Marvel's Killing (me)

I wanted to just post this as a comment on my "Jarring" blog, but I guess I was the last two comments there (that's two blogs I've had that happen with today, grrrr), so I'm going to just post a new blog here. It's technically a different topic anyway, but...yeah, here goes:

This subject (of the fixation on death and its roots) continues to be on my mind, especially with things like AXM bringing back young versions of old characters, Damian Wayne dying, and ongoing debates over whether a new reboot is already looming over the Marvel universe.

Lately I've had a variety of excuses to consider the Ultimate Marvel universe, a place which has become a little infamous, from what I gather, for actually killing its characters. Which leads me to why I'm writing this, because while my entire blog (The Jarring "Still Life" of Comics) was more an indictment of both major comic publishers, I've realized that it's far more an issue with Marvel than with DC.

Quite honestly, the spectre of death just isn't nearly as prominent in DC. Maybe it is for you? Sound off and let me know. Maybe I've missed things. I know Suicide Squad has a deadly (and may I add stupid) premise, but I've also heard that some people get resurrected anyway. Damian died but his maternal connections have most assuming he'll probably be back sooner rather than later. And you have the death of characters in a mostly self-contained series which is also ending. But I'd hardly call that a trend per se; for the most part, this universe is new, and the characters are not expected to die soon.

But with Marvel I legitimately am afraid to get into anything anymore. I started reading UXM and really want to root for Eva to become a big deal, but I cannot shake the fear that she will be killed off.

I read the first issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, and I wanted to get onboard -- but then I found out at least one character I was interested in has already been killed off.

I read recently about Marvel's announcement not to get too tied up in Wolverine or that school he's trying to run, because next year he's going to get killed off.

I bought The Runaways after years of being told it was great, and I'm afraid to finish, because Nico and Chase are in Avengers Arena, and one or both of them might be killed off.

I'm interested in picking up an Ultimate book (likely Spider-Man), but all I hear is that there's a major catastrophe on the horizon, and someone's probably going to be killed off.

Sensing a trend here?

Am I imagining this? Or is it safe to say that Marvel really does have a more brutal and cruel universe, and that people who are prone to actually getting emotionally invested in characters are a lot more likely to get burned with the "house of ideas" than its competitor?

28 Comments
28 Comments
Posted by MatKrenz

I have no idea what this says about me but they are fictional characters. They don't exist, it's not they are beings of flesh and blood. I very much understand being invested in characters and then they you hear they die and feeling unseasy about continuing (my example is a character from the tv show Angel but his death was beautiful) but come on, if your worried that someone might die in a story then no one would read anything.

Also no way in hell Marvel would kill off Wolverine. Im guessing it's not be a Thor post Fear Itself thing where he's probably gonna be Limbo or Hell (again) and then he'll come back a month later.

Also I see in your lists that you have all the Runaways trade. Which one did you stop reading at ? Cause im telling don't read Dead Wrong, Rock Zombies and Homeschooling, they are bad. Volume 3 was pretty bad in general.

Posted by danhimself

dude almost every single character from the big 2 has been killed at some point....you can't let the possibility of one of them dying (they'll be back) get in the way of reading a book

Edited by akbogert

@MatKrenz: I am halfway through Escape to New York. Also, I've sorta inevitably already found out about the big death in the group. But having bought all of them, I still plan to read all of them :P I just don't look forward to loving Chase and Nico even more than I already do with their fates still hanging in the balance.

I'm pretty sure the Wolverine dying next year thing is a straight-up confirmed thing. Not indefinitely, of course, but a thing nonetheless.

And my point is merely that yeah, death of a character I've spent a lot of time coming to care about really does get to me, and I've noticed that I'm not nearly as afraid to invest in DC characters right now (with New 52 so young and all) as I am to invest in Marvel characters.

Angel was a Whedon thing, no? At least with him you kinda know what you're getting yourself into... >_>

@danhimself: Almost all of them? That's obviously an exaggeration :P

And as has been established many times, it's pretty rare for C- and D-list characters to come back.

