Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

There's no denying that the American comic industry has a fixation on death right now. Perhaps it's a phase, or perhaps it's merely a sign of trajectory, but either way, death's the thing of the moment. The better part of the past two months has been spent watching the Joker threaten Batman's "family" with death, and if Marvel's killing of Peter Parker and Avengers Arena haven't convinced you of their fixation, perhaps the promotions for the upcoming Age of Ultron have.

It's intriguing to watch community reactions to events such as these. There seem to be two voices at odds with one another. One laments killing as a tasteless and unnecessary travesty against fans. The other laments the absence of death as a mockery of real risk and an undermining factor in the potential power of the medium. It's hard to tell who is angrier: those who are sick of deaths not lasting, or those who are sick of deaths, period.

The problem is, death makes no sense in comics, at least as far as DC and Marvel are concerned. It comes across as arbitrary or gimmicky because nothing else in comics follows a realistic or inevitable path. Characters are ageless and immortal, and the only way for them to die is for a writer to actively decide to kill them. Batman has existed since the 1930s. Bruce Wayne should be dead by now, not because he's been involved in a ton of horribly dangerous situations, but because he should be a senior citizen with no bones left and probably a great deal of other medical problems to boot. But Bruce hasn't really aged much in the almost 80 years over which he has "lived."

The failure to age characters is of course nothing new. But I wonder if we've considered the implications. Why are we clamoring for our characters to die from supervillains or events -- in the name of "realism" -- but we otherwise want them to just be perpetually young and fit? It seems to me that if arthritis or cancer aren't real threats to our heroes, nothing else has a right to be either.

This compulsion to kill for change's sake manifests with nasty variations. One of the most common is a kind of inexplicable bloodlust, which demands the deaths of characters perceived as "unnecessary" or "getting in the way." It's remarkable how quickly a character is thrown under the bus because his or her superpowers resemble those of another character, as if there were some logic to a mutation only manifesting one time ever, or as if two characters with the same mutation must necessarily be redundant. I wonder whether the same people view identical twins in real life with disdain, and say to themselves, "gee, we only need one of them, why doesn't someone just off the other one?"

There is a sort of epidemic of failure to understand nuances in characters or even appreciate them as entities beyond their appearance or abilities. Fans of the characters, like friends of the less popular twin, are told that the character they like is irrelevant because, say, someone else has elemental powers or metal claws. Genetics are the key to whether a character holds interest; if you share genetic makeup with anyone else, then you don't deserve to live.

Death, of course, isn't the only casualty of agelessness. Because we expect to see our characters on the front lines from decade to decade, they're not allowed to truly develop towards any trajectory. The most glaring issue is relationships: even ones with thirty, forty, fifty years of progress seem not to have gone anywhere. Relationships which have a semblance of stability are seen as threats to the characters' development; husbands and wives are perceived as anathema to intrigue. Two conflicting voices drive the vehicle of comic book evolution, one saying "we must always have change, to avoid stagnation" and another which says "we cannot go down the same road for too long, for that, too, leads to stagnation." The effect is a car stuck pulling u-turns and crisscrossing a map, so fixated on the idea that the journey outshines destination that the very idea of having a destination, let alone valuing one, seems to have been thrown out the window like so much litter, hundreds of miles back.

In a crude way, it makes sense: if you're perpetually twenty-five, you feel as if you could live forever. Because, of course, you can. The realistic compulsion to maybe start taking it easier, to settle down, to retire the spandex and propagate a future generation of heroes… None of that exists if characters don't age. In fact, if a character does marry and have children, those children stand a chance of eventually being the same age as the hero. This awkwardness could be avoided by simply having your heroes age; instead, it's "solved" by killing off young heroes before the question achieves proper prominence in the comic-reading consciousness.

People love to complain about new characters. They consider them at best uninteresting, at worst redundant. And even with the best of writers, the redundancy can be seen as a legitimate concern when all the original heroes are still just as vital and prominent as they've ever been. Very few characters are given a chance to rise to prominence. It's an absurd situation, really, as it precludes any history. What would American politics look like if people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were still alive, youthful, and active in politics? Would there be any progress? Would people even care?

Comics provide us with an unnatural situation in which the voices and faces of generations past still intrude on today's issues. These indisputable legends command attention wherever they arrive, and the result is that no one new has a chance at the spotlight. There's an element of horror to it, the immortals crushing generation after generation of hopeful heroes. Why does this happen? Why do people want it to happen? I honestly don't know.

Coincidence has given us torch handoffs in the past. Multiple characters have worn the cowl and been called Batman, and their tenures can, in an abstract way, be considered; but Bruce Wayne's run vastly outlasts anyone else's. Isn't that unfortunate? Wouldn't it be more interesting if we could look back over seventy-five years and compare a variety of Batmen (and women?) with their own distinct styles and personalities? Wouldn't it be better if we could look at the "original" X-Men through proper historical lenses, as if looking at a history book at forefathers, and compare them to the current generation, rather than simply differentiate between current X-Men which were created recently and current X-Men which were also originals?

