Big Event Comics Death Fatigue – OR – Cliche Du Jour

By Todd Allen

avx1 197x300 Big Event Comics Death Fatigue   OR   Cliche Du JourWhen you send out press releases and lead with a story in the New York Daily News, I can’t call this a spoiler.  Marvel’s killed off another character in a big crossover event and sent out a press release about it ahead of time to try and juice casual sales.  And yet, people seemed shocked.  You shouldn’t be.  This is now a standard tactic that will likely continue until the mainstream media declines to cover it.

As reader, I’m getting really bored with all the temporary deaths.  Once upon a time, a character dying packed a little more punch.  The various heroes dying off in Crisis on Infinite Earths had some impact.  Peter David had an early hit writing Spider-Man with “The Death of Jean DeWolf” arc.  The death of Gwen Stacy was a big deal.  The original death of Phoenix that accidentally started off this Avengers Vs. X-Men theme was a huge.

Now killing off characters is run of the mill and a little bit boring.  Off the top of my head, here’s what I’m remembering.  The character gets an asterix if they’re still dead.

 

  • Robin (Jason Todd) – A Death in the Family
  • Superman – The Death of Superman
  • Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)8 – Countdown to Infinite Crisis
  • Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) – Emerald Twilight
  • Hawkeye – Avengers Disassembled
  • Scarlet Witch – Avengers Disassembled
  • Ant-Man (Scott Lang) – Avengers Disassembled
  • Jack of Hearts* – Avengers Disassembled
  • Giant-Man/Black Goliath* – Civil War
  • Captain America – “Death of Captain America” / Civil War
  • The Punisher – Dark Reign (yes, he was killed and then reassembled as Frankencastle)
  • Wasp* – Secret Invasion
  • Human Torch – “Three”
  • Spider-Man (Ultimate Peter Parker)* – Death of Spider-Man
  • Thor – Fear Itself (albeit very briefly)
  • Captain America/Winter Soldier – Fear Itself (a hoax, but they tried to sell it for a couple months)
  • Professor X *- Avengers Vs. X-Men (we’ll see how long this lasts, relative to all the other times he’s died)

In addition to all that, Dark Reign left Tony Stark/Iron Man briefly brain dead until the uploaded his brain with a backup copy.  (That read better than it sounds.)

All that is just off the top of my head.  I’m probably missing a few deaths.

Notice an awful lot of deaths (very temporary, faked or otherwise) associated with crossover Events?  Notice several media press releases associated with those deaths?

A bit over a year ago, Marvel’s David Gabriel made what may or may not have been a quip about getting so much press coverage for the death of the Human Torch, they’d kill somebody off once per quarter.  Um… maybe?

Axel has teased that the Marvel Now relaunches lead into a Spring Event.  Place your bets now on who gets offed in it.  Also place a side bet on which mainstream media outlet gets the next exclusive.  (It might be the NY Post’s turn again.)

I haven’t touched AVX since the second issue, so maybe this has more meaning in context.  Popping open the computer and reading about, I just rolled my eyes.  It’s done to death, pun intended.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Miller says:

    Um, isn’t Ted Kord still dead?

  2. Todd Allen says:

    Was it ever established if there even was a Ted Kord in the New 52? I’ll give in an asterix, but we’ll see if he turns up in Multiversity.

  3. Jack of Hearts came back to life in the Marvel Zombies Supreme series, which I believe is set in the mainstream Marvel U. I think he was killed again, though. I’m not sure.

  4. Swampy says:

    Did Vision get killed? Prof X died at the end of messiah complex – shot in the head.

  5. faustino perez says:

    But Uncle Ben’s stil dead, right? RIGHT?!

  6. Swampy says:

    Does anyone remember the Offiical Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead issues?

  7. Charles Knight says:

    Let’s face it – if you are buying big two comics, at this stage you know what you are getting.

    WARNING BRITISH CULTURAL REFERENCE COMING:

    It’s like watching EastEnders and then complaining it was full of unlikable cockneys.

  8. I think we all need to pay attention to the greatest comics story title, from Jim Valentino’s Normalman: “Who Killed Sgt. Fluffy This Time?”

  9. jonboy says:

    Wikipedia has a good list (List of deceased American comic book characters) which unsurprisingly has been already updated to include the effects of this week’s comics.

    What is more amusing is the “List of comic book characters that have returned from the dead” on that same page, as it includes the date of death and the date of return.