TO CLARIFY, AS PEOPLE SEEM A BIT CONFUSED: my question is whether Marvel, in say the last two years, has been more bloodthirsty than DC. I see it that way, and I'm just wondering if other people see it this way. How you actually feel about the death is not the point of this particular blog.

Posted by MatKrenz

@akbogert: Yes Angel was a Whedon thing, a Whedon thing that seems to slip everybodys goddamn mind. I mean go to his comic vine page and you have the Cliff Chiang picture. In the picture you have part of his face being his face and the rest is his movies and tv. You got Buffy, Mal, the Firefly, Echo, Dr.Horrible, the Avengers and Spike, SPIKE, NOT ANGEL WHO HAD HIS OWN GODDAMN SPIN-OFF FOR FIVE YEARS. It pisses me off nobody remembers it. At least it seems with Season 9 people are getting the fact that Angel & Faith kicks ass and Buffy 9 is boring as hell.

Posted by akbogert

@MatKrenz: I was pretty sure it was a Whedon thing, haha. I just wanted to make sure. I know a lot of folks who loved it. My point is more that Whedon's pretty renown at this point (was he when Angel died?) for killing off main characters. Though since that's a creator killing creator-owned characters, it's not quite the same thing as I complain about with a lot of comic stuff.

Posted by MatKrenz

@akbogert: It was character that was introduced in Season 3 of Buffy and became a mainstay on Angel in episode 10 of season 1.

Posted by akbogert

@MatKrenz: I'm actually not positive what you just said.

Posted by TheCowman

People always tell me that the risk of death has to be present in a story or else it's not interesting.

This has never held true for me. I don't like characters to die and would rather they didn't. I've never needed that in order to enjoy a story and it can often ruin it for me.

I LOVED Runaways when it first started. The characters were fun and Gert quickly jumped to the top of my "Favorite Comic Book Characters" list, and then..........

Yeah, I don't read that series anymore.

Unlike most, I'm very grateful for the "revolving door" policy for comic book death. "Dead means dead" is the last thing I wanna hear about my comics.

Posted by MatKrenz

@akbogert: Yeah looking back at it it's terribly written.

Posted by Rabbitearsblog

@akbogert said:

TO CLARIFY, AS PEOPLE SEEM A BIT CONFUSED: my question is whether Marvel, in say the last two years, has been more bloodthirsty than DC. I see it that way, and I'm just wondering if other people see it this way. How you actually feel about the death is not the point of this particular blog.

It does seem likely that Marvel is killing off their characters more often then DC is. Although, I always saw Marvel as being slightly darker than DC at times.

Posted by Pyrogram

Seriously? They are fake people. If they die big deal. Killings obviously bring sales, they are a business and want money. Let them do what they want. No point always getting mad at this, taking it a little too seriously..@akbogert:

Posted by SavageDragon

A song of Fire and Ice. Sooo many Deaths, try reading that.

That aside I think Comic Deaths are fine, as long as there done well. I have only gotten hung up by a few. I also think Marvel and DC are fairly even when it comes to death.

Posted by Chronus

@Pyrogram said:

Seriously? They are fake people.

Whether the characters are fake or real has nothing to do with the connection a reader can establish with the characters.

Edited by Pyrogram

@Chronus: Yes it does. No point crying over something that will be brought back alive.

Posted by Timandm
@akbogert: From the comments in here I think you can see what I've been saying in your other threads....  In the Marvel Universe, death means absolutely nothing...Sure, they still ACT like it's a big deal, but the readers all know that it isn't. 
 
Whether or not it should be that way is a good subject for debate, but the sad truth is that... it IS that way...
You have readers who absolutely don't want death in comic books.  Let me rephrase  that, they don't want death to be permanent.  But what that means is, they don't want their super hero characters to die..ever...
You have readers like me who think it's absurd that there's no real death in comics, but we accept that that is the way it is.  Matt Faction believes death in comics should NEVER be permanent and that's the way he and colleagues write.  To them death is a joke.
 
So it comes down to this.  Death in comics is about as significant as being put in intensive care by a terrible beating.   The character dies, is gone for a few months (comic book time), and then just happens to come back. It's so common that sometimes they don't even bother with an explanation...
 
