13 TIMES Superheroes Quit — But Came Back Anyway (Of Course)



During the secluded pandemic years of 2020 and beyond, people discovered disparate ways of keeping their heads clear: sourdough starters and jigsaw puzzles and building Lego and virtual guitar lessons and on and on. Me? I went another route.

Long before ever writing and publishing comics, I collected them. From the age of about 4 on, comics were a big part of my life. They still are. That was one constant during the pandemic, even while everything else changed, both in the larger world and for me professionally, too. So with that much upheaval, filled with events out of my control, I sought to regain a semblance of control by leaning even more firmly into my decades as a fan.

First, I sorted the comic collection, attempting to prune it – I had hundreds and hundreds of copies I knew I’d never read again, or that I owned in various collected editions. So I first pulled those aside.

And then, those comics I had no desire to revisit again, the ones I was soon to donate to San Diego’s Comic-Con Museum? Well, first I read each of them one last time to say goodbye.

Next, I bagged and boarded every comic that wasn’t currently stored that way. Or I replaced bags that were a couple decades old. The bulk of the comics are stored in cabinets that fit a couple rows of books in each, so I created logo’d dividers for each series.

And then, in Week 2 of the pandemic (well, it might have been longer than that; but it did all happen at a frenzied pace), I started creating themes in my spinner racks. I now had two, since my rack at IDW left when I did.

First, I started with the 2020 holiday season. My plan was, originally, to just load up on a few Christmas covers. And then a few more. And then it became enough to fill both spinners and still be able to rotate a few additional covers in as needed. I’m not saying any of this was a broadly healthy way to spend those isolated months as they lingered on, but it did help me. As can happen, a manic episode gives way to becoming, well, an ongoing lifestyle choice.

So the themes expanded: first to other holidays (Halloween/horror covers was another easy one); and then me and a comic-collecting/enabling friend (Jordan Hart, a recent Eisner nominee for his graphic novel, Ripple Effects) started brainstorming other themes. More obscure themes. Some tenuous, some obvious, and everything in between. And as we did, I’d find myself shopping for old comics not that filled holes in the collection or that were key issues, but rather that fit a theme in case I ever needed it. And I needed it.

I recently started a regular feature in a Substack newsletter where I spotlight some of the themes I’ve been building. And after I offered up 13 ROM SPACEKNIGHT COVERS here at 13th Dimension last week, editor Dan Greenfield asked if I’d do the same-but-different on a regular basis. So all of this is a lengthy preamble to say, here’s the kick-off of what I’ll aim to be a regular feature here, namely, suggesting both specific themes for anyone’s spinner rack, shelf, or long box, and some selections that fit each theme.

Now, my tastes and collection are largely rooted in the Bronze Age, with ample spillover in both the Silver and Modern, too. But there are sure to be many suitable covers I’ll miss each time around. Plus I’ll try to stick firmly to 13 cover picks each time, meaning I’m bound to leave some out. So I’d love this to be a dialogue as much as a feature. Feel free to tell me which covers I missed, which ones you suggest, and then if you’ve got other ideas in mind, additional themes you’d love to see, too.

Like I say, the themes don’t have to be obvious like this first one—they can be odd, cool, specific to you, or any other connective tissue that would make you want to see a side of your spinner rack filled with those covers.

I figured I’d start out with one of the most obvious, because it’s also one I love pretty much every time I see it. Namely, when the titular hero quits. One of the earliest, at least the earliest I can recall, and one that is homaged on a regular basis, is the iconic Amazing Spider-Man #50 cover where Pete tosses the red-and-blues into a garbage can and walks away from superheroing for good. (Which I think lasts for all of 5 pages in that issue).

Sometimes the characters are seen walking away from us. Sometimes toward us. Sometimes it’s their choice; sometimes they get the boot. But all of them are of a similar theme for this first offering: I QUIT — UNTIL I COME BACK! (Dan points out that it happens to be National Leave Work Early Day, so there you go.)

The Amazing Spider-Man #50, Marvel. The first, or at least the most copied, and still the best. I decided to remove the many (SO MANY!) homage covers from contention here, but Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham #15 cover homage is a pretty fun one.

Green Lantern #181, DC. At this point in Hal Jordan’s time as a Green Lantern, what with the numerous times he’d already been replaced or walked away for one reason or another, was there any reason to think this one would stick? Of course not, but artist Dave Gibbons made it look especially fun here. Bonus points for any time the hero slams a piece of their costume on the ground for emphasis. Which leads me to…

Invincible Iron Man #21, Marvel. Slamming your nigh-unbreakable metal helmet on the ground is only going to damage the floor in your lab, Tony Stark. And quitting in the years before you had a worthwhile replacement in the form of James Rhodes (or even Michael O’Brien!) seems even more ill-considered.

