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Off My Mind: Superhero Wills

What happens when characters die...and come back to life?

What happens when a comic book character dies? 99.9% of the time, they will return. It might not be right away. It could even be a few years or decades, but chances are, they will make a return. For readers, when the death occurs, we might be touched reading the story and seeing the reaction of the character's loved ones but at the same time, we're rolling our eyes. We know they'll be back. It's not a question of if they'll return but one of how or when
When the death occurs in the comic book world, despite the number of characters that have returned, others are still sad. No one thinks they'll automatically come back to life if they die which leads to one question. What do superheroes put into their will and what happens to their stuff when they die? 
 == TEASER == 

Because their jobs are dangerous, the heroes would be silly not to have wills set up. If they were to die during a battle or mission, they would have to have plans as for who gets their possessions. This is highly important for heroes with gadgets. What happens to Spider-Man's web shooters? Who gets Iron Man's armor? Is Wonder Woman concerned with what happens to her Lasso of Truth? Of course there's their normal possessions as well. What happens to the Human Torch's hot rods? Is Lois Lane going to take care of everything in Superman's Fortress of Solitude
Along with the heroes' high tech items and personal effects, do they have any plans to deal with their secret identities and the possibility that their death could reveal it to the world? What is Spider-Man's plan if he dies in the middle of a battle against Doc Ock? Who will protect Aunt May after his death? 

If a hero does have his act together and creates a proper will before their death, the big question is what happens when they return? Is there some sort of clause that tells those that have been bequeathed something that they will have to return it if and when the hero manages to beat death? 
An easy solution might be to put in some sort of time clause. Loved ones receiving items might get them on the condition that they might just be temporarily maintaining possession of them until the hero returns. But what sort of time limit could be placed? Jean Grey, who we all know has died and returned several times, has been dead since 2005 (our time). If you consider Bucky Barnes, he was considered dead for decades before people realized he was alive. It would be difficult to place a realistic time limit since there is no rhyme or reason to a heroes return after dying.
I suppose if you managed to be lucky enough to inherit the Batmobile, you could try taking Batman to court if he was considered legally dead. Of course if you were close enough to Batman to get something like the Batmobile, you wouldn't be a jerk about it and refuse to give it back. 
What it comes down to is all heroes need to have carefully detailed wills. Hopefully their death won't result in the world discovering their secret identity (if they had one). Loved ones need to be understanding in case the dearly departed does return. We all know the return of someone we care about is much more important than keeping any items, no matter how cool they might be.
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Posted by strangeling

HA!  Nice question to ponder.

Posted by AFArtist1973

This is something that I've never thought of.  Seriously.  I would think that whomever the superhero's "working gear" has an understanding of being a caretaker.  However, the civilian ID is another matter.  But they did have this issue with Superman, I think.  Cleaned out Clark's apartment and everything.   

Posted by Band Lone

Batman is covered he has Dick, Tim and Damian for that 
Superman has Lois and in his secret Identity (Clark) well there's not much to inherit.. 
Spider-man has mephisto so don't worry about death

Posted by Jordanstine

So... who covered up for Bruce Wayne when Batman was... um... "dead"?
There sure were a lot canceled business meetings.

Posted by TDK_1997

I sometimes like comic deaths but it isn't handled well

Posted by leokearon

The whole thing of Wills is a good one, I remember when Xavier 'died' in left Cyclops most of his estate, so I amsume Scott gave it all back when it was revealed he hadn't died. 
Also the whole will idea was brought up in Mighty Avengers with Bill Foster's dimension thingy
Posted by Eyz
@Jordanstine said:
" So... who covered up for Bruce Wayne when Batman was... um... "dead"?  There sure were a lot canceled business meetings. "
I think Hush, who had a Bruce Wayne "face" for a new big recent sheme, played Bruce was he was gone and Dick and Damian had to keep an eye on him.
Posted by Soldier zero

Nice question, G-Man. Some heroes are somehow covered in this sense, having close relatives who can handle the complications liked to theor deaths, but others can't. At the same time there's the problem of handling the disappearence of the hero other identity. In the Marvel Universe there's an article of law that allows superheroes to testify without revealing their secret identity maybe, just maybe, the lawsuits of the MU added something to handle people back from the grave.

