Who Was the Super Villain to Come Back From the Dead?

In “When We First Met,” we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a request from reader Brian U., we look at the first comic book super villain to make a return after dying.

Do note that we’re specifically talking about comic books here. I’m sure that there are both pulp fiction heroes and comic strip characters who have had their villains return to the living after passing away, but we are just talking about comic books here.

The answer really turns on what you term as dying.

For instance, the first possible choice is the Ultra-Humanite in Action Comics #13 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), which sees Superman investigate a Cab Protection League and finds that the whole ring is being controlled by a guy in a wheelchair with super-intelligence known as the Ultra-Humanite…

After Superman escapes from his death trap (due to the sturdiness of his Super-noggin), he chases after the Ultra-Humanite and it appears as though the Ultra-Humanite might have died in a plane crash…

However, here’s the trick – they make this big deal about how there is no body. Doesn’t that seem to suggest that he is NOT dead? He is Superman, after all, he has X-ray vision and the works, so you would like to believe that he could find a guy if his body was there. Since he couldn’t find it, it sure suggests that the Ultra-Humanite survived the plane crash, no?

And sure enough, in the following issue, by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy, the Ultra-Humanite brags about how he escaped death….

Eh, I dunno, I am going to slightly say no to this one.

A month after Ultra-Humanite “died,” Batman locked wits with HIS first supervillain, Doctor Death, in Detective Comics #29 (by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane). The issue opens with Doctor Death directly calling Batman out…

That turns out to be a bad idea, as Batman tracks him down and it sure seems like the good doctor dies…

Here’s the thing, though, even here, they make it pretty darn clear that he IS returning in the next issue, right? What’s the ruling there? There is not the obvious “oh, he’s clearly not really dead,” from Action Comics #13, but at the same time, there is an ad for the next issue that basically tells you he isn’t dead.

And sure enough, as soon as the next issue opens, we see that he isn’t dead…

Batman tracks him down once more and he gets to snap a dude’s neck…

And there is the still-alive Doctor Death!

Okay, folks, should Doctor Death count? I think it PROBABLY should, as I think the determiner should be “Does someone say, ‘Oh, that person is definitely dead'” or something to that extent. And that happened here.

But in case you want a clearer death, keep reading!

When DC Comics Killed Off…the Three Stooges?

Related Posts