A look at Death in comics.

Link to previous blog http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/allhailme/heir-to-the-throne-a-look-at-legacy-characters-in-comics/87-75919/

In life there are certain inevitabilities, but out of them all death is the most prominent. Both you and I are going to die one day. It's sad but true. It is only natural that comics take a look at death in all of its facets. It is something we are preoccupied with,as we can not change it, despite the multitude of changes we as a race have caused in the real world, so we take a lot of time to examine it despite the futility of such an endeavor. I myself am guilty of this. So i'm going to take some time to look at some of the views of death within comics.

1. Immortality

2. Death as a plot device

3. Sacrifice

4. Resurrection

5. Reaction

6. Representation of death itself

Immortality

Due to the previously stated lack of control over death we are given we like to look at what life would be with out death. As such characters are created that defy the basic principle of life itself. Many characters search for eternal life in comics,and a few have succeeded,intentionally or not. One of the most notable examples is Vandal Savage. He accidentally came about his immortality,but it's use has been taken advantage of. He is a perfect example of what having immortality would be like for someone who would abuse it. He uses the fact that he is immortal in a variety of ways, such as being able to create plans that involve more time than most villains (because you know, he can just outlive them) or using technology of future generations to his advantage just because he lived long enough to do so.

Another immortal is the shade, who though he started out a villain,has had a entirely different approach to the use of his immortality. He still serves himself, but it is observed as not the abuse of immortality, but acting as a consequence of the immortality itself. He is able to do whatever he wants, so he gets bored and has to find stuff to do. He takes a more heroic look at immortality than Vandal because he does use his immortality for some good, in his case the protection of Opal city. In general comics seem to take a general stance that whether good or bad, immortality tends to give the sense of superiority and a sense of self serving,because why care about others when you are just going to outlive them?

He is immortal, good news for his fans,bad for whoever he is about to mess up.

Some characters come by immortality just through being powerful, such as gods or Galactus. But this tends to lead to another facet of immortality in comics. No one in comics are truly immortal. In a weird twist of the aversion to death immortality embodies, the immortals can and often will be killed by something else even more powerful. Whether it be Mikaboshi constantly killing Zeus, or the Saint of Killers killing God. So why do we make characters immortal if we just are going to kill them off? It could go back to the same human condition that makes them immortal in the first place. We want them immortal because we can't be, but at the same time death is such inescapable fact that we don't feel comfortable having someone else being able to completely beat it when we can't. We allow characters to leap tall buildings or to have meat vision, but we can't let them escape death. In essence in comics immortality can only be achieved on the level that the person can't age,but they can die.It is telling about how much death affects us if that is the one thing that disbelief can seemingly never be suspended.

Death as a plot device

Death connects on a greater level than just fear of mortality,it also effects a person due to the fact that when a person dies,they are gone. People do not like losing those close to them. Everyone eventually loses someone. As such death registers on a emotional scale for people. This allows death to automatically raise the stakes of something. If a character is killed we lose them (even if for only a short while but more on that later),and to any fans of the character it registers, whether through as much grief as you can have for a fictional character,or indignation. When Johnny Strom died people knew he was coming back,but fans of the character were still affected by a whole gambit of responses much greater than any normal event tends to create for a character.

As well it can make something threatening, as comic characters are seen as greater than us, and as the protagonist it is not expected for them to fail. As such for something killing that "unkillable and superhuman" characters gives the something more menace. For example the previous reference to Mikaboshi. He was barely known, but he gained a menace through non chalantly killing Zeus that he carried over to his next appearance. If he had invaded Olympus and not killed anybody,he would be seen like the average villain who challenges the hero and loses, only to try again.

She'll be fine, but then again i earned my medical degree on the internet.

Lastly a death can be used to show the effect of it on that character. It is another way comics humanize characters, as we have been through similar events, we know how we would feel if we lost someone, so we feel empathy for the poor character that has to go through it,and can lead to character evolution that may not happen otherwise. When Gwen Stacy died, the normally light hearted Spider-man nearly beat the Green Goblin to death. Gwen Stacy's death allowed us to see how spidey would react to being pushed to the edge,and when he let Goblin live he managed to have a character moment that he would have never had if Gwen had lived.

