Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
Bastards Never Die
You can’t keep a good bad guy down.
Heroes die and, at Marvel, they usually don’t come back. But those bastard bad guys? Yeah, they have a tendency to not only come back, but they come back stronger and nastier than ever. Do you know who ALWAYS comes back?
The Red Skull—always, always, ALWAYS.
If you read that the Red Skull is dead, check your watch. In about twenty minutes, the writers will have found a plausible way to bring him back. With the Skull, the thing is that he has to either be dead or in a place that he just can’t leave for a while. If he’s not dead, he’ll be in the spotlight or maybe in the background plotting the next scheme against Captain America and this country.
But this article is not about the Red Skull—it’s about bad guys that are so dead they can’t possibly come back. These guys are dead, buried, decomposing, and a worm’s Thanksgiving feast. They are so dead that zombies look at them and say, “Urrrrr, moaaan, rrrrrrr, moan.”*
*Zombie translation: “That guy’s really freaking dead.”
So if heroes tend to stay dead, how do we know that a villain is not only dead… but he stays dead?
Well, there are a few ways. Suicide is usually the best way to keep a villain dead. That’s with the exception of a villain jumping off into a cloudy precipice, cackling madly and screaming, “I WILL BE NO MAN’S PRISONER! I’D RATHER BE DEAD!!!” Then the villain jumps, and he’s consumed by the clouds. I’ll usually bet the ranch that one of his henchmen is there with a hovercraft and a net and saving his master from certain doom.
The other way is a good old bullet to the head (self-administered or otherwise). Unless, it’s a robot or a clone, you can be sure a bullet to the head will take out a bad guy almost every time.
Then there’s the disintegration by an unknown beam of light leaving nothing but ash. Disintegration is clean, and there’s no burial. All you need is a dustpan and broom. Still, readers may need to be careful as the beam could be a transport beam, and the ashes were what were left of the villain's clothes.
Given those caveats and even by checking my handy copies of the TOHOTMU (The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe) Books of the Dead, I have found a few exceptions to what was once completely dead.
Based on the death and the longevity they’ve spent in the afterlife, I’m pretty sure these guys are not coming back.
The Green Goblin (Bart Hamilton)
WHO THE HELL IS BART HAMILTON?!!!
Okay, while we know that the first Green Goblin was Norman Osborn, there were actually a few people who have worn the Green Goblin costume as well. The first guy to pick up the mantle of the Goblin was Norman Osborne’s LSD and revenge crazed son, Harry.
Harry just wasn’t well.
As luck would have it, though, Harry was Peter Parker’s roommate at the time and found Peter’s Spider-man costume in his drawer. This unhinged the already psychologically unstable Harry, and he went to one of his father’s secret Goblin lairs (hidden all over New York City) and suited up. Peter knew almost instantly that Harry was in the costume and defeated him almost immediately. Still, Harry knew (as well as Norman did) who Spider-man’s alter ego was. This presented a problem as Harry could strike at Peter’s loved ones at any time (and did).
Harry was later brought to justice and was declared psychologically unstable and was sent to a criminal psychiatrist to help him out.
That psychiatrist was Dr. Bart Hamilton.
Hamilton was able to hypnotize Harry. Unfortunately for Spider-man, Hamilton got all of Harry’s goblin information while he was under. Going to one of the Goblin lairs, he took an extra costume and went to the Maggia (Marvel’s version of the Mafia), offering to sell Spider-man’s identity to the highest bidder.
The thing to remember about being a Green Goblin or a Hobgoblin is that you really need the formula to make you crazy enough to stand on that damn bat glider and fly hundreds of feet into the air. That formula apparently not only gives the recipient super strength and mind-blowing insanity but that extra bit of coordination to do battle with the web slinger.
He also left Harry, who was more than capable of getting to another Goblin bolt hole to get another collection of weapons with a costume. The two fought, and Hamilton is killed by a bomb he meant for Spider-man. At the same time, the explosion gave Harry amnesia—curing him for a while.
The Black Knight II
This Black Knight has kept all of his arms and legs.
Nathan Garret is a direct descendant to the original Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia. Discovering this, he used his natural knowledge and skill as an engineer to create knight-like weapons in order to commit crimes.
After all, isn’t that what you’d do if you found out you were descended from an Arthurian legend?