  10. I feel like I should update my Teen Titans Body Count article from a few years back, but it just gets depressing.

    I keep remembering a line from one comic where one of the older Titans (Starfire?) says to one of the younger ones (Cassie?), “You know when most people die, they don’t come back, right?”

  11. Cable and Nightcrawler also come to mind as very recent deaths, about when Johnny Storm and Bucky Barnes died (but didn’t, or whatever). Cable’s back but Kurt is still gone (for now). DC killed several characters in Final Crisis and Blackest Night only to bring them back by Brightest Day.

    See you soon, Wasp.

  12. Surprised The Death of Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) didn’t make the list since that was a big “graphic novel event” back in the day.

  13. spike says:

    Scott Lang is back but didn’t his daughter end up being killed?
    the pointless change and then death of Moondragon

  14. Zeke Hero says:

    Jack of Hearts did come back in Marvel Zombies Supreme and remained alive at the end of the mini. He was also shown prior to this resurrection in Hercules while in Hades as being next in line (humorously) to be resurrected because he hit the jackpot on slots.

  15. This is why I’m enjoying A Game Of Thrones… major character deaths matter. Even in the case of Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart.

  16. Richard H says:

    @Spike – Moondragon is dead again? Didnt she come back in Guardians of the Galaxy, thanks to Phylla and Drax. Phylla was later killed.

    Anyway – all this “killing characters” to get press shows just how low and desperate the Big Two have become in their publishing. FORGET real, heartaching, well-told stories making the news! When this killing shit happens, it makes me want to jump ship from comics forever and stop buying them (and I’m very close to doing that). I mean, Brevoort, Alonso etc – is that all the inventive storytelling they’ve got??

  17. Randal says:

    At what point do we stop complaining and start embracing this as a beloved trope inherent to superhero comics?

    Planetary, which was all about the tropes, cliches, and conventions of comics, pulp, and sci-fi spent its final issue addressing this concept of heroic rebirth.

    Heck… if we want to go back even farther in the storytelling tradition, one cannot deny the constant presence of the sacrifice/rebirth theme. One could even argue this theme has been one of the most important and influential themes in human history.

  18. They just need to kill off Summers & keep him dead. 30 years of whining about Jean & being a stuck-up prat is enough.

  19. I am so close to dropping Marvel, DC checked me out already, I just don’t give a crap about these constantly rehashed characters and plots. How can you possibly care when you know the character will be back…..again. Melodrama is one thing but when characters and histories have absolutely no meaning it’s really hard to find the characters compelling. That’s what killed me with DC who really cares when you know you aren’t really going anywhere. Sorry I should say that’s what killed me with DC and Marvel…..

  20. Synsidar says:

    At what point do we stop complaining and start embracing this as a beloved trope inherent to superhero comics?

    What is there to embrace? These are stories people are paying money for, stories that are supposed to have at least the potential for drama.

    I’m not sure anyone currently at Marvel grasps the difference between the material in AvX #11 and material which had Cyclops killing Xavier because of resentment, anger, fear, a noxious cocktail of emotions which overwhelmed him and caused him to do something he’d regret for the rest of his life, or possibly commit suicide over. The latter type of situation has happened in many, many stories; it’s drama. What happens in AvX #11 is artificial characters in an artificial situation, being manipulated from start to finish. It’s no more dramatic than a fight between puppets. Who cares if a puppet’s cloth head is torn off?

    The situation at the end of AvX #11 is very much like the situation at the end of SIEGE #3, which had the assembled heroes facing the Void. At that time, Marvel was heavily promoting “The Heroic Age”; now, they’re promoting Marvel NOW. Both situations are devoid of drama because Marvel was/is telling readers the conflict means nothing. If there was drama intended, the plot bottleneck would eliminate it.

    If the reasoning at Marvel Editorial is that a Marvel hero can never be overwhelmed by emotion and do something that he’ll regret ever after, because he wouldn’t be a hero anymore, then they should stop setting up situations like the one in AvX #11 or, arguably, the one in the original Dark Phoenix storyline. As it is, probably the only readers who are breathlessly awaiting AvX #12 aren’t old enough to buy anything themselves.

