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Monday, July 11, 2016

Are Some Comic Book Characters Better Off DEAD?

Jason Todd.
Damian Wayne.
Barry Allen.
Norman Osborn.
Gwen Stacy.
Hal Jordan.

That’s just part of a short list of characters I believe who would be better off staying dead.

But unfortunately they’re walking around the land of the living right now.

I’m not a fan of killing characters. I’ve often expressed my regrets about killing of E’steem in 2002. So I’m very hesitant to kill a character off unless it’s absolutely necessary.

But there are some characters whose deaths had an impact on a character. And were significant in their histories. A few had an impact on the universe they were in. And I have no problem with those characters staying dead.

When I look at the deaths of characters like Bucky, Barry Allen, Jason Todd, Norman Osborn, Gwen Stacy and even Hal Jordan they had a lasting impact on the characters in the titles they were featured in and even the universe they participated in. Some of these deaths like those of Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy were so iconic they became part of the Spider-Man legend. Others like the death of Barry Allen they resonated for decades throughout the DC Universe. And a few like Jason Todd’s death and Bucky’s death led to characters like Batman and Captain America growing and changing for the better.

The way I see it there are some characters who are better off dead. Their deaths are a major part of a characters’ backstory and a major part of their history. And to undo them would be sacrilege.

Unfortunately, writers desperate for sales in today’s comic book business have undone most of these significant deaths to shock readers into buying more comics. And while many do buy them, in the short-term, the legacy of the characters gets tarnished in the long term.

With each resurrection of major character in a historically significant story, the impact of death in comics has no sting these days. Readers no longer feel the emotional impact of a character’s death the way they did when Amazing Spider-Man #120-121 came out and Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn died. Nor do they feel the impact of a heroic death like Barry Allen’s death during the Crisis of Infinite Earths. These days most comic readers are so indifferent to the announcement of a death of a major character they’re just counting down the hours before they’ll be brought back.

I never thought I’d see the day when Superhero comic books would become Looney Tunes. But here we are. The death of any superhero these days has as much meaning as Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote.

If there are no historically significant deaths in a characters’ universe or a comic book universe then where is the readers’ incentive to buy into the stories. Why should the reader care about buying comics if writers can’t leave any part of the backstory or the character’s history intact?

With nothing to connect readers to the past many characters are becoming lost and directionless today. One of the main reasons comics feel so jumbled and confusing today is because writers keep trying to undo the past instead of moving forward with the future. Bringing back dead characters whose story arcs were finished decades ago. Many because they’re looking for a stunt to grab readers’ attention.

When what would really grab readers’ attention is a great story. I’d like to see a comic book writer craft a great story without killing any major characters like I did with TheMan Who Rules The World.

There are some characters are better off dead. And a smart creator will leave those characters dead so that other characters and readers can learn and grow from their loss. From those deaths a writer can teach lessons about life to the reader that will help them appreciate reading the adventures of the heroes they enjoy today. Sometimes the greatest comic stories aren’t about superheroes saving the world, but about the people who help readers deal with something every human being has to do like coping with the loss of a loved one. 


  1. There's a reason for Elseworlds stories at DC. In those stories, characters stay dead. In Kingdom Come, Alfred was dead, Grayson lost his wife and was left to raise his daughter on his own, many more happened in that story, but all the main characters had to live with what happened in that story, and they ultimately found a way to be happy by the end in spite of having permanent losses. Indeed, it's cheap that they keep resurrecting characters so much, but if they had to go within a given continuity and that character of that universe had to live with the death, and only have the character brought back as part of a separate continuity, I would be fine with that. It's just that they essentially resurrect so often it's a joke.

  2. For Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, I think they brought those characters back because they were looking toward other media besides comics. As cool as Wally West is as the Flash, for example, what's his origin? Well it's somewhat convoluted and ties heavily into the previous Flash, which is fine for the comics but hard to adapt in other media. Barry Allen's origin is pretty straight forward. Also, what's Wally West job? Well, he was a millionaire, then a superhero, and also a part time tax collector. Not exactly interesting for TV. What's Barry Allen's job? CSI tech. CSI, is very popular on TV. You can say the same thing about Kyle Rayner. What his origin? Again very convoluted. Hal Jordan's origin, again pretty straight forward. Easy to adapt to movies or TV. Also what's Kyle Rayner's job? Cartoonist, which is cool, but you'll have your main character sitting around in front of a drawing board. What's Hal Jordan's job? Test pilot. That's a pretty exciting career, lots of cool action sequences can come from that. But, yeah Jason Todd and Bucky better off dead. And, are we all just counting the minutes before Uncle Ben comes back? Or, Thomas and Martha Wayne.

  3. I think Gwen Stacy will be back and Marvel will be insane enough to hook up Spider-Man with her, sooner than Uncle Ben.