Editor’s Note: Today we have another post from Clayton. This one is on Death in Comics, and as you might imagine, it’s a hard topic to talk about without discussing a few spoilers. Now with so many deaths and resurrections in comics, I’m not sure that it’s possible to spoiler such an event, but just in case that sort of thing bothers you, feel free to skip today’s post. - Jim
If you have a favorite comic message board, you’ve no doubt seen at least one thread about the overuse of death of characters to goose sales. Currently, Ultimate Spider-man is sparking this debate several places. This begs the question: what prompts a company to kill characters so much in this day and age?
True, there is the poor sales angle. If a character is deemed by the powers that be as an unsellable commodity, the logical thing to do is either ignore the character (The Scarlet Spider comes to mind), or to kill them off in one of those “special events” as then the character can become a number in the body count total ( like Pantha in Infinite Crisis, or the Wasp in Civil War).
Others may be killed off for “shock value” or to kick off a certain storyline (like the Ted Kord Blue Beetle from DC, or the Scott Lang Ant Man from Marvel). Originally, this death worked well as a plot device in comic (like when DC killed off the original Mr. Terrific back in JLA 171, the death of Gwen Stacy), but in today's market, the only reaction it gets is a bored yawn. It is just an overused ploy that doesn’t seem to boost either sales or interest anymore. More often than not, the death is now accompanied by some grisly show of violence, like the death of Ares at the hands of the Sentry in Marvel's Siege.
But heroes return from fictional death all the time, so we can take some solace in the idea that in comics death isn’t permanent. But does that really mean a hero can’t be killed? Can other things kill a character? I have seen many heroes and villains die long before their “comic book death.” Most of them have fallen prey to wasted potential or bad editorial decisions.
Next week, Jim and I will examine a few examples where characters have truly been killed.
Have a great weekend!