Wasted Opportunities. (DC Comics)
August 12, 2008

That’s what I see in DC Comics these days.  Its the same tune over and over again.  Character X is killed off for a cheap thrill.  But once they are dead, they are no longer available to be used in stories in the regular universe.  Sure they might pop up in an alternate reality or a flashback, but they have no future.

Omen
Donna Troy Troia/Wonder Girl
Ted Kord Blue Beetle
Sue Dibny
Jade
Superboy
Nightwing
Wally West Flash and family.
Vic Sage The Question
Isis
Ralph Dibny Elongated Man
Bart Allen Impulse/Kid Flash/Flash
Karate Kid
Una (one third of Triplicate Girl)
Orion
Martian Manhunter

And that’s not everyone.  You say, "Wait, Nightwing isn’t dead".  No, but if you have read any of the commentaries, he was supposed to die in Infinite Crisis.  You say, "Donna and Wally came back." Yes, they did, but was it fair for DC to put us through the agony?  There is a rumor that the last few pages of the Titans/Young Justice Graduation Day story was rewritten to have a way for Donna to survive after such an outpouring of fan support for the character.

Ice died.  DC admitted doing that was a mistake.  We still waited for over a decade to get her back.  Metamorpho ‘died’ in Morrison’s opening JLA arc.  It took over 5 years to get him back.  Hal is back.  Barry is on his way.  But now Kyle and Wally look like they have targets on their foreheads.  "Redundant", Nightwing was called.  Well, now that entire generation is redundant.  They stepped forward and moved into the spotlight.  But the originals are back.  and now they look like cannon fodder.  Dick, Wally, Garth, Donna, Roy, Kyle, have you read the recent Green Arrow story and seen what they did to Connor Hawke?

The Question.  Vic Sage.  Was NEVER more popular than when he was used in the Justice League TV show.  DC can make any claim they want.  It was the TV show that made Vic Sage a star.  So what did DC do?  They used him to headline a weekly series and killed him in its pages.  The TV show could turn some folks onto comics.  But they will find twisted versions of the characters they saw.

Ted Kord.  There had to be another way.  Another way to retire Ted and move the Beetle name to Jamie Reyes.  Jamie’s solo title has been good, but the world seems so much colder without Ted. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/07/02/365-reasons-to-love-comics-183/

Firestorm.  Ronnie Raymond helmed a comic for 100 issues when I was a teenager.  Superboy.  Connor Kent carried his own series for 100 issues.  Nightwing has an ongoing series right now that is past 100 issues.  And DC’s reaction to all 3 is "kill them off"?

I’ve heard DC say the reason we feel so much for these characters is the way these stories are written.  I say nay.  The current writers and artists responsible for killing them off get no credit.  It is the creators across decades of stories which built the characters up that made us care about them.

Captain Atom, who really deserved a chance to be in a real JLA, to sit at the table with DC’s other big guns, is turned into a villain of the worst kind.  Captain Atom, the Question, Blue Beetle.  20 years ago, DC had bought the Charlton characters and merged them into the DCU.  Their plans for them were so big that "The Watchmen" was rewritten to use variations on them.  Now DC seems to have abandoned the originals.  I wonder how the creators of Milestone will feel if DC decides in a few years that their characters are "uninspiring", and need to be "updated"?

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.

 

 

 

16 Comments »

  • The Superfly says:

    Great blog SF. I totally agree.

  • Quinn says:

    Some very good points, SF…I especially agree with what you’ve said about the “Titans Generation”…Donna, Wally, Dick, etc. Because I’m a huge “Kingdom Come” fan, I always hope they “survive” into the distant future, since all five original Titans are still around and superheroing there. Even if Donna has packed on a few pounds.

    Bringing Ollie, Hal, and Barry back seems to herald a return to the Silver Age…what a horrible time to kill off J’onn. He’ll be back. But will I care?