I understand favoritism and enjoying characters, but the unreal nature of the system seems to me to do a lot more harm than good. It necessitates massive, deadly events to effect a visible change on a universe which real history has never depended upon because it changes organically. And even the most brutal "changes" are mocked for their temporariness; certain characters' returns are deemed inevitable. So we say we wish deaths were permanent, but what we really mean is we wish deaths were realistic -- occurring with or without external stimulus, and properly bringing closure to one character's arc to make way for the zenith of a new one's.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm crazy for suggesting it'd be okay if favorite characters got old and died (like favorite people). Maybe I'm crazy for proposing a world in which Batman changes names, if not as frequently as presidents, then at least as frequently as supreme court justices. Maybe I'm crazy for thinking that character death is inane and trite if murder-by-author is the only cause of death that's actually accepted in the entire artistic medium.

I'd like to think I have a point. But then again, wouldn't we all…

Thanks for reading.

#1 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

Hm....bump.

#2 Posted by cattlebattle (12579 posts) - - Show Bio

I agree completely. One thing I that Anime and Manga has over american comics is that they usually they have a beginning and an ending. Not saying all comics don't...but the most popular ones don't, they just go on and on.
 
It just results in the characters doing the same old stuff for decades on end.

#3 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@cattlebattle: Is there a Japanese equivalent to the ongoing American comic? I'd agree that pretty much any manga I've heard of is either a set length, or is released in sort of a "seasons" format like television where its duration is extended in regular intervals as opposed to dictated by monthly sales. Allows for much tighter narrative control, among other things. Quite like the creator-owned/indie market here, I guess.

#4 Posted by cattlebattle (12579 posts) - - Show Bio
@akbogert said:

@cattlebattle: Is there a Japanese equivalent to the ongoing American comic? I'd agree that pretty much any manga I've heard of is either a set length, or is released in sort of a "seasons" format like television where its duration is extended in regular intervals as opposed to dictated by monthly sales. Allows for much tighter narrative control, among other things. Quite like the creator-owned/indie market here, I guess.

Yup, like you just said, there is plenty of indie comics that have a beginning and conclusion. 
 
I always thought it would be nice if both Marvel and DC set up universes like the Ultimate Universe where time goes by and the heroes actually age, leading them to pass there mantles on, create new villains and so on. I mean, I just find things  kind of off putting that finding the X-Men characters I read about when I was a kid like Storm, Wolverine and Cyclops are still the central focus of the book now.
#5 Edited by Ravager4 (1627 posts) - - Show Bio

I wholeheartedly agree. I've found myself enjoying comics with set beginnings and endings a lot more than endless ongoings lately. I enjoy seeing characters grow and mature, advance through their life, finding love, passing the mantle, etc, etc. One of the best examples I can think of was in Manhunter vol. 3 (the Kate Spencer one). After about 30 something issues, the series got cancelled early and the writer didn't want to just throw in a rushed last couple of issues trying to messily tie a bunch of stuff together, so instead he did a flash forward type of thing, showing the characters fifteen years later, how they changed, showing Kate passing the identity of Manhunter to her son, etc. It was all very nice, if a bit jarring at first. But I realized how awesome it would have been to actually follow all that progression naturally for the characters. Just having a taste of how all those characters changed fifteen years later was totally surreal and awesome.

#6 Posted by danhimself (22218 posts) - - Show Bio

if a writer comes along and writes a story where he feels that the best course of action is to kill off a character then so be it...5 months later if a writer comes along and decides that the best course of action for his story is to bring back that same character then so be it....as long as it's a well written story then what does it matter?

#7 Edited by EMH_Bruce (717 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@cattlebattle: Is there a Japanese equivalent to the ongoing American comic? I'd agree that pretty much any manga I've heard of is either a set length, or is released in sort of a "seasons" format like television where its duration is extended in regular intervals as opposed to dictated by monthly sales. Allows for much tighter narrative control, among other things. Quite like the creator-owned/indie market here, I guess.

There is at least one I know/heard of,

Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo also known as Kochikame it's published since 1976 and has over 1'700 chapters in 183 Volumes.

Online
#8 Posted by Cap10nate (2122 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself said:

if a writer comes along and writes a story where he feels that the best course of action is to kill off a character then so be it...5 months later if a writer comes along and decides that the best course of action for his story is to bring back that same character then so be it....as long as it's a well written story then what does it matter?

This. I just want to read good stories. I don't care who dies and is brought back if it is done well.

#9 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@cattlebattle: Aye. That's what I meant by "jarring" in the title. There's just something off about it. It doesn't feel like it should exist. When you notice it, it ought to bother you.

@Ravager4: That's pretty cool. I feel like cancellations can be done well or really poorly, and sadly they tend to be the latter. It's a shame that driving characters towards a definite purpose is such a rarity in American comics. That sense of fulfillment is something most readers are just perpetually being robbed of; worse, because sometimes there's a hint of progress (like a marriage), but then it gets broken up in the name of intrigue. I'm glad your characters got a seemingly fair ending.

@EMH_Bruce: Wow. That's actually pretty impressive, considering how deviant it is from the norm. I wonder what keeps it afloat, and how (or if) it maintains quality.

@Cap10nate said:

@danhimself said:

if a writer comes along and writes a story where he feels that the best course of action is to kill off a character then so be it...5 months later if a writer comes along and decides that the best course of action for his story is to bring back that same character then so be it....as long as it's a well written story then what does it matter?

This. I just want to read good stories. I don't care who dies and is brought back if it is done well.

I appreciate what you are saying, but...well...

Neither of you has addressed the primary focus of what I actually wrote. My blog is about agelessness, not character death. And my argument is that the agelessness of these characters artificially creates contrived plots (which, I might add, are notorious for being recycled) and intrinsically precludes a much wider range of potential stories, themes, and a vast spectrum of true development which can only occur as characters age and mature.

