Being a hero sometimes means making the ultimate sacrifice. In the case of superheroes in the DC Comics Universe, many classic heroes have met their demise in an effort to save the lives of others. They sacrificed themselves to save friends, family, and sometimes existence itself.
In the world of DC comic book superheroes, however, death is almost never the end. The comics are known for their frequent reboots, continuity changes, and timeline resets. With these ongoing efforts to keep the DCU fresh and accessible, many of its heroes’ nobler sacrifices have been undone or even left unrecognized.
8/8 Blue Beetle’s death revealed a horrible secret
Most DC superhero deaths are the result of intentional sacrifice. In the case of Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, his murder brought to light a terrible secret. From the perspective of DC infinite crisis, Kord discovered Maxwell Lord’s plans for the OMEC project. Lord murdered Kord to keep his plans a secret, but his death let the Justice League know what they were up against.
Kord was usually a B-List Justice League hero, but his death had an impact. When the DCU was rebooted with the New 52, the death of Ted Kord, as well as the events of Infinite Crisis, have been erased from the timeline. For all intents and purposes, that never happened.
7/8 Tim Drake was blown up by drones
Tim Drake was the third Robin, having taken over after the death of Jason Todd. He became Red Robin when Damian Wayne inherited the Robin title. When Gotham City was threatened by armed drones that targeted the city’s civilians, Tim bravely reprogrammed the drones to come at him instead, resulting in his annihilation. Tim’s life was lost, but Gotham was saved.
In the end, it was revealed that Tim was never killed but was instead transported to a Kryptonian prison by Mr. Oz, who revealed himself to be Jor-El. The DC Universe is a better place for Tim Drake to be in, but the comics could have done more to honor his sacrifice.
6/8 Alan Scott’s heroic death never happened
Alan Scott was the Green Lantern of the Golden Age. He and the rest of the JSA became part of regular DC continuity after the DC crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths and have remained vital parts of the superhero community. However, Scott met his end when he drained the source of his power, the Starheart, and perished defending his teammates from D’Arken.
When D.C. Rebirth resetting the timeline again, Doctor Manhattan interfered with Scott’s origin, causing the JSA to never form. When Manhattan called off his interference (he just wanted to see what would happen), Scott and the JSA returned but without mentioning his heroic sacrifice.
5/8 Connor Kent was resurrected in the future
Connor Kent, aka Superboy, heroically died in Infinite Crisis while defending Earth and his Teen Titans teammates from a rampaging Superboy-Prime. A clone made from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor, Connor was just beginning to become a hero when he met his untimely end.
Soon after, Superboy was cloned in the 30th century by the Legion of Super-Heroes (again using Luthor and Superman’s DNA). Connor returned to his native timeline and simply resumed his life, moving in with recently widowed Martha Kent as if nothing had happened.
4/8 Green Arrow does not recognize his own sacrifice
Green Arrow gave his life to stop an eco-terrorist’s bomb from reaching Metropolis and killing countless civilians. It looked for a while that DC would actually make Green Arrow’s death stick. Years later, however, Hal Jordan, acting in his role as Spectre, resurrected Oliver out of guilt.
However, Oliver was at peace in the afterlife and was in no rush to return to the mortal world. As a result, Jordan brought Oliver back with no memory of his own death. While the rest of the world recognized and remembered Oliver’s sacrifice, its significance is undermined when he himself has no awareness of it.
3/8 Hal Jordan never needed redemption
In the early 90s, Hal Jordan – arguably the greatest Green Lantern – saw his despair over the destruction of Coast City turn to rage. He drained the Green Lanterns’ Core Battery and claimed its power for himself, becoming Parallax. As part of DC Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, Parallax almost destroyed the DCU. Towards the end, however, Jordan came to his senses and sacrificed himself by flying into the sun.
As part of Green Lantern: Rebirth, it was revealed that Jordan was possessed by Parallax, itself a fear-based entity. Since Jordan was never responsible for his actions as a Parallax, his redemption through self-sacrifice was rendered almost completely moot.
2/8 Superman was never really dead
The Death of Superman was a landmark DC Comics event of the ’90s. The Man of Steel trading deadly blows with the rampaging Doomsday resulted in the death of Superman and sent the DCU into mourning. Months later, several new beings emerged, all claiming to be a resurrected Superman.
In reality, Superman never needed to be resurrected. It was revealed that Superman never actually died. Upon realizing that Superman was nearing death, a Kryptonian artificial intelligence essentially put him into a deep sleep and began to repair his body. Superman’s return was definitely cause for celebration, but its importance was tempered by the fact that he never really left.
1/8 Barry Allen became just another superhero
In the years following his heroic sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen – the Flash – was the patron saint of the DC Universe. His successor Wally West spent decades trying to honor Barry’s memory.
When Barry returned to the DCU in Final Crisis, it was revealed that he was never dead but rather trapped within the Speed Force. What follows Flash: Rebirth the story gave him some backstory to the Reverse-Flash having murdered his mother. The Flash went from being the ultimate example of heroic selflessness to just another superhero with a tragic backstory.
NEXT: 20 DC Characters Who Can Defeat Superman Without Kryptonite