Death in comics has become an almost laughed-about topic. What used to be an incredibly important event that often changed the course of a title, death has become an overly used and mainly ignored regular in today’s comics. The reason is that characters don’t stay dead. Sure, in comics anything can happen.
A very long time ago, I made a list of deceased characters who established by belief that death was still somewhat important in comics. As long as these characters stayed dead, I was a believer. They were:
- Gwen Stacy – Spider-Man’s first love, killed when a save by Spidey went awry, snapping her neck.
- Robin (Jason Todd) – Hot-headed replacement for Dick Grayson, he was blown up by the Joker after fans voted for his death.
- Ben Parker – Spider-Man’s beloved Uncle Ben’s death at the hands of a robber he could have stopped is the focal point of Spidey’s origin.
- Bucky – Captain America’s WWII sidekick was blowed up real good during the same mission that Cap was frozen in a block of ice.
- Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) – In one of Marvel Comics’ most touching stories ever, this hero was diagnosed with cancer and died surrounded by friends and enemies alike.
- Thunderbird – One of the second wave of X-Men, he was the first ever killed in action, when he detonated a plane he was on in mid-air.
Some notable deaths were left off my list for various reasons. For example, Barry Allen, the longtime Flash didn’t make it because he was pretty much exactly replaced by the former Kid Flash, Wally West. If you didn’t know that there were two of them, you’d never have guessed. In fact, that’s why there is only one DC character to five Marvel characters. DC will recreate it’s characters, almost identically, just with a new origin. With little difference in the characters, there’s little reason to bring them back. Jason Todd was the exception because his death still affects Batman’s character, even after almost two decades later.
Gwen Stacy was eliminated early when I learned there had been a clone of her made. Sure, it’s not exactly her, but it’s really close…and the clone’s still alive. Jason Todd’s return was hinted during the acclaimed Hush storyline (it was actually Clayface in disguise), but then he was brought back for real as the mysterious Red Hood. Bucky, it turns out, never really died, but was instead captured by the Soviets and transformed into Winter Soldier. Captain Marvel was inexplicably brought back during the Civil War story with no reason other than…because.
And with Marvel’s return, the list passed the halfway point and my faith was gone. Sure when a big name hero like Thor or Colossus dies, you expect their return. However, these deaths were all important parts of the big picture, and being done away with, it’s like what they had achieved in death (legacies and whatnot) were utter rubbish. It really takes the fun out of death…or something.
So next time I see a character die, even in a major way (like Goliath in Civil War), I’m not going to think another thing of it. No doubt they’ll be back in a matter of time.