Have you see the Floating Hands parody of the X-men called "Death becomes them"?  
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL6J7FJmy1c
this parody is over 8 years old...  and the whole 'death and come back' thing has gotten far worse since then.  Take a look at this video.  I think it makes the point rather well...
Posted by PowerHerc

Marvel is killing me, too, but they're doing it with higher prices and worse distribution.

Posted by evilvegeta74

@PowerHerc said:

Marvel is killing me, too, but they're doing it with higher prices and worse distribution.

Yep!

Posted by akbogert

@Rabbitearsblog: Thank you for actually answering my question ^_^

@SavageDragon: Thank you for actually answering my question, too. Also, I think the killing of creator-owned characters is extremely different from killing characters that someone else has created (and the emotions you manipulate are the result of someone else's making those characters loved).

@PowerHerc: @evilvegeta74: Ha. Their prices are ridiculous. I think DC does a great thing dropping its digital prices a buck one month later.

@Timandm said:

@akbogert: From the comments in here I think you can see what I've been saying in your other threads.... In the Marvel Universe, death means absolutely nothing...Sure, they still ACT like it's a big deal, but the readers all know that it isn't.

Honestly, from the comments in here I see that most people don't read. My actual question at the end of the blog was whether Marvel is more brutal than DC, and I even clarified it a few comments in when my initial responses were tangentially discussing comic death more generally. I've accepted that not everyone agrees with my stance on comic deaths. I've also accepted that some people don't get emotionally connected to characters, though I find that baffling, and I find the notion of mocking or dismissing the fact that people do get emotionally invested absolutely aggravating and insulting.

There have been enough threads (especially of late) discussing the ethics and specifics of comic death that I know it's a D.O.A. topic. I've just noticed that my personal experience with both DC and Marvel over the recent few months (spanning primarily the last two years' worth of publication, with some outliers) has led me to be far more worried about Marvel killing characters I love than DC; this goes doubly when you consider that I'm far more a fan of more fringe, less popular, and younger/newer characters. The fact that someone in my other thread actually had the gall to say if a character's less than ten years old, you're not allowed to feel bad if they die, underscores my point: there seems to be an attitude that it's fine to kill off young heroes; I'm just saying it seems Marvel does kill them off more, but I wanted to clarify if that was just my bad luck, or whether it really is just more prevalent in Marvel.

Posted by Pyrogram

@akbogert said:

My actual question at the end of the blog was whether Marvel is more brutal than DC

Fair point, I don't think they are. My reason? The Joker.

Edited by Timandm
@akbogert: I thought that had been answered already..
I haven't paid enough attention to DC to know whether or not they kill more often...
From what little I've read, I would 'guess' that Marvel kills it's super heroes more often (always bringing them back) and DC kills it's non-hero characters more often...  
 
Although, Marvel never really addresses the issue of civilians killed during major events.  For example, during fear itself there were earthquakes, tidal waves, buildings collapsing, etc... but the reader is never really given an idea how the number of civilian death... It's sort of glossed over.
 
DC, on the other hand, likes to have huge events where basically EVERYONE dies, and then there's a reboot.  Check out any of the Crisis series and of course Flash Point.
 
Now, I do think you missed the significance of what I was saying earlier...  You asked which is being more bloodthirsty./brutal/cruel..  Marvel or DC...  That's basically the question, yes?  And you're referring to the deaths, are you not?
 
My point was that Marvel does not see that as bloodthirsty or brutal or cruel.  To Matt Fraction and company it's not brutal or cruel because the character is absolutely coming back....  Many readers don't see it as brutal or cruel because they know the character is absolutely coming back...
Consider the Avengers Arena thing.  If I didn't believe they were going to bring every single one of those characters back to life with some quirky quantum maneuver, I would absolutely think the story is sick and sad and twisted and just...wrong....  But I think the whole thing is going to be undone, so it's hard to think of it as brutal or cruel...
 
Does that make sense?
Posted by akbogert

@Pyrogram: The Joker killed very few people since New 52 began, actually. But perhaps the fault was in my paraphrasing of myself; by brutal, I meant specifically as relates death, not in terms of horror or tone. I'd agree there's a lot more of a dark/macabre tone to Gotham -- but while it may kill souls, it hasn't been taking as many lives.

