Top 10 Tearjerker Comics

If you’ve never sobbed into the pages of a newly purchased comic, give it time; you probably just haven’t been reading them for long enough. In the immortal words of Jack Kirby, “comics will break your heart.” Here are ten books that will put you on the road to heartache…

Note: We have avoided spoilers with the exception of well known character deaths.

We3We3, Vertigo Comics 2004
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely

We3 is a story about former pets being used as test subjects in scientific experiments, what could possibly be sad about that? This is at the top of our “do not read on public transit” list as well, unless you are comfortable with weeping in front of perfect strangers. We’ll also give an honorable mention for this creative team for their work on All-Star Superman. There are more than a few moments in that series that will have you reaching for tissues, though they are more joyful than the soul-crushing moments of We3.

Locke and Key, Guide to the Known KeysLocke & Key
Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

There were a few issues of Locke & Key that made us misty-eyed; Joe Hill was not one to shy away from killing off characters throughout the now completed series (even the first issue revolves around a death in the Locke family). One story that brings immediate gut punching despair is the standalone issue “Locke and Key: Guide to the Known Keys”. A short story that is only a few pages of the whole issue features the Locke family descendants coping with their terminally ill child. Gabriel Rodriguez depicts the story in the style of Little Nemo in Slumberland, making the contrast between visuals and story even more heartbreaking.

The last issue of (insert title of any Vertigo series)Preacher #66, Garth Ennis Steve Dillion
Written by Various
Art by Various

Final issues are often bittersweet, but they are particularly rough when they feature the end of a long running series that has had the same creative team the entire time. The last issues of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher and Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man were comics that made us cry for their content as much for the fact that we were saying goodbye to the creative team as well.

Uncanny X-Men #137, Death of Jean GreyThe X-Men, “The Dark Phoenix Saga”
Written by Chris Claremont & John Byrne
Art by John Byrne

So many character deaths, so many heart-wrenching goodbyes. The first and most memorable X-Men death goes to that of Jean Grey. After destroying an entire planet and its inhabitants, the editors felt the only real fitting end to Jean’s story was in her death. The karmic punishment fit the crime, but the fans paid the heaviest price (and would continue to do so with each death of Jean Grey to come).

Concrete, “Orange Glow”Concrete, "Orange Glow" by Paul Chadwick
Art and Written by Paul Chadwick

Long before Hellboy and Sin City, Concrete made its debut in Dark Horse Presents #1, the first comic released by the independent publisher. Though it won critical acclaim following its 1986 debut, today Concrete is a vastly under-rated series about a man struggling with what it means to be human. Many of those early stories are available to read for free on creator Paul Chadwick’s website, including “Orange Glow”. You don’t need to have read Concrete to appreciate this short story, though we will warn you: it will either make you cry, inspire you to read the rest of the series, or both.

Saga #11, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona StaplesSaga
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

BKV is no stranger to making audiences cry. Runaways, Y the Last Man, Pride of Baghdad; all of these comics feature many misty eyed moments. His latest hit series, Saga, co-created with artist Fiona Staples, has had no shortage of heart wrenching moments in its 18 issues. With (most of) the main characters still living, we have a feeling the real waterworks have yet to hit the audience.

HawkeyeHawkeye 13, Matt Fraction David Aja
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

Hawkguy’s life is almost always in a sad state of affairs, but that hasn’t stopped Fraction from writing even lower lows for the character to endure. A particularly hard hitting moment came with the sudden death of a minor character, a character you didn’t even realize you cared for until they were snatched from the narrative. David Aja’s simplistic depiction brings the characters’ anguish into as much focus as when his fluid lines are applied to fast-paced action sequences.

Spider-Man #121, Death of Gwen StacySpider-Man #121
Written by Gerry Conway
Art by Gil Kane

It’s been 40 years and this one still hurts. Even the most casual Spidey fan knows of the webslinger’s failed attempt to save the beloved Gwen Stacy from death. It’s perhaps even more heartbreaking to know the ending as it unfolds. We know that Peter is hauling the lifeless body of Gwen with his webbing, yet he continues to quip, confident he has saved the day. It is an infamous moment in comic book history, but it is a story that must be read to truly grasp its impact.

Serenity, “Float Out”Serenity, Float Out
Written by Patton Oswalt
Art by Patric Reynolds

We couldn’t get through a list of stories that make you cry without including something from the Whedonverse. “Float Out” is a one shot that focuses on the crew of Serenity as they cope with the loss of one of their own. The character’s death was in true Whedon fashion; unexpected and brutal, with little time to reconcile the events as they took place in the film Serenity. Well, you get plenty of time to languish in the loss during this one shot. If you manage to make it to the end of this issue dry eyed, the one happy moment may bring you tears of joy.

Astro City, The Nearness of YouAstro City, “The Nearness of You”
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brent Anderson

A lot of the above mentioned tearjerkers hit us hard because we have emotional connections to the characters. That is what makes “The Nearness of You” a standout amongst this group of sad tales; we don’t know Michael Tenicek very well. He’s just a normal guy living in an extraordinary world when he is suddenly faced with terrible loss. This isn’t a sad story because a man is losing the most important person in his life, it is the choice he faces in the end. Would you choose to forget if it meant ending the painful memories of loss? The story won’t make you long for a character that has passed, but will instead have you examining your own beliefs.


We apologize for ruining your day! Please accept our condolences and take comfort in the shared agony these stories have brought to countless readers.

Megan Byrd

Megan Byrd

Megan is a Chicago based professional photographer by day and a comic book blogger by nights and weekends at As a former comic book retail employee, Megan writes about the industry with an insider perspective. Megan still moderates a monthly Ladies’ Night event at Graham Crackers Comics in downtown Chicago, and is editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Night Anthology.

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