Posted by Duo_forbidden
@Jordanstine said:
" So... who covered up for Bruce Wayne when Batman was... um... "dead"?  There sure were a lot canceled business meetings. "
@Eyz said:
" @Jordanstine said:
" So... who covered up for Bruce Wayne when Batman was... um... "dead"?  There sure were a lot canceled business meetings. "
I think Hush, who had a Bruce Wayne "face" for a new big recent sheme, played Bruce was he was gone and Dick and Damian had to keep an eye on him. "
Yep. Not to mention Dick and the others made it look like Bruce was in different countries "vacationing" lol.
Interesting article. It's interesting to note about how long people stay missing if they have a civilian identity if that superhero died. For example, When Superman came back to life, I remember reading that in order for people not to link Superman and Clark Kent, Superman made it seem that Clark Kent was one of the missing survivors of Doomsday's destruction. Another plan I thought was cool was when Spider-man died in "The Other". The Avengers had everything planned out just in case Peter died: how he died, who was going to take care of his wife and aunt, etc.
Posted by Grim

every hero has someone who knows their identity. Those people tend to take it upon themselves to handle the things no one else could, like Booster in the recent Generation Lost comics.
 that hero tends to be the one who confiscates and stores their gear, gives the "hero memorial", and delivers the body to the loved ones who can handle the civilian identity stuff.

Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir

An issue of the She-Hulk comic touched upon this idea in passing with a Golden Age hero being thought dead but appearing in the here and now (ala Captain America) they proposed the idea of having the will reversed and trying to reacquire any assets lost.

Posted by SnarlsBarkley

It all goes to auction for charity.

Posted by J1ml33

I wonder what`s next superhero insurance ? 
even savage dragon when he died ( I really do not think that guy had any plans to write any kind of will what so ever due to times where many people thought he had bit the big one ( and I have the issues to back up that claim and besides I really think that he did not have to much to pass on to his kids anyways ( Malcolm and angel dragon ) maybe his police pension but I think that probity be about it for poor old dragon (since he died this time for the final time ) but let`s hope four other dragon themed individuals do not just start popping out of the woodwork calming to be long lost relatives of the savage dragon or I would really be pissed ( but hey it`s comic books nobody stays dead forever right ) ?

like for example here in this issue he really should have been pushing up daisies after this stunt and all his kids would have been left with nothing but his life insurance benefits like any old regular Joe which that what dragon was before he regained his former memories that is ..( poor kids ) 
( and also does this look like the type of man to even write up a decent will to you or what ,even he is not really sure when he is going to definitely die anyways  talk about being a high risk client for who ever is doing his paperwork in the morning , good grief !)
Posted by Billy Batson
Posted by SupremoMaximo

How would any document be considered legal if it dealt with the probate of a masked hero?  In most cases the world doesn't know your secret identity.  So if they found Spider Man really dead.  And "Spider Man" had a will, how can it be verified that it was really Spider Man  that died.  The public can only assume that it's the same person that has been under the mask from the get go.   Which is not always the case since most heroes have had a stand in for them. 

If there is no birth certificate of "Spider Man", there can be no official death certificate of "Spider Man" and I would assume no lawyer would be able to prove it was him the entire time.  The only person that can really die is Peter Parker. 
And who wants to leave a crappy apartment and take out boxes in their will? 
I would also assume if the hero was competent enough to be able to keep his identity a secret the entire time, they'd have a contingency plan if they were killed.  Why they heck would Tony Stark bequeath his armor to one of the thousands of kids he's likely fathered and pays their mothers to keep their traps shut?  You'd have either the united states government vying for a piece of that technology or anyone else in the world (villain or wanna be hero) after that stuff real quick like. 
So if you're a hero.  Have someone you trust destroy everything.  You don't save that crap. 
That's how Skynet came to power.

Posted by kitsuneconundrum

When you inherit the batmobile, it is no longer the batmobile. The Batmobile is kind of like Airforce one or Marine one. Whatever the goddamned batman is in will become the new batmobile.

Posted by VprVnmSRT10

Gee Whizz Batman. This article is awesome. Never thought of the topic.  
We sometimes make these characters so real in our heads. I have to admit that I sometimes ponder various super-hero related issues. Wills was one of them.  
Imagine being a super-hero lawyer? 

