If it were up to me, Peter Parker would stay dead.
Same for Jean Grey, Damian Wayne and Professor X. I would have left Johnny Storm in the grave, Along with Janet Van Dyne, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Norman Osborn, Elektra, Thor, Bruce Wayne. Clint Barton is the exception that breaks the rule.
I’ll go one further. The next issue of Batwoman would open with Kathy Kane telling Mr Bones that she was done with the whole gig and going off to get married, with Bones then finding some other lady to become Batwoman until some point where DC could find a way to create a Batwoman comic that J.H. Williams III was happy with working on. That issue of New Avengers where Tony Stark sat down with Nov-Harr and gave him a very stern lecture on how to behave now that Grant Morrison wasn’t writing him anymore? Nov-Ahh would have kicked Iron Man up the arse, shouting ‘I’M NOT TAKING LIFE ADVICE FROM DRUNKS WHO THROW THEIR MATES INTO THE NEGATIVE ZONE, YOU TOM SELLECK LOOKING TWAT!’ and then stayed there until either Grant or maybe Brendan McCarthy decided to start writing him again.
In fact, while I have no desire to write comics at all, I do have an idea for a cross company crossover pitch which would read roughly like ‘Fred Hembeck Kills The Marvel Universe.’ (perhaps drawn by Nathan Fox or Eric Powell.) in which Deadpool and Harley Quinn would wander through time, popping up just as any of the above characters were coming back to life and promptly shooting them in the head. And then dismembering them. And then burning each limb. On Earths Two, Three , Shazam and Prime.
There’s a cardinal sin in the world of Sports Entertainment Wrestling, known as the ‘No-Sell’. Most wrestling matches (and superhero comic crossovers, for that matter.) work on this formula: Good Guy (Face) shows off how cool he is and gets some of his popular moves in. At some point, the bad guy (Heel) gets in some kind of sneaky attack, and gets the advantage in. The Heel spends a considerable amount of time beating on the Face until the Face until the Good Guy can rally it together and launch a comeback. The Face and Heel exchange their more dangerous moves until finally, against the odds, The Face pulls it out of the bag, executes their winning combination and the crowd goes nuts. It’s a winning formula that has made Hulk Hogan an international star. It’s the process you’ll get every time you watch The Undertaker defend his unbeaten streak at Wrestlemania. Which is one of the main attractions to Wrestlemania now.
The thing is, for that story to work, The Heel HAS to look dangerous. He has to look like his offense is hurting our hero to a point where..actually, he might not win. This could be the night we see Hogan…lose? That’s why the No-Sell is such a terrible thing. We’re well aware that what we’re seeing is pre-orchestrated in terms of what the finish will be, and rarely will you see something onstage that hasn’t been discussed 1st but the selling of the Heel’s offense is what creates the suspension of disbelief. To No-Sell is shrug off your opponent’s offense as ineffectual, Current WWE Champion John Cena is particularly bad for this, with a career of no-selling that includes particularly ‘You…just don’t GET it, do you?’ moments as being driven face 1st into a concrete floor and then taking out THREE wrestlers within minutes or being lamped with a leadpipe and shrugging off what ought to be a career threatening assault to prance his way to another win. Cena is the most polarising Top End WWE star ever, and I suspect a degree of that dislike he draws from the fans is the instinctive knowledge that he is shattering the illusion with each match. Not in a clever, Fourth Wall bending way, but just out of sheer ignorance of the craft.
Funnily enough, you know what John’s nickname is with people who don’t like him? Super-Cena.
LOLZ NEVZ, WTF? What does wrestling psychology have to with superhero comics?
Glad you asked.
I was trying to work out why I’m quite so opposed to crossover event comics, beyond the cynical decompressed story-telling that requires too many comics to tell not enough story (And really, if I never have to see Tony Stark make a speech about anything ever again, that would be good. In fact, I wish Wanda’s last act had been to say ‘No. More. Speeches.) and what I concluded is a couple of things:
Following my metaphor, Death ought to be the most dangerous offensive move in comics. The Kimura Armbreaker slowly, painfully grinding the hope and fight of our hero before they pass out and that horrible, final ‘CRACK!’ rings out, telling us that whatever we hoped would take place, it’s over. Special funeral mini-series. Sound off the Ten Bell salute, Monologues about only having seen them a week ago, etc. Every crossover for the last decade has purported that our heroes will face The Ultimate Kimura Armbreaker this time, and everything before that has been a build-up.
Except, and here’s what I think my problem is, Death is no danger whatsoever. How many of the people populating the ‘Okay, this is The MacGuffin Of Doom, it’s coming to Earth, and we have to deal with it…Or Die Trying.’ have already died? Older readers may be aware of the joke where people would watch the opening credits of Dad’s Army and point out how many members of the cast had passed on. The opening act of most comics events is the reverse of that. And I don’t understand how I’m meant to suspend my disbelief that The Earth, The Multiverse, The Time-Space Continuum, Clapham South can be in any danger when the heroes treat Death like a particularly efficient revolving door. The Avengers should rename themselves The Kamikaze Warriors.
Let’s be honest, when you heard Wanda and Rogue snuffed it in Uncanny Avengers, did you believe it? Deep down, did you honestly think ‘Wow. Marvel will never, ever publish a comic featuring The Scarlet Witch again.’? I bet you didn’t, really. You may well have been pissed off that the only two women in the team had snuffed it, but never for a second did you think ‘They’re done.’ You probably thought ‘How are they going to bring them back?’
