Comic Book Deaths And The Stupidity That Is Killing Super Hero Comics

Comic Book Deaths And The Stupidity That Is Killing Super Hero Comics

You may have heard that Marvel is going to kill Spider-Man. Except that they aren’t. We know that by now, right? Its all a sham, a way to boost sales. Things will return to the status quo eventually, everybody will have a good laugh and they’ll forget all about it. So why do they keep doing things like this? And why do we keep buying them?

I’ve actually wanted to do an article like this for a while. I have a lot of big problems with the state of the mainstream super hero comic book right now. This seems like as good an opportunity to vent those frustrations as any. So please excuse me if a lot of this article seems a bit self indulgent and long winded. I need this little bit of therapy lest I start chewing on the walls while wearing my underwear on the outside.

So lets dig into the headline issue first. Spider-Man is gonna die. Marvel is promoting this event. They have a big poster and everything. Except, like I said before, they’re not gonna kill him. This is because of the biggest problem of super hero comics. Nothing can ever change. Ever. No, not even, then. Put your hand down. You’re wrong. The status quo is God. Spider-Man must always be Peter Parker, a nerd with the world’s worst luck who can never find a good job or girlfriend and has his personal problems effect him when he is web slinging as Spider-Man. Now you may remember that for 20 years or so Peter had a little bit of good luck. He had a wife, he joined the Avengers, he even revealed his secret identity to the world. Okay, maybe that last part bit him in the ass, but it was at least character progress. Man, think of all the new stories that they could tell in a world where Spider-Man is known to be Peter Parker! He wouldn’t have to hide anymore. He could work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and develop spider gadgets and finally utilize his intelligence to its fullest and work alongside Tony Stark and Reed Richards and Hank Pym.

And of course, Marvel had to get rid of all that right quick. Marvel, you see, seems to be under the completely wrong assumption that change in characters is a very, very bad thing. It is horrible to have these comic book characters grow and evolve as the years go by. Like I said, the status quo is God. However, its not just that they got rid of the stuff they didn’t like that is the problem in this instance. Its not even that it feels completely inorganic to the story that was being told up until that point to just erase all the progress that had happened. Its that they did it in the most ass backwards, intelligence insulting way they possibly could. Quesada had Peter Parker make a deal with the Devil. I mean…hot damn, is there a more horrible idea for a retcon than that? I’ve heard some stupid shit in comics. I thought Superboy-Prime punching the walls of reality as an explanation for all the sloppy continuity in the DC universe during the 90s was the worst idea ever. And then we get this. All because Marvel is utterly terrified of letting these characters change and grow. In fact, let’s look at what Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada said when asked why Spider-Man works better as a single slinger.

At the heart of every great character and character universe, there are certain metaphors, iconography and trappings that play a significant part in what makes those characters great. You can deviate from time to time and move away from those things in order to keep the characters and their world’s interesting, but you have to be careful how far you deviate. There is a point where you can go one step too far, to the point where you can’t take it back easily without tearing everything up.

Look at that last part. “The point where you can’t take it back easily without tearing everything up.” You know what? I want more heroes to get to that point. I yearn for it. Because that means things are happening.

You are everything that is wrong with comics.

Let’s go back to Spider-Man dying again. We know he won’t actually die. This is just another comic book death. He’ll be gone a few months, a year at most, and we’ll get him back somehow. He wasn’t really dead, he was cloned, the Devil did it…seriously, I hate One More Day so God damn much…but either way, Peter Parker will be back. Just like Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Jean Grey, Professor X, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan and pretty much every other comic book character ever. The status quo is God. We know they won’t be gone. So there is zero tension in any of these stories. Any time a character dies now we just play the waiting game until they’re brought back.

But one of the things I keep thinking of is: what if the deaths actually did mean something? What if the status quo wasn’t God? What if we really were at risk of losing Peter Parker forever? Sacrilegious? Good. Would some fans flip out over it? Absolutely. Would they get over it? If the stories were good, yes. Plus, it would send a major shockwave through the fandom with a big ol’ message on it saying “THESE STORIES MATTER!” Nothing matters in a world where death is obsolete, where things will turn back to just how they were a few years ago eventually and you just have to wait it out. Why keep reading, then, if nothing you read matters one single bit? This isn’t an open ended question I’m evoking here. I really want to know. Why do you keep reading these things? Do you really like the same old same old over and over and over again? The way I look at it, fans should demand change. They should want these characters to evolve, not just to spin their wheels and fight the Joker as he escapes from Arkham for the 12,348th time. Why don’t you people want better than that?

