Death in Comics

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One of the big, if not THE biggest, story lines of the Fall this year is the Death of Wolverine in Marvel Comics.  The creators, artists, writers, everybody at Marvel are all saying that this is it for Logan.  He is not coming back, his death will be final, no coming back.  And everyone who has ever read a super hero death storyline just smiles when they hear Marvel say that, because we all know the truth.  We are all sitting here, ready to call “BS” on Marvel.  Yeah, right.  If there is one thing death isn’t in the comics, it’s permanent, at least for heroes.  As a side note, the lovely cover art you see above is a Salt Lake Comic Con exclusive cover for this issue.  There will only be 3000 available, and they will only be available at Salt Lake Comic Con, if you’re interested.

Death is a funny thing in the comics.  We all know that when a hero dies, it is only a matter of time.  I remember being a young lad when Superman “died.”  I was shocked.  He was always my     favorite, and I was shocked to see him go.  I wondered what the world would be like without the Man of Steel in it.  How would it go on?  Even at the age of 10 or 11, I was intrigued to find out.  DC did let this play out for a little while, but eventually, Big Blue was back, better than ever.  And by eventually, I mean it was about a year. Of course, one of the huge benefits for DC was the number of issues they sold of the “Death of Superman.”  This was a pivotal moment in comics.  There had been deaths before.  Some of the more impactful ones would be the death of The Flash, Barry Allen, the death of Robin, Jason Todd, and the death of Phoenix, Jean Grey.  These each had been a big deal, and very meaningful in their respective series, and in the case of the Flash, to the whole DC Multiverse.  Up to this point, though, by and large, the heroes had remained dead. We saw how the world moved on after each of these deaths.  For example, Wally West stepped in to fill the shoes of the Flash, and became a very popular character in his own right.

Killing off Superman was a big deal, though.  This would have greater ramifications than any other super hero would, and where would you find a replacement Superman? You couldn’t.  DC tried with 4 different versions, and none of them would have worked out long-term.  They knew the issue would be huge, and it was, but they also knew it would be huge when he came back.  The Death and Return of Superman basically set up a model for super hero deaths that has been followed again and again.  DC may be a slightly worse offender, but it is by a narrow margin.  Since Superman died we have seen the death and return of Batman, the Green Lantern  (Hal Jordan, a couple of times), and the return of Barry Allen and Jason Todd.  Big Blue set the precedent.  In Marvel, the biggest name to die and come back has been Captain America, not to mention Jean Grey who came back, and then died and came back and then died again (at least I think she is still dead), a trick she must have learned from Charles Xavier who has also died and returned multiple times. We have even seen the return of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier.  Bucky had been dead so long, that it even became a running joke that all the other heroes come back except Bucky.

Death just doesn’t have any permanence in the comic book world for heroes.  This is actually kind of sad, and deprives the fan from a little bit of realism.  I write that with a grain of salt, realizing that we are talking about comics, a world where there is not a lot of realism.  Death happens in real life.  Sometimes it happens to the good guys.  In fact it happens a lot to the good guys.  It would be nice to see a little bit of that in the comics.  See how the world goes on with Batman or Superman.  I was intrigued when Batman died a few years back.  For the first time in a long time, I picked up a Batman issue (it’s true, I don’t read Batman, not at all.  Ask my comic book guy, Greg, at Black Cat Comics, he’ll tell you).  I bought it, because I was intrigued by the idea of Dick Grayson taking over for Bruce Wayne.  It was a story line that had a lot of potential with time, but DC barely gave it a shot.  Batman was back before we knew it.  Bucky filled in for Cap, and it was interesting to read his adventures as Captain America, but soon enough Steve Rogers was back.  I think comic book companies are really missing out on some great opportunities to tell some great stories and allowing us to get to know these characters in some new ways.  But it never really happens.  The hero never stays dead.

The strangest part is how pivotal death is to a lot of characters.  Some characters are dead and have remained dead and never come back.  Uncle Ben and the Waynes are the two best examples.  Uncle Ben’s death was the most important event in the history of Spider-Man.  Without that happening, Peter Parker would not be the hero he is. Period, end of story.  The same thing for Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents.  These characters can never come back because that would change everything too much.  The truth is, look at how much depth they have added to the characters they have affected. That is what a good death could do.  It would add some depth to the characters that are left behind.  IT would also leave the door open for some other characters to step up.

I don’t know if Wolverine is going to stay dead (doubt it), but I hope he does.  His death would mean more if it was permanent.  It might actually matter.  Either way, Marvel will sell a ton of this series.

Jake Dietz
Jake Dietz is a humble bank employee by day, and super dad to 5 little monsters by night. He enjoys all things geeky. That's why he started this blog. He considers himself a member of many fandoms, and dreams of the day when all geeks, everywhere, can find a way to live together in harmony.

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