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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A Rant About Comic Book Death

Okay, so, I figure I'll give it one more day for the meme. So if you'd like to hop in to ask more questions, please do!

Meanwhile, I've been catching up on comic book gossip. And I've discovered a bit of a pet peeve.

Can we put a moratorium on asking if, after INSERT COMIC BOOK HERE, killing off characters is entirely meaningless?

Because, dude. This ALWAYS comes up. This time it's Fear Itself's fault. But before Fear Itself, people were saying the EXACT SAME THING after Flash Rebirth, Captain America's return, Green Lantern Rebirth, the Black Lantern storyline, Bucky Barnes's return, Jason Todd's return, Death/Return of Superman, and so on and so forth.

Hell, Bruce Wayne died TWICE to pave the way for Dick Grayson's Batman, just in case the first time didn't stick.

Guys. Character death in comics IS meaningless. It has always been meaningless. It will always BE meaningless. It's like character death in a soap opera. Ultimately, it will only last until someone has a "better" idea.

So someone died in Fear Itself. That someone turned out not to be dead. Someone else dies in Children's Crusade. That character may or may not come back by the end of the arc.

Well...of course. This is a series about the Scarlet Witch! Are we really supposed to believe this is the end of the story?

Killing a character (or seeming to) in act one and bringing that character back in act four is not a new literary device. It's not a new comic book device. Off the top of my head, we saw it in Blackest Night. We saw it in JLA Obsidian Age. I'm pretty sure it's happened to the Avengers and X-Men more than once.

Now, I agree, it is a problem when the reader isn't engaged enough in the storyline. Spacing fake deaths, or undo-able deaths out is probably a better option.

But ultimately, a death in comics is like any other event in comics. It's about the execution of the story. If you're emotionally involved in the death scene, even knowing the odds that the character will be back by the end of the arc. Or the end of the year. Or the next main crossover event. Or the next main "let's restore comics to our childhood memories!" nostalgia crisis. Then it's a win. If you're emotionally involved in the resurrection/return, whether you feel relief, anger, joy, or whatever. It's a win.

If you feel apathetic toward either the death or the resurrection? It's a failure, but what the hell, it's not like they can't kill the character off again (and resurrect him/her later.)

It's comics. Death is never permanent except for Barry Allen, Bucky Barnes, Jason Todd, Uncle Ben or Thomas Wayne!*

And honestly, I'm fine with that.

(*Until someone with enough clout has a "better" idea. :-P)


  • At January 04, 2012 12:07 AM, Blogger Seangreyson said…

    I don't really mind comic book deaths of major characters any more, if they're part of a good story. At one point I got more worked up about them.

    The deaths I've really started to loathe are the nameless character deaths. It's not enough for a bad guy to kill a couple of thugs to prove they're serious. Now if they don't make a bang with body counts in the thousands, or millions they're just a nobody.

    It's hard to get worked up about the death of Bucky, when the people who killed him have also killed a few million people around the world.

    That said, I still remember crying the first time I read the end of the dark phoenix saga in a trade someone gave me. Even in those days comic book death didn't mean a ton, but that one still meant something to me.

  • At January 04, 2012 12:12 PM, Blogger ShellyS said…

    Yeah, comic death isn't a big deal, except when it takes away a favorite character who is gone for longer than you want, which means you can no longer read about them. Or if they don't come back, like the Dibneys. And should Ralph and Sue reappear in the DCnU, it won't be the same. It'll be new versions of them.

    And of course, there are the deaths that are plot devices for characters they have no intention of bringing back because they are just supporting cast who don't sell books. And Lian Harper is their poster child.

    Kill Batman or Superman and I know they'll be back someday. Give me interesting stories about the time those characters are "dead," and I'll probably read them. In the case of Batman, I found Dick Grayson to be a more interesting Batman.

    But kill a little girl just to give her father a reason to return to drugs? No. That won't keep me reading.

  • At January 04, 2012 3:58 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Heh. I did read that article at newsarama. Death IS pretty ridiculous in comics...I think what stuck in people's craw a bit, was a writer ADMITTING that it was ridiculous. It's hard to take it seriously if even the creators are that cynical about it.

    That being said, dang it I DO wish that they would bring back Ted Kord and Ralph and Sue and some of the people that I really really miss. Heck...even Jean Loring should be back...the world needs some good crazy.

    Gosh...remember when somebody dying in comics WAS a big deal?

  • At January 05, 2012 12:48 PM, Blogger Scipio said…

    Sally, it's my belief that they just may bring back Ted Kord....

    on Earth-2.

    After all, Ted Kord the character was from another Earth before COIE. It makes sense he'd be on a parallel Earth now as Jaime's parallel rather than predecessor.

  • At January 05, 2012 4:09 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Scipio, I could live with that. I just miss Ted.

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