Editor's Note: Today, guest columnist Matt Linkous returns with some thoughts to add to our What Kills a Hero series. - Jim
Then make way for the arrival of the new character bearing the old one's name. There's always a storm of controversy, but also a sense of excitement. Eventually, the new hero matures and grows into his or her new role. The new character is typically around just long enough for a generation of readers to grow attached to him or her as "their" part of a hero's legacy. Given time, even old fans of classic versions of a character may begin to accept the new guy, even if there may be lingering resentment of the stunt that wrote their old favorite out.
Lately, though, the Big Two have proven that while they may introduce new characters, they won't stick with them. Eventually, the new guy is going to be killed off or simply demoted so the old hero can come back. Events like this leave the new hero's fans out in the cold. They were promised a brave new world and loyally supported the new character in fandom and with their wallets.
While it can be fun to see superheroes cheat death, it's happening so many times in the Big Two that it saps the drama and tension out of future encounters. Both companies have even had characters on the page acknowledge death as little more than a revolving door in their universe, which just hangs a huge lampshade on how cheap death in comics has really become. It makes the characters themselves often sound more like posters on a message board than actual superheroes for whom these fantastic situations are reality, not genre rules.
How many times have fans been though deathjerks just in the past 20 years of modern comicbooks? Barry to Wally and back again, Hal to John to Hal to Kyle and back again, Peter to Ben Reilly and back again, Bruce to Azarel to Bruce to Dick Grayson and back again, Steve to Bucky and back again... and that's just for starters. Even B and C-List characters like Blue Beetle and Firestorm have been put through the deathjerk cycle, sometimes many times in the space of just a few years. Sometimes deathjerks create an uncomfortable situation where a non-white or non-male successor to a hero's name has to be bumped off to pave the way for the return of the original (white, male) version.
That's a whole other blog post, but whether intentionally or not, these stories are often ugly and unnecessary.