@Timandm: Well, I suppose I'm more dealing with hero (or at least, identifiable character) deaths. And I wouldn't count characters created in the beginning of an arc and subsequently killed therein. Nor can I really count characters who are killed by their own creators, regardless of how distasteful people may find it -- at the end of the day, if a Big Two writer gets to open and close the book on his or her own creation, I'll applaud it in principle, even if I wish killing weren't so common.

I have not read the Crisis or Flashpoint stuff (I came into DC on the wave of New 52, and it seems I've been better off for it; the naiveté of not knowing how much has gone wrong). Which is why I attempted to narrow the scope of my question just to the last two years -- to New 52 books, and recent Marvel events and/or NOW books.

If I didn't believe they were going to bring every single one of those characters back to life with some quirky quantum maneuver, I would absolutely think the story is sick and sad and twisted and just...wrong... Does that make sense?

It absolutely does. I don't share your optimism, and that's why I think of it precisely as you just put it. If such a "maneuver" does end up occurring, I will happily eat my words and probably go back and try to enjoy the series. I've even said as much in the past, though obviously it's not my prevailing message because again, I don't understand the reason for the optimism...everyone who likes Arena calls it a game changer because this time the deaths might actually matter and stick; its whole selling point is the ostensible "realness" of the stakes because these heroes are fringe enough they will probably not get the old resurrection treatment. Not soon enough for it to matter to me, anyway.

...but let's keep the Arena discussion to my numerous Arena blogs, haha. Like I said, I just want to know which house is more deadly in the last couple years.

I probably should have just created a poll, in hindsight.

Posted by Timandm
@akbogert: A poll might have been a good idea...
 I've not heard anyone else saying that they think the deaths in AA will stick, but I can believe there are quite a few out there...
 
I'm going to tell a boring story but stick with me because I think it applies here...  Long, long ago, in a lifetime far, far away, I was a young man who had just gotten hired by one of the top computer companies in the world.  I was excited.  I had been working my way through school by working in two restaurants as a prep cook, line cook, busboy, and dishwasher.  All of the sudden, I was working a normal CLEAN day job with benefits.  My first year there, I went to a meeting (one of many).  It was a meeting where the management takes the pulse of the employees to make sure they're happy.  They try to hear complaints and promise they'll make things better... Well I had NO COMPLAINTS.  I think things were AWESOME...  Later, in the hall, I heard some long time employees talking about how new hires were so excited and unaware of how bad things where.  I just figured they'd forgotten just how good they had it....
 
A few years later, I found myself understanding what the long time employees were talking about...   The longer I worked there, the more clear I saw how things really were....  I saw that we weren't getting paid NEAR what we should have been.  I saw that our benefits actually sucked pond water.  etc.....
 
So, how does that apply here?   Those that are fairly new to comic books (Let's say less than 5 years)  Haven't seen the same cycles within comics as long time readers...  I've been reading comic books since the 70s...  More than 30 years now..
 You say you don't understand the reason for my optimism regarding the dead heroes being brought back.  Well, it's really very simple.  I have read stories where MANY MANY MANY of the heroes have died and they nearly ALL come back.  Not just the A-listers but all of them.  Even villains.  Only Uncle Ben stays dead...
 
Seeing a hero die in  a Marvel story has NO real impact on me.  My first question is always, I wonder when they'll be back....
When Johnny Storm died I said, "I wonder when he'll be back."
When Spider-man died (the last time, not the two times before that), I said, "I wonder when he'll be back."  In that case, it was only a couple of issues later.
When Cable died I said, "I wonder when he'll be back."  
I'm still wondering when Night Crawler will be back....and he WILL...
 
So, for me it's not optimism.  Heroes coming back simply IS the way it IS....
 
Now, I see you're wondering just about the deaths of heroes within the last two years.  Marvel vs. DC which one has more super hero deaths?   I'd bet Marvel....Absolutely...  