Wonder Woman #269, DC. Diana quitting because she’s had her fill of the evils of man’s world is probably the most universally relatable reason for any hero to walk away.

X-Men #138, Marvel. Another iconic, oft-homaged cover, delivered in stark, effective style — and quite understandable for Cyclops after the events of X-Men #137 — by the X-team supreme of John Byrne and Terry Austin.

The New Teen Titans #39, DC. It doesn’t get better than this. First, it’s a cover penciled and inked by a true titan among men, George Perez. Second, it features rumpled costumes on the ground, always an effective thing on “I quit!” covers (see also: original Teen Titans #26, Master of Kung-Fu 125, and Avengers 230 for other examples). And the use of negative space adds so much more drama to the cover than if the characters would have been placed on a background. It’s another image that’s referenced often but as I say, this first one is the best.

Captain America #332, Marvel. Cap has quit more than once. Him doing so on the cover of Cap #176 nearly made the cut, if only for the shield tossed to the ground, but this one, by fan-favorite CA artist Mike Zeck and inker Klaus Janson, is the most effective. (And with the big flag behind Cap, it’ll probably also surface again in a Fourth of July theme…)

Captain Britain #35, Marvel UK. Proving that they can do angst as well as their American counterparts, the British Captain America himself, Captain Britain, has had it, too. And to emphasize his point, he threw down his, uh, walking stick. At least when fellow Brit Judge Dredd quit on the cover of Prog 668, he did so by ripping his chained badge from uniform.

Batman and the Outsiders #1, DC. It’s already a pretty boss move to transport yourself all the way to the JLA satellite to quit in front of the entire team, but Batman took it a step further: He broke up with his old partners while standing alongside his new partners. Batman, who’s made a career of sneaking around, ain’t sneaking behind anyone’s back here. But he is, unfortunately, foreshadowing to the new team what’s going to happen three years later: on the final issue of this series, #32, Batman walks away from the Outsiders, too. At least he didn’t trot out his next team to watch that break-up happen.

What If? #3, Marvel. It’s an especially bad time for the Avengers to all quit on Tony Stark, what with the Hulk and Sub-Mariner attacking right at the same time. It’s even worse time for them to walk away because if they truly leave, they’re going to miss the single best issue of any What If? series.

Sub-Mariner #38, Marvel. It would’ve been easy to include a Superman cover in this space, since Supes has been run off, or walked off, numerous times. But when he quits, he doesn’t have to leave his entire environment do so. Sure, sometimes he heads into space but that’s his choice. Here, Namor realizes that to really quit being, um, a prince of the blood (which I didn’t think you could just quit, until Prince Harry showed us all otherwise), he had to leave his ocean home entirely. So you know it got bad when Namor is choosing to live among us lowly surface-dwellers. Although I don’t think his emphatic releasing of his crown is as effective under water as it might’ve been if he’d waited til he reached the surface to slam it down.

Fantastic Four #191, Marvel. What would the FF be without one of the four members leaving, quitting, storming (no pun intended) off in a huff, separating, faux-dying, or otherwise leaving the other three? It happens every, well, fourth issue or so. But it’s rare that the entire team quits, as they’re doing here in this George Perez/Joe Sinnott cover. At least this particular quitting would last for the better part of a year, before the team finally reunited in their big 200th anniversary issue. It’s rare that the characters’ feet alone are effective enough at showing just who is doing what but this cover proves that even the team’s feet are pretty distinctive.

The Thing #23, Marvel. This maybe isn’t one of the “I Quit” covers that leaps first to mind for most readers, but it felt especially fitting after longtime Marvel and DC editor Mike Carlin retired in May. This was Carlin’s first issue as writer of The Thing, after John Byrne left, and so I included it as a final nod to Carlin’s long career as he too rides off into the sunset. Happy trails, Mike!


— While You Wait for the Omnibus, Dig These Far Out 13 ROM COVERS. Click here.

— While You Wait for the Omnibus, Dig These Groovy 13 MICRONAUTS COVERS. Click here.

Chris Ryall understands walking away when it no longer feels right, but eventually you gotta suit back up and keep moving. He’s also the co-owner/publisher of Image Comics imprint Syzygy Publishing. His latest series is Tales of Syzpense, launching in mid-June.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. What a great theme. I hadn’t really considered how many, many times super heroes have famously, publicly QUIT! I would draw attention to Superman 201 and 240 as candidates for inclusion under this rubric. The latter deserves special consideration because the cover depicts Superman calling the public “ingrates” (!) for failing to appreciate him. You might consider an INGRATE list as a sub-category….

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