If I don’t believe there’s any danger to the Hero, why should I care what the Big Bad’s plan of Doooooom is?
Here’s the 2nd thing:
Most resurrections tend to be a bit….well, I can’t think of a nice way to say this, but..cheap.
One of the best things DC has done is to totally leave James Robinson’s Starman stories alone, unless James himself is writing them. The Starman saga remains, for me, the best superhero story that they’ve published in a very long time. It’s the story of Maturing, really, via a huge backdrop of a city, incorporating James’s obvious love of DC history whilst never making people unfamiliar with it feel like they should have read All-Star Squadron 36 to fully understand what’s going on. It ends very definitely, but the story is rich enough that more opportunistic editors could have piecemealed out various mini-series and such to lesser creators and sold them on the back of the Starman brand. James knew the deal going in that he wouldn’t own or have any say in what happened to Jack Knight and I open each issue of Previews with a dread that The Mist has joined The Ravagers or something.
That’s an example of a creative type pouring their heart and soul into creating a character and world that is rich, fitting within the framework of what’s been defined, and selling enough to sustain itself, and a publisher having the option to exploit the brand for short-term gain but choosing not to employ it. It’s an ideal situation.
And then there’s Elektra.
While I’m quite happy that there will be an ongoing Elektra comic next year, just because I believe one more female lead mainstream comic book that’s both well-done and has top talent that could lead to it selling well (Which is still entirely up to you, by the way, dear reader. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not because Marvel didn’t publish it nor us retailers didn’t order it, but because you didn’t buy it. Bear that in mind before composing tweets of outrage.) , the thing is…
Carrying on the Sports Entertainment analogy, Resurrection in Comics is what would be called ‘A Cheap Pop’. Someone like Mick Foley would come out to interrupt the Heel and cut off their monologue to say something like ‘And I don’t think you’ve taken into account the good people…RIGHT HERE, AT BLEEDING COOL!’ For some reason, people really like it when you mention the name of the town you’re in. I’ve never understood it myself, but nonetheless, it’s a tried and tested formula for getting people on your side.
In Comics terms, those final few pages where the tomb opens, or the monologue from the Big Bad reveals that it’s been The Red Skull or The Winter Soldier or Johnny Storm all along are a Cheap Pop. Everyone gets excited in a ‘OMIGOD! BUT HOW?’ way. Then there’s the explanation of exactly how Steve ran through Time or that The Green Goblin had been hanging about in ‘Europe’ or whatever. But then…what?
Has there ever been a comic published featuring any resurrected character that had any of the emotional impact or in-depth characterisation that made their death so powerful in the 1st place? Is there anything Elektra has done since her return that any number of scowling dark-haired Marvel Ladies With Knives couldn’t have done, considering no one has touched on her personality beyond ‘Being Quite Good At Stabbing People Quietly.? Ultimately, what I’m asking is…was it worth it? Maybe someone will produce a comic with the imagination, scope, range, subtext and morality of Elektra: Assassin featuring someone who had been dead, but as it stands, could every appearance of Elektra since ‘Fall from Grace’ been replaced with Psylocke or Lady Deathstrike or such?
What i think I’m saying is, while it is legal for Marvel or DC to say ‘Well, Frank Miller created Elektra as part of the Daredevil story, which we own.’ or, more recently DC to say ‘We are more interested in our perception of Batwoman than J.H. Williams III’s vision.’, I think it’s been proved, historically that certain characters are clearly driven by the people who work on them, flesh them out, give them life, and they might not be the action figures that can be theoretically be passed around to any freelancer kicking about for a gig and get the same results, creatively. This is my nice way of saying I think Batwoman will be cancelled within a year because J.H. Williams III isn’t working on it.
So Problem A: The lack of consequence of Death has obliterated any suspension of disbelief that’s required to properly invest in The Big Crossover Events
B) Most resurrections haven’t been worth the effort as they’re generally not done by the person who created the character and after the initial ‘WTF!’ Buzz moment. Within a year of their return, they might as well have not died, meaning the whole signifiance of their death was a total waste of time.
Here’s a possible solution:
New standing rule: If you’re going to kill someone, the publisher isn’t allowed to use them in any form for say, 20 years real time with the person most responsible for their current state of popularity being consulted on how and if they should be brought back. So if Hawkeye dies, Matt Fraction is asked what he thinks about the resurrection. Deadpool? Joe Kelly. No toys, no movies, no Elseworlds style minis. (One of the things that totally took away from the impact of Batman’s death a few years back was seeing him alive and well in the Kevin Smith minis, Batman Confidential, etc. I can’t miss you if you haven’t gone away. ) That character is retired for anything that would create revenue from their appearance. Obviously, there’d be some leeway for someone writing a World War 2 story if Cap had died or suchlike, but if I knew coming in that the rule was in place and Darkseid twatted Dick Grayson in the 1st chapter, that would give me pause to think, given how much money is tied up in the brand of Nightwing. Because as it stands, I’m all too familiar with ‘Last Act, Heroes appear to win. Final MacGuffin kills a Hero. Fall out One-Shot/Mini-Series dealing with Death. Period Of Time passes. Character returns in expensive comics.’ I understand what you’re selling, and I’m not buying it.
I’m really not buying it.
So, it’s an idea. Am I wrong? Come argue with me on Twitter. I’ve seen the message boards and I don’t think I’ve had enough inoculations to survive extended periods in that swamp.