Guest Author - Eugene Bradford
Characters die; readers of fiction have dealt with the deaths of their favorite characters as well as their not so favorite characters dying off for a long time. These fictional people, animals and other creatures included of course, can’t live forever. In comic books, however, death has become a bit of a joke to some fans. This is because so many characters have returned from the death. To avoid making a sweeping indictment of the comic book industry, this death issue, pardon the pun, appears to be somewhat exclusive to the “big two,” Marvel Comics and DC Comics. It probably occurs randomly within the more independent publishers, but nowhere near as much.
Suppose a supporting cast member in a book you’re reading succumbs to death. Perhaps he or she is murdered by the antagonist of that particular story. In the past, that would be it for that character. Maybe, their death would spark some turns in the story or changes for other characters, but as for them, their part is done. For fans, these grim events might have been emotional at times because they knew, or at least believed that those deaths would mean serious permanent changes to the titles.
Nowadays, fans are skeptical when some characters are killed, and even more so when a death is hinted at beforehand. People might even spend more time speculating on when that character will return than actually worrying about the death. It can be argued that the shock readers once felt is gone. Another argument that can be made is that there have been several deaths used strictly for shock value to boost sales while not actually adding true depth to a story or other characters.
The trend of the miraculous return from the grave has been in full swing for some time. Sometimes these incredible resurrections are done with style, other times they have not. There will likely always be backlash when a character once thought dead returns. To fans, it becomes worse when it occurs in an implausible fashion.
Some major revivals that have occurred recently were Marvel Comics Captain America and DC Comics Batman. These beloved characters have long histories, with the dark knight outdating the sentinel of liberty by two years. The death of Captain America, which coincidentally was the name of the story arc, received a great deal of mainstream attention the day the actual issue hit stands as the story could be read on various news websites. Both characters have since returned and are back in full action. Batman is becoming more global in his crime fighting efforts. Steve Rogers is no longer operating under the guise of Captain America since James “Bucky” Barnes took over as the shield slinger.
Another very well publicized event was the “Death of Superman” storyline from the 90’s. This one was very complex, not only because Superman represents the superhero archetype and his longstanding history but because it contributed in part to the collapse of the comic book industry in the middle portion of the decade. During this time, tons of the comic shops around the country closed and many smaller publishers were forced to shut down. There are many more details for this period of time for the industry, but they are best saved for another article however.