hourman – deserve a reprieve, if only because they surely deserve a more better end than Zero Hour. Hourman has actually already been saved following a switcheroo with an android duplicate from the 853rd century (long story), but that still leaves Al Pratt and Charles McNider. To be honest, there probably isn't much use for a second Dr. Mid-Nite, but the original Atom would fill a much-needed niche – namely, the short dude who works out a lot, doesn't take crap from anybody, and packs a little something called an "atomic-punch", which is like a regular punch except it's radioactive. Frankly, I'm not sure how the DC Universe has managed without him.
It's kind of strange to think that Betty Ross has been the romantic lead in not one but two failed Hulk movies, and yet she's been dead since 1998, when the Abomination poisoned her with gamma radiation. Of course, if either Ang Lee's Hulk or last year's The Incredible Hulk had been a smash hit, there's a pretty decent chance Betty would already be back among the living. The Hulk's story has always been defined by personal tragedy, so it makes sense the deaths of his loved ones tend to be more permanent than most, but isn't it about time something finally goes Bruce Banner's way?
I doubt anyone other than me is clamoring for the return of B'wana Beast, who died in a 1992 issue of Animal Man. Technically speaking, his companion, the gorilla Djuba, is also in need of resurrecting (the fact that his sidekick is a gorilla is a key reason why I think he needs bringing back to life). Although his identity as a white superhero representing Africa is admittedly troublesome – something Grant Morrison acknowledged when he used the character in Animal Man – that shouldn't necessarily take away from the awesomeness of his powers, which include the ability to combine two different animals into a chimera that he can then control. And I'll admit it – my love of B'wana Beast may have something to do with this episode of Justice League Unlimited.
When you're an X-Man, death isn't so much a risk as it is a rite of passage. At this point, it would probably be quicker to name the X-Men who haven't miraculously come back to life at one point or another. Which makes it all the more surprising that neither Cypher, who took a bullet for his beloved Wolfsbane in 1988, and Synch, who died saving children from a bomb in 2000, have yet to return from the great mutant beyond. To be fair, the cybernetic alien Warlock does retain all of Cypher's memories and has even shown traces of his personality on occasion, but I'm pretty sure the original Cypher would argue that's not quite the same thing as being, well, alive. And for a character whose power was copying the abilities of other mutants, you'd really think Synch would have been able to pick up from his fellow heroes what Magneto has called a "survive anything" power.
The first major death of an active superhero was probably the Kree warrior Mar-Vell, known for copyright-protecting reasons as Captain Marvel, who died of cancer way back in 1982. At one point, it looked as though he had been given a semi-reprieve, plucked from a point in the time stream before he became ill and brought forward to the modern day. Unfortunately, this Captain Marvel turned out to be a Skrull sleeper agent, but that does leave the path clear for a proper return by the real Mar-Vell at a later date. Of all the heroes who died in the eighties, he is by far the biggest name that hasn't yet returned.
Thought not nearly as famous, it sure would be nice to bring back Sylvester Pemberton, The Star-Spangled Kid (or Skyman, depending on which you prefer). Killed in 1988, Pemberton is notable if only because no one ever has anything bad to say about him. He's one of the most universally missed superheroes, and if both Jay Garrick and Alan Scott say he didn't deserve to die, that's more than enough for me to say he should return.
A rather more controversial case is Vigilante, specifically the Adrian Chase version of the character. Essentially DC's answer to the Punisher, this New York district attorney turned amoral crimefighter took his own life in 1988 when he could no longer handle the guilt he felt for his actions. Adrian Chase went so far over the edge that he occasionally made Rorschach look sane by comparison, going so far as killing innocent cops who just happened to be in his way. There aren't too many people in the DC Universe who miss Chase – the current claimant to the mantle recently dismissed him as a "fool" – but if there was ever a good man who was warped by a series of increasingly bad decisions and tragic twists of fate, then this is it. He's at least as deserving of a second chance as Jason Todd.
Although he briefly had to step in for Thor during one of Loki's mindbending pranks, Eric Masterson carved out his own identity as Thunderstrike before his death in 1995. Betrayed by his lover and slowly poisoned by the curse of the Bloodaxe, Masterson was forced to go on a murderous rampage before he ultimately sacrificed himself, leaving behind his young son Kevin. I'm having a hard time imagining a set of circumstances more tragically deserving of a return.
Many Green Lanterns have died in the line of duty, as is only to be expected in an intergalactic police force. Some of the most notable include Katma Tui, Tomar-Re, and Ch'p (who I'm including because he was a talking chipmunk with a power ring, which still might be the most awesome thing in the history of comics), who have since been more or less replaced by Soranik Natu, Tomar-Tu, and B'dg. We also shouldn't forget Abin Sur, whose death was what began the entire Green Lantern mythos in the first place (well, other than the Alan Scott part). Still, I wouldn't expect to see any of these dead Lanterns again anytime soon. It's not as though there are any huge upcoming events where the dead will rise and fight the living in an epic battle that will span galaxies. Wait a second…
But maybe you're the type who likes resurrections to be impossibly controversial. Well, try these last two on for size…
If one of the big reasons behind both Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth was to restore the most iconic versions of beloved superheroes to their proper place in the DC Universe, then it's high time we had The Sandman: Rebirth. It's been a good twelve years since the Dream of the Endless that we all know and love was killed, leading to his replacement by Daniel Hall. Sure, it would serve no clear dramatic purpose and almost certainly destroy everything Neil Gaiman was trying to do with his Sandman series, and, sure, the whole concept doesn't really make sense, considering Dream is meant to be endless, so it was only one aspect of Dream that was killed, but still…I bet the fight scenes would be pretty cool. And isn't that really the most important thing?
The last couple years of Spider-Man comics have been spent desperately trying to reset Peter Parker to his most iconic version, including erasing his marriage to Mary Jane and the public's knowledge of his secret identity as well as reverting his powers back to their traditional levels. After a lot of upheaval and one very notorious deal with the devil, Peter Parker is back where everyone remembers him being…so isn't it about time we resurrect his clone Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider? What better way to say Spider-Man is back and firing on all cylinders than to revisit the Clone Saga? Aren't there so many questions from that storyline that still desperately need answering?
OK, I'll admit it – even I have my limits when it comes to comic book resurrection. But how about it? What long dead characters would you most like to see return from the grave?