Posted by yeopop

The same goes to WW. She has Donna and Cassie.
Posted by mr_frosty

Also, do you have to give it ALL back when they come back to life?

Posted by perry_411

One important issue was ignored, if a superhero becomes a zombie is he dead?

Posted by xerox_kitty

We've seen plenty of funderals in comics, but never the cleaning up afterwards; what to do with their clothes & possession, or a reading of the will.   
It'd be funny to see super siblings fighting over who gets the sterdo, who gets the house & who doesn't want the collection of old figurines...    
Posted by SpectrumBlur

I like how Steve and Bucky kind of have fun with the concept in this panel

Posted by Zghost

I like how they did  the green arrows will, where shade was suppose to go and find certain objects and destroy the rest of the proof who he was.  i think it was the Archer's quest arc

Posted by thecheckeredman

What would be the point of a will except to say "Don't divvy up any of my stuff, I'll probably be back in a few months anyway.  Could you please water my plants while I'm gone." 

Posted by ConnorKentSB

I totally agree, if I got the Batmobile after Batman's death, I take that mofo to court if/when he came back.

Posted by marvelunivers_deleteme
@Band Lone said:
" Batman is covered he has Dick, Tim and Damian for that   Superman has Lois and in his secret Identity (Clark) well there's not much to inherit..   Spider-man has mephisto so don't worry about death "
Posted by Doctor!!!!!

Most these wills will become void sooner or later.

Posted by NightFang
@strangeling said:
"Nice question to ponder."
             Yeah, questions like these are harder then the questing.
Posted by Mainline

Wolverine Weapon X #16 deals with this a bit.  Nightcrawler names Wolverine the executor of a piano to be bequeathed to a monastery on a mountain by explicitly manual means. 
In general, however, you'll probably want to avoid a will and take advantage of the flexibility of a trust.  A living sentient trusted trustee can gauge the likelihood for return or revival, the proper handling of the secret identity, notification, filing for a death certificate (or waiting for the state's Dead Man's Statue to kick in), etc. with maximum flexibility to deal with the uncertainty of superhero death.  In overly broad strokes a trust means everything will be handled by a mind whereas a will means beneficiaries and the probate court might get bogged down in fighting it out between the language and meaning of your will. 
You'd probably want to avoid a testamentary trust and make it an inter vivos one because of the speculative nature of superhero "death"... rather than have Dick and Tim fight it out as to whether Bruce is dead or lost in time, simply assign someone to handle such ambiguous situations for as long as needed (which is essentially what happened with a bit of Hush shenanigans in there).

Posted by Nova`Prime`

I won't be a jerk about giving Batman the Batmobile back, but he's shit out of luck if he expects me to return Wayne Manor and all that money.

Posted by JonesDeini

Super Hero Will  
"To my sidekick___ 
I leave my identity, tech, and  base. They are yours to use to battle villainy and injustice...until I return six months to a year from the reading of this document..."

Posted by Spideycap

Great article g-man, as usual. It didnt seem like batman had much of a will as far as the superhero side of him (no one knew bruce wayne was dead except those who knew his secret identity) I think batman kind of liked the idea of his proteges having to figure it out on their own. Deep down he knew that hed done enough in his lifetime for batman to live on in some form forever, and thats all he really cared about. And although he knew it deep down, seeing that it actually happened after his "death" is what has really changed him as a character. He can be more human now, he can actually take his mind of his mission for a moment (not likely more) because he knows there are others who have committed themselves to the same mission. Batmans death made him a better character in the long run, which i think is a more common thing in reborn characters than most people will admit.
Posted by GTG12

this was a really good question
Posted by jubilee042

poor jean grey

Edited by Technoman

Interesting, but if they came back they wouldn't be considered legally dead anymore, would they?

