Tuesday, June 30, 2015
A recent Facebook-post by my pal The Amazing Abdi got me thinking.
Sometimes, people die. It's not nice,it's not pleasing,but it's a fact.
And sometimes, our favourite fictional characters die,too. But do they have to?
Yes,sometimes they do. We may not like it, ut a constant plot-armor for everyone would make their story unsatisfying.
Hold on,I'm not trying to say,I enjoy to see the hero failing.
But why do characters in escapist fiction have flaws? It's so we can relate to them. Could you relate to an immortal, unfailing demi-god? Well,maybe if you're an incredibly arrogant prick,but then you wouldn't need escapist fiction begin with, now would you? After all,YOU DA MAN,right?
Why do need (or prefer ) heroes or characters,we can relate to? Because they still save worlds,defeat villains,find love or whatever the story is about - or if it's supporting character, they can help the hero in their chrisis to overcome a big obstacle preventing them from reaching their goal. Even if they don't save the world themselves, they are an important part of it and it wouldn't have been possible without them.
But they still are far from perfect, sometimes they lose and sometimes they die.
I'm a fan of superhero-stories,so I'll mostly look at them for now. There was a time,when superheroes didn't die and normally didn't fail to save their loved ones. After all,they were the hero.
But in 70's Marvel-Comics did the unthinkable: Spider-Man's longtime girlfriend Gwen Stacey died. The villain Green Goblin threw her of a bridge,Spider-Man used his web to catch her,whiplash broke her neck. She was dead.
This was a game changer,suddenly no one was save anymore. It marked the end of the silver age and made even important characters mortal ,even out of origin stories. Editorial motives aside (rumors are,part of the reason for killing Gwen off was to prevent the relationship to go to the next level, namely marriage or at least Spider-Man revealing his identity to her), this was a big shock,since it just hadn't happened before but now since the plot-armor was off,super-villains got more menacing,more deadly,more dangerous. Other characters followed,but over the years,stories kept getting darker and sometimes characters got wasted.
During DC's Infinite Chrisis,Superboy-Prime alone kills a whole bunch of Titans,just to establish him as a villain.
Countdown killed a complete universe by a misterous plague,that mostly occured to have reason to bring Ray Palmer back (who vanished after another story gone wrong,but I'm not gonna talk about Identity Crisis today, though it will eventually get it's time).
Over the years,characters died,but every now and then,they were brought back to life by one way or another.
And as much as I love some of them,that kind of bugs me.
Remember how I mentioned the importance of relatability in the beginning?
How many people do you know,who came back from the dead (I'm nottalking about CPR after a short moment,but actual return long after their burial)?
Sure,I can believe,that in a world filled with super-human beings there might a magical way to raise someone from death (Like the Lazarus-Pit brought back Jason Todd), but if every other dead person is brought back,it starts feeling cheap and death start becoming just an inconvenience;sacrifices become meaningless.
So dear writers,please think if you really told all stories you wanted to tell with a character before you let him die.
Also:please no more needless killing jusst for shock-moments. If a character dies,it should be a huge impact on everybody involved.
Spider-Man almost broke is code and came dangerously close to pounding Green Goblin to death after he lost Gwen.
Batman considered to finally take out Joker for Good after Jason died.
All of New York mourned Peter Parker's death in the Ultimate Universe (which -even though Miles Morales became his successor also got undone recently,in my opinion demeaning his sacrifice).
Another important point: if it's a hero who dies,make it important,let them go out swinging.
When The Flash perished in Crisis on Infinite Earths, he gave his life to destroy the Anti-Monitors weapon threatening all of reality.
When Supergirl died (also in Crisis On Infinite Earths) she probably did more damage to the Anti-Monitor than the whole Justice League combined up to this point,pounding him into the ground and just got taken out by one lucky antimatter blast.
