Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Round and Round We Go

It seems that people still can't stop whining about the "revolving door of death" or simply death itself in superhero comics. Every few months there's another article somewhere about the topic. I'll admit that I myself was once against some of that. But now I am older and wiser and I can tell you: deaths and resurrections are a part of superhero comics. And they always have been.

People act as though violent death and unlikely resurrection are something new to comics. But that's just ridiculous. Since the advent of superheroes slaughter and that "revolving door" have been a part of the medium.

Consider the Ultra-Humanite, Superman's first true supervillainous opponent. Death and resurrection are a part of the character. Dying and coming back to life are what the Humanite does.

Take Hugo Strange, arguably Batman's first real adversary. How many times has the good professor seemingly died since his first appearance in the 40's only to return fit and ready to come up with a new, twisted scheme? I certainly couldn't count them all off the top of my head.

Now some of you may be saying: "Wait it's not about that! Deaths these days are far more violent! Carnage for carnage's sake!" To that I ask: have you ever actually read a Golden Age comic? Have you seen the way characters died in the good old days? Comics in the 1940's could be incredibly violent. In some ways, comics in the modern age are pretty tame in comparison (perhaps too tame).

Now I'll admit that the resurrections have gotten a bit more fanciful. But the classic "Oh, I wasn't actually dead even though you all saw me die" is still in use. Just look at Stephanie Brown -- she's a classic example of that sort of resurrection. The term "retcon" may be relatively new, but the concept certainly isn't.

My point is this: violent death and unlikely resurrections are not something tacked onto comics in recent years. They are central part of a medium that has a history going back nearly eight decades. They are as much a part of superhero comics as capes and tights. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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At 8:41 AM, Blogger Sea_of_Green said...

You're right -- death and resurrection HAVE always been a part of super-hero comics. MY main gripe these days is that it takes the comic book publisher so GOSHDARNED LONG to get around to the resurrection part. Like, YEARS. It use to be the character in question would be resurrected the same or very next issue. Hey, I'm an (admittedly) impatient person with scads of other things to do besides wait for Barry Allen to come back from the dead. DC has taken so long (and flirted with the possibility so often) that now I don't care anymore. :-( But I guess keeping us in suspense sells comics. *Sigh.*

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Diamondrock said...

Yes, I think the suspense does help sell comics. Every issue you can say "this might be the one!" about is an issue that every fan of the dead character will snap up. Comic fans are loyal, and they'll stick around for *years*...

And of course, the goal of a comic company isn't to keep fans happy necessarily... It's to sell books.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

You're right of course. But I think that sometimes people tend to take the concept of death too personally. I don't mind if they kill off some character that I don't read, but when they kill off Ted Kord, or J'onn J'onnz, then I take it to heart, dammit.

Just kill people I don't care about! Which of course is ridiculous...but still!

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Diamondrock said...

It *is* ridiculous... But I feel exactly the same way! How do you think I felt when Doctor Polaris got blowed up?

Still, it's a testament to the power of these characters that they instill such feeling in their fans. I'd rather feel angry about a character dying than feel nothing at all...

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Scipio said...

"have you ever actually read a Golden Age comic? "


Most people, I've discovered, haven't even read a SILVER Age comic; many don't even know there is a Bronze Age. And yet they do not hesitate to pontificate on "what Batman has always been" or the like.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Diamondrock said...

I figured *you* would agree, Scipio. After all, it was all the great panels you post that made me go out there and start reading some Golden Age comics myself.

It truly is ridiculous to try to claim that a given character should be what he or she has "always been like." Though the core concepts often remain the same, these characters in incredibly flexible. They change to fit the times. That's why they're all still around...


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