Like you, I grew up with comics. Whether I was slurping down Frosted Flakes while I was watching ‘Spiderman and his Amazing Friends’ on Saturday mornings or was reading John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Ben Grimm, Bobby Drake, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and all of their storied mythologies were ingrained in me as much as the screen printed symbols were on my Underoos.
The constant of their characters has made them recognizable to people outside of the fanboy community. Heroes like Batman, Superman, and Spiderman have all transcended their paneled pages, making their way into all of our lives through all types of media. Lois Lane has been by Superman’s side since nineteen thirty eight?. Aunt May has been worried about Peter since 1963. Alfred has been loyal butler and capable field medic after a run in with the Joker for 70 years. Recognizable is good. It has obviously played a huge role in how these characters have come into and have remained apart of our lives. But that recognition comes at a price.
For decades our favorite heroes and their exploits have revolved around many of the same supporting characters. For decades the heroes, many of us sacrificed a social life to read about, have cheated death and even a week’s worth of aging. Certainly, no one can deny these spandex clad heroes have been apart of gripping stories and mind blowing artwork gobbled up by fans like the Blob at an all you can eat buffet. But too many times, our heroes have fallen back on tired supporting characters and rewritten stories that had run their course years ago. The continuity and the flow of our favorite titles is mired in having to keep these characters apart of the multiverse.
It’s time to say goodbye to Aunt May.
Though it pains us, by all accounts she should have been dead a long time ago. Conservative estimates put her at being as old as Ulysses Bloodstone. So why is it Peter Parker’s aunt lives on?
Most fanboys and girls feel more deeply connected to Peter and May than they do for anyone real in their lives(if you have devoted even a single thought at what it would be like to date a Frank Cho rendering of Ms. Marvel, that statement applies especially to you).
The connections felt for the 616 Universe or Earth-2 has given way to ‘Crisis’ and ‘Brand New Day’ simply for the sake of salvaging characters that should have been eliminated. No one can rest in peace in comics. Everyone keeps coming back. Jason Todd. Steve Rogers. Simon Williams. Wally West. Bucky Barnes. Elektra Natchios. Hal Jordan. Aunt May. Jean Grey. Peter Rasputin. I have loved and grew up with these characters as much as the next socially awkward fan but even I know when it is time to say goodbye. The only time you could be killed off or actually stay dead is if your name is Vibe or Thomas and Martha Wayne. Superman was supposed to be the Last Son of Krypton. The only survivor of a doomed planet. There are more Kryptonians running around the DC universe than there are sectors in the universe for the Green Lantern Corp to patrol.
Even though these stories are centered around men and women in invisible jets, colorful spandex, and mutant spawned powers, publishers have worked hard to ground these superheroes in some level of reality. Writers fully acknowledge putting characters in situations we can relate with. Cities we live in. And despite the willing suspension of disbelief that automatically comes with reading a comic book, you can not help but root them in the context of your own life thanks to the creative teams behind them.
So why can’t Steve Rogers stay dead(this coming from the person who wrote his 'Who you want to be when you grow up" 4th grade paper on wanting to be Captain America)
Not just due to our inability to release our Kun Lun grip on him, but because publishers, as much as they are concerned with and tinkering the flow of continuity and the characters themselves, are concerned much more with issue sales. Of course they know we will show up at comic shops and milehighcomics.com in droves to get our hands on the ‘return’ issue for our favorite superhero. More than likely, they would have liked to have seen some of these characters stay dead but how do you deny the ravenous fans yearning to have Jean Grey return to Scott Summers? So in the end, it is ours, the fans responsibility for having to put up with 'return' issues and reality sweeping events that rewrite continuity for the sake of keeping a few fan favorite characters.
It’s time both publishers and readers to finally let Jean Grey, Steve Rogers, Mar-vell, and all else to rest in peace. It’s time we cut the weblines holding together resurrections of characters and reoccurring characters that fill the pages of our favorite titles. It’s time to open the dam to the river of continuity. It’s time for fresh stories unhindered by characters long past their usefulness but kept alive by publisher greed and fan obsession. It's time we stopped endorsing ridiculous universe encompassing events for the sake of a fictional life or two. It is time for a pinch of reality in an unreal world. It is time we finally said goodbye to Aunt May.