Phoenix commits suicide
Uncanny X-Men #137, September 1980
What happened? Everyone knows this one, of course: in one of the most celebrated, influential and constantly referenced storylines in comics, original X-Men Jean Grey’s struggle with the awesome and unpredictable Phoenix power eventually turns this girl-next-door into a universe-threatening monster. The “Dark Phoenix Saga” ended in space trial-by-combat, climaxing when what remains of Jean engineering her own death by hidden sentry gun.
Why was it shocking? Because everyone bought into the storyline. Because we all adored Jean. Because the build-up was so enthralling. And because her death was all anyone could talk about at the 1980 convention season that immediately followed the release of this issue – sales went through the roof, and fandom was aflame with anguish and anger. Back then you simply didn’t kill off a major, successful superhero – but they’d done it. The revolving door of comic book death begins here…