And you know, speaking of the fans, I have to lay some of the blame at their feet. They’re part of the reason these comic writers and editors are so afraid of change. Internet fans flip shit at the slightest provocation. Let’s look at Batman for a second, give Spidey a break. In the comics right now, Bruce Wayne has just come back from the dead. You’d think that means a return to the status quo, right? Well, not so much. Massive spoilers for the latest Batman storyarcs follow if you’re the type that care. Bruce has just held a massive press conference where he admitted to funding Batman since the beginning and that he is about to expand the Batman brand. As Batsignals flood the Gotham skyline, he announces that Batman Inc. will be going worldwide, establishing new Batmen in cities across the world. That point of no return that Quesada was talking about? This is it. This is what I want. Will Batman Inc. be any good? Will a series of new Batmen dilute the concept? Will a world that is aware of the Bruce/Batman connection be one I want to keep reading? I dunno. I have no idea. That is exciting to me. Finally, I feel excitement about something again. This is new. I don’t know if it will be good or bad, and I’m glad.

"Oh Lord, WayneTech legal is gonna have a field day with this one..."

But boy oh boy, are some fans upset. I’ve heard things about how they’re dropping the book until its only about one Batman again, about how Batman is Bruce Wayne and just Bruce Wayne, about how it should only be based in Gotham City, about how a world that knows about Bruce is a completely stupid idea. People, may I ask what the hell? Because what the hell? I used the word only a lot. My friends, this is the exact kind of thinking that got us One More Day. Peter Parker can only be a single young guy with problems. Spider-Man can only be Peter Parker. Really? Because I used to think Batman could only be Bruce Wayne until Dick Grayson stepped in and was completely awesome as the Dark Knight. People used to think that Barry Allen could only be the Flash until he died and Wally West took up the mantle. Same with Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. That had an even bigger status quo change when the entire Green Lantern Corps. dissolved and all that power was transferred into Kyle Rayner. Wasn’t that entertaining? And, to give some credit to Marvel, they did replace Steve Rogers as Captain America with his WWII sidekick Bucky. That, so far, has not been retconned. I say so far because I don’t trust Quesada one bit after BONG no more marriage.

So why can’t you guys accept new takes on old stories? Why can’t characters get old? Why can’t they get married? Why can’t they die? Is change really that scary? Yes, sometimes the change will suck. I don’t promise you that it won’t. But why must some of us, why must some editors and writers shoot down change before it even happens? Why must they make it so that any change that does happen just feels temporary? Instead of thinking of new ways to tell old stories, why not think of new ways to tell new stories? That’s a lot of open ended questions, I know. But I just don’t have the answers. It feels like I’m swimming upstream on this one. I just know how I feel. I think comic book writers are trying to keep these characters the same so that they’re the same for new readers as they were for the older readers. That’s all well and good, but in curing one problem, in trying to make them timeless, you create an entirely new problem. Irrelevancy.

  • ahmed

    I hate to argue with my fellow comic fans… but then we wouldn’t be fans if we didn’t have friendly debates once in a while.

    I agree with you about how sometimes, you need to shake things up to keep fresh. Spider-Man used to be very good at that. A book about a teenager? One with real world problems we could relate to? And then they kill off Gwen, (which was unthinkable) and then he gets married to Mary Jane (fans protested that as much as they did negating the marriage and every other time Quesada tried to get rid of the marriage)! Spidey always had a way of changing the status quo. While I personally think unmasking during Civil War was insanely out of character (given all the pains he’s gone through with just a few enemies knowing his identity), I like how it had actual consequences, and hoped that they would continue with a story about Peter on the run. Where I disagree with you is the idea that killing off Peter Parker and making it permanent would be anything good. The fact is, I read Spider-Man because of who he is. Peter Parker IS Spider-Man; it’s not just about the costume, gear or powers, it’s about the personality, the personal story. Getting rid of Peter Parker makes it no longer Spider-Man. Marvel only managed to have a different person be Spider-Man and still appreciated on his own merits by fans when they set that character in 2099. I personally will see how this death of Spidey thing goes, but eagerly await the return of the true Spider-Man.

    As for Batman, I thought a lot of storylines involving shaking the status quo for him would be bad, and I am man enough to admit I was proven wrong. Dick is awesome as Batman… but again, I have to say that I read Batman for the thing that makes him unique. Dick’s run as Batman is fine, but Bruce is the definitive Batman. However, I’m not here to argue about “MAKE BRUCE BATMAN AGAIN!!11!” or not. I’m here to say that Batman Inc., may be the dumbest thing Bruce could ever do. Bruce made the Batman because he could do what the cops can’t. Admitting that he funded Batman opens him up to lawsuits from everyone for breaking and entering, assault, destruction of public and private property, etc. I don’t see the character exposing himself that much to the legal ramifications, let alone the visits he’ll get from enemies eager to cut Batman off. And if he does open up franchises in every city, they’re going to force him to play by the law in a logical world. And then all we have are ridiculously dressed cops. I compare it to Spider-Man making a deal with the devil to annul his marriage to save his aunt who raised him to be RESPONSIBLE. Out of character and ridiculous.

