14 Jan 2012


In July last year, I hollered at Mike Deodato complaining about the death of Johnny Storm of The Fantastic Four. This death came approximately four years after that of Captain America at the end of Marvel's Civil War event. Mike jokingly replied "You know how comics go, they never really stay dead." and I thought, "yeah whatever, I don't like it but they better bring Johnny Storm back. "The Internet was buzzing towards the end of 2011 with news that the Torch was set to return in issue #600 of The Fantastic four.
The Torch stares "death" in the face
The Human Torch, minus his family, is one of my favourite comic book heroes. The news of his return is all I've been waiting for and when it finally came, I realised that comic book heroes never really die. Its now confirmed conclusively. I then went on twitter to discuss this with two of my friends and we had a very lengthy discussion that brought out some good arguments on the subject.
Let's go back in time to 1992 when Superman died. I won't even bother posting a link to that. Eventually, after the Reign of the Supermen passed and with it, all the shock-value and improved sales, Superman had to come back to the land of the living. Read up on the "Kryptonian Rejuvenation Chamber" if you don't already know about it and please have a barf-bag with you. You may need it.
Captain America's "assasination"
My question is this, why kill the characters in the first place? The obvious answers are "to create a buzz" or "to rescue dwindling sales" but for how long can this work when all the readers are on to you? Shock value is only shocking when it isn't expected, hence the word "shock." When the same thing is done over and over it falls into a category called "routine." Read up on the word my dear comic book creators, the dictionary definition may surprise you.
If you kill Superman, you are effectively saying that everyone who will be born in the future will not read Superman comics. (Well, he exists in multiple universes but you get my point) What will you do to entertain fans of the book until the end of time? That's right, you will have to bring him back. The superheroes we read about have been in existence longer than many of us have. This means that they have too much history for any currently living writer to kill-off. Writers of independent books have the liberty to kill off any character they please because they lack something that the big two's flagship characters have. Indie books have no history. Lack of history has its advantages as I am sure Mr Mark Millar can testify to. He has the express right and privilege to kill anyone in his MillarWorld Universe and keep them dead while he's at it. This right will only be taken from him if his characters continue to live for another sixty or so years.
Superman's "death"
It gets embarrassing when you "off" one of your flagship characters then later bring him back because the book is staring cancellation in the face.
What I'm basically saying is, death in comic books may have been a cool/hip stunt back in the day but now, we are on to you. Increase your creativity and stop cheating for sales. If your book is getting poor reviews you are probably not doing a good job and it probably deserves to be cancelled. Let the book die or pass it on to a better writer.


  1. Melman, you've taken the words from my mouth and expounded on them with the frivolous passion and mixed resentment of a jilted lover.

    In one single word all the razzmatazz can be summed up thus : Commercialism. This 13 letter word is the foetal stage of any true Capitalist ideal and it's number one rule is 'there are no rules!'. Of course Capitalists are more suave and subtle in their flippant execution of rule breaking that you hardly even know it...we even have a phrase for it...'rule bending'.

    I like that you have compared the great artists ( read : creators of popular comic characters ) of yore to the popular sketchers of our time. I like that you have also blatantly stated that whereas one was driven by passion, the latter is driven by a need to stay relevant.

    Politics, Sports, Healthcare, Religion, Education, Fashion, Hip-Hop and now our beloved Super-heroes....it seems nothing and no one is safe from the self edifying toxic effect of lil ol' Commercialism. And just to prove my point and tie it in with the 'death and resurrection' theme, recall when Nas ( undoubtedly one of the most poetic rap stars of our time ) did an album entitled 'Hip Hop is Dead' in a rallying cry against commercialism of 'the game' only for him to do a turn-around and start rapping soft, limp tracks unworthy of his genre much later if only to pay the bills ? He killed and then resurrected the game ! And why so..? To remain relevant and create a buzz.

    Our comic book characters have been compromised. Creativity is being sold to the highest bidder on a daily basis and real art, true art is dying. Will there be salvation for this situation ? Frankly I don't know. Because you see, commercialism has reached a point that it's not hype anymore...it's 'life' ...or something like that according to the twisted naive masses who fund it's very existence.

    Perhaps Morpheus was right when he said, "The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."

    1. Commercialism is killing fans of art. The two just don't mix. When they did Watchmen the fans loved it but the financial returns didn't go well with the studio.
      I like your comparison to rap music, they do it too. Jay-Z retires, Hip-Hop dies, Lupe Fiasco declares his exit from rap only to "resurrect" their careers a short while later.

      I love the Matrix analogy, so true and it sums everything up perfectly. As a creator its a good thing I'm learning all this now so I don't make the same mistakes.