You’ll notice that this list skews to the recent and includes no literary characters. I wracked my brain trying to come up with literary figures who fit the rules I laid out and who aren’t Frankenstein’s Monster (I don’t think he counts because we didn’t know him before his death; to the reader he’s a new being). The closest I could come was Alex from Robert Heinlein’s JOB: A Comedy of Justice, but I couldn’t remember if he returned to life in the new creation at the end of the book. It’s been a long, long while since I read it.
So weigh in with other characters in the comments.
Cause of Death: Silver walking stick.
Time Dead: Years.
Resurrected by: Moonlight.
You might know him best as The Wolf Man. Larry was killed at the end of 1941’s The Wolf Man (incidentally the character’s only solo outing - every other movie afterwards was a co-starring feature). But he got better in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man when grave robbers disturb his rest during a full moon.
I thought a lot about leaving Talbot out - was he truly dead, or was he in some Wolf Man coma? Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man doesn’t even bother introducing any mumbo jumbo to explain his resurrection, and Larry seems fairly unmoved by all of it. But when the grave robbers open Talbot’s sarcophagus they mention it’s been years since he was buried, so the dude has to have been completely dead by then.
What I like about this resurrection is that it’s so perfunctory. Just getting some moonlight on Larry is enough to bring him back from the peace of death.
Cause of Death: Radiation poisoning.
Time Dead: Several months.
Resurrected by: Genesis planet mojo.
It was a huge shock when Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan. And he really died - melting away from radiation exposure, he got a full funeral, complete with being shot out of a photon torpedo tube. But the very, very end of the movie shows his casket on the surface of the Genesis planet, letting us all know his story wasn’t over yet.
Anybody walking into Star Trek III: The Search For Spock had to have known the Vulcan was returning. It was kind of in the title. But his resurrection was weird, and maybe doesn’t make much sense. The middle aged corpse of Spock somehow turns into a child, and tied in with the accelerated growth of the man-made planet, the Vulcan rapidly ages. But his skull is empty, as his ka - his soul - was placed into Dr. McCoy at the end of Khan.
This is a very earned resurrection, especially because it costs Kirk his son AND the Enterprise, as well as making the entire crew outlaws. Also, Spock is forced to finger fuck the new wooden Saavik, Robin Curtis. Hell, they spend an entire movie on the resurrection!
This resurrection could very well have not happened. Nobody expected Wrath of Khan to be particularly good, especially Leonard Nimoy, who was hot to kill the character. But as filming went on people began to realize something special was happening and Nimoy’s love for Spock was rekindled. The ka transfer was added during filming to make Spock’s death reversible. The casket on the Genesis planet was added when test audiences found the ending way too dark.
Cause of Death: Fell into a magic portal thing.
Time Dead: Months.
Resurrected by: More magic.
When the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was being shot it looked like it could be the last season for the cult classic show, so killing Buffy in the finale wasn’t just a stunt - it was possibly the end of the series. Buffy sacrifices herself so that her sister (who isn’t really her sister but rather a sentient key that has been inserted into an altered version of reality - just roll with it) would be spared, and her friends bury her.
And then she rots. When season six opens we find Buffy in the ground, actually decayed. But her friends have done some serious magic, and they bring her back to life. Poor Buffy wakes up in the coffin and then has to crawl out of her own grave. But wait! That isn’t the end of it. I think Buffy’s resurrection may be the most earned on this list because she then spends half the season depressed that she’s back. See, Buffy was in heaven and everything was great. Being dead was awesome, and she was finally at peace. But her selfish friends ripped her away from paradise and returned her to the world of pain and sorrow.
For the record, this is the second time Buffy was dead. She died briefly in season one, but that resurrection is disqualified under the ‘no quick resuscitations’ rule.
Cause of Death: Chopped up by Tommy Jarvis.
Time Dead: Years.
Resurrected by: Lightning hitting a metal rod in his chest, placed there by Tommy Jarvis.
