It was announced last week that Marvel Comics is planning on killing Spider-Man.  Although few details are known at the time of this writing, Marvel’s release was simple and to the point, ‘The Death of Spider-Man’.  That really got me thinking about all the mainstream superheroes that have been killed off over the years.  It has become a marketing trend to announce the death of the most popular characters, make a big deal out of it, and let the hero die for a noble cause or sacrificing themselves, then bring them back a year later.  I just don’t like the idea of killing off the major characters in their respective comic universes.  My main problem with it is that they never stay dead for more than a year or so and eventually return to life somehow.  It’s a well known fact that no one stays dead for long in the world of comics or science fiction.  But to kill off characters just to boost sales is getting a little old.

Usually I don’t have a problem with the death of incidental characters like Robin or Nightcrawler.  Their deaths usually bring about some kind of change in the central characters that great stories erupt from.  Some of them get what’s coming to them and it is often a welcomed sight to witness their demise.  Case in point, I spent the $1.50 to make sure that Jason Todd (Robin #2) was put down by The Joker.  For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, in 1988 DC Comics had a phone in vote to determine the fate of Jason Todd.  Although it was close, the fans voted for death and Jason was killed off.  Later he was brought back as a villain out for revenge against Batman which was okay in my book.

The big trend started with the death of Superman.  DC Comics hyped the event heavily that they were going to kill Superman; and in the mother of all battles the Man of Steel victorious was mortally wounded and died in Lois Lane’s arms.  The issue sold out printing after printing and to this day is one of the most sought after comics there is by collectors.  There was genuine backlash from fans who couldn’t believe that one of the most well known and beloved superheroes in the world was dead.  Fans then were left to cope with a world without Superman.  His presence missed by all, he was soon resurrected and returned to fight for truth, justice and the American way.  Other characters soon followed suit, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Captain America and Batman to name a few.  To me the straw that broke the camel’s back was the death of Batman.  I’ve been a lifelong Batman fan and I found it rather insulting that DC would kill him in an obvious attempt to sell more issues.  And as I and many others predicted, nearly a year later Bruce Wayne is alive and kicking again.

Marvel Comics is just as guilty with the murder of Captain America.  Although he didn’t stay dead for very long, it too was a blow to fans.  IDW’s first action after taking over the Transformers series from Devil’s Due and making it an ongoing monthly series killed off Ironhide in the very first issue.  These deaths usually are the source of great drama and conflict among the surviving characters as they try to come to grips with the loss; but this has all been done too much.  It has become predictable that when a character like Superman or Batman is killed that they will somehow find a way to bring them back within a year.

So is it brilliant marketing or an overdone method to generate sales?  Only those who write the stories know for sure.  They said they think long and hard before going in the direction of killing a major character; but if I could talk to those people I would sit them down and try to explain to them that enough is enough.  It’s different for villains who die because that’s what is supposed to happen.  The hero kills or defeats the villain in the end and the villain always returns to challenge the hero again; that is just how it is.  Batman foils The Joker’s plot to kill everyone in Gotham City; Joker gets lock away in Arkham Asylum and a few months later he escapes and it starts all over again.  That’s the bread and butter of comics and maybe I am a purest who dislikes anything that shakes up my status quo.

I do have to hand it to DC Comics however.  During their Blackest Night event they brought everyone back to life.  Anyone who had ever died in the DC Universe hero and villain found themselves resurrected as zombies out to kill those close to them or responsible for their death.  Some didn’t live through the event while others were brought back and some major changes rattled the DC Universe.  A similar event happened over at Marvel.  When Civil War was about to come to a head and Captain American was assassinated in front of hundreds of people, it was revealed that the Skrulls had been planning an invasion of Earth.  Those heroes and villains who had died over the previous months were Skrull doppelgangers.  The real ones were being held captive on the Skrull home world and with their return to Earth the truth was finally known.  I thought this was a brilliant storyline full of twists and turns that left everyone guessing what would happen next.

I guess that at the end of the day no matter what happens in the comic universes the real tried and true fans will keep coming back every month.  No matter who dies, who lives, the stories keep us coming back.  Our heroes are immortal in our eyes and whenever we’re reminded that even heroes must sometimes fall as tragic is it may be we find a way to carry on without them.  The loss somehow makes us stronger inside and pays tribute to our fallen heroes as their examples and sacrifices are not forgotten.  Others rise to help fill their shoes and the pain we feel eases as we see that hope is not somehow lost.  Then when they return, it fills us with hope and courage again; and the belief that everything will be alright.

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