Sacrifice

Congratulations Hope, you just made a ton of Nightcrawler fans your enemy

The use of death in comics also leads to the sacrifice, using ones own life to save another. People value their own life above nearly all else,so when someone puts something before it, such as the lives of others or an ideal, people notice. People respect the unselfishness. The same happens in comics. When Nightcrawler died he could have just teleported himself to safety. But instead he sacrificed his life to save the life of another, in this case Hope, and the ideal of saving the mutant race. The purity of the sacrifice is so great it can turn a villain into a hero in a instant. When Loki died in Siege he gained enough good will that people could by the new Loki trying to be good. Even though the death turned out to be a part of a plan the effect still remained the same.

Resurrection

Aside from simple immortality, another way to avoid death was created, resurrection. People could still be mortal, but avoid the results of death. Resurrection Man gains similar effects to Vandal Savage,being allowed to be around for many,many years, but he still can die (he just comes back). As well people gain an emotional attachment to a character. When a person dies a common reaction is to want them to come back. With comics the same thing can happen people get the results of a character's death, and as they like reading about them (or in the companies case making money off of them) so they want them back. Since we can do things in comics that can't be done normally the wish can be fulfilled. People get to see how a person may react if they actually did somehow get their loved ones back. This can provide insight into the characters mind, as well as the mind of the one resurrected. For a rare non comic example this was addressed when Buffy was resurrected in her tv show. We got to see how those around her reacted, and how she managed to readjust to the world.

Reaction

Comics also unveil a variety of reactions to death. Some seek to avoid it. Annihilus goes to great lengths to ensure that he is the only one left in the universe so nothing can kill him. He is afraid of death. Some characters just except it for what it is.

Got rejected by death again, poor guy.

And some seek it. Both Thanos and Deadpool sought to end their lives to be with death, and Hank Henshaw just hates living and wants death. It is interesting to take note of the fact that despite our fear of death, humanity is almost equally afraid of living forever. We have no idea what we would do if everyone around us died,and if we have done everything there is to do in the world, twice. Death can represent a freedom of responsibility,as we have no control over what happens to us or the world next,and a person may want to escape them. I will not go any further into that subject as that is too heavy a debate for a comic article.

Representation of death itself

Death is very happy go lucky, go figure.

Death becomes a lot easier to accept if we can give it a face. It makes it seem more tangible,so we can handle it easier both Marvel and DC have surprisingly different versions of death. Death in Marvel is all business,primarily focused on her job, and only really consulting with mortals to get what she wants. Death of the Endless however is a kinder figure who loves people and tries to understand them. Because death itself is hard to fully understand it lends itself to alternate interpretations.

The right way to deal with death

There is no right way to deal with death, and there is only one wrong way. That is to tempt fate and over use it, killing off to many characters or making death seem inconsequential. If you do this all the individual benefits that can be achieved from using it properly are ruined.

Well thats all, tell me how you think death should be approached in comics, any moments of it you thought were done particularly well, or moments that angered you.Note I didn't cover murder because i may save that for something else down the line. A bit of a morbid subject,but I digress. To balance it out heres a kitten

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Heir to the Throne- A look at legacy characters in comics

Its been 73 years since Superman first appeared, and between then and now there have been a lot of comics, It is only natural that in that time legacy characters have appeared. I'm going to take a quick look at some of the types of legacy characters,some positives and negatives of each, and some notable examples.