In Friday the 13th Part IV Jason comes back from a pretty convincing death - he was hung and nailed in the head with an axe in the previous film - out of nowhere. He just wakes up in the morgue. But I guess you could argue that he was never actually dead… somehow.
That cannot be argued when it comes to Friday the 13th Part VI, which brings him back to the series after the Jason-less Part V. Tommy Jarvis digs up Jason years after Part IV, looking to put a stake in the corpse’s heart just to keep him dead. Jason is very rotted when Tommy opens the grave, and he even has worms on him. But Tommy uses a giant metal pole to stab the corpse, and a sudden and stray bolt of lightning hits the metal and Jason is re-animated.
This, by the way, was a tough call. Are zombies really resurrected? But since Jason didn’t show much more intelligence before his death than he did after it, I decided to allow it. In fact, resurrected Jason is pretty much no different from pre-death Jason in anything except all matters dermatological.
But Jason really earns a spot here because the first thing he does when brought back to life if punch the heart out of Arnold Horschack’s chest.
Cause of Death: Self-sacrifice to save the sun.
Time Dead: Years.
Resurrected by: Willpower, more or less.
It’s both surprisingly hard and surprisingly easy to find resurrected comic book characters. It’s hard because most comic book deaths get written off via comas, amnesia, etc. Captain America was never dead - he was just sent careening through time a la Billy Pilgrim. Jean Grey wasn’t dead, she was just in a coma at the bottom of Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix Force took over her form. You get the drill - usually comic book writers find ways out of the deaths of characters. It’s also surprisingly easy because DC’s recent Blackest Night event raised EVERY dead character from the grave, albeit as rotting zombies. Some of those raised, though, stayed raised and are pursuing new chances at life.
But Hal Jordan was really dead and didn’t get brought back in any story as hand-wavey as Blackest Night. In fact, Hal’s road to resurrection might have been his best storyline. And it starts with the death of Superman (a death, I must confess, that I have never understood in a metaphysical way. It seems like he went to heaven, but I’m not sold). During the Reign of the Supermen story, when various characters tried to fill the tights, evil alien Mongul destroys Coast City, Hal’s home town, and everyone in it. Hal gets a little loopy and wants revenge - but he also wants to bring back Coast City. He decides he can do it if he has the power of the Green Lantern power battery, and all the rings of the Corps. So he kills most of the Green Lantern Corps and becomes the supervillain Parallax.
Using his newfound power, Hal fucks with the time stream, trying to undo what Mongul did. That’s the Zero Hour crossover (a favorite of mine). Then a Sun Eater shows up and eats our sun (as they are wont to do), and Hal, who had arguably never been a villain but rather used his power for semi-selfish reasons, decides to step in and save the Earth, dying in the process.
But that’s not the end of Hal Jordan. He ends up becoming The Spectre, God’s force of judgment on the Earth (you would think a servant of God would wear more clothes). Eventually Hal turns The Spectre from an agent of vengeance to one of redemption, but then things got weird again. During the Green Lantern: Rebirth story, Hal disengages from The Spectre and, with the help of Guardian of the Universe Ganthet, avoids going into ‘the light’ and returns to his body, resurrected as a man. If this makes no sense to you, don’t worry. What I like about this resurrection is the immense amount of hand-waving involved; in a universe filled with time travel and clones and alternate earths, having a guy’s soul return to his body and THAT being what you need to bring a corpse back to life is pretty great. It’s just so simple, as if all the other people who have ever died simply didn’t have the willpower to come back.
While I don’t think Hal’s resurrection is all that earned (despite there being a whole miniseries dedicated to it), his extensive post-death escapades make the whole thing feel reasonable. The argument here is that even when dead Hal Jordan wasn’t going anywhere.
What are your favorite fictional resurrections? Weigh in below. Remember the rules, though,especially that they have to have been really dead, ie, more dead than CPR can fix.