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Off My Mind: Are Comic Book Deaths Cheap?

Even if beautifully written, the return negates it all.



 Just leave the body, he'll come back on his own.

  Barry Allen is dead?!? How can it be?
What happens when a comic book character dies? Where do they go? Basically they just go to a comic book waiting room until they eventually and inevitably return. This is a pet peeve for most readers. I bring this up because last night, Marvel.com ran an article on the top ten Avengers deaths. Over half have already returned to the land of the living and it's probably just a matter of time until the others return.
 
It used to be when a character died, you actually felt something. The characters around also felt something. The death of Bucky Barnes was something that haunted Steve Rogers for decades. Even thought it's great seeing what Bucky has evolved into, his death doesn't have much meaning anymore. The death of Superman? He died fighting Doomsday. So what? He got better. I could sit here and list more like Batman, Barry Allen, Captain America, Hal Jordan, Clint Barton, Norman Osborn, Green Arrow, Jean Grey...okay, let's stop there. 
 
 How long until Wasp returns?
The death of characters these days feel like stunts. It's unfortunate to the writer that pours their heart into writing a great and touching death only to have someone else revive that character later. Sure sometimes it's the same writer that erases the damage, but that's besides the point. Where does that leave us? If a character dies, why should we care? We're bound to see them return shortly. The death of Captain America was a bit shocking as Marvel managed to keep it under wraps. We didn't believe they would actually keep Steve dead. A couple years went by and we got great stories while he was gone. The day we knew was coming did come. Now Steve's death can be forgotten. The same can be said for Batman. With Bruce's death, we knew there was simply no way he would stay dead.
 
Perhaps it depends on how high profile a character is. Obviously the bigger the status of the character that dies, the shorter their time of death will be (although Barry Allen did remain dead for 23 years). In Siege #2 we saw the brutal death of an Avenger. It was shocking to see but we know the character will return. There's supposed to be a " noble death" coming up but should we be concerned over the fate of this character?
It's just unfortunate that death in comics have been used so many times. It makes sense that publishers wouldn't want their big characters to remain dead. I just wonder why bother in the first place? Does the death of a character still have the same or any impact these days? I say, let's see how long we can go without a character dying a cheap or noble death. In the end, they're just going to come back so there's no point in killing them off.

45 Comments
Posted by Grim

as much as i feel you on this... what are they gonna do? 
 Its not like every comic character idea is a good one, or one that will accepted by the community.
 Look at Dick Grayson as Batman. Dick is one of the most decorated heroes DC has to offer, and more or less the obvious choice to lead the Batfamily after Bruce. But you put him in the costume and half the folks out there start pissin and moanin. If you kill someone like batman and never bring him back, people will complain and stop reading until the day you bring him back.
  Either they never kill the characters and we loose all sense of continuity and order in the fold, or we get what we have now. 
our only hope is that the companies at least keep the c list characters dead. Ralph's death meant the world to me, and i just hope he stays dead for another 20 years like Barry

Posted by .Mistress Redhead.

well said Gman, its getting pathetic these days, there is no shock or horror at a death, we all just shrug and say oh well they will be back soon.

Edited by ironshadow

They should let the dead stay dead and have someone else pick up the mantle of the dead hero. Wally picked up after Barry and he was great, there was no need to bring back Barry and if they wanted to to Barry stories they could just do Elseworlds  stories or just reboot the character in a parallel universe, the same goes for everybody else, death in comics is meaningless it's just meant to boost sales as the inevitable rebirth of the dead guy.

Posted by Argentino_18

Ask any of the X-men, they got a College Degree for coming back from the dead....

Posted by AmazingSpiderMike

I believe that deaths in comic books have become very cliche and predictable. We all know that when someone "dies" in comics that it is not forever and that they are going to make their dramatic and triumphant return that changes their universe forever. For the ones who stay "dead" like Ben Parker or Gwen Stacy they are secondary characters who's death really effects the main character's life, in this instance Spider-Man. But I think that by "killing" off characters is focused on the shock and awe system because this particular character has become stale and uninteresting. Take for instance Captain America, before the Civil War event happened the Captain was indeed stale and it shows as far as comic sales goes. But know that Steve Rodgers is back the audience is more interested then before. When a character dies, some viewers crave on when he he/she comes back to kick ass again and as we wait the craving becomes more and more of an obsession rather than a wonderment. So why bother killing them off? Think of it as not by a "death", but maybe more of a new beginning.  

Posted by Green ankh

I have been reading Comics for almost 25 years. And i miss Capatain Marvel. The way he died was some thing back then. And i so much want to read more of his Adventures. But keeping him dead and making us old guys miss him is a great thing.  
 
But when Superman died you knew he'd be back.  Heroes like Green Arrow, Captain America, Hal, the Flash all could anyone in the suit. Same goes for Batman. Dick as Batman feels weird, but is refreshing but this too will end.  
 
But man there are a bunch of peole who could die...Cyclops on the top of the list.
Posted by Grim
@ironshadow said:
" They should let the dead stay dead and have someone else pick up the mantle of the dead hero. Wally picked up after Barry and he was great, there was no need to bring back Barry and if they wanted to to Barry stories they could just do Elseworlds  stories or just reboot the character in a parallel universe, the same goes for everybody else, death in comics is meaningless it's just meant to boost sales as the inevitable rebirth of the dead guy. "
that might work for a few years.. but then what? Some of these guys have been around for 80 years, and their gonna be around for 80 more. Will you really still read comics in 10 years if there are 90% new characters? Continuity says everyone dies at some point. If you wanna keep all these guys around, you have to utilize all your options. Killing and coming back. Keeping them young. Time Travel. whatever, you have to use it all to the fullest or in 12 years your gonna have a whole line up of new characters that readers arent lifelong fans of and therefore wont really care about.
Posted by Tyler Starke

Liked the article, One thing I like about the ultimate marvel universe is the deaths are supposed to be permanent we'll see if that remains. I do believe they revived beast at one point lol but he's dead again. Batman and Cap are two of my favorites but when they died, I was ok with moving on and them never coming back because that means the story can evolve. I mean do you think in twenty or thirty years people will still be reading regular Batman stories?  While you can argue that people have been reading Batman stories since the 30's we all know that they're isn't much more the character can do or become. But hey don't get me wrong I'm sure some people would still love the same routine ha I'd probably still read them. Well i got sidetracked didn't I. If i could guess who will be revived this year, I'm guessing the wasp, because then they have the opportunity to have an original avengers team again.

Posted by CATMANEXE

yeah. for sure. but it doesnt bother me since they never impacted me.
in a superhero type comic anyways i just consider it one of those cardinal
rules of comics, so i got what i came for any ways.
#6: Superhero characters will die and return from the dead, as death is only stepping into
another world, with the exception being Uncle Ben.
#7: Superhero's shall not wear underwear on the inside of their pants or tights, or otherwise
shall go gung-ho.
...ect.

Posted by Dr. Detfink

Comic book deaths were designed so that writers could continue coming up with new characters. Guess what? A majority of new heroes and villains by the major companies have been terrible since 80s...yes, Deadpool is a terrible character but he's not the only one. This forces companies to bring characters back because they can't afford titles to under perform especially as the industry gets more expensive to produce and pay artists and writers. 
 
What that all entails is, comic book characters are logos. They're the thing you wear with your polo t-shirt or that futbol jersey with a million ads on it. Hal Jordan isn't a character, he's a brand name levis jeans 1959 which makes him vintage.
 
Why are older characters being brought back? Cause old guys like me haven't been into the anime, cartoons, or video games. We're still readers and we won't go digital because we loveprint...and also we have a secure enough living to be able to afford $4.99. 
 
That's why you see Green Lantern movie with Hal Jordan not Kyle Rayner because I will pay $20 a ticket in NYC to see it in 3-D IMAX with my girlfriend and stepdaughter. That's $60 per film. 
 
So are comic deaths cheap? Yes...because the sales and the return are the BIGGER pay off.

Posted by FoxxFireArt

Just as when Babs wrote that article a little while back talking about J. Scott Campbell only doing covers. I am so pleased to read this. It's a thought I've been having for quite a while. Though, I'll leave out the "I could just kiss you!!" comment and just leave it at a "Thank You". lol
 
Deaths in many of the major comics have become even jokes in the same series. I believe it was in Astonishing X-Men early on when they recovered Colossus. Someone made a comment about Jean and Emma said she was dead. This other woman made some snarky comment about how long that will last.
Jean Grey has died so many times. It makes me wonder if they use the same grave or make a different one. I get this mental image of them eventually having an entire mortuary with tombs stones all saying "Jean Grey". 
I think one of the only deaths that Marvel seems determined to stick to is Gwen Stacy. Though that didn't stop writers from messing around with the circumstances around that death, i.e. the whole pregnancy and twins issue.
 
All emotional attachment we feel for these characters is lost. No matter what happens they come back. They only recently brought back Ms. Marvel and it seems they may of killed her off yet again. (I haven't been following that one closely.)
 
Quite frankly, I've been impressed how well DC has stuck to Barbra Gordon being in a wheelchair. Even many dramatic changes never seen the last. Batman suffered massive back trauma from Bane and he recovered completely.
Though, that seems to be part of the issue. A lack of any consequence. Nothing ever seems to happen to these people that really effects them in a long term sense anymore.

Posted by MrCipher
@.Mistress Redhead.:
Agreed. There is not even any shock-value left in comic book character's deaths. Seems like it's a storyline writers try to use when they have no other ideas left for a character.
Posted by Quintus_Knightfall

I'm on the other side of the fence with this (great write up by the way). I like the fact that characters die and come back. For me when a character dies its still shocking even though I know eventually they will return. As long as the death, and the return, are handled/written properly I'm all for it. In fact, what bothers me more then characters dying and returning, is the lack of deaths. All the major battles, conflicts, and wars, heroes and villains wage on a daily basis should produce alot more deaths.

Moderator
Posted by G-Man
@MrCipher: It's not always the writer's idea though. Sometimes editorial dictates what they want/expect.
Staff
Posted by .Mistress Redhead.
@G-Man said:
" @MrCipher: It's not always the writer's idea though. Sometimes editorial dictates what they want/expect. "
That was going to be my next point, quite often it is at the lead of the editorial to just generate more PR
Posted by They Killed Cap!

Totally I can't stand it. I would not mind for them to kill key charectes and just leave them dead.
Posted by Lustwish

I agree with this a lot.  Some of the deaths have been well done and scripted, but it just seems a wash when you find out he or she might be coming back in "this" timeline.  Superman's death was a super shocker to the world.  In his biopic/documentary "Look Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman" it was said that nothing else in the world happened that day.  The general public felt it, other superheroes felt it, we all felt what it was like to lose him.  It was devastating.  His return however was not well scripted and received.  Captain America also faced a well planned and executed assassination.  Again handled well, while his return was not handled that smoothly.  Again another superhero " lost in time".  Batman not a  well executed death plan, managed to die in 2 different ways in 2 different books.  And his death was not well received no well planned.  No one that I know was shocked or devastated by such a thing.  They seemed to use the same method that Marvel did with Cap.  Ok we got a crisis,  I get killed, I have a backup to take my place - Dick Grayson to take over the reins, and well Ill be lost in time.  Cap was assassinated in the heat of Civil War, had Bucky as a backup to take his place and well hmmmm was also lost in time.  I will agree that deaths are not always well received, but they are also not well planned nor well scripted.  The story is just an excuse cause not everyone can tell a good story anymore.  The few that can are selling books out the ass along with awesome art.  Who we gonna kill this year? Spider-man? I'd like to see that but without a doubt it would not be well scripted. Planned maybe, but scripted? you better get your aces on that one.  2009 wasn't so much about death but return, rebirth and new beginnings, and most of 2010 seems like it will be more of the same.   

Posted by chalkshark

Here's a thought.... just stop killing off the characters.  A top tier character can never stay dead, so why bother writing that story in the first place? Even when the story is very well written, the reader knows that's there's no permanence to the event, which blunts a fair amount of the impact. Unfortunately, there seems to be an invested need on the part of the fan base to keep the character's static. That said, Wally West took over the mantle of the Flash & ran with it for 20 successful years. Bringing back Barry Allen invalidates all the ground DC gained by boldly allowing one of their character's to actually move forward, & grow. The thing of it is. Dead characters aren't lost to the writers, which I think is how they, generally, perceive it.  Creator fans of Barry Allen brought back Barry Allen because they wanted to write that character. They still could have. Just because the character has died doesn't mean that every story has been told about said character.  I don't see why you couldn't run a series featuring adventures of the character pre-death. They do it with the Justice Society all the time. Marvel was putting out that Theater of War comic featuring the Steve Rogers Captain America in stories that spanned his entire history.  I think they proved, quite admirably, that Captain America could continue without Steve Rogers behind the mask. Legacy characters do work.... if you give them a chance.

Posted by MrCipher
@G-Man:
Wow really? Thats got to be maddening for those writers that get absorbed in the storylines and see a character going in a particular direction, just to be told that they need to off the character.
 
I guess I don't understand why they would do something like that (especially to a character like Batman who has a HUGE following).
Edited by MrCipher
@.Mistress Redhead.:
Hmmm seems like one of the best-known and beloved heroes in America and several other countries wouldn't need more PR.
Posted by Croaker

The problem with the big ones is they don't have to balls to kill them off. I suppose that's the charm of the lesser known ones. 

Posted by G-Man
@MrCipher:  What it comes down to, no matter how big the writer is, they can't just walk into Marvel or DC and say, "Hey, I'm gonna kill this character." They might pitch the idea but it's not all them. With Jeph Loeb and Ultimatum, it's not like he alone decided to kill off half the universe.
Staff
Posted by DEADPOOL

I think deaths are always shocking, and unless they're a popular character, it begs to question if they'll ever return or if they'll just be replaced eventually.

Posted by Moomin123

Comic deaths are cheap depending on the character who dies.
Posted by Yumulu

Death is so meaningless right now in the superheroes genre that it give the feeling that it will never recover from it state.
 
But as long as people like to have some drama in they're comics they will continue to give us deaths and ressurection seems to be the norm of what follow 
 
Nice strip to end your arcticle, I miss my dead Green Goblin...

Posted by DMC

Are comic book deaths cheap? It depends. IMHO, it's the use of character deaths to advertise/sell comics that can be worse than the death itself.  
 
What's important is what happens as a result which will ultimately prove if it was worth it. 
 
- Steve Rogers death gave us Captain Bucky and he's great. I'm glad that he'll still be holding onto the shield for a bit longer.
 
- one could argue that it was the Skrull infiltration but I think Janet's death was a good think for Hank Pym. For a while he looked like a capable leader and all around cool character......but Dan Slott might have ruined it after what he did in the last issue of Mighty Avengers
 
-even though Batman didn't really die, it's gonna be worth it to see "Batman vs History" in the RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE!
 
- will the death's of Hercules and Ares be worth it? We'll see. Prince of Power looks cool but I don't see anything worth while happening to Phobos with his dad's death.

Posted by DarkSyde79

They use to say, "The only people who stay dead in comics are Bucky and Jason Todd!!!" Well... I figure the current status of these characters says it all. 
 
Wha's the point in killing characters off on what sometimes seems a whim, just to have them comeback thru various means. In the end, I'd rather see other plot devices used to get rid of characters. Then I would like for us NOT to see them so much in alternative universe and "What If?" storylines. Make me at least try to MISS a character!!!

Edited by Jordanstine
Posted by harpothedope

I thinks deaths are fine as long as they are justafieable and fit the story with a purpose. And I hate plot driven deaths, like jack of spade's death in Disassembled, actually like most of the Deaths in disassembled. I need good, character driven decisions, that unfortunately lead to their death, like Barry Allen and Captain America's deaths. Death becomes cheap when its poorly written, because ussually you dont feel the hole the charater left in the world, sure sometimes you get characters that get sad or angry about it, but there only a handful of stories have i felt that the character is missed and their death is affecting the characters more than emotionally.  I dont want it big and in my face but it be nice to feel like Scott was missing Jean without a blubber fest. I think the biggest problem to the deaths is the Rebirth. It's so hyped up that we forget why the death had such an impact to begin with. I like how Hawkeye's rebirth was done. He just appeared. No big pomp and circumstance, he's just back. Now I can have Hawkeye stories again. Whereas Cap's rebirth is being drawn out so much that i feel like its the weakest part of an otherwise phenomenal run 

Posted by sora_thekey

I do agree with the fact that it leaves an emotional moment when a character dies... 
 
That is why (and I can't say this enough) I love Gwen Stacy, her charactar is important and her death was so significant basically because she stayed dead! 
I do have to say thought that things like Captain america's death should have never happened. I mean if he was going to come back then why kill him? 
 
It's better for someone to be killed and stay dead or not be killed at all, great article G-Man!
Moderator
Posted by NightFang

Sometimes it works other thimes it suck @$$!!!!

Posted by Meteorite

This is one of my pet peeves with comics; if a character is killed off who you like, you'll want them back, but if they do come back, it makes their death seem hollow. There needs to be some middle ground where a character can be killed and not return, but not have everyone missing them.

Edited by CorAutMors

Comic book deaths have simply become plot devices.

Posted by goldenkey

I hate the deaths because the you go thru the bullshit of who is gonna take over, is the costume the same, are the powers differant, can he hold to to the other character.  I think it's more of a surprise when a villian get killed.  Sabretooth getting his head cut off wasn't expected when it happened, Bucky sniping Red Skull was a shock too.  No one stays dead tho and that's what sucks.  For me the character I felt the worst for when he died was Ted Kord.  The guy went thru hell to prove his theory on Checkmate, and no one was believing him and it sucked because he was hero and he ended up getting killed.  I felt bad because I knew that Ted Kord wasn't coming back.  He's not important enough to come back, but I read that story and was like "WOW"  he proved he was a bad ass im a lot of regards and ended up dying, the hero's let him down.  If they do bring him back it should be as a villian out for revenge.
Posted by Solenoid Spin

What bothers me more are the little deaths. Those great villains who are killed off casually and then left in the grave.

Posted by ledgerior
@DMC:
Should Ares's death even count? I may be mistaken but, i thought i read Ares telling his son(after he was deemed by the other gods to be worthy of becoming god of fear.)that gods being immortal when they are killed they are simply reborn and that Phobos himself would have to experince the same to truly become a god.
Posted by DH69

yes and no, when it happens once a month its pathetic but when its after something pivotal like civil war it can be one of the most meaningful images in comicbook history. 
 
but when you kill them off just for a story its so insulting to the reader

Posted by Mbecks14
Posted by Primmaster64

It seems the only thing comicbook character can beat is Death.

Posted by DEADPOOL
@ledgerior said:
" @DMC: Should Ares's death even count? I may be mistaken but, i thought i read Ares telling his son(after he was deemed by the other gods to be worthy of becoming god of fear.)that gods being immortal when they are killed they are simply reborn and that Phobos himself would have to experince the same to truly become a god. "
Yeah, I think Ares is going to be coming back. And what's this about Hercules dying? He's a god too, he shouldn't be staying dead.
Posted by jordama

It makes sense to have a character die, I mean, being a super-hero is a high risk job. And when a character does die, atleast is a book that i read, my first thought is not of the characters revival. after awhile I start to think if they are gonna bring them back, but i never assume they will.  
 
The only character to die and not come back is Uncle Ben. If they ever revive him (perminatly) I will give up comics
Posted by Bruce Vain

To me the best death was my boy Colossus self sacrificing himself to cure the Legacy Virus. It was quite a few years till he came back, which was a pleasant shock to see him return.
Posted by CATMANEXE
@DEADPOOL said:
" @ledgerior said:
" @DMC: Should Ares's death even count? I may be mistaken but, i thought i read Ares telling his son(after he was deemed by the other gods to be worthy of becoming god of fear.)that gods being immortal when they are killed they are simply reborn and that Phobos himself would have to experince the same to truly become a god. "
Yeah, I think Ares is going to be coming back. And what's this about Hercules dying? He's a god too, he shouldn't be staying dead. "
Herc...well, read the comic if your interested, or
Posted by DeadPool50

Well put. I talked to my friends today about the issue of comic book deaths, sure its just business, but people should be expecting these stunts often in the future. I myself hate how they always pull this stunt to sell off a few copies, i recently heard about the death of batman and it surprised me until i saw the issue that he made his return.

Posted by DEADPOOL
@CATMANEXE said:
" @DEADPOOL said:
" @ledgerior said:
" @DMC: Should Ares's death even count? I may be mistaken but, i thought i read Ares telling his son(after he was deemed by the other gods to be worthy of becoming god of fear.)that gods being immortal when they are killed they are simply reborn and that Phobos himself would have to experince the same to truly become a god. "
Yeah, I think Ares is going to be coming back. And what's this about Hercules dying? He's a god too, he shouldn't be staying dead. "
Herc...well, read the comic if your interested, or
"
Oh, I see. Thanks.