SUPER SENIORS1 of 12This week, the Russo brothers confirmed that the Steve Rogers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has effectively retired as Captain America, clarifying the ending of Captain America: Civil War.
It's likely he'll keep fighting crime and saving the world somehow, though, just as his comic book counterpart has every time he's given up the shield. Not even old age could stop him, in recent years.
But many heroes have retired on a more permanent basis (well, as permanent as comic books get). From Spider-Man to Superman, many of the biggest heroes in the game have taken off the cape over the years.
Here are ten of the most prominent examples.
John Henry Irons / Steel2 of 12When Superman was presumed dead, four new heroes rose up to take his place, including the brilliant engineer John Henry Irons. Irons built a suit of armor that granted him flight and super strength and called himself Steel, operating as a hero even after Superman’s resurrection, and eventually joining the Justice League.
Years later, Irons retired from being a superhero, though he eventually served as a mentor for his niece Natasha Irons, even gaining actual superpowers in the process.
After DC's Flashpoint reboot, most of his history was rewritten. In current continuity, Irons isn't retired - in fact, he only recently became Steel.
Hank Pym3 of 12Hank Pym has always been a little bit troubled, but after a series of incidents including a split personality, striking his wife, and losing control, he hung up his superhero gear once and for all (or so he thought – these choices never last). But even though Hank was done, Ant-Man had a career ahead of him.
See, Scott Lang, a thief and mechanical engineer, snuck into Pym’s lab and stole his Ant-Man suit. At first Pym was angry, but after discovering Lang had lifted his suit and technology to save his daughter’s life, Pym ceded the name and powers of Ant-Man to Lang on a permanent (but not exclusive) basis, with Pym returning to the moniker from time to time.
The Fantastic Four4 of 12Count the Richards family as the most current retirees of the Fantastic Four, though their current role rebuilding Marvel’s multiverse isn’t exactly leaving them out of work. But they’re not the first to quit the team, and their current absence is not the first time the Fantastic Four have disbanded.
Ben Grimm has retired several times, usually when he was able to briefly return to his human form, even necessitating the FF hiring Luke Cage as “muscle” in his stead, and later allowing She-Hulk to take his spot for several years. Sue Storm also once took a leave of absence after the birth of Franklin Richards.
The team has even fully disbanded several times, including going so far as to pursue separate careers and put the Baxter Building up for rent in the late 70s.
Jessica Drew5 of 12Jessica Drew's initial career as a superhero was fraught with strange twists and turns, from being a Hydra agent, to becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. double agent, to secretly being replaced by a Skrull while trying to restore her lost powers.
It was while her powers were gone that she enjoyed a brief retirement, though she wasn't completely out of the game. She had a short career as a private investigator, often crossing paths with Jessica Jones, herself also something of a retired superhero.
The JSA6 of 12The Justice Society are the only heroes on this list who were actually retirement age when they took off their capes. Though the reasons why have changed in various tales – government pressure, being lost in time, simple old age – it’s a common story that the World War II heroes of the Justice Society called it quits after storied careers as heroes.
Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Rex Tyler, Al Pratt, Dinah Lance, Ted Knight, and many others were part of the original JSA, and all went on to enjoy post-superhero “normal” lives – though several of them actually managed to pull their boots back on after being magically de-aged in later years. Most of them, even the ones that later came back themselves, ceded their codenames to younger heroes as well, many of whom went on to found the Justice League.
Cyclops7 of 12The image of Cyclops walking away from the team he helped found, duffel bag over his shoulder, is an iconic X-Men visual. And at the time, it was meant to show Scott Summers was off the team for good. Cyke’s departure came at the end of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” which concluded with the death of his longtime paramour and teammate Jean Grey.
Though he did eventually get sucked back into leading the mutant team (that’s how the soap opera of the X-Men works, after all), Scott did enjoy a brief retirement in which he met a woman named Madelyne Pryor and fathered a child – the paramilitary mutant known as Cable.
Tony Stark8 of 12When Tony Stark was sidelined due to his relapse into alcoholism, his trusted friend James Rhodes donned the armor, saving Stark's life and his company. While Stark recovered, he left the Iron Man identity in Rhodey's capable hands.
Rhodey served as Iron Man for years, fighting in the original Secret Wars and co-founding the West Coast Avengers. Years later, when the government forced Stark to retire as Iron Man again, Rhodey was there to once again put on the helmet.
Jack Knight9 of 12The idea of Jack Knight retiring from the role of Starman isn’t nearly as surprising as the fact that he lasted so long. After the death of his brother – who in inherited the staff and costume of Starman from their father – Jack reluctantly took up the Cosmic Rod as Opal City’s guardian.
Through his quirky, unique adventures involving his father’s old foes, ghost pirates, and haunted shirts, Jack grew into a hero in his own right, even co-founding a new iteration of the Justice Society like his father before him. Jack eventually retired to live with his wife and child, leaving the Cosmic Rod to Courtney Whitmore, who graduated from being the Star-Spangled Kid to Stargirl.
Spider-Man10 of 12“Spider-Man No More” might be the most iconic example of a Marvel hero walking away from their secret identity. The image of Peter’s costume laying in a trash can has made it all the way to movies, as has the story of Peter leaving behind his life as Spider-Man.
In this classic story, Peter decided to retire from his costumed career thanks to a combination of his malfunctioning powers and a desire to start a normal life with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. But, knowing Peter’s sense of responsibility, it’s hardly a surprise that his “retirement” was also one of the briefest on this list.
Superman11 of 12We've generally tried to avoid alternate realities with this list - otherwise we'd be here forever - but in Superman's case, we'll make an exception.
Though the mainstream Clark Kent has briefly retired a few times, in the world of Kingdom Come, he walked away from being Superman entirely after the death of Lois Lane at the hands of the Joker, and the subsequent murder of Joker by a hero named Magog.
Clark retired to a farm in Kansas, in an area that had become irradiated through Magog's later actions, returning to being Superman when a new breed of ultraviolent heroes began running rampant.
This Superman actually later wound up in the mainstream DCU, briefly joining the JSA.
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