    SRS

  21. - Barry Allen.
    – Wally West.
    – Bart Allen.
    – Rex Tyler (Hourman).
    – Orion.
    – Oliver Queen.
    – Jade.
    – Donna Troy.
    – Raven.
    – Jericho.
    – Gravity (?).
    – Supergirl.
    – Alec Holland.
    – Dove (Dawn Granger).
    – Hawk (Hank Hall).
    – Kilowog.
    – Sinestro.
    – Sabretooth.
    – Vision.
    – Captain Marvel.
    – Black Hand.
    – Professor Zoom.
    – Stephanie Brown.
    – All the Freedom Fighters, but I lost track.
    – The Guardians of the Universe (except Ganthet).

    Geez, my head hurts.

  22. Charles says:

    It’s a comic book trope. We all know its a comic book trope. It is what it is. Complaining about something that’s been happening for a while and going to continue happening is a waste of time . If its too much of a problem, then superhero comics are simply no longer for you. Harsh but true.

  23. Synsidar says:

    If its too much of a problem, then superhero comics are simply no longer for you.

    Then why should superhero comics be for anyone? If the use of formulas is the norm, and everyone should know that the stories will use formulas, then anyone can churn them out, for minimum wage or for college credits. People buy the comics hoping for some creativity.

    SRS

  24. Synsidar: try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has not been reading comics for 30 years.

  25. Harry says:

    Heidi, if I was just starting to listen to classical music I would start with Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, etc. and only then try the contemporary ones.

    Shouldn’t the new readers at least try and do the same?

    And if they do, how can they tolerate the current crap the big two are pumping out? Perhaps they aren’t anymore, don’t know to be honest.

  26. MBunge says:

    “At what point do we stop complaining and start embracing this as a beloved trope inherent to superhero comics?”

    Except…it wasn’t always a trope.

    From the 1940s through at least the mid 1980s, major characters really didn’t get killed off that often in super-hero comics. Oh sure, villains would fall from high places or seemingly be consumed in explosions only to return in a future issue, but the reason why there are grown men today who still get verklempt over the death of Gwen Stacy is because “real” death in super-hero comics was and had been a fairly rare thing.

    The modern trope of “dead, now alive, now dead again, etc.” really only started with the resurrection of Jean Grey. I’ve long felt that when they undid her death, particularly by saying Jean never really died rather than actually bringing her back to life, it opened the floodgates. Since it was now okay to bring anyone back with even the lamest possible excuse, it became okay to kill anyone for poops and giggles.

    Mike

  27. @Richard H: “it makes me want to jump ship from comics forever and stop buying them”

    Well no. You don’t have to stop buying comics. Just stop buying LOUSY comics (Marvel & DC). There are so many comics available these days that AREN’T rehashed superhero stories.

    You never have to give up comics, because all comics aren’t superhero comics.

  28. Has a character ever been killed and it was just forgotten about? He was used later in a story without a resurrection story because no one remembered that he was dead?

  29. @ Harry, but how did you start reading comics? Let’s not unnecessarily change medium here. Did you start reading the comics of the masters’ or did you start with then current Big Two books?

    Because that’s what I did. Seven year old me started with the stuff that looked interesting or familiar on the spinner racks in the gas station. I started with Robocop #2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #12, and Transformers #68. From there I branched out to The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Batman, Spider-Man, GI Joe and the X-Men.

    Were these all masterpieces of the art form? No. Were they entertaining enough to make me come back and buy more? Yes. Would I have known that there were masterpieces I could have been reading? Or what they were? Or where to find them? No, no, and no.

    Should someone have told me that what I was reading and enjoying was crap? Should someone have told me to go back and read the masterpieces before I should read what I was already enjoying? Certainly not.

  30. The Beat says:

    Harry — there is no reason that people can’t start with Prokofiev, if that’s what you mean by “Modern” classical music — in fact a lot of kids do, via Peter and the Wolf. You don’t need to know Gluck to appreciate Stockhausen.

    MBunge — you are exactly right. It was the death of Jean Grey that began the cycle of death and resurrection.

    RY33 — Yes, Thunderbird in the new X-men. He was killed in the first issue and the mourning, angst and recrimination and over causing his death lasted about one panel. If that.

  31. My favorite thing was that Feral after being killed was brought back to life as an obnoxious ghost. There’s really no tradition of ghosts in superhero comics.

  32. Micah says:

    This is why I love Invincible, and the reason why if I ever leave superhero comicbooks Invincible will be the last one standing.

    And Planetary is the greatest comic ever.