  • Sander T. says:

    Great article. I feel killing off characters is a cheap resource to boost sales. But, in the end, it has a terrible backlash, as more and more characters die, we can’t take it seriously because, on the one hand, death becomes a gimmick, unimportant, and on the other hand the character eventually returns, so there is no big deal. I, for one, am fed up with this cheap meaningless trick. It’s been used, we fell for it, it worked, it doesn’t anymore. The trick finally becomes routine, devoid of any novelty and we feel an outrage that characters we loved are subjected to such a disrespectful and meaningless ordeal. Such a waste. Closing up I feel that death has been so abused as a dramatic resource in comics, that it no longer retains its trascendence. Maybe DC should treat us and their characters with more respect and give us stories where their characters are transformed by their experiences in the battlefield and daily life and not butchered for the headlines in the Daily Planet.

  • Miry Clay says:

    You forgot Aquaman, who they’ve killed twice in the past ten years alone. In fact, should they actually kill Bruce they’ll have killed every founding member of the JLA at least once in the last 20 years.

    When you add that to their current run at killing the Titans generation, the shredding of the Charlton characters, and the branding characters as “redundant”, if I were Captain Marvel, and especially members of his family, I’d be extremely neverous.

  • I think writes do kill off characters for a cheap thrill. It’s as if they have written themselves into a corner and ditch the characters just to boost sales. However…if they DO kill off a character for goodness sake…LEAVE ‘EM DEAD!!!

  • jzachery says:

    I’m on the same page Superfriend. I think it’s a weak for writers to keep resorting to death. There are so many things that you can do to a character besides death that will only make the character grow. If they want the character off the table for a while because they seem redundant there are plenty of ways to do that too, without killing them.
    Killing the character cheats future generations from enjoying that character. Sure, at some point in comics a character will die, that I can deal with. IF it’s meaningful, NOT to jusitify a writers run on a book. Characters can be lost, MIA, turn bad, de-aged, sent somewhere (future, past, etc) why just kill them?

  • elvis8batman says:

    You really got me worried when I saw Nightwings name in that list. I used to buy all the Bat titles, and Nightwing was one of my favourites. I really hope they don’t play any cheap tricks with him, and while I’m at it, they should have left Jason Todd dead. There really is no point to him being alive as a half and half hero/villain.

  • DPS says:

    The author of this post clearly doesn’t understand, conceptually, the nature of comics. As the focus of a continually ongoing medium, the only way for comic book characters to remain relevant is to evolve–death, ressurection, turning to evil–these are all methods used to develop these characters. Yes, too often lackluster comic book writers use death as a cheap substitute for actual chracter development, but the author of this post makes no distinction between deaths and evolutions that were organic elements of a story, and those that were marketing stunts. It is as if he wants comic book universes to remain static, allowing him to continually read about the exploits of the same characters over and over again. I have to say, that doesn’t sound all that interesting to me.

  • Karl says:

    The author of Post #8 is clearly an arrogant man-baby who talks down to other people online because they have a different opinion about popular culture.

  • Thatman says:

    I agree, superfriend. I’ve found the constant resorting to cheap sensationalism off-putting, to say the least.

    Everybody dies in the comics, and they always come back…Jason Todd, Bucky, now Barry Allen. As Miry Clay mentioned, just about every member of the classic JLA has been dead at least once.

    It’s cliche. At least when Barry died in the Crisis, it had some meaning, but ever since the whole comic-death-as-ongoing-gimmick schtick started (with Superman?) it’s just become trite.

    I disagree with DC; I don’t think it’s ‘the way the stories are written'; I think DC’s covering for the fact that they have no editorial direction and rely on stunts. (And I say this as a longtime DC fan.) I think DiDio needs to go, though…I have not actually enjoyed a DC storyline in years. Just my two cents, though.

  • John Cage says:

    Re: Karl @ #9 — Fair point, but you probably could’ve made it without calling DPS an “arrogant man-baby”.

    Anyway, I agree. DC’s really done a number of the Charlton characters over the past few years. You should add Judomaster and Peacemaker to the list of dead characters (both were killed in Infinite Crisis #7, following Ted Kord and before the Question). The only character to remain relatively untouched is Nightshade, although the original Peacemaker has since returned, and apparently there are plans for Captain Atom in the Superman titles down the line.