    Having said my two cents on the topic, I will conclude with this: I will continue to follow the stories and see what happens. While some status quo’s (don’t know the plural form for it) are as you say God, (Peter Parker is Spider-Man, Bruce Wayne is Batman) some are open to change. One More Day is a blight on storytelling in general, and we can only wait and see if the stories told are any good. After all, it’s not the status quo that matters in the end. It’s the adventure. Bruce and Peter will always be the men behind the masks for me, but I’ve stuck through all the identity changes that have happened before because it’s a fun ride. And don’t we read comics because they’re fun?

    • You missed the whole point, Guy. He wasn’t saying that killing off Spidey is a good idea. He was saying that if you’re gonna advertise the “Death of Spider-man” he better damn well die. Otherwise don’t do it.

  • Kyle

    Okay, I wanna clarify something quick. I’m not arguing for Peter Parker dying or Bruce Wayne revealing the Batman connection. I’m not arguing for any particular story. What I’m arguing for is the option to have those stories happen. I want to take away the fear of severely altering the continuity. Its this fear that caused the blight of One More Day. “Oh, we can’t have a Spider-Man who is married! That is different from what I remember from my childhood!” Bullshit. I want a Spider-Man who is different from my childhood. Part of the fun of a continuing universe is seeing these characters grow.

    DC actually does this better. Look at all the kid sidekicks. Dick Grayson grew from Robin to Nightwing to leader of the Teen Titans to protector of Bludhaven to Batman. Wally West grew from Kid Flash to regular Flash. Wonder Girl has some sort of universal power thing going on now. And poor Speedy just had his daughter killed and his arm blown off. And then we have their mentors. Superman got married to Lois. Batman went global. Green Lantern died and became The Spectre for a while. The status quo is still God over there, but it seems DC is much more open to letting their writers try crazy shit that might not work. That’s what I want. I want the crazy shit. I want new ideas that are frightening and different. Sure, it could turn out to be crap. But at least I’ll be surprised. And maybe, if they do kill off a character, I won’t be thinking that its just a cheap stunt. Its not just to boost sales, in other words. Its because the writer had a good idea for a story and it involved a character dying. That’s really what I want. Writers telling good stories.

    • ahmed

      Glad we’re on the same page as far as letting things interesting happen. Looking forward to seeing how Big Time plays out?

      • Kyle

        I just can’t get invested in Spider-Man anymore. Like I said, after BONG nothing really matters. I’m just waiting until Quesada is gone. Then maybe someone will revert the revert and Peter will remember he made a deal with the friggin devil and they can proceed from there. Man, only in comics would it take a retcon to get rid of a terrible retcon.

        I’m probably gonna just stick with DC from now on. As much as they do stupid things, at least their stupid things don’t make me go into a mind numbing fanboy rage that makes me want to have nothing to do with the character anymore. Superboy-Prime punching reality? Incredibly stupid. Spider-Man making a deal with the devil and exchanging his marriage for the life of a 178 year old woman? No. I can’t do it. Get out of my sight comic. You have finally reached the end of my tolerance. That is where I draw the line.

  • While I’m not really into DC Comics, I will say that Marvel has done a ton of things to piss me off. First is letting the X-Men universe be ruined by the actual X-Men movies. Rogue with no accent and getting the white in her hair from touching Magneto – bullshit. Nightcrawler not knowing who Mystique is, and then Mystique looking like some scaly blue creature with greasy hair. Blasphemy! Mystique is hot! The Phoenix Saga, and how they completely raped one of the best story arcs in comic history… oh it broke my heart into a million pieces. Too much story was crammed into one movie, and it was just a mess. Having her kill Cyclops and Professor X? Oh hells no. The kicker was how the Phoenix turned out to be some alter-ego that Charles tried to control, but it ended up getting out of its cage. No mention of it being an alien entity, no mention of the Shi’ar Empire… it was simply a nightmare.

    Then, they actually ruined the comics by destroying almost every single character, and the art style now is like seriously atrocious. If I want to read something with anime looking characters, I’m going to look at manga, but I can’t stand manga so this makes me really not like the new X-Men comics. I also don’t like how everything is so fractured and disjointed, and then they try and capture the teen market with some X-Men Evolution cartoon where Rogue looks like some emo/goth chick? Oh please. While I’m for some changes in comics, like growth, progression through life… don’t mess with their origin stories, don’t mess with their core morals/beliefs, and please don’t drastically change them physically to where they look like ass. I mean honestly.

    Because of the changes to the X-Men series/franchise, I haven’t really followed it at all since I was a little girl because for me, that was when the X-Men were at their peak. Everything else now is just a shadow of its former self.

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