  33. Joseph says:

    Agree with those that are bored with the complaining on this topic. My teen nephews are somewhat new to comics, and thus this event is new to them and others like them who haven’t been reading for the past several decades. Can’t blame anyone who has been reading for that long for being bored with these storylines, but the obvious response would be to move on.

    These characters are never going to stay dead forever, so it’s either kill them off periodically and eventually bring them back, or else never kill them off – and if you knew they would never actually die that would lead to its own kind of boredom. As long as the story is good, I don’t care who gets killed. I knew Human Torch would come back sooner rather than later, but the storyline was good and made sense and led to other enjoyable storylines, so that makes it worthwhile even if the “death” was only temporary.

  34. Todd Allen says:

    Question: If you had been reading Marvel for 4 years, how many major superhero deaths would you have read?

  35. Snikt Snakt says:

    Its nice to see I’m not the only one tired of all these constant deaths & resurrections…

  36. Captain America was the only hero death (and resurrection) that I thought worked REALLY well in recent history.

    Brubaker is the MAN.

  37. Synsidar says:

    These characters are never going to stay dead forever, so it’s either kill them off periodically and eventually bring them back, or else never kill them off – and if you knew they would never actually die that would lead to its own kind of boredom.

    Well, that’s an issue, isn’t it? What makes keeping those particular characters in their twenties so vital, or so wonderful, compared to creating new characters as needed for a particular story? There aren’t many ways to try to justify it, beyond vague references to old and new mythologies and power fantasies. Probably the best explanation is that publishing storylines as serials, and superhero storylines as serials, especially, selects some types of readers who prefer that material and eliminates others. If the producers try to transfer the comic book material to other media (TV, movies) and larger audiences, they find out that the audiences’ tastes are limited and they’re bored quickly, so series fail after a season or two and a movie franchise is rebooted after a whopping three installments.

    If Marvel or DC ever stopped using the existing characters and tried to attract readers with new, but similar characters–cf. the range of detectives and sleuths in mystery and crime fiction–they might find that readers are more accepting of new characters than they think, and that the potential audiences for the new material are larger.

    SRS

  38. I don’t think progression in comics is really that much to ask for. Could any icon character not age and have an “heir” take over? Tons of interesting stories ensue. I had a brief glimmer of hope when Morrison had Dick Grayson take over and Batman’s son as Robin. I thought holy cow someone is actually moving forward really moving forward. Nope we live in an eternal comic world where no one dies, no one ages and nothing is worth your time. I guess if you just have a new crop of young readers coming in constantly then it’s not really important. I guess you also need the new readers…..

  39. Lazy storytelling going for the presumed shock value to attract younger, less knowledgeable readers with ever decreasing attention spans.

    It’s more than a mere symbolic self-destruction, and they’re certainly reaping what they sow.

  40. Shawn Kane says:

    “Nope we live in an eternal comic world where no one dies, no one ages and nothing is worth your time.”

    But if the story is good and you enjoy it, it IS worth your time. So much of what goes on today is so tied into continuity and wanting to advance the characters that you minimize the audience. I think it becomes about a writer wanting to tell THEIR story with a character or fixing some continuity or killing/marrying a character to get some “civilian” press. There’s a difference between picking up the second issue of a two or three parter of a story versus needing to know the last five years worth of what happened to a character to understand their book.

  41. Shawn Kane says:

    Just a quick follow up…If I like the art and the story, any comic that I read is worth my time. If I can hand that issue to an interested non-reader and not have to explain the previous year and whatever crossover that involved the book makes it that much better.

  42. MBunge says:

    “If Marvel or DC ever stopped using the existing characters and tried to attract readers with new, but similar characters–cf. the range of detectives and sleuths in mystery and crime fiction”

    And how many authors who come up with a successful detective character ever just stop writing about that person and make up another?

    Mike

  43. Re: Jesse

    I don’t think progression in comics is really that much to ask for. Could any icon character not age and have an “heir” take over? Tons of interesting stories ensue.

    Erik Larsen has been doing that over on Savage Dragon. GREAT comic.

    George R.R. Martin is showing us the right way to do it with A Song Of Ice And Fire. I don’t know WHAT to expect with “The Winds of Winter”.

  44. macromega says:

    Based on the Marvel October and November solicitations for 2012, the asterisk is likely to be coming off the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) by the end of November.

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