In actuality, Garret was already a bastard. The reason why he decided to go all the way with the Black Knight motif was that he found he was unworthy of wielding the original Black Knight’s ebony blade, made by Merlin. But this did not stop him from reclaiming the mantle and perpetuating a horrific crime against nature by making a genetically modified horse with wings (Aragorn).
I get upset when birds poo on my car… but this?
He joins with Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil in a plot to spray Adhesive X all over the city of New York. After being defeated by the Avengers, Garrett leaves the MOE and fights Iron Man. While trying to kidnap Happy Hogan, he falls off his flying horse and is mortally wounded.
Wishing to make amends, he contacts his nephew, Dane Whitman—the current Black Knight, to take the mantle for good.
The Original Baron Zemo
Oh those Nazis! They just don’t know when they’re beaten and when the war is over.
I spoke about how bad the Red Skull was—then we have Baron Heinrich Zemo. Baron Zemo was a scientist for the Third Reich and had come up with a few pivotal inventions for the Nazis. The first invention was an unbreakable bonding agent called Adhesive X. Once it was applied, there was no substance on earth that could dissolve it. Another was a laser death ray that was in the form of a gun. He also created primitive, super-strong androids that were able to do sophisticated tasks and were nigh-invulnerable.
Outside his job working for the Nazis, Zemo was a loving father and husband. His son, the current Baron Zemo, Helmut, was a small boy during the war. However, outside of his family, Zemo had a reputation for being a sadistic bastard, testing many of his weapons on innocent people.
Zemo was on a mission for the Third Reich and regularly wore a mask to protect the identity of his family and keep his name from enemy propaganda when he encountered Captain America for the first time. He battled him, and during the battle Captain America’s shield hit Zemo’s personal supply of Adhesive X, spraying it all over his mask—bonding it to his face. Fortunately, for Zemo, the mask was porous enough for him to see, hear, speak, and breathe through. However, he was never able to eat solid food or remove the mask ever again.
This drove him insane, and he began to take out his anger on his family.
Zemo fought Captain America and Bucky. Gaining the upper hand, Zemo was able to tie the two to a drone plane filled with explosives. Captain America got loose from the plane and fell into the Arctic Ocean, freezing himself into hibernation until the present day. Bucky was believed killed in the explosion.
Zemo believed both Captain America and Buck dead. As he saw that the end of the war was approaching, he escaped Europe and fled to South America.
He had spent decades in South America until he’d heard of Captain America’s return to action.
Eventually, Zemo fought Captain America, and while battling him, Zemo was blinded, firing his death ray at a hanging pile of rocks. This caused an avalanche with ultimately crushed and buried him.
Years later, a deluded Helmut Zemo—his son, would take the identity of “The Phoenix” (no relation to Jean Grey) to take revenge for his father’s death. He, too, would fight Captain America and have his face permanently deformed by an incident with a boiling vat of Adhesive X.
This bad guy had the privilege of being the Hulk’s first enemy. His first and last issue is Hulk #1.
What the world needed at the time was a really deformed Soviet genius mastermind: The Gargoyle. The Gargoyle was just really angry because radiation had transformed him into a horrific crime against nature with a gigantic head and deformed features. So the Soviets took advantage of this and made him an evil atomic scientist.
After the transformation, the Gargoyle had mated with a woman who bore him a son—who carried his genetic information. The thing that I have always wondered was how did this happen. Granted, it was not a 100% certainty that the Gargoyle would be sterile, but how did he ever manage to seduce a woman? My guess is that the Russians decided that as he was now a deformed mad genius working for them, there should at least be one perk.
Soon after the gamma bomb explosion that created the Incredible Hulk, the Gargoyle had the Hulk and Rick Jones kidnapped and brought to him. While in captive custody, the Hulk reverted back to being Banner. The Gargoyle saw this and implored Banner to help him.
Banner saw that he could help the Gargoyle, but only at the cost of the Gargoyle’s genius intellect. The Gargoyle decided that he would rather be human again. The Gargoyle is cured and traps his former superiors with him as he self-destructs a bomb killing himself and all inside.
The Gargoyle’s son is the genius mutant, The Gremlin—who fights for the Soviet Super Soldiers.
The Grim Reaper
Captain Hook had a hook. Ulysses Klaw has a portable solid sound generator. The Grim Reaper had a cybernetic scythe attached to his arm.
That was his schtick.
The Grim Reaper was Eric Williams, the older brother of Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man. While the two were growing up, Eric was a sadistic and bad child while Simon got all of the attention from his doting mother. The two grew up very differently. While Simon studied and went on to take over the family business, Eric became a gambler and a criminal for the Maggia.
