An Open Letter to Mainstream Comic Book Writers about Death

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been recently picking up a few newer issues of some of the mainstream titles from Marvel (I gave the new DC a chance, REALLY I DID.  They’re just almost all ridiculous).  Although, pay attention here, too, DC.  There’s still hope you’ll pull your proverbial head out of your ass.

There’s an idea that runs across your two universes, guys, that is well known and has become a tired and overused cliche.  There is no permadeath.  Ever since the return (and within a not-so-coincidental short amount of time in-between them) of both Jason Todd and Bucky, the idea of DEAD-DEAD is gone.  Just poof.  DC tried to wipe it out with Brightest Day with their proclamation of, “IT’S NOT SO EASY TO COME BACK ANYMORE.”  Marvel has been trying to stick with keeping Jean Grey in her ol’ dirt nap, but no one’s buying it.  Seriously?  Guys, come on.  You know it, we know it.  Death just does not carry the weight that it once did.  I was recently reading the new Cable and X-Force book and he’s got a brain tumor and yadda yadda and he has to complete his mission and etc and etc and who cares.  You know why?  Because he’s not really going to die.  Cable has died a billion times.  How can this even be a plot device?  And do you REALLY think Charles Xavier won’t be back, either from a multiversal double, resurrection, time travel glitch or whatever else goofy explanation you can come up with?  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE goofy explanations.  “So, Jean Grey was really alive in a rock cocoon at the bottom of the ocean the whole time and The Phoenix stole her identity while she healed and Reed Richards stumbled upon her in the middle of the ocean by accident? Awesome, sign me up.”   You’re beating a dead horse, that will soon be up and running again on his own.

"Oh, get up, Chuck.  You're not fooling anyone."

“Oh, get up, Chuck. You’re not fooling anyone.”

My advice to you moving forward is to truly, truly OWN it.  Don’t shy from it.  Snide comments about revolving pearly gates doesn’t cut it.  I mean really use it as a plot device.  One thing that you have the ability to do is make your characters that you’re the deity of have self-awareness.  Peter David is excellent at this.  I’m not going to blow smoke up PD’s ass, I do that enough in other posts.  Jamie Madrox went from a, at best, D-list mutant to a fully fleshed out, self-aware and incredibly human character.  Okay, maybe I am going to blow smoke up PD’s ass.  Whatever.  Point being, X-Factor has taken death and made it a regular part of life.  When Guido (also known as Strong Guy, still my favorite named superhero besides Captain ****) was killed, they just brought him RIGHT back.  And used that as a story point.  The X-men have seen one of their own die and come back so many times, how does Xavier’s death really mean anything past, “What do we do to bring him back?  Cyclops, get on that.  Also, make me a cappuccino, you whiny bitch.”  Side note, Cyclops is the Luke Skywalker of the X-men.  I don’t even need to lay that one out for you.  But, I digress.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into the nerd rant that it did (pretty unavoidable with me, though), other than to say that you’re missing out on some really great opportunities here.  Your fan base are mostly intelligent people who will keep up with you if you give them the chance.   Death of an established character has been the number one literary device to fuel fear in literature since the beginning of time.  Find something else or you’ll become the dinosaurs that everyone worries that you already are.



  1. Greg Norvick says:

    i agree is like what they are doing with spider-man and batman. with spider-man peter parker is dead but doctor octupus is running around in his body but basically thery killed him and also before that they killed his marriage with mary jane . Also with this new story batman “Death of the family” joker is trying to kill all batman’s sidekicks


    • Al says:

      To Allen I agree. Nothing in LIFE is so final as death, and to constantly recall people from that finality tends to cheapen both the writer and the reader and the character. Death is an end (except for those who believe in ********) and not a story gimmick. If you use death, go with what it really is, and not an opportinity to see if the readers will jump on a bandwagon to revive him or let him stay dead. I actually believe it gives some kids/adults the impression that death can be overcome. Sorry, it’s over when the fat lady sings!!


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