Some types of legacy characters are:

1: The Family

2: The Sidekick

3:The Tribute

4:The Replacement

5: The Unexpected

The Family

He reproduced

Perhaps the easiest way to make a legacy character is to have them be a family member. Readers seem to naturally accept that family can be a natural replacement for a previously used character. This tends to be most common among Parents/Child. Take Captain Boomerang, upon his death his son became the new Captain Boomerang. The reason he did this was for the same reason that many family replacements (especially villains) do, revenge. Family is naturally inclined to feel more emotional about the death of someone. A family member tends to feel some responsibility to do something, whether its try to get the perpetrator imprisoned or more violent actions. With a super villain,they take their super villain identity's seriously, and if they die,its usually in battle with another super person. They take the name in order to pull a Inigo Montoya, they want the person to know that they killed their father/mother, who that father/mother is, and that they should prepare to die. By taking a loved one's identity, they hope to keep that person close, and in doing so their victory will become the loved ones victory.

But dieing isn't the only reason a person may have a family member take over, sometimes they just retire. Though the need for revenge isnt there, the basic reasoning remains the same. They love their family member and want to honour them. The positives to a family legacy are obvious, its easier to buy the fact that they can replace the original, they knew them well, they could be assumed to be genetically similar, which would explain similar talents. It requires less build up than other types because even if we do not know who this random just announced family member is, we accept that the previous character did. The negatives to it is it can seem a little forced. Sometimes it can be used as a cheap cop out for if they want to bring back a character, but they dont want to ressurect them or put any effort into a character. He/She is so-and so's brother/sister, have fun.

The Sidekick

Won the right to be batman through a "best hair contest"

The sidekick is the easiest legacy for readers to accept. The sidekick is close enough with the hero to be family,the sidekick has a reason to take the identity, the reader is already familiar with them, and they have already been pretty much doing the heroes job for years. This all makes the sidekick the perfect replacement. When Batman died Dick Grayson was really the only suitable replacement due to his years of history with him. The same can be said for Bucky and Captain America. So what problems is their with the sidekick choice? The same reason I said it was the easiest to accept and the reason i said family was the easiest way to have a legacy character.The sidekicks have years of storytelling backing them, so it takes a lot of work and investment to make it work. Imagine if 3 issues after Robin first appears Batman dies and Robin replaces him. Doesn't have the same effect. The only other problem comes from the time the sidekick has been around,they may already have their own legacy. Dick made a name for himself as Nightwing, the character was well liked. If when replacing Batman the change was not doing well, it puts the legacy of both characters at risk.

The Tribute

Clint Barton is Hawkeye (sometimes)

The tribute is when a already previously established hero/villain takes on the identity of another hero villain. This may be done to honour the previous generation, such as when Hank Pym took the identity of the wasp after the originals death. Despite the troubles they had, he still cared for Jann,and like the family example wanted to preserve that. They may also do that because they are having an identity crisis. Hawkeye takes the goliath mantle from pym after he felt like being an archer wasn't good enough, returned to being hawkeye, briefly dressed as captain america after his death as a tribute to him, and then assumed echo's old ronin alias. Sometimes a character may take a costume to gain the notoriety the previous character had, such as when Norman Osborn created the Dark Avengers. He hoped to cash in on the goodwill the characters have. The positives are again a connection to the original,and the skills to back up the transition. The negative is the fact it rarely lasts long. As previously stated the replacement was already established, and the fans usually want that character to return to the identity they made popular in the first place,so the new one doesnt stick.

The Replacement

It takes years of training to pull of the no face with a trenchcoat thing without looking creepy

The replacement is simply someone purposely trained by the original for the purpose of being a replacement.A good example is when the question was dying form cancer, he took the time out to train a replacement in Renee Montoya. This is probably the most efficient way to do it. No Bitterness for replacing the original, because the original wanted it. The new character gains the skills needed to replace them. They gain a familiarity and respect for the original,and the reader gets time to adjust to the fact the original is getting replaced, and to the replacement themselves. The only real negative is again it takes some time and effort, and in a world where most deaths happen suddenly in events,it just doesnt happen often.

The Unexpected

Okay put the web shooter down you get to be spiderman alright?