    Have a good day.
    John Cage

  • Erik superfriend says:

    DPS: I am the blog writer. My main point was that these deaths make the characters unavailable for future stories, hence the title, Wasted Opportunities. I was not discussing whether the stories they happened in were ‘good’ or not.

    I never said I was against growth or change. Somehow, I doubt your definition of “organic” would fit with mine.

    Let’s start with one of the most controvertial. Sue Dibny. In the pages of Identity Crisis, Sue Dibny is killed off in the opening chapter, and her back story filled in across the rest of the mini-series. She is treated as the murder victim in an episode of “Murder She Wrote” or “Law and Order.” The problem with this portrayal is that in those shows, the victim is not one of the regular cast. Sue is part of the regular cast of the DCU. She is part of the overall story. And has been for decades. To use her as the murder victim in a story like this is disrepectful of the character, not “organic”. That doesn’t even get to the retroactive flashback about what Dr Light supposedly did to her. That act does not belong in a comic book at all.

    How about Superman of Earth 2. I had no problem with Earth 2 merging with Earth 1, and the writers leaving him in limbo, never to be seen again 20+ years ago. It seemed a reasonable and respectful way to end his career and give DC what it needed, one modern day Superman. Bringing him back recently just to have him die a few issues later in Infinite Crisis just felt cheap.

    Evolution is how we got the original Titans where they are now. Dick, Donna, Garth, Wally, Roy have grown up. I’ve enjoyed watching that happen. One day DC suddenly realized they no longer had any young teen sidekicks. So they created some. Tim Drake Robin, Superboy, Impulse. These new versions/characters were so popular that fans demanded they be teamed up to replace the then pathetic grouping of unknown characters as the Titans. We got Young Justice. A great light hearted story. But DC decided they “must grow up”. They blurred the ages and mixed them with the Titans of the 80s. Organic? Changing Impulse’s name twice? Making Impulse serious? Neither of these is in his character. Superboy and Impulse are dead. Robin acts like an adult. Funny thing is, DC suddenly no longer has any young teen sidekicks. Looks like DC forgot why they were created.

    Lets look at my other argument. Marketing. Certain characters cannot maintain a monthly comic. Hawkman for instance, just had his cancelled again. But DC believes in him, so he’s still around. As I stated, Firestorm and Superboy had solo titles which reached issue 100. That is huge. Impulse’s title ran for 77 issues. It means there is a market for these characters. It is not logical to eliminate a property that can make you money. Which leads me back to the Question. While the gradual onset of cancer may be organic, marketingwise his death makes no sense. I doubt Question could maintian a monthly comic, but a mini-series here, a special there could be profitable. It worked for Lobo for a long time.

    Finally, the JSA. DC hasn’t known what to do with the JSA since the first Crisis. They sent the whole team to limbo at one point. Several have died in crossover events since. Now they only have 3 original members left. Yet the concept has been turned into one of DCs best received books. If they had all been killed off previously, we would not have this book.

  • jzachery says:

    I do not like that the first generation of sidekicks are starting to be seen as disposable. Just because they don’t know what to do with them right now, does NOT make them disposable. Also, IMO, DC clearly missed the mark on a few things in the last year or two…

    1. During 52, it seemed clear that Ralph Dibny was going to become the next Dr. Fate. This would have been a great development for that character! Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way.

    2. When Jason Todd turned into Red Robin, I was finally happy with his coming back to life. I thought it was a very clever use of the character and helped to further define him. Only for him to toss the costume out issues later. Ugh!

    There are more, but too sad to type it out. LOL

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Makes you wonder, if Charlton’s characters got the chop, what the upcoming Archie relaunches will mean in ten years or so…

    It seems to me that characters didn’t die as often when I was a kid. When major ones did, there was usually a good reason. Cases in point: Jean Grey in the Phoenix Saga, or Supergirl and Flash in Crisis.

    Nowadays, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. J’onn J’ozz went through a major visual overhaul not long ago, complete with new costume, mini-series, and action figure. When all three bombed with fans, DC simply kills him off.
    In the 60’s, he once quit the JLA and was not seen again in a prominent DCU role