Scott Lang and his daughter recently did a sort of tag team 'dead thing...  He WAS dead but then came back to life during Children's Crusade.  She died at the end of that arc.
Mystique died... She's back.
Saber-tooth died.   He's back.
Daken has died... He's not back yet.
Johnny Storm died.  He's back.
Professor X died.  He came back... but he's dead again and hasn't come back from that... not yet..
Hercules died... He's back.
Thor died... He's back...
Kitty Pride died.... She came back in the same issue... but she DID die...
Fantomex died... He's... kind of back... In three different personas (one of them female)... and Eva is now a character in her own rights.
Wolverine died...went to hell... and fought his way out... He's back...
Cable died... He's back...
Bucky Barnes died...He's back.
 
So, when I say I don't believe any death in any Marvel event is permanent, it isn't a matter of optimism, really... It's just the way Marvel is.
Edited by akbogert

@Timandm: Well, first, regarding the list -- I knew at least 75% of those names without having ever picked up a comic book. I've actually been presented with a few charts and lists since I started complaining about Arena, and that tends to be the trend; the list of characters who've come back tends to be primarily recognizable names (and that matters insomuch as I'm new to comics, so if I recognized them, it means they were big enough). Now I've read that sometime somewhat recently, a literal schoolbus of young mutants was blown up with a rocket launcher. So I've got to ask. Do you actually believe that all, or even most of those kids are going to get resurrected? Because I do not. I think it's far more likely that some new young character with similar powers and/or personality will just be created to fill the void should some writer down the line wish to tell a story with more young mutants.

Perhaps it comes down to the sorts of characters I'm drawn to and how quickly I develop an attachment or don't. For me, a kid lives for ten, twenty issues, and at least has some dialogue? Could be enough to make him or her a favorite. If he or she died, I'd notice, I'd care. But a lot of people wouldn't. So when you go to make a list of characters who have died, you tend to overlook a lot of characters like that -- ones who never really took the spotlight, maybe were part of a larger group (or here, school), and died without getting the chance to truly shine on a massive stage. These are characters who quite possibly only appeared in a single series, who only have as many potential fans as the readership of that one title. Those characters are perceived not to matter enough. They become bullet sponges in massive events, and there's literally no incentive to make a deal about them coming back to life.

I recognize I'm new, but that doesn't mean I haven't properly considered the nature of comic resurrection. The types of characters who tend to be resurrected and the types of characters I tend to like form a Venn Diagram that looks a lot more like two circles than one. It may well be that I'm just too emotionally invested, that I care too quickly to avoid getting hurt by Marvel. The existence of this thread is almost an acknowledgement of that point: that if this really is just how it goes, then I am just personally not cut out to be a Marvel reader. And if that's just how it goes with both universes, then maybe I'm not cut out to read mainstream comics, period. I'm trying to determine that earlier rather than later.

As for AA, it's how they've advertised it, it's suggested by every comment Hopeless or Rosemann has ever publicly spoken about the book, and there are a lot of people who have either agreed with my blogs or who have elsewhere complained about the book (not to mention all the people enjoying the book who have said bluntly that if the deaths aren't real/permanent, they'll be upset and feel they wasted their time reading the book) that I don't think my position in that regard is in any way a novelty.

Posted by Timandm
@akbogert
First, the school-bus full of mutants...
That happened in New Mutants not long after the 'decimation.'  When Scarlet Witch de-powered nearly ever mutant on the planet, the kids at Xavier's school were naturally affected as well. 
No longer being mutants, it was decided to send them back home and let them rejoin normal society.  They were on the bus because they were being taken home....  
 
But this is not the first time I've seen this kind of thing....  Cast your mind back to the 80s.  Okay, you  weren't alive then, but do it anyway...  The New Mutants (the first group) they were ALL killed during the second Secret War.  and they were ALL brought back.  But how about lesser known kid-heroes.  The Hellions (kind of the competition to the New Mutants.  They were the students of Emma Frost who was in a pseudo-evil phase at the time.)  They were ALL killed...  They have all come back... Course, most of them were killed AGAIN.  But they'll be back.    Doug Ramsey was one of the original New Mutants.  He died early on.  Shot with a simple hand gun.    Many readers at the time lacked the imagination to realize how powerful he really was... So I guess that decided to kill him off.  It took more than 20 years, but he's back and more powerful than ever...
 