Eventually, due to competition from Stark Industries, the family business under Simon began to fail and he turned to his brother, Eric for his mob ties. Simon was caught as an embezzler and went to jail. He was broken out by Baron Zemo who experimented on Simon, turning him into Wonder Man.
Zemo forced Simon to work for him by telling him that his powers would kill him unless he was given an antidote to fight the powers that were poisoning him. Simon infiltrated the Avengers and, being basically good, could not carry out his mission for Zemo.
Simon died (actually went into a death-like coma). Eric was plagued with guilt and saw the Tinkerer to give him a scythe-like weapon to fight with.
Calling himself The Grim Reaper, he begins a new career as a costumed villain. He dies and returns to life using his scythe as a weapon to absorb human life forces. He had also gained some magically based powers, which included teleportation, illusion casting, and clairvoyance. In one battle with “The Dead Avengers” when the Vision self-destructs, he is killed in the explosion.
How They Died
|Villain||How he died|
Green Goblin (Hamilton)
His own bomb blew him up
Black Knight (Garrett)
Fell from his flying horse
Baron Zemo I
Buried under a rock slide after firing his death ray
Triggered a self destruct device (died as a man)
The Grim Reaper
Died when the Vision exploded
Seriously, I didn’t think this article would be this difficult to write.
However, every time I thought of a dead villain and I started to write about him, I found he’d come back from the dead. These were really dead villains, too – like Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Thanos, and Baron Blood.
All of these guys were DEAD!! Hell, Kraven and Mysterio had SHOT THEMSELVES IN THE HEAD. You usually don’t walk away from something like that.
I was mid-way through writing these bios when I checked again and found that their history was expanded. And then I found that they had come back. It was killing me.
Villains are not heroes. They need to come back. When they do, it’s always cause for some amount of drama. The big questions we all have when they do is, “how did they do it?” And in that story is some creative thinking and some really good story writing.
Some of the characters I found were never dead to begin with—that kind of thing is fair play. Baron Blood tricked another vampire into fighting the Invaders in time to get the imposter killed. But what do you expect; he is an evil Nazi vampire.
Heroes die. Villains have coffins with a revolving door. So contrary to the title of this article, I can’t make any promises with most of these guys. However, four out of five of these guys I’m pretty sure are gone for good.
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on October 29, 2017:
The Red Skull has been dead so many times his coffin should have a revolving door. This Skull is Red Skull 3.0. The best Arnim Zola could cook up and upload.
Nathan Kiehn on October 17, 2017:
Knowing Dan Slott's proclivity for majoring messing with Spider-Man continuity, I would not be surprised in the slightest if he managed to bring back Bart Hamilton. He already brought back Ben Reilly and helped return Harry Osborn from the grave a number of years ago.
It's fantastic that you wrote this so shortly before Cap killed the Red Skull during his "Hydra agent" phase a few months ago. I will not be surprised if and when he gets resurrected.
BeyondGS from Ohio on November 30, 2012:
No problem, I do the same thing and sometimes over look things. Gotta look out for your fellow hubbers sometimes. :)
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on November 30, 2012:
Really. In order to cut down on spelling errors and other minor problems, I usually write out the entire thing in MS Word and then do a copy/paste to the hubpages editing tool (I clean my HTML because I do content management in my other job). So, as I paste each section in, sometimes problems happen and I don't notice them.
Please find the Black Knight II portion of the article inserted where the duplicate was.
I appreciate your vigilance.
BeyondGS from Ohio on November 30, 2012:
Good article, but under "Black Knight II" its the same text as Green Goblin (Bart Hamiltion). Might want to edit that. I was interested to see what you had under black knight II. Other than that good article.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on November 26, 2012:
Baron Zemo II was always the better Zemo - a face like melted wax and a genius who came full circle. He gets the moonstones, kills Genis-Vell, and buries the hatchet with Captain America.
I just can't figure out the shelf life of the Grim Reaper. Really, no one cares about him. If he wasn't Wonder-man's brother and didn't have this thing about the Vision being a mockery of Wonder Man, he'd have no reason to be.
The one villain that keeps coming back that I have always like is Thanos - who has proved fascinating over the years.
CassyLu1981 from Wilmington, NC on November 26, 2012:
Wow, a blast from the past. I forgot about some of those guys. I do think when a villian dies they should stay dead but history does repeat itself :) Voted up and shared!