It’s not all sunshine and gumdrops being a comic character. Sometimes – actually, quite often – characters meet a gruesome, brutal fate. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate, because we are horrible, morbid, immoral people who delight in the suffering and agony of fictional characters. Comics have a history of violent deaths, but sometimes they are forgotten, left lying in the gutters. We’ve compiled a list of what we believe are the most brutal deaths in comics. It goes without saying, this is NSFW.
Before we begin, I’d like to point out that this list contains SPOILERS. Also, while I was able to narrow this list down to the top ten, there are some honorable mentions that deserve a spot as well that you can see below. They didn’t make the brutality cut, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Without further ado here they are:
10. Mice (We3)
Believe it or not, there’s a part of me that feels this should actually be higher on this list. Yeah, these are just two random lab mice, but the concept behind this is staggeringly disturbing. A mouse is technologically altered by having a drill fit to its head and has its movements controlled by military scientists. As a demonstration, one of the scientists takes the mouse and forces it to drill one of its coworkers to death. It’s a single scene that is terrifying in its depiction of the banality of evil and the grotesque results from weaponizing living creatures.
9. Rorschach Burns a Man Alive (Watchmen)
This should be a familiar scene for most comic fans. It’s the moment Rorschach leaves Walter Kovacs behind and fully embraces his alter-ego and his mission to purge the world of evil. Driven past the point of sanity by the horrible realization that a kidnapper has dismembered an innocent girl and fed her remains to his German Shepherds, he captures the man and presents him with a choice – to cut off his own hand or burn to death. Well, it’s not really much of a choice, because Rorschach pretty much dumps gasoline around him and drops a match in the instant after the man realizes just what his predicament is. He then delivers a speech enunciating his nihilistic view on humanity and the world, which is arguably as brutal as the death that spawned it.
8. Joker Beats Jason Todd to Near Death, Then Blows Him Up (Batman)
Jason Todd was the unpopular second Robin who – in no small part due to his unpopularity – was beaten to a pulp by the Joker with a crowbar. He’s then left in a warehouse which explodes before Batman can reach him, killing him. To add insult to injury, all of this is done in front of his mother, who dies in the explosion as well. The death was so disturbing that even Frank Miller, a man whose entire body of work is nothing if not a testament to inflicting physical pain on the human body, claimed that Todd’s death “was probably the ugliest thing I’ve seen in comics, and the most cynical.”
7. The Punisher Feeds a Man to Piranhas, Another to a Python and a Third to Polar Bears
In Garth Ennis’ less-serious Punisher run, the Punisher is forced to evade a number of mobsters after suffering a gunshot wound. He does so by running into a zoo and eliminating his pursuers one by one. The first is dipped into a piranha tank until only a skeleton remains. The next is constricted by a large snake. And finally, with only one enforcer and the mob boss herself left, Frank Castle jumps into a bear pit and punches a polar bear in the face. The bears are understandably perturbed, and take out their aggression on the Punisher’s foes. Ma Gnucci, the mob boss, actually survives – sans legs, arms and scalp – and is later punted into a house fire.
6. World War II Meets The Boys (The Boys)
Oh look, another Garth Ennis entry! Honestly, you could probably fill up this entire list with various Ennis contributions. Hell, you could probably do it just from using The Boys. There are a lot of horrible, horrible deaths to choose from in this series – the President is mauled to death by a wolverine, a Russian crime boss is blown up with an exploding vibrator, etc. – but I opted to pick a death from the brief World War II storyline. In this, superheroes – most explicitly analogues of Captain America and the Falcon – are present for the Battle of the Bulge. Things don’t go well, and the Falcon analogue decides he needs to take to the skies. Which he does for about two seconds, before he’s hit by a passing plane, getting churned in the rotor. What remains of him is run over by a German tank.
5. Marv Cuts off Kevin’s Arms and Legs, Feeds him to his Wolf (Sin City)
You didn’t think the aforementioned Frank Miller would be left off this list, did you? Like many other entrees in this list, there is plenty to choose from when it comes to gruesome deaths in Miller’s comics. But if I had to pick one, it has to be Marv dismembering the serial killer Kevin after he discovers Kevin has murdered a prostitute he became of and is responsible for kidnapping and slowly cannibalizing women throughout the city. After a quick, bloody fight, Marv applies tourniquets to Kevin’s arms and legs, cuts them off, and then slowly feeds Kevin to the latter’s pet wolf.