True, I began with the subject of death, but that was merely a lead-in to the more deep-seated root of the problem which manifests itself in a variety of ways, one of which happens to be death. It worries me slightly that your responses seem tied to my opening paragraph and don't really imply consideration of the remaining majority of what I wrote.

It's this whole "close enough" mentality that really puts me on edge. I saw it with Arena, I saw it in response to my Starfire blog, I've seen it elsewhere and I'm seeing it here: this insidious notion that so long as things could be worse, there's no real value in making them better (or even proving that they actually are good). Why we as an industry and a readership are perfectly content with something that functions, rather than trying to make it excel, is beyond me. The current system may be able to tell good stories, but it very rarely tells great ones. Even most "greats" are only superior in the context of other, largely mediocre comic stories. It is extremely uncommon for a comic story to stand out as strong storytelling when all narrative media are considered. It strikes me as in everyone's best interest to explore why that is, and I think this uncanny valley is definitely a part of that.

#10 Edited by EMH_Bruce (717 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: I think it's so popular because it's like a japanese The Simpsons. I don't like the Simpsons, but Kochikame looks funny xD

Oh and the Mangaka is the same since chapter one, so I think that's why it stays on a consistent quality level.

Online
#11 Posted by Crash_Recovery (850 posts) - - Show Bio

@cattlebattle: There's a bit of that in both Western and Eastern comics.

Big Franchises don't end in the West, but there are plenty of smaller stories that come and go even at the big companies.

Eastern books can be long-running as well, mostly with franchises as well though.

#12 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@EMH_Bruce: So this began as a manga, and then became a popular anime? Or vice-versa? I know they do a lot more cross-media stuff there than we do in America, but I'm clueless on specifics.

@Crash_Recovery: Am I correct in my assertion that long-running manga tends to follow more of a "season" renewal system than an ongoing sales-driven model?

#13 Posted by Crash_Recovery (850 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@Crash_Recovery: Am I correct in my assertion that long-running manga tends to follow more of a "season" renewal system than an ongoing sales-driven model?

Absolutely. Few Western books (Hellboy comes to mind) take this approach.

#14 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@Crash_Recovery: It seems quite superior, both from a fan standpoint and from a writing standpoint. You get to know in advance whether this is the end or whether there will be a continuation, and can prepare -- again, either as a reader or as a writer -- for the end when it eventually comes. It also seems to leave the door open for continuation years down the line, should interest arise. I've seen that in the few anime shows I've watched, where quite some time transpires between seasons, or where a long-awaited continuation is finally in the works.

For anyone reading this who doesn't think what I'm saying is a big deal, could you at least propose some of the benefits the current system has over what I've suggested? Other than, of course, getting to see characters you love from decade to decade (which is a benefit that itself does not seem to outweigh the cons, in my opinion, but might be worthwhile if added to a list of other pros).

#15 Posted by EMH_Bruce (717 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: the manga started 1976 in the manga magazin Weekly Shōnen Jump and got an anime in 1996 who runned till 2004 with 373 episodes + 9 specials. I just saw, it's the longest-running manga-series in history. 0.0

(I'm more a fan of One Piece, Detective Conan, Fullmetal Alchemist or Blue Exorcist, so my knowledge of Kochikame is based on the wiki article ^^")

Online
#16 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@EMH_Bruce: That still puts you in a more informed place than I'm in :P Very cool to know, however. Thanks for passing along the information. My personal manga experience is nonexistent; my personal anime experience is limited to Last Exile and Spice & Wolf, and Miyazaki's films (with a few glaring exceptions I need to address).

#17 Posted by EMH_Bruce (717 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: You're welcome =) my personal manga/anime expirience is.....big XD I collect manga since 10 years in two languages (german & english)

Online
#18 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@EMH_Bruce: Hahaha. WOW. That is impressive. At first glance at the thumbnails I thought you were just posting pictures from a store.

#19 Posted by EMH_Bruce (717 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: x"DD yeah, I could open a library xDDD last time I counted them, I was somewhere near 900 volumes or more x"D

Online
#20 Posted by Timandm (3374 posts) - - Show Bio

Characters absolutely SHOULD age....
Characters should mature and move into the different phases of life...
Death should be death...  It should be more than a temporary absence followed by a power upgrade.  You CANNOT get a reaction from readers who have read long enough to know that death in the comics, means nothing...
 
Let them age.  Let them marry.  Let them have children...  Let them grow old.  Let them pass on their mantles... Let...them...live...

#21 Posted by danhimself (22218 posts) - - Show Bio

alright then....why would you want characters to age and die permanently? Here's a scenario: A new character is introduced, you pick up that issue and you immediately take a liking to that character so you start to follow him/her and as the years go on you realize that this is your favorite character. Now under this age and die thing people seem to want this character ages, matures, gets married, has kids, passes on the mantle, and dies. That character is gone. Your favorite character can no longer be used unless it's in a flashback or alternate reality story that offers nothing to the continuity of the original story. Why would you want that? Why should future writers be denied to write stories featuring Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Clark Kent or Wonder Woman? What if the character is killed and some future writer had an idea for a story featuring him/her that would have turned out to be their best story ever? James Bond never ages or dies and yet we still flock to the theaters to see movies featuring the newest actor to play Bond why can't this be the same way for comic characters? I don't want my favorite characters to grow old and die I want to read their stories for as long as I can and then have future generations learn to love the character just as much as I do.

