Death and the Comic Fan (SPOILER ALERT)

In a sudden twist of events, I’ve decided that I’m not really into The Movement. I just can’t get over how it sounds like using the bathroom. Also, it’s…really not very good. I hurt myself saying that just now, folks. I really did.

So instead, let’s talk about death and the comic book industry.

Gail Simone herself coined the concept of ‘fridging’, in relation to female characters: Killing off a female character in order to bring strife into a male character’s life. It’s a time honored tradition in virtually any form of entertainment, from comics to movies to, hell, even music. Remember that song Last Kiss? But I’m not here to add my comments to a topic that’s been, pardon the expression, discussed to death. I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss death in comics in the modern age.

In general terms when relating specifically to DC, the Golden Age of comics began with the first issue of Action Comics and ended sometime in the 1950s. The Silver Age officially started with Showcase #4, which introduced the first ever rebooted superhero, Barry Allen’s Flash, and ended with the death of that character in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Bronze Age started in 1986, at the end of CoIE’s run, and ended in 2005, with Infinite Crisis. The Modern Age started in 2004, with Identity Crisis. Confused? Welcome to the world of the Modern Age.

Shock value. These are the two defining words of the Modern Age of comics. In 2004, a little series called Identity Crisis began to make waves at DC. It started by killing off beloved wife Sue Dibny, and by the seventh issue, had been the cause of death of another two characters; Jack Drake, the father of the then-current Robin, and Digger Harkness, the first Captain Boomerang. Digger’s recently-discovered son, Owen, also premiered in this series.

Our next big death would come three months later, in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. After spending 79 pages having the rest of the world fall in love with Ted Kord all over again, the final page has his former friend and boss Max Lord graphically shooting him in the head. And then there was Infinite Crisis, also known as Everyone Dies 2: Electric Boogaloo. Where am I going with this?

Death in comic books is comparable to a rotating door. People go in, people come out, and some are stuck waiting at the turnstile. After Superman’s death and return in the early 90s, all bets were off. If you died in a comic, the likelihood of resurrection depended on how popular you were. Deaths like those of Hal Jordan (1996), Wonder Woman (1997), and even Bruce Wayne (2009) were overturned in times ranging from almost a decade to a matter of months. Then there’s the Marvel side of things, where a person can come back from the dead multiple times. Death in comic books simply does not matter.

Which is why it’s used as a plot device so often.

Recently, DC killed off Damian Wayne in a gruesome fashion. Even more recently, they did the same to Catwoman. Of course, Damian’s was meant to be a permanent death (even though the kid is related to the one man who has returned from the grave more than Jean Grey), whereas it is being speculated that Selina’s death was a fake-out. But, DC wouldn’t do that…would they?

The year is 2010. The series is Justice League: Generation Lost. The character is Blue Beetle. No, the third one. He gets shot in the head by (who else) Maxwell Lord. He’s okay, though! The suit took the brunt of the damage! Didn’t stop DC from making fakeout covers, fake reactions, and constant parallels to how his previous incarnation died.

Death is meaningless. That’s the point I’m trying to convey. There have been entire events based around death, from the Death of Captain America to Blackest Night. Entire series’, such as Suicide Squad and, more recently, Avengers Arena.

So, why am I making a post about death now?

Because.

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