Sooner or later we all say stupid things, and the debate about death in comics has to be pretty stupid. As a comic geek, I’ve heard a lot of the stupid things geeks say. Geeks or not, we can’t help it; we’re all human after all – not counting the lizard men, gray aliens and 80% of the Republican Party. This is a series of IMO specifically about why some of the stupid things geeks say. Starting off, let’s talk about one of least favorite geek complaints; death in comics or comic-related media.
Geeks Make the Worse Reviewers
The worse people to examine or review comics and comic movies are geeks. If you want someone not to get into comics send them to a comic geek and they will make sure they run screaming from the idea. Geeks like to claim that they are hard on things because they love them. I supposed many say that one but since I’m part of the geek comic culture I’ve heard this one a lot, and I think its bullshit. I think geeks complaint because they like to complain. One of the worse ones is about death in superhero stories and how is “doesn’t mean anything.” It’s just plain stupid on so many levels.
Max Landis and the Death of Superman
Max Landis is one of the best YouTube creators out there because the man makes what he talks about interesting, exciting and very funny. I would be doing a special post about him if he did more videos like “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling’ and his video for his Death and Return of Superman are absolutely awesome. He’s the son of the famous John Landis and a Hollywood writer so I imagine he doesn’t have a lot of time on his hands, but what keeps me from giving his channel a full post shout-out are all those ten to thirty second videos that feel more like a waste of time than something I want to watch consistently. He needs to do more like “Wrestling isn’t wrestling” and the one that’s the actual subject of this section “The Death and Return of Superman” which you can watch here:
His retelling of the story and examination of the many, flaws with the whole thing was spot on. I remember reading the comics where Doomsday is created and comes to Earth and beats up everyone because, well, reasons? I remember rolling my eyes when they stole the fight scene from Let’s Do it Again and when they introduced LGBT Superboy. I loved every part of Max Landis’ video until he reached his conclusion. “The Death and Return of Superman broke death in comics forever.” Wait, what? Then he proceeds to comically list all the characters that died and came back in comics. Apparently, there’s been a lot.
With any TV series or movie franchise, it’s hard to predict who would become popular. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson simply resonated with the entire general audience. It was apparent from Iron Man people loved this character. So when Loki shoved a scepter through Coulson’s chest in Avengers the weight of that death was felt around the world. #RIPCoulson was a Twitter trend that lasted for a while after the first Avengers movie came and went in theaters. Marvel announced he’d be coming back for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.and there came that idiotic complaint again. There are no stakes in death in Marvel movies, just like the comics. Death is ruined forever. Minor success of AoS aside, I’m still hearing them rant about this one.
About Death in Fiction
Let’s get some perspective, please. Here is the big picture perspective. Characters dying and coming back happens in all fiction. Death and returns happen in movies, TV, Novels and especially in comics. The “I thought he/she was dead but she/he was just at the ” is not something new, or something comics invented. Soap Operas did it on practically a weekly basis and they are still around to this day. So why does the Death of Superman get the blame for any character that dies and comes back? The explanation for that is a bit of a thing because you have to understand what was going on in the 1990’s with comics and the Death of Superman was simply part of that wave. Before Superman Electra died in a comic that is not considered a classic and was brought back five issues later. Jean Gray has died so many times she should be called Corpse-Girl at this point. Professor Xavier died for almost 30 issue of the old X-Men comic only to come back because the guy that died was an impostor or something like that. Death and comebacks are not unusual nor is it anything that hasn’t been done a thousand times.
For example, Arthur Conan Doyle got tired of writing Sherlock Holmes so he killed him. Without the benefit of the Internet or phones or electricity fans were so incensed they hounded the author until their favorite character was brought back. Sherlock Holmes is one of those characters that have done in every form of media you can think of and yet the same geeks bitching about how death is “meaningless” in comics have no problem with that one. In the hyper-popular BBC show, Sherlock, the lead character literally died at the end of one season and was brought back with no real explanation in the next and these same geeks applaud the show as brilliant. Sherlock has not lost any fandom because he came back from an obvious death.
About Death in Comics
They’re comics. They’re power fantasy fiction. Death never had any more meaning than the creators put into it. Characters dying and coming back happens all the time in fiction and fantasy. Go read the actual stories of Handsel and Grettle, The main character in the original fairy tales are killed and brought back with the regularity of changing socks. Death in comics is the same way because these characters aren’t real.
In the same Max Landis video about the Death and Return of Superman, he had a section where he was talking about speaking to his father. Max Landis was confused about rules in movies. John Landis asks him “How do you kill a vampire.” Max begins to list the usual ways (before Twilight) and John Landis says, “Anyway you want because vampires don’t exist. You can make up any rules you want because they are not real.” Max Landis considered this advice was in some way connected to his idea that death in comics was broken. His point was that anyone could die in comics and come back with no consequences. Max Landis goes on to list all the characters who died and came back since Superman. The problem is people have died and come back on TV shows, movie franchises, horror, you name it. It’s not new. Any vampire or zombie story is essentially about people and comes back.
There are people and heroes who’ve died and never came back. For instance, Marvel has flirted with bringing Gwen Stacy back hundreds of times by now but didn’t actually do it. The brought Norman Osborn back and it was about as stupid as you can imagine. One of the original X-Men, Thunderbird, died and has never come back at all. Jean Grey’s entire family was offed by the Shi’ar and none of them came back. And Uncle Ben is about as dead as dead can get and they’ve never brought him back. I admit I’m not sure if DC has any death that’s lasted, but I’ll bet there’s a couple.
But Death in Comics is “Broken?”
On that same perspective: Saying death is broken or meaningless in comics is really stupid because death never had meaning in comics. We’re talking about a line of fiction where characters fly, shoot laser beams out their eyes, fly through space practically naked, and go to other dimensions in much the same way as one goes on a vacation. Death is a character in comics. Then again, in comics, God is a super-hero and not even the most powerful super-hero. So when precisely did death have “meaning” in a comic where a guy with a cold gun can give a guy who can run faster than the speed of sound trouble? How did something get broken that never really was fixed in the first place?
Do you know what happens if you take an unprotected rocket into space and get hit by a wave of cosmic rays? You will die. And FYI, cosmic rays are not an invention of Stan Lee, they exist. In comics, you hit by them and become a stretch guy, an invisible girl, a rock guy and a guy the bursts into flames. Gamma rays are produced mostly from nuclear explosions, and since suns are huge balls of nuclear explosions there’s a hell of a lot of gamma rays in space. There’s a pulsar a few light-years away that pulses what scientists refer to as “gamma-ray bursts” and if it does that when it spun in Earth direction we can count the number of days for life on this planet on our fingers. The Origin of the Hulk is that this guy and this kid are less than a mile away from a “gamma-bomb” and he not only takes a direct hit but it changes him into a huge green creature with rage issues.
Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive (or genetically enhanced spider, depending on which version you go by) and instead of getting sick or dying from allergic reactions, he climbs walls and lifts cars.
Explain to me again how death in comics had meaning in stories like this? The whole Death of Superman was written really badly. It was an obvious cash-grab and the way people went nuts for it caused DC Comics to print millions upon millions of them effectively making it one of the most worthless comics in history. It did not “break” death, nor did it make death less of a threat. We are talking about fantasy and science fiction where Gods fight crime and space giants diet on planets. One of Marvel’s major big-bads, Thanos, has been literally in love with death and she’s kind of hot when she’s not all bones.
So the idea that death in comics has no meaning is completely stupid, and I wish geeks would stop saying this.