#22 Posted by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

Well articulated and presented blog!

For me, Marvel and DC are in safety mode, which ironically means shouting as loud as they can about change, death, upheaval, and so on character wise, book wise, creative wise. Failure to age characters or success of characters? Comics medium has one thing going for it that many other mediums don't, and thats an ongoing regular dose of character/character stories. Soap operas can come close, but actors age, cartoons? They usually have a core set of characters.

Anyway as far as aging, I like how Marvel does it. Many of my favorite characters physical aging has been hyper-naturally slow, (some have even been de-aged) but they have aged and developed (and regressed) in many other ways, in ways that wouldn't make sense save for the fact that I realize its fiction, with multiple writers as the authors. New characters I love, but I am also cynical. Human nature can be lazy, and its known that people can be attracted to shiny new things. So when we get new characters just to reel in new people, at the expense of the old people who are already in line to see the concert? Well the potential is the new people might stick around, but if any of them are there more for the new, and less for the character part of new character, then they tend to leave when the new part fades away or else they see a new something elsewhere and are led away. Naturally there is middle ground and so balances can be achieved, new characters don't have to come at the expense of old characters and those attracted by the new may also discover the old and stick around for a long time. So depends.

My favorite new characters have all excelled under writers who new Marvel (or DC) history very very well, by the same token many writers who don't know Marvel (or DC) history really well can even have me bored with my favorite old characters. So I think a new characters chances depend on their writers and creators. X-23 was a new character but she celebrated many older characters, opened up new story opportunities for older characters and played off very well from established characters (rather than undermined or replaced any directly) So X-23 called out for new readers but was also accessible to many old readers. Not universally, since she did suffer some backlash, though often it was by from my own experience fans of say Wolverine who weren't aware this wasn't the first time characters had been built off his legacy. So kind of ironically it was many readers relatively fresh with the character who took issue or those long time fans who were generally jaded anyway. Blue Marvel hasn't faced the controversy the Sentry character has, and a sort of intense polarization could lead to some success as a character, but Blue Marvel also has a fairly decent cult following with a minimal amount of backlash. Both Blue Marvel and Sentry were retconned into Marvel history and both had to use established characters as ways to demonstrate how powerful they respectively were since a large part of both their characters gimmicks were extreme levels of power. Where as Sentry character went the route of "woah Sentry just pwned Attuma" (Namor villain) - Blue Marvel was "woah, Namor just said Blue Marvel hits as hard as Hulk and Thor, and then they ended up shaking hands" - probably no surprise to learn the creator/writer of Blue Marvel is a huge Marvel and Thor and Hulk fan and I actually found a lot of Thor and Hulk fans embrace Blue Marvel when he first came out (and to this day) and well yeah those fans backlashed against Sentry just a little bit (as well as like thousands of other people) and its just really small things like that and how characters interact with each other.

So many of my favorite characters (Blue Marvel and Sentry ironically) X-23, Daken, Cassandra Cain, (I'll throw in a retooled Emma Frost too) Marvel Boy, Ares (retooled) have been "new" and succeeded, and integrated well with other characters. Still I like that Rogue, Gambit, Ms Marvel, Elektra, are all still young. All of my favorite stories of them would not have happened if they aged realistically. My favorite Elektra story of all time happened 3 years ago. I personally get enough stories elsewhere where the characters involve age and disappear (like reality) so I am totally okay with the idea I might still get to see many of my favorite characters in stories that best demonstrate and showcase them. Marvel and DC are companies involved with super powers, and they have thousands of characters and dozens and dozens of writers, past, present, future. Am I intrigued in stories where my favorite characters are aged dramatically to what is the status quo? Sure! Its comics, we can have an arc set in the future, a mini series or solo around it, its happened already many times with most of my favorite characters. Ideally I'd still get my preference though character wise, otherwise I'd leave comics. As bizarre as it may seem, I am happy with looking at multiple generations of X-Men and viewing the original five as being between late 20's and early 30's and All New, New Mutants, Generation X, New X-Men, Young X-Men, Generation Hope all slotting in after. Not a big Batman fan but is more interesting to me that Bruce Wayne is predominant. When I personally read Batman its to read about Bruce Wayne. He does have a bunch of different and interesting characters that have developed right beside him without replacing him. Has happened and I expect it to still happen. Is happening with Batman Inc, and so new stories are happening. To me its not either all, and though either and or (and sliding the scales towards either or) would have certain advantages and benefits (and cons) I fall in the keep certain characters around artificially and wishing the best of luck for new characters to rise up group. It can mean wading through a lot of mediocre stories - especially when I don't gel with a certain writers view of a favorite character - but when a great writer gets their hands on a character I love? For me its like catching lightning in a bottle. If I just wanted good stories I'd read fan fiction for free or play video games, or watch more movies. Comics best almost exclusive selling point for me, is its characters and their history and their futures. I can understand the opposing view though, for me I already get more than enough stories that end elsewhere though.

Moderator Online
#23 Posted by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself said:

James Bond never ages or dies and yet we still flock to the theaters to see movies featuring the newest actor to play Bond why can't this be the same way for comic characters? I don't want my favorite characters to grow old and die I want to read their stories for as long as I can and then have future generations learn to love the character just as much as I do.

Oh great point/example, I usually use Dracula as my example of a fictional character tackled by new actors, writers, styles, and so on, but Bond is a much better example given he is actually suppose to be mortal heh heh.

Moderator Online
#24 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC said:

@danhimself said:

James Bond never ages or dies and yet we still flock to the theaters to see movies featuring the newest actor to play Bond why can't this be the same way for comic characters? I don't want my favorite characters to grow old and die I want to read their stories for as long as I can and then have future generations learn to love the character just as much as I do.

Oh great point/example, I usually use Dracula as my example of a fictional character tackled by new actors, writers, styles, and so on, but Bond is a much better example given he is actually suppose to be mortal heh heh.

Some great things coming in now, which I'll reread and either reply to tonight or tomorrow. I will say, as regards Bond, I've heard it theorized that it really is different people, each of whom takes on the 007/James Bond identity -- as if being James Bond were a job within MI6 filled by different people. Also, of course, the books themselves came out over a much shorter period of time than the movies which were afterwards based on them (most recent book/film notwithstanding). And yeah, Dracula is supposed to be immortal :P That's tangential, of course, but the point is an argument could be made that, within the story itself, Bond isn't supposed to have aged because these missions could all take place in his life over the course of a shorter period of time OR could be explained by it being different men going by the same name, and thus isn't a case of a character distorting realistic aging at all.

#25 Posted by danhimself (22218 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@SC said:

@danhimself said:

James Bond never ages or dies and yet we still flock to the theaters to see movies featuring the newest actor to play Bond why can't this be the same way for comic characters? I don't want my favorite characters to grow old and die I want to read their stories for as long as I can and then have future generations learn to love the character just as much as I do.

Oh great point/example, I usually use Dracula as my example of a fictional character tackled by new actors, writers, styles, and so on, but Bond is a much better example given he is actually suppose to be mortal heh heh.

Some great things coming in now, which I'll reread and either reply to tonight or tomorrow. I will say, as regards Bond, I've heard it theorized that it really is different people, each of whom takes on the 007/James Bond identity -- as if being James Bond were a job within MI6 filled by different people. Also, of course, the books themselves came out over a much shorter period of time than the movies which were afterwards based on them (most recent book/film notwithstanding). And yeah, Dracula is supposed to be immortal :P That's tangential, of course, but the point is an argument could be made that, within the story itself, Bond isn't supposed to have aged because these missions could all take place in his life over the course of a shorter period of time OR could be explained by it being different men going by the same name, and thus isn't a case of a character distorting realistic aging at all.

that theory was pretty much disproved in the newest movie when he visited his childhood home and we saw his father and mother's tombstones

#26 Posted by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

I will say, as regards Bond, I've heard it theorized that it really is different people, each of whom takes on the 007/James Bond identity -- as if being James Bond were a job within MI6 filled by different people. Also, of course, the books themselves came out over a much shorter period of time than the movies which were afterwards based on them (most recent book/film notwithstanding). And yeah, Dracula is supposed to be immortal :P That's tangential, of course, but the point is an argument could be made that, within the story itself, Bond isn't supposed to have aged because these missions could all take place in his life over the course of a shorter period of time OR could be explained by it being different men going by the same name, and thus isn't a case of a character distorting realistic aging at all.

Thats great, it just opens up more doors though, since I theorize that every X-Men story or story featuring X-Men has all taken place in the Danger Room, with only a very young Professor X at the controls. He is just running simulations over and over changing each one around a bit. Sometimes big changes, sometimes small changes, sometimes he lets some things progress, others regress, sometimes he allows big changes, basically anything that can explain the inconsistencies apparent among the actual consistencies. Depending on how imaginative/creative a viewer is it explains everything... 0_0

So X-Men are not suppose to age since they aren't actually real and yes thats a meta argument too lol.

Moderator Online
#27 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself: Well first of all I said most recent film notwithstanding (as it wasn't, if I remember correctly, based on work by the original author) and second that doesn't address the idea of these various films all taking place within a relatively compact period of time in Bond's life.

#28 Posted by Cap10nate (2122 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert:I think the biggest contributor to the agelessness of characters is the shared universe. If you want to have characters age, how do you reconcile what happens in individual books to what happens in team books or crossovers. If a 12 issue arc of Batman takes place in 2 days and a 12 issue arc of GL takes place in 5 months, or 12 issue arc of WW takes place over a year, etc . . . how is that reconciled when you have them all together on Justice League. If the characters are to age, then it needs to be consistent across the board or someone could be years behind because their story arc takes place in a short period of time.

By being ageless in a shared universe, creators are able to tell the stories they want in the time frame they want. That allows Cap to be in Dimension Z, Iron Man with the GOTG, Thor searching the cosmos for Gorr, and have all of them still be available to be on the Avengers. The Avengers story could be happening before Cap goes to Dimension Z or after he returns, but it doesn't matter because the creators don't have to account for a linear progression of his life.

I do agree with you that having a finite life could lead to better stories. As I read all these stories, it seems that there are many which have amazing set-up. The story is fantastic up to the climax and then sputters in the conclusion because the creators do not have the free range to do something profound or it will be a fantastic climax and then they toss in something at the end to make sure the status quo isn't changed. I think Annihilation is a great example of this. The story and climax are amazing. The threat is eliminated and Annihilus is dead . . . and then they toss in a scene at the end showing Annihilus being reborn. They took an amazing story with a wonderful conclusion and ended it like a B-Horror film with that add-on. With a finite life, the creators could have free range to make their conclusions as great as the set-up to the story.

#29 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself said:

alright then....why would you want characters to age and die permanently? Here's a scenario: A new character is introduced, you pick up that issue and you immediately take a liking to that character so you start to follow him/her and as the years go on you realize that this is your favorite character. Now under this age and die thing people seem to want this character ages, matures, gets married, has kids, passes on the mantle, and dies. That character is gone. Your favorite character can no longer be used unless it's in a flashback or alternate reality story that offers nothing to the continuity of the original story. Why would you want that? Why should future writers be denied to write stories featuring Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Clark Kent or Wonder Woman? What if the character is killed and some future writer had an idea for a story featuring him/her that would have turned out to be their best story ever? James Bond never ages or dies and yet we still flock to the theaters to see movies featuring the newest actor to play Bond why can't this be the same way for comic characters? I don't want my favorite characters to grow old and die I want to read their stories for as long as I can and then have future generations learn to love the character just as much as I do.

You know, if characters aged realistically, then they would come and go just like real friends. In other words, you wouldn't outlive them. By the time they'd aged, matured, gotten married, had kids, passed on the mantle, and died, you'd have pretty much done those things too. Your characters would live and die just like people -- some would be there pretty much your whole life, some would be old when you met them and die soon after, leaving you to go back and read of their exploits when they were younger. Some would be new and you'd wonder what would become of them in a decade or two, in times you probably would never live to see. That's the great thing about stories, about characters who feel real: no one gets to see all the good stories in anyone's life. But comics would afford a window to see most of them, and of many different lives.

I don't get to meet people who lived fifty or a hundred years ago. I can read all about them and come to love and respect or hate or fear them. I don't feel like it'd be so terrible for that to happen with characters either. It seems ridiculous to suggest that stories which would have been good with Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker could not be told with anyone else, that no new characters could be introduced to play those stories out. I don't think comics need to rely on a handful of good origin stories and experiences and use that as an excuse to never originate new ones. Is a millionaire motivated by his parents' death and who operates on the premise of fear really so important that no one else could make for an interesting Batman or an interesting Gotham? Isn't it slightly disconcerting that time and again, for decades, we hear rhetoric talking about cleaning up Gotham's streets and making it a shiny, happy place, and we know that Gotham itself will never be better because it's just as immortal and unchanging as the characters who inhabit it?

Anyway, like I said: you would still grow up with characters you loved, characters your age, younger, older. And you could always go back and read, like history books, the heroes of old, the real legends, who could be immortalized and referred to by writers and artists who grew up loving them. A hundred years from now Gotham would still have a statue to Bruce Wayne, and you could go back and read about who that guy was and why he had a statue in his honor. Frankly, I think that would be cool. And I think kids could go back and read those stories, about "the first Batman," just like they can read about, say, "the first president of the United States," and it would be cool.

#30 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC: Sorry for taking so long to get to this. Some thoughts:

It's not as if you would suddenly have loved old characters disappear and have new characters "replacing them." It'd have to happen organically. It would be established that hey, these characters, they're this age, and from now on they will age realistically. Or at least, more realistically. Even at half-time -- one comic year for every two real years -- there'd be progress, and plenty of time to help people adapt. By the time a character like, say, Wolverine was out of commission, he'd have been developing a relationship or a focus to keep him involved in non-combat roles for years, and the "replacements" would have also had years of development for you to learn to know and love some of them.

So it's not just like flipping a switch. It's a slow fade. Faded well, you wouldn't even notice the fade happening; you'd just sit there and realize that at some point the thing which is currently blue had been red.

I find your mention of X-23 interesting, because it harkens back a bit to what I said earlier about this notion that having similar skill sets or origins automatically obliterates the value of a character. I think any reasonable person who reads about X-23 will immediately understand why her connections with Wolverine are irrelevant to her strength as a stand-alone character. As you said -- she doesn't undermine or replace anyone. She overlaps a bit, but she justifies her existence not in what she has in common, but in what she offers that's new.

One question I have -- which is impossible to answer, of course -- is whether your "favorite stories of [certain characters, which] would not have happened if they aged realistically," might not have been possible, at least quality-wise, being told with other characters? Whether, had, say, Elektra not been available, a similarly good story could have been told by the same creative team. I don't mean that you could just swap people out and tell the same story -- I just mean that while you may never have had that story, you may have fallen in love with a different story with a different character. It's not guaranteed that you'd be worse off.

My issue isn't even so much in the handling of newer characters (though I do find the fixation on slaughtering them extremely unsettling, if not outright infuriating). It's more to do with the stagnation of longstanding characters. In order for your favorites to stay around, they aren't allowed to go anywhere, ever. Spider-Man had his lifelong love and marriage absolutely defecated on. He's not the only example, but he's a fantastic example, of the thing I find so problematic. If you care about the characters, don't you want them to be able to be happy with something? Not just realize after thirty or forty years that they would probably be happier off doing something else?

I feel like the what-ifs and the fan fiction are perfect ground for telling new stories with older characters, but the mainline, the "real" stories, should allow for characters to have lives that mean something beyond the moment. As it stands they're not permitted to have legacies, only feats -- pictures, never films.

Anyhow, I do appreciate where you're coming from, though. I don't think these characters are any less deserving of having great stories told about them than those from other media, but I can see how the novelty has an allure.