It's certainly true that lesser known characters are more apt to stay dead, or at the very least stay dead longer, but I'm  used to seeing them come back   Maybe I could put together a list of b-list heroes and villains that have died and come back....
 
Regarding Hopeless and Rosemann, I should check out what they've said.  But comic book authors have said things like this many times in the past...  Remember when Johnny Storm died?   Before it happened, Marvel released the news that one of the Fantastic Four was going to die.  and they were adamant about the death being real.  "One of them absolutely will die and it will be the end of the Fantastic Four!"   What's 'excrement' that was.  Did he die?  Technically, yes.  many times apparently.  and he came back many times... and the Fantastic Four did not END.  It merely took a break... 
There are other examples of writers doing this... It's not new....
 
Super man's REALLY going to die.  We swear it!
Captain America is really really dead!  Honest to GOD!
Bucky Barnes was well loved.  He lived well, fought hard, and served honorably.  We will all miss him.  For about 3 issues...
 
I think Hopeless and Rosemann are like Disney and playing off the fact that there's a new audience about every seven years....
Posted by akbogert

@Timandm: And perhaps Marvel's cavalier attitude regarding reader emotions is the reason why the audience changes.

I for one am still not a comic fan. Not really. I've an interest in being one, and it's taken up a huge part of my life as of late. But I'm not there yet. And I am looking at the industry as an outsider, window shopping and deciding whether to walk through the door and actually commit. And it may very well be that this flaunting of cheap death is so intrinsic to the way they run things that I decide I just don't want a part of it. I have gaming to occupy my time. I have books. I'll have a job, I'll have classes taken (and then taught). Hopefully I'll have a family. And so one of two things will happen: either I'll decide (as I am beginning to fear) that comics are just too emotionally harmful for me to deal with, or I'll be consumed by things and relationships so much more meaningful and important that I will no longer be as attached to these characters, and will be able to distance myself to the point where their deaths no longer affect me as dramatically as they currently do.

I just find it odd that this exists. I've never felt this apprehension about characters or stories in any other medium. I've read book series. I've watched seasons of television. I've watched film after film, played video game after video game. And never have I found a medium whose biggest names were so overtly manipulative and callous of their audience's emotions.

For now, I'm just hoping that's more Marvel than mainstream comics in general (though New 52 preclusions or distortions of loved characters has me on the fence). And that's why I'm wondering, wondering whether I've got to decide between mainstream comics and nothing, or whether I'll avoid most of this heartache by simply avoiding Marvel.

Posted by Timandm
@Timandm: And perhaps Marvel's cavalier attitude regarding reader emotions is the reason why the audience changes.
 
I could not agree with you more!!!
You know that company I mentioned earlier was I.B.M.   Their attitude was based on the belief that they would always be the top dog....  They neglected to listen to their customers and one day.......it cost them.... HUGE... They are no longer the big dog.  They're barely even allowed near the porch...
I honestly believe Marvel and DC will either go through a drastic change, or they will fall like IBM...
The world is changing.  People CAN start new comic book universes and they can offer comics with more meaning and intensity...  They can KEEP their audience....
Posted by akbogert

@Timandm: Hahaha. Lovely analogy.

I mean, like I said, I am new. I don't know the industry or its past well enough to be sure when I make certain statements (which is why I make threads like this, to ask). But my general impression is precisely that, and not just for the death reason (I've made similar notes in reference to misogyny/latent bigotry rearing its ugly head also). Comics need to adapt to a rapidly changing world, and really switch up how they do things, or they will become irrelevant. When I'm an active participant in an industry and culture, I prefer not to have to constantly make excuses for it and for my participation to other people. I prefer for the industry not to give people good reasons to avoid it.

It seems to just be American mainstream comics that have this huge problem (this and others). Some really talented people have done, and continue to do, great things at Marvel and DC. But when one sits back and asks "at what price?" eventually the answer will cease to be satisfying.

Posted by Timandm
@akbogert: Could not agree more...