4. Midnighter Sodomizes (Not) Captain America to Death With a Jackhammer (Authority)
Despite his near-miss due to DC’s editorial board, Midnighter manages to make the cut anyway. Earlier in Mark Millar’s “Authority” run, the Authority run up against a government-backed pastiche of the Avengers. Their leader, the Commander, also happens to be a serial rapist, and implicitly rapes Midnighter’s lover Apollo. Of course, Apollo recovers and proceeds to decimate many of the government-backed superheroes, but leaves the Commander wounded and alive. And then Midnighter shows up with a jackhammer. So remember, if you’re ever writing for DC, brutal violence and overt political commentary is crossing the line, but jackhammer-rape? That’s cool.
3. Punisher Tortures, Disembowels, and Burns the Leaders of a Sex Slave Ring (Punisher MAX)
In comics, violence against women – or sexual violence of any kind, really, as the previous example illustrates – has become the go-to justification for brutal retribution in comics. On this arc of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX, Frank Castle got about as much justification as he could ever require. Confronted with a sex slave operation from Eastern Europe, the Punisher slowly makes his way to the leaders, who he proceeds to disembowel, toss against a reinforced window until it eventually gives out, and burn alive.
2. Hyde Rapes Griffin, Mauls Him to Death (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
Griffin, the Invisible Man, has betrayed the League to the invading Martian tripod army. Worse yet, he beat Wilhemina Murray in a manner that, if not explicitly sexual assault, subjected her to sexual degradation. Well, you know what that means – he’s going to pay for it. Alan Moore, however, turns the archetypical violent chivalrous crusade on its head, as Hyde hunts down Griffin and… rapes him. Possibly to death. Regardless how Griffin exactly meets his end, it’s enough to convince Nemo – Hyde’s ally and a battle-hardened killer himself – to call for Hyde’s head. So what could be brutal enough to top that?
1. The Jack The Ripper Murders (From Hell)
Most of the deaths mentioned so far are exacted in retribution for some previous offense, often with sexual overtones. And while we revel in these revenge fantasies and indulge in whatever gruesome fate awaits the people who so badly deserve it, it’s often the crimes that inspire the retribution that are, in many ways, more brutal. It’s just we have trouble putting them in lists like this, because to do so is to tacitly celebrate that behavior. But ultimately, brutality isn’t something that should be celebrated, because in reality it’s a terrible thing to behold. Which is why Alan Moore takes the top spot in this – the horrific, brutal murders depicted in “From Hell” are rooted in reality. They are merciless, depraved, barbaric acts of violence with sexual overtones that encapsulate most of the themes illustrated in this list without the silver lining that at least most of them were done with some twisted idea of morality at their core, or are the product of fiction. Moore’s and Eddie Campbell’s truthful, violent portrayal of the Jack The Ripper murders, and the misogynistic, nihilistic virtues they embody makes them the most brutal deaths in comics.
Midnighter Goes On a Murder Spree (Authority)
The Authority was one of the most revolutionary comics at the turn of the century, ultra-violent and political. Unfortunately, these qualities invariably led to constant censorship issues during Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s run on the series. In this instance, everyone on the Authority has been defeated by a replacement Authority, except Midnight who has escaped. Being the violent bastard that he is, he returns and proceeds to slaughter all of the replacements. On one page, he kills two of the replacements by… um… well, that’s the thing. The DC editors thought the deaths were so brutal, they edited the page and obscured just how Midnighter did his dirty work. That’s how badass it was. If it wasn’t for the censorship, perhaps this might have cracked the top 10.
Joker Skins a Nightclub Owner (Joker)
Nothing really to add here, other than I have no idea how Joker managed to skin a dude. But he did, because he’s the Joker.
Hulk Tears Wolverine in Half (Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk)
Pretty self-explanatory. Doesn’t make the cut because Wolverine didn’t technically die.
The Blob Eats the (Already Drowned) Wasp
Doesn’t make this list because A) Wasp is technically already dead and B) this comic sucked. Not that that’s supposed to factor in or anything, but it totally does. Also, The Blob is then eaten by Ant-Man. Yep. This happened.
Written by – GeorgeShunick