#31 Edited by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

Heh heh didn't know you had replied sorry - will put up a response now.

@akbogert said:

It's not as if you would suddenly have loved old characters disappear and have new characters "replacing them." It'd have to happen organically. It would be established that hey, these characters, they're this age, and from now on they will age realistically. Or at least, more realistically. Even at half-time -- one comic year for every two real years -- there'd be progress, and plenty of time to help people adapt. By the time a character like, say, Wolverine was out of commission, he'd have been developing a relationship or a focus to keep him involved in non-combat roles for years, and the "replacements" would have also had years of development for you to learn to know and love some of them. So it's not just like flipping a switch. It's a slow fade. Faded well, you wouldn't even notice the fade happening; you'd just sit there and realize that at some point the thing which is currently blue had been red.

The problem with all these terms is that they are subjective and relative. My definition of organically may not be the same as yours, ditto realistically. Even the idea of aging realistically, you know what? I know this is a fictional story, I might be paying money to read about characters that don't age. Elektra is a character for example I don't want to see get older because I think the majority of her best stories are her at a certain age. Progress and realistic aging aren't the same thing in fiction.

Sure there can be gradual changes but again that perception will be gradual. I won't care as much 300 years from now, some other people's ideas of gradual may mean all my characters not being around today haven't been killed off decades ago. Really in this sense it just depends on the specifics of what gradual entails for whom, when and why.

@akbogert said:

I find your mention of X-23 interesting, because it harkens back a bit to what I said earlier about this notion that having similar skill sets or origins automatically obliterates the value of a character. I think any reasonable person who reads about X-23 will immediately understand why her connections with Wolverine are irrelevant to her strength as a stand-alone character. As you said -- she doesn't undermine or replace anyone. She overlaps a bit, but she justifies her existence not in what she has in common, but in what she offers that's new.

Not only but what she offers thats new, but how is as important.

@akbogert said:

One question I have -- which is impossible to answer, of course -- is whether your "favorite stories of [certain characters, which] would not have happened if they aged realistically," might not have been possible, at least quality-wise, being told with other characters? Whether, had, say, Elektra not been available, a similarly good story could have been told by the same creative team. I don't mean that you could just swap people out and tell the same story -- I just mean that while you may never have had that story, you may have fallen in love with a different story with a different character. It's not guaranteed that you'd be worse off.

Well its a bit like saying X-23: Target X - would you still enjoy that story if it wasn't X-23, and just some other character? I mean sure I could have enjoyed it or any other story as much, but I can say that about any character - even after one issue. I am not sure who is trying to sell absolutes either or guaranteed on such things.

@akbogert said:

My issue isn't even so much in the handling of newer characters (though I do find the fixation on slaughtering them extremely unsettling, if not outright infuriating). It's more to do with the stagnation of longstanding characters. In order for your favorites to stay around, they aren't allowed to go anywhere, ever. Spider-Man had his lifelong love and marriage absolutely defecated on. He's not the only example, but he's a fantastic example, of the thing I find so problematic. If you care about the characters, don't you want them to be able to be happy with something? Not just realize after thirty or forty years that they would probably be happier off doing something else?

New characters can stagnate as well depending on the writer and the character idea, long standing characters likewise depending can be the source of many fresh stories and stay strong, so I find it overly simplistic to conflate such things. Spider-man is a favorite of mine, I have problems with OMD - but it wasn't the first time such things happened to the character, for some it appeared like it was or for some it was a step to far compared to other similar changes, and after it I found many new cool stories were told with the character. Caring about a fictional character is not the same as caring about the characters personal life. Did I mistake you there? Heh heh. Oh and well see realization is funny, I have good reasons when it comes to what I realize, so I don't tend to suddenly realize something else contrary.

@akbogert said:

I feel like the what-ifs and the fan fiction are perfect ground for telling new stories with older characters, but the mainline, the "real" stories, should allow for characters to have lives that mean something beyond the moment. As it stands they're not permitted to have legacies, only feats -- pictures, never films. Anyhow, I do appreciate where you're coming from, though. I don't think these characters are any less deserving of having great stories told about them than those from other media, but I can see how the novelty has an allure.

I think your compartmentalizing these concepts a bit too much, and comics is fairly manageable as far as pointing out which characters buck certain trends, which characters don't story to story writer to writer and multiple variables throughout. I am not even sure what the legacies thing mean? Can you give me an example outside of comics? Novelty does have an allure, but many things have an allure. Comics attempts in side projects to do things such as realistic aging have not been popular.

Moderator Online
#32 Posted by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@sc: Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy response.

Admittedly, I don't have much to say. I think it's sufficient to note that most of my points, which I consider valid, you think are oversimplified or erroneous, so it's likely best to let this one go :P

#33 Posted by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@sc: Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy response.

Admittedly, I don't have much to say. I think it's sufficient to note that most of my points, which I consider valid, you think are oversimplified or erroneous, so it's likely best to let this one go :P

I think they are valid points too, but I am a stickler for details. Comic book characters are all relatable for example. Valid... in that for many people they can be... doesn't quite reflect that different characters are relatable for different reasons to different people or how that trait may interact with a characteristic like idealism, power projection etc things not necessarily aligned with the quality of being relatable. Characters like X-23 as another example being a character who can be a relatable character and a character thats great for vicarious living through, a power fantasy. Sort of see my argument? Some of Elektra's greatest stories were in the last decade, sure they could have been for another character, Elektra's second story could have been for another character, I may never read another good Elektra story again, but as it stands she is a known quantity and a good writer could utilize her to tell a great story that is great for the character and story by her use and also great for her fans and fans of story and that isn't going to stop new characters or new stories being made.

