If you read superhero comics long enough, you’ll come to the unfortunate conclusion that nothing is static. While that’s not a bad thing sometimes, other times it can unravel a lot of things. One thing in particular comes to mind for me, death. To all of us avid superhero comic lovers, it’s a well known fact that death is not permanent in the pages of any Marvel or DC comic book.
One particular event got me thinking on this subject again, the death of Wolverine. Which we all know is a giant load of crap, and only the newest of readers would ever truly believe it. Think I’m wrong? Put it to the test. Go down to your local comic shop, and ask everyone there, “Do you think Wolverine will remain dead?” You can bet, as sure as the sun will rise, each and every one of them will say no. Well why is that? The answer is simple, history. The list of heroes and people that have bit the big one is far too long to list here, but I’m sure since you’ve started reading this article at least a half dozen have jumped into your mind.
Now we as readers loath for our favorite heroes, or even villains for that matter, to pass over to the great unknown. But I for one, would applaud any company that would take up the stance of no more reincarnations. To coin a gaming term, perma death, in my opinion, would add a whole new aspect to things. How so you ask, well of course I’m going to tell you.
Would it change things for Peter Parker, if say Uncle Ben came back to life? Probably not, but Uncle Ben’s death is such an important thing to the Spider-Man mythos, that altering it, kind of changes the importance of what came after it. Fortunately, Uncle Ben is still dead (No hard feelings Ben). Would Batman’s parents coming back change everything for that character? His motivations, his desires? It would be kind of hard to believe that the dark night would be still all agnsty over it, when his Mom and Dad were able to give him a hug now and tell him it’s all going to get better.
So lets take a look at a death that didn’t stick, the death of Jason Todd. Now back in the 90’s when this storyline unfolded, it had a big impact. I was working at a large comic chop back then, and people were shocked by it. This feeling carried on in the books for some time, and it lead to some great follow up stories, the ones where Batman blamed himself, and swore off partners because of it. That story line still had a great deal of weight right up until they brought back Jason Todd. With him coming back, his death was no longer as tragic, and those back issues were no longer must reads for any Batman fan, why? Well, because what did it matter, he was alive and kicking again.
Back in the day, the death of a character was a pretty big event, and it usually only happened to minor characters, but even then, it was a big deal, because people actually thought they would stay dead, or were more likely to stay dead. So chew on this, would you be more inclined to seek out a back issue of a character’s death, if they died and stayed dead? Does it mean more to the long term mythos of the universe in which it happened if that person stays dead?
To me resurrecting heroes and characters is a poor story tellers way to shock a reader, even if it’s only for a moment. But it’s so common place now, that no one even seems to care if a character dies, they just wait for their return, something that I would think that the business minded publishers should consider before they bring back a character. Let’s say, just for example, if Marvel never brought back a hero from the dead. And then they announced they were killing off Wolverine. The craze around that would have made the 90’s death of Superman look paltry. It would have been on the news and the sales figures would have been astronomical. Think I’m wrong? Go ask ten strangers who Wolverine is, and see how many people do. When a character is so popular that people who don’t read or even watch a movie about that character, know who that character is, that’s newsworthy.
I know it’s wishful thinking on my part, because the industry just doesn’t work that way, but it would be nice if the editors and publishers would think twice before turning over the earth on a grave, and bringing back a character. How those who left behind deal with a death and the long lasting effects of those deaths in my opinion has far richer story potential than those you get from bringing them back.