In the animated show Young Justice Flash (Barry Allen) and Impulse (Bart Allen) are circling a device to syphon off it's energy,so it won't reach critical mass and destroy the earth's magnetic field. When they are not generating enough kinetic energy to do the job,Kid Flash (Wally West) teleports in to add his share of kinetic energy,even though his top speed is way slower than Flash's and Impulse's.This in turn makes him a catalyst for the energy,leading to him get hit by it multiple times,causing him to vanish.
Damian Wayne ignored his father's orders to stay in the Batcave,when his mother attacked Gotham City and rushed into action to help the Bat-Family and Batman Inc.,saved many lives, and finally fought a fully grown, genetically enhanced clone of himself,while his mother's troops kept shooting Arrow's at him,before he got impaled on a sword.
When Ultimate Peter Parker died, he had been previously shot when he pushed Captain America out of the way of a bullet (who then left the unconscious, bleeding teenager behind, because he's a jerk like that), and still took on the remaining five of the Sinister Six (Goblin had recently murdered Octavius,because he wanted out and just return to being a scientist),taken down Vulture,Electro,Kraven and Sandman and finally faced off against a Green Goblin,who had just absorbed The Human Torch's powers in addition to his own,was barely able to stand,but got a second wind,when Goblin threatened to kill everyone he knew and loved and beat Goblin up with a truck,before he finally succumbed to his injuries,dying peacefully with the knowledge that he saved his aunt.
THAT is how you let a hero die.
But does a death really count,if whoever died just comes back?
I'm fine with DC's Brightest Day,since there was a complete storyline dealing with a dozen heroes and villains returning from the grave after the Blackest Night,so there was actually some thought put into it -plus,not everyone stayed revived,be it due to failing their mission or by their own choice-;Barry Allen literally outrunning death to the end of time and back seems somewhat acceptable,especially since it took about two decades till us readers got reunited with him;but Ultimate Peter Parker being declared immortal due to the OZ seems cheap to me,it reduces his heroic death to a shock moment with little more consequences than a couple of broken bones -aside from traumatizing those close to him.
And here we are at the final issue:DON'T KILL JUST FOR SHOCK!
The probably biggest offender of this is -once more - DC Comics.
In their incredibly bad miniseries Cry For Justice (which also will get it's own criticism sooner or later), some JLA-members decide to get proactive due to some of them having been killed lately. Without telling much more now,I jump directly to one of the worst moments of comicbook-history (aside from Peter Parker selling his marriage to the devil...NO,I will never let that one go): A couple of bombs need to be defused,the JLA does their best to stop them,but one of the devices goes off,causing an earthquake. One of the destroyed buildings was home to Red Arrow Roy Harper.
Like him or not,you can't deny,that Green Arrow's former sidekick had a pretty unique status in the superhero-community. Not only was he a former drug addict,who overcame his addiction with the help of his mentor (even though this fact gives a bitter irony to his original alias 'Speedy'), he also fathered a child with the assassin Cheshire, and raised the little Lee-Ann Harper as a single dad (you probably see where this is going).
When DC misinterpreted the meaning of 'character development ', they decided to turn Roy's life into a misery,not only having him lose an arm during Cry For Justice, but also his daughter.
To make it clear:in order to have Roy Harper become an addict again and give him a 'reason' to irrationally leash out at his friends,who tried to support him -and he wasn't acting like a mourning father,but like an irrational asshole-,DC decided to kill of the innocent, walking,talking ball of adorable that was Lee-Ann; just so they could throw Roy into Rise Of Arsenal,where he would get high and talk to a zombie-ghost hallucination of her.
I might sound biased,praising mortality as part of what makes characters relatable,but condemning the death of a child, since they sadly happen,too.
But this different. This is wrong. This is killing of a unique supporting character, just for shock. This is the equivalent of me pushing someone in front of a train,just to remind people to be careful at the station.
Even to someone with my lax morals,that's just wrong.
So,dear publishers,PLEASE give the idea some thought,before you kill off a character. If you do,let them go out swinging. If they do,honour their legacy,don't bring them back about a year later.
AND PLEASE -
please don't kill children just for shock value.