Oh and no problems.

Moderator Online
#34 Edited by akbogert (3181 posts) - - Show Bio

@sc: But actually, it might stop new characters and new stories being made. Not all of them. Maybe not even most of them. But so long as there are decades-old characters around to appear in, say, Avengers and X-Men books, there's never going to be a chance for newer characters to shine front and center as leaders of those teams.

Say what you will, but in my experience most characters made in the last, say, decade, have had very truncated lives, either actually killed or relegated to limbo, maybe showing up in the background of group shots. The same characters who stole the scene thirty years ago are still stealing the scene now; some faces are different, but by and large it's a lot of familiar ones. I think Marvel made a good move by putting Logan in charge of a school instead of having him on the field -- unfortunately he's still active in some other stories. And the fact that they needed to kill off the leader and split the X-Men in order to justify that transition for Wolverine is a little ridiculous.

Maybe aging doesn't have to be the answer, but comic companies don't seem to have much of an interest in rotating their casts and truly benching their stars to give rookies a chance to shine.

#35 Posted by SC (12511 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@sc: But actually, it might stop new characters and new stories being made.

Sure it might cause the moon to crash into the planet as well, and it might making golden panda's fall to the sky and start munching on bamboo looking people. Then yes when we consider the more accurate probabilities of how they might impede new characters and new stories we have to consider that countless other things also impede new characters and new stories including new stories and that they may also help and aid new characters and stories and or even the entire business of comics.

@akbogert said:

But so long as there are decades-old characters around to appear in, say, Avengers and X-Men books, there's never going to be a chance for newer characters to shine front and center as leaders of those teams.

Eh? Shining as a character front and center and being a leader are not the same thing. Avengers and X-Men are particularly good breeding grounds for new characters and as places top reinvent older characters into basically newer more successful characters, Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, Storm, Vision, Black Widow, Hawkeye all came after both teams established themselves, Rogue, Gambit, Sentry, Ares, Photon, Tigra, Ms Marvel, all these characters and more have gotten a chance to shine despite being newer. Basically the "there's never going to be a chance" is too vague and broad a declaration. Right now in Avengers its new characters that are shining. In any sense writers and fans have active participation in this process, so there is always a chance but just because there is a chance doesn't mean that there is only one chance or that a particular chance will manifest itself.

As a fan of many of the characters that stole the scene thirty years ago I can tell you thats not strictly true, some of the characters who stole the scene thirty years ago are still prominent today sure, but its more complicated than that, and what's up with the phrasing? The emotive language? Stealing and so on? It almost implies some characters have rights and privileges over others as far as scene placement, when its just creators, fans and money here. If X-23's first issue sold 2 copies then she wouldn't have had a second issue both of us would probably not consider her a favorite. That and many new characters steal the scene from not as popular slightly older characters - does that mean fans of slightly less new and unpopular characters position that both old and new characters should be done away with have the most valid position? Then this is ignoring much of the great work done by writers who have continued to reinvent and redefine various older characters to keep them fresh and exciting and new feeling but with the decades of fans they have acquired. Again fictional characters, the reason some are used more than others is because it would be financially risky for Marvel to ignore their fan bases. Smart companies know how to balance this with expanding properties. So why is Wolverine in charge of a school a good thing instead of having him in the field for example? How did you come across this fact by the way? About justifying Wolverine's transition? The two aren't necessarily related and if they are, not necessary the only reasons, or ways to do such a thing hence a criticism on the writers not the characters. Xavier has been supplanted as leader before. He has been taking out of stories before as well without Wolverine being a factor. Its more ridiculous to me and ironic that many creators will view an older character like Xavier who is in the fictional world an older man who also doesn't have a huge vocal fanbase and views him as expendable because they believe younger newer characters will be better received because they are relatable and that more popular characters (as opposed to older characters) can get good stories out as well as a consequence. Your argument doesn't really hurt characters like Wolverine, it hurts characters like Xavier, characters that are a bit more original and unique so aren't quite as easy to get into for new fans because he doesn't lack the fantasy and wish fulfillment or relatable edge new characters do.

Oh and as far as limbo and death? Yeah scratch the decade thing and know that many many characters from the last four decades have that happen to them. Its not just being done to "new" characters. Do you know who Constrictor is? he has been around since 1977.

Comic companies, comic fans, old comic fans, new comic fans, swap out concepts like stars and rookies to favorites and money making and one sees that rookies and older characters spread out between those other categories. Its not even so simple as interest as the noise that happens when you try to balance dozens and dozens of different creators creative ideas, the risks and greed inherent to a business, fan reaction, response, spending habits.

I feel you have created a dichotomy between old and new characters and how old characters may have negative consequences on new characters, and my point is yeah they can a little, and help, and aid, and also be hurt and fall victim to as well, and that that process doesn't just happen between new and old characters, and that there are many more things to take into consideration, processes than fans are a part of too, and especially creators. I believe your criticism is better directed at creators creativity and ability as far as expanding their character roster as characters is what they have as a relatively unique selling point. Also could this all possibly be your preferences as far as characters? How about this did you enjoy the latest Tomb Raider game?

Moderator Online