Posted by Trodorne
@Band Lone said:
"   Spider-man has mephisto so don't worry about death "
lol i hate you for reminding me of that. 
 Supermans Will: And for Jimmy Olsen my best friend. i leave to you the city in which you must protect from super villains on a daily basis...make me proud.
 Bruce Wayne: For Damian, i leave to you a years session of anger management classes. for Dick; I leave you the mansion. For alfred, who will be buried next to me soon after i am gone, so as he can serve me in the after life. For Tim i leave the batmobile, and the bat-wing. be sure to fill it up every night with unleaded liquid plutonium. and for Jason Todd, I leave you the most precious gift i can give... hope. dont spend it all in one place. 
 Iron Man: As in turn for my last will in testimate i give up all valued possesions of stark industries to Captain America, as for my burial, i wish to be buried face down in my corvette designed coffin, reason for being buried face down is for all of you to kiss my..... anyways, id also like to be buried with my favorite bottles of scotch and jack daniels. 
 Darksied: In the event of my unlikely death that the nuclear device that is imbedded in the crust of the planet to be detonated and thus bringing everyone else into oblivion with me. all hail me.
 Thor: Find me a new worthy body....quickly.
 Reed Richards: For johnny i leave all my fancy suits that i wore to all formal gatherings as he is the social butterfly. for Ben Grimm i leave instructions how to operate all my devices written in a convenient picture book. For sue, my beloved wife, i leave to you the penthouse in the baxter building. To franklin my son, i leave to him instructions on how to alter the fabric of reality and bring me back from the dead. to which this whole will is nullified.
 Bruce Banner: please god incinerate my body so no one experiments with it.
Posted by Trodorne

 Jean Grey's Will: to my one true love scott summers, i leave you my heart and soul, and hope you never change and that ill forever be in your mind and that no other woman will ever replace me.

Posted by FireFlare153

Challenge to anyone.... try to write out Spider-Man's will.
Edited by Out_of_Space

I sometimes like comic deaths but it cud be really sad moment when some one is killed or dies trying to save some one.

Posted by JonesDeini
@Soldier zero:  
After Heroes Reborn that had to be done actually 
Posted by Xenozoic Shaman

If I was a superhero I would just place my stuff in the hands of a trustee for 10 years, and failing my eventual resurrection, it would go to various people that I loved.  I would however, will all my villains to my fellow superheroes immediately, and have a contract placed on my murderer's life.

Posted by papad1992

Good question and theory.... but what about life insurance??
Posted by mysticflame

An interesting question to ponder and a good article.

Posted by Bestostero

lol, that is pretty makes you wonder if any of the recent deaths had anything worth dividing up

Posted by jamdown

If batman dies (again) his things will be pasted down to one of the 6 justice hungry mentally unstable killing mashine children he has created over the years...hopefuly not Damian
, god he's awful. 
Posted by El_Derrico

It might be the biggest cliche in comics that dead heroes and villains never stay dead, but in the comic book world itself I'm sure they don't think that way. They believe dead is dead, I think. That being the case, I don't think there's a "if I should come back to life" clause in their wills. They always seem to be surprised when someone rises from the ashes.

Edited by Wattup

I'd rather know what's in a superhero's medicine cabinet.
Unless it's Red Arrow's.

Posted by manofsteel42
How come in the comics no one asks the Heros who have died and returned the famous question: 
So what was it like to die? Did you see a light? or did it feel like you went to sleep and then Bam you wake up 3 years later but to you it only felt like a few seconds went by!" 
Posted by zj

Actually, this has been addressed on occasion.  But it's usually slightly more exciting that executing a real probate hearing - which can make watching paint dry look exciting sometimes, so it kind of gets glossed over.  It's an interesting question, but it takes a lot of work to turn it into an interesting story, so it rarely gets written about.
But it was covered a little bit in the Atom, just not recently.  After Ray Palmer and Jean Loring separated he went off and was presumed dead in a plane crash (See the Sword of the Atom).  There was a body - it was burned beyond recognition and he was "id'd" by the engraving that on the wedding ring worn by corpse.  His ex didn't know that it had been stolen.
She went through the steps of getting the will done (since she was an attorney before she went cuckoo and Eclipsoed).  That was one of the really frightening things about having her lose her mind - she probably prepared the wills for several members of the JLA, so she was probably privy to private info that some of the other JLA members didn't even know.

Posted by tonis

This would make a great mini-series ala damage inc approach. :) 
Hell of a thought to ponder that they should actually address better.

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