The character that has no business with the original and comes out of nowhere. This is usually gained through one of four ways. The first is happenstance, for example when Hal Jordan stopped being a lantern, kyle rayner was the new green lantern because he was chosen by the ring, and not out of any relation to to the previous one. The second is again a respect for the legacy of the previous character, such as when Miles Morales took over in Ultimate spiderman. Thirdly, like in the tribute, they are trying to cash in on the fame of the original. Lastly through an act of heroism or bravery, the original just gives them the name. An example is when Scott Lang uses the antman equipment to save a doctors life. Pym just gives him the title. This is the riskiest method, because we have no prior knowledge or attachment to the character, and a lot of effort has to be used to establish them,they could not be accepted. It also has the potential to bring the character to new heights by taking the character in new directions,and establishing a new loved character.

Bonus

Thought i would mention two trends that dont quite count in the list but are worth noting

Alternate universe version- Sometimes a character is replaced by a alternate universe version of themselves. It doesnt quite count because they are replacing themselves, but many of the same issues can occur depending on how different the two version are.

Cheetah should lay off the roids, she is starting to look like a man

Alternate Gender Version- The replacement is a different gender, doesnt count because they would still fit in one of the other categories, but it is still a common trend. Usually guy to girl, in fact the only male taking up a females mantel i can think of on the spot is the male cheetah. How well it turns out depends on how good the writing is, because bad writing can make it look like oh its ____ but a girl. They should be their own characters.

What makes a good replacement?

A good replacement has a couple of factors:

1: Be likable: Or else the fans will have you beaten with a crowbar and blown up.

2: Have a similar theme/vibe to the original,but bring something new: They have to connect either in theme or in tone to the original,but not be a carbon copy. There has to be a reason to warrant the taking of a previous identity over just making a new character. So it has to connect in someway to the original. At the same time the character has to warrant replacing the original instead of just bringing the original back. Take the green lantern's switch from Alan Scott to Hal Jordan. The story still focused on a person who has to charge a ring with a lantern in order to create things with energy charged by willpower and has a sense of justice. The difference in tone between the two, from mystical origin to sci-fi space cops makes it its own beast.

Fans didn't like him.

3: Give some time: well this isnt a law, it does help to give the replacement some time. It wears down the impact if there tenure is short,because they have less time to make their mark. A character around for two years is more memorable than one around for two months.

Good examples

The Flash

Where the heck are you in the DCnU anyway?

This works for a number of reasons. Wally West was related to Barry Allen,giving him the automatic family bump. He was his sidekick for years,so he was experienced. When Barry went out it was in a flash of glory. Wally had a more humorous,fun loving personality,setting the tones apart. And most helpful of all is the fact that for over twenty years Barry stayed dead, giving Wally time to make his own legacy. People could then identify "their flash",instead of bad flash and good flash.

Blue Beetle

Not Ted Kord, but still cool

It follows my three major rules. Jaime Reyes is likable, the series had a lighthearted tone as Ted Kord's did. At the same time the larger focus on family, and the fact Jaime has superpowers while Ted didnt set it apart. Finally, Jaime was given a few years as Blue Beetle to build his fanbase.

Ghost Rider

Both memorable despite there being a lot of ___ ghost riders

It's amazing how much the transition from Johnny Blaze to Dan Ketch worked.He too fit the rules. He had the similar horror vibe, he was still a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle,yet he had differences. His bike was different, his personality was different, he had new abilities. He had years as the ghost rider, and you felt for his situation.He brought new enemies. He also fit a ton of legacy types. He was the unexpected, since he was a new creation, he ended up being family to Johnny Blaze (unknown at first). And he was the replacement, as Johnny Blaze taught him how to use his abilities as the new ghost rider. This transition has gained fans for both Ghost Riders and that is a success.

Well thats all,what are your favorite legacy characters? What do you think makes one successful? What ones totally failed in your eyes?

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What characters stand to gain and lose with the dc reboot

I have wanted to start up a blog on this site for a bit,and since dc is starting over i figured it would be a good chance to start. Note if there is any inaccuracies i apologize,i'm working with what i know of each character. With any reboot changes come to a character,some positive some negative. Following the currently ongoing flashpoint mini,the dc universe is confirmed to lead to a reboot,which isn't that new to dc,but this one seems to be the biggest since the original crisis about 25 years ago. They difference between this reboot and the others since the original is the sheer amount of a characters it is looking to affect at this point in time.   
 
There are supposed to be about 50 new number one issues to arrive at the end of flashpoint. This means a lot of reboots. So I am going to list some of the benefits and problems that could arise from the reboot from different characters. (Note with the unclear nature of what stays and goes some things may be wrong)
 
Superman 

Superman
 
Positives: 
  • He doesn't have to deal with the political uproar of his changing his citizenship. As a Canadian i liked the story,why just help one country with all his power. But it matters not,because if he is rebooted he will probably go back to being the all american hero he is known for. For those who liked the story it could be a negative,but the character will have less political stigma.
  • This may end up being a good way to adapt to the lawsuit for his character rights. Depending on the result of the lawsuit,the character could end up in a varied amount of situations. With the reboot they could change superman into something a lot more malleable if something were to happen. Once things are resolved they can begin adding a lot more of his status quo.
  • A reintroduction of his rogues gallery. Many people are not fans of some of his rogues,long time readers can point to a good story for those rogues,but they are not well known. The reboot could serve to reintroduce the characters,building up the threat level to those that may have not been previously seen as a threat to superman,and getting new readers acquainted with some of the others. 
Negatives: 
  • The possibility of no Lois. See the reaction to one more day for more on this matter. Ruining the relationship of two long standing characters is rarely warmly received,and doing it by reboot/retcon seems to anger people more. Heck the last season of smallville focused a lot on setting this up,there was a whole show called Lois and Clark.
  • No superboy? Conner Kent is a well loved character,with superman's seemingly more youthful appearance,and the nature of a reboot,the character may be fazed out,and that would be wrong.
 
Bat Family 
 
Positives: 
  • If your a fan of Bruce as the only batman,your in luck,that's a huge possibility. 
Negatives: 
  •  Honestly the bat family has more to lose than gain in this situation
  • Batman Inc. may die before it begins,which is a shame for something with such buildup.
  • Dick may have never been batman,or nightwing for that matter if they make him robin again.Years of character development down the drain.I really hope he is at least Nightwing at the time of the reboot.
  • Same for Tim,he just came into his own,only to possibly return to being robin or not being in the picture at all.
  • Oracle could go back to being batgirl ( which would ruin all the stuff with cassandra cain) and lose much of the character she gained after being paralyzed.
  • Again it could all go unchanged but i'm speculating at possible results of a reboot,and these are possibilities that are uniquely caused by the reboot.
Flash  
 
Positives:  
  • Barry Allen fans are in luck,a lot of focus will probably be heaped on the character.
  • The reboot itself would not affect him much. 
  Negatives: 
  • This mostly pertains to Wally West,but since focus has switched to Barry at around the same time of this reboot,he could be outsourced,possibly never becoming the flash.
  • Wally has years of backstory,including his family at stake,and has been active longer than barry,so he has gained many fans over the years that may be upset.
 
Green Lantern 
 
Positives: 
  • The events of recent green lantern stories have been confirmed to still have happened,so little will change with the Lanterns.


 
 
 
 
 
 
Aquaman 
 
Positives:  
  • Possible renewal of interest in the character
  • The possibility that he may move beyond the superfriends version in the mainstream.
  • A possible greater exploration of the world of atlantis.
Negatives: 
  • His time in charge of Atlantis and various other plot elements released over the years could be put in jeopardy.
 
Wonder Woman 
Honestly not versed well enough in her to bring anything up,but she is notable enough to bring up the exception. 
 
Miscellaneous  
Positive and Negative: 
  • Some lesser known characters may get the chance to shine,while others may be buried by it.
  • The switch of writers among the issues could seriously affect the quality of each character.
 
That's it,not much but it is my first blog
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