The notion of a heroic sacrifice is a staple of the superhero medium. Readers have seen heroes confront great odds time and time again, with some making the ultimate sacrifice to save the day or help others. In Marvel comics, Nightcrawler died protecting Hope, while Cypher was killed by a bullet meant for Wolfsbane. Such deaths, though, are something of a rarity for Marvel, particularly if the hero concerned is not an A-list name.
16. SCOTT LANG (ANT-MAN)
Scott Lang has long been a character defined by his bad luck. He served time in prison for burglary and had to resort to thievery again when his daughter Cassie was kidnapped, stealing the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym. Scott’s appearances as a hero were somewhat sporadic over the next few years. Appearing as a guest star in various titles, it wasn’t until the ’90s that he got his greatest exposure, joining the Fantastic Four when Reed Richards was presumed dead.
Scott finally became an official Avenger in #62, establishing a mutual dislike with Jack of Hearts. Their antagonism wasn’t resolved until #76, when Cassie was again kidnapped. Jack saved her and he and Scott made their peace before Jack seemingly died. With the return of his child and his position as an Avenger cemented, this seemed like a rare time of success for Scott. Unfortunately for him, Brian Bendis had other ideas. In “Avengers” #500, the first part of Bendis’ run, a zombie Jack of Hearts returned to Avengers mansion, before blowing up and atomizing a rather surprised Scott. There were no stirring last words from Scott or heroic deeds, just a skeletal hand left amidst the rubble.
Charcoal (Charlie Burlingame) had a convoluted background that would play a large part in his eventual demise. In the late ’90s, “Wizard” magazine launched a competition to create a Marvel villain. The winning entry was Charcoal, with the character selected to appear in Kurt Busiek’s “Thunderbolts.” The in-story background for Charlie had him as a boy whose father had become a member of the Imperial Forces of America. This had brought Charlie to the attention of Arnim Zola, whose experiments turned Charlie into Charcoal the Burning Man. However, appearances are sometimes deceiving and despite his monstrous form, Charlie wasn’t a bad guy. He later joined up with the Thunderbolts, establishing a firm friendship with Jolt.
Charcoal remained part of the team when the writing duties passed to Fabian Nicieza, although his personality grew notably harder over time as the team were faced with multiple challenges. When the team faced Graviton in #56, he dissipated Charcoal’s rock form to the winds. This was originally meant to be a temporary measure, but legal issues behind the scenes (with the competition winner attempting to claim character copyright) meant that bringing Charcoal back to life was deemed more trouble than it was worth.