Comics Creators

Does a Character's Death in Comics Really Matter Anymore?


This applies more to the Big Two than creator-owned work.

I bring this up because there have been some well know characters dying of late at Marvel and DC and Marvel is promising a “major” death in an upcoming issue of Civil War II.

For me, hearing a character at the Big Two has died is meaningless. You know at some point they will be brought back, despite what talent and Editorial swear. There is hype leading up to the death and hype leading up to the return. Some will stay dead longer than others but eventually, they will come back. The knowledge of the inevitable return takes away the impact and meaning of the death.

Deaths and returns seem to basically be a marketing ploy to push sales. It comes across as the only way to show that an “event” is important. It would probably have more impact if almost every well-know character hasn’t already had at least one death/return.

For me, I find it more interesting when a character is faced with a moral/ethical quandary than a simple life or death one. Death is easy. Their responsibility ends. But when a character makes a decision with consequences and has to deal with them, there is real storytelling potential there.

This all ties into the larger question of the “illusion of change” in comics.



Why is this a bad thing? Every company, every TV show, every product has to market to increase sales. These books are no different from daytime soap operas. Of course the death of a character doesn’t matter, a change in a character doesn’t matter as they’re all going to revert back to the brand some time - but controversy sells. Always has, always will.

This is like complaining about event comics when Civil War 2 just sold half a million copies. I get it if folks don’t like events, but then it can smack of complaining about things that other people like. These gimmicks work, they provided well needed financial injections into the publishing line.

Without the illusion of change there’s no comics industry anymore. So death is fake just like wrestling is fake. It’s part of the show and you’ve just got to roll with it. I agree it’s used too much and it really should be avoided, but that wont’ happen.


Jean Grey has been dead since the end of New X-Men. I get that there’s a variation of her running around in one of the X-Books right now, but that’s not the same character. Professor X has been dead for a while, and that one looks like it will stick for a decent amount of time. Marvel looked like they were on the right track with killing Wolverine, but they kinda hedged their bets by bringing in Old Man Logan.

I have no problem with comic deaths as long as they keep the character dead for a while. I want to miss them a bit. Like, even though they’re not dead, I’d like to see the Fantastic Four disappear for a long while. People don’t appreciate them like they should, and maybe them being gone for a bit might make people remember what they enjoyed so much about the characters/concept in the first place. Look at Thor…he died in Avengers Disassembled, kept dead for a few years, and came back with a vengeance and a huge selling book.


Is this even a thing anymore? I think we’re so far past questioning it that a more appropriate moritorium would be on complaining about it. :wink:


I’d love to see Marvel just murder their entire X-Line except for like, enough characters to fill one book. Nine or Ten mutant heroes still hanging around…everyone else gets killed in some huge crossover event, and the deaths last eight-ten years until SECRET WARS: INFINITY or whatever and they can all come back and be relevant again.

And then they can kill the Avengers for ten years. Cycle the IP.

I should be in charge of comics. All of them.


Which ten heroes?


This is one of the the things that stopped me reading Marvel’s comics as an ongoing collection, and instead just reading runs by creators I like, treating them like wholly independent stories.


If I’m in charge? I keep the five time-displaced X-Men, Emma Frost (just because I picture writers having a lot of fun with her) Storm, Sunspot, and three or four totally random characters. Seriously…picked out of a hat. The more random, the better.


Yes me too. I don’t care about Marvel or DC continuity.

My main problem would be with the execution a lot of the time. It’s used as a cheap tool to get attention rather than serving the story and having some gravitas. Thinking back to the 80s when they killed off Jean DeWolf, essentially a minor supporting character, it had more impact on the reader than many of the big names offed in recent years.

It ends up with diminishing returns as a result. I was listening to a review show the other day and they noted how a couple of fairly major characters bit it in Civil War II and nobody in fandom seems to care.


Let’s face it, in Final Crisis, Morrison killed off Jonn J’Onzz then, at his funeral no less, has Superman saying they’ll pray for a resurrection!

I can’t say it does much for me but my solution is to read other comics instead - the big two? They ain’t changing. You want superhero deaths with a sense of permanence? Read Valiant.


But that’s how it should be used, I think. In comics, it’s only slightly more final and dramatic than a knock out, and I think that’s perfectly okay. I just think you have to modify the way you’re treating it, as a result.

Using it as a big marketing ploy, or as a lynch pin of your book, is foolish because the majority of the readership understands this truth.

One of the great charms of superhero comics is that it’s this kind of ideal fantasy. And, as anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one will tell you, the death being as transitory as a long vacation is a WONDERFUL fantasy.


Robot Chicken did a sketch like that, where Green Arrow was resurrected during his own funeral.


Jamie Maddrox. And let Peter David write it.


Aside from Mar-Vell, we all know that the major Marvel or DC characters will never stay dead. But the death of a supporting character used to matter. Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy, and especially Gwen – these were all powerful deaths in the first decade of Amazing Spider-Man (of course Gwen got better for a little while, but that was a couple of decades later).

A character’s death should matter, and could matter if the powers-that-be at the Big Two hadn’t turned us all into a bunch of cynics.


Please don’t give them ideas. They are trying to kill them, very hard.


Maybe a death of a character in the big would have much more weight if it changes the status quo of the whole universe. Like if Perry White were to die and Clark Kent had to replace him. But then again, they always promote that a death would change the status quo so what do I know. :laughing:


The problem is that it leads to there being no stakes at all in the story. Even if the characters act like their lives are on the line, if we know they’ll be fine eventually, it just doesn’t matter.


The worst was a few years ago with Fear Itself. The miniseries killed BuckyCap and Thor…and then had them both resurrected within 6 weeks of the event’s completion.


There absolutely are, though, because the average human doesn’t come back, just the heroes and villains. Just the people with super powers.

The toll on the world can still be significant and that can be enough for most. It’s a lazy writer who is using these superheroes to tell basic plotty fight stories, in my opinion. I think there is a place for those stories, but I don’t think these characters are the ones to do it.

Meta textually we know they can’t kill off the characters because they’re brands and brands are managed, not thrown away. So embrace that, incorporate it into the universe, have fun with it, and tell really affecting stories that don’t rely on death and the resultant (often cheap) melodrama.


I think the fact that death and resurrection is also a common theme in mythology is being missed too. Were there still Hercules fanboys from ancient Greece that piss and moan about how his death didn’t matter because he just came back or was immortalized in the stars? :wink: