Editor's Note: Today Matt Linkous finishes Wednesday's DeathJerked article with a look how death in comics encourages bad stories. - Jim
Why is this whole cycle of death in comics bad? Because it promotes lazy storytelling. Got a sales slump? No problem. Just kill a hero in hastily conceived death scene to bump up sales! It doesn't have to be this way. The transition from Barry Allen to Wally West, let Wally step into the role and grow from a teen sidekick into a great hero in his own right. As that was one of the first great deaths in comics, it was well planned and sat well with readers for generations. The imagery of Barry withering into a skeleton may have been a bit much, but it had impact.
On the flip side, the transition from Hal Jordan to Kyle Rayner, was a bit rockier. Getting into Kyle's story involved swallowing the bitter pill of your favorite Green Lantern becoming a psycho super villain who offed members of the Green Lantern Corp, which itself had now been taken completely out of the equation. To bring Hal back, we had to find out that he wasn't really responsible for that because he was possessed by a big yellow spacebug the whole time.
Even to enjoy Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle you have to accept Max Lord's character being completely changed into a murderous villain who'd shoot Ted Kord, in the face, on camera. The reasons for death (and by extension, the planning and writing of them) have become weaker and weaker. Most recently, we've seen examples of this with the Wasp losing control of her powers and blowing up, (How's that work exactly?) and Captain America getting shot coming down courthouse stairs. (Because no one has ever thought to draw a gun on Captain America in close quarters before.)
Is it really that difficult to come up with more elegant solutions for writing out old characters? A good writer should always have a way to let the previous incarnation return that doesn't call for yanking them out of the great beyond in some absurd, convoluted fashion. Yet, more often than is necessary, retcons and revamps are built on flimsy plot contrivances like Punching the wall of reality or saying "It's magic, we can do anything..."
Speaking as the kind of guy that did not want to see Steve Rogers killed off, I think I can say most fans of a classic superhero character don't have a real desire to take someone else's hero away from them. Especially not in this age when such deaths are seen as the vulgar money grabs they are. Also, we all know the heroes will eventually return, so what other reason is there for such badly written stories than to goose sales for a month or two?
If nothing else, if it is decided by editorial that a superhero icon must be retired, then at the very least write that hero out with dignity and respect in a way that speaks to everything that character meant to readers. In other words, make it a proper passing of the torch that ushers in the new hero's era. The publisher has to actually commit to the change. This would be far better, I think, than resorting to the vicious cycle of publishers effectively saying, "These ain't your daddy's comics no more! ... no, wait, come back, we're sorry."
That ultimately just results in jerking around both old and new fans alike.
Have a great weekend,