Greetings from the Odinson,
A couple of years ago, I revisited the classic index series The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe (see HERE). These are the bar by which all other comic book guides, directories, files, handbooks, and catalogues shall be measured. The Marvel Handbook had an interesting section that captured the Odinson’s young imagination back in the 80s – The Book of the Dead.
This was interesting because how could men and women that can leap tall buildings in a single bound and run faster than a locomotive ever be put down? As the years have passed, in the decades since the original release of the Book of the Dead, we have learned not only is it hard to put these extraordinary characters down, but keeping them down is next to impossible.
Marvel Handbook Book of the Dead (1987-1988): Where are They Now?
There are certain characters within fiction whose demise must always be taken with a grain of salt. If I had a nickel for every time the Joker “died” I’d have, well I’d have a lot of nickels is what I’d have. Here are a few characters that appear within the pages of the Book of the Dead (1987-1988), but as we will learn, the rumors of their demises were greatly exaggerated.
Baron Von Strucker is a major player in the machinations of Hydra going all the way back to World War II. Over the last 70 years, whether outsmarted by SHIELD, overpowered by Magneto and Professor X, betrayed by his wife and Gorgon, or at the hands of his longtime nemesis Nick Fury, Strucker has seemingly met his end a dozen times over and whether through clones, Life Model Decoys, magic, or comics logic, he just keeps coming back for more.
Dracula has been staked, shot, burned, crushed, and wiped from existence by the magical MacGuffin known as the Montesi Formula. But he is the King of Vampires, and if the Hammer Films have taught us anything it’s that you can’t keep a good vampire down. He is still undead and well in the Marvel Universe to this very day.
Nighthawk and Hyperion (in this instance, the evil Hyperion), analogues of DC’s World’s Finest both came to violent endings during Mark Gruenwald’s classic Super-Hero Armageddon. But the multiverse is a funny place and both have since returned and even died several more times, only to return once again. Kind of like their DC counterparts in the Crime Syndicate of Amerika.
Red Skull has arguably had the most onscreen deaths of any character in Comics History. The Book of the Dead cites Captain America #300, when he dies in the arms of his most hated enemy, as the moment of his death. But the Skull has “died” many times before that including during the classic He Who Holds the Cube caper. In the years since the Book of the Dead reported the villain’s demise, he has met his supposed end at least half a dozen times including in Operation: Rebirth, Red Glare, and Winter Soldier, and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.
The next list of characters all appeared in the obituary that is Marvels’ Book of the Dead (1987-1988), but as we will see, death was not an ending for them, only a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Bucky was Steve Roger’s partner during the harrowing days of World War II, but he perished on Captain America’s last mission, or did he? Winter Soldiers unveils the truth behind the return of Bucky Barnes.
Agatha Harkness has played an intricate role in Marvel History, being the nanny to Franklin Richards and a mentor to the Scarlet Witch. She was burned at the stake but later returned in the pages of West Coast Avengers with no explanation. Huh, magic? She is currently a player in the pages of Captain America as part of the Daughters of Liberty.
Guardian, a.k.a. James Hudson, was a friend of Wolverine, leader of Alpha Flight, and Canada’s premiere super hero. He perished in Alpha Flight #12 when his exo-suit exploded. His death was later explained away with a retcon. However, he, alongside many of his teammates, unceremoniously died again when he faced the Collective. But then, the Chaos War happened and Hudson, along with many deceased heroes and villains, returned to the land of the living. Comics, am I right?
Thanos was an enormous threat when he sought the unparalleled power of the Cosmic Cube. Only through the Herculean efforts of the Avengers, Spider-Man, Thing, and Captain Marvel were the Mad Titan’s plans foiled, but not without sacrifice. Warlock, Gamora, and Pip the Troll all met their ends during this harrowing campaign. The Mad Titan was vanquished and ultimately destroyed by the ghost of Adam Warlock. Drax the Destroyer, who was created for the sole purpose of the Mad Titan’s destruction, would actually survive this ordeal only to meet his end at the hands of his own daughter, Moondragon.
Years later Thanos would return to the land of the living to balance the scales of the universe in the name of Death! The return of the Mad Titan from the realm of the dead had a domino effect on the cosmic landscape of the Marvel Universe. Many fallen champions, including the aforementioned Warlock, Gamora, Pip the Troll, and Drax the Destroyer, returned to meet his threat head on. This benchmark moment in Marvel History plays out in the Infinity Gauntlet campaign.
These next names that appeared in Marvel’s Book of the Dead (1987-1988) have since returned and perished again only to return, again!
Terrax – He betrayed Galactus in Fantastic Four #242 and was stripped of the Power Cosmic for his folly. He would however return in Fantastic Four #259-260 where he met his end while battling Marvel’s First Family and Doctor Doom. A few years later, he would return in the pages of New Warriors: Beginnings.
General Thunderbolt Ross – After years of hunting the Hulk, in Incredible Hulk #330, Ross finally realizes he has been wrong all along and sacrifices his life to save his daughter and the man she loves. He was later resurrected, by the Leader (I think) and eventually would revert to his Hulk-hating ways and even go on to become the Red Hulk.
Just so we don’t get to thinking the afterlife in comics has a revolving door at the entrance, here are some names that appear in the Book of the Dead (1987-1988) that have remained in the great beyond (even if their returns have been teased from time to time.
I love the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and celebrate it to this very day. It has a wealth of fantastic information and Marvel History just waiting to be studied and explored. It’s an interesting exercise to look back now in 2021 at the names that appeared in the Book of the Dead section in 1987-1988 and see who has returned to the land of the living, and who has not.
There once was an old adage when it came to death and resurrection in comics: Bucky and Jason Todd would never come back. Well, that has been debunked. And, in a world where Jor-El is running around in the DCU, can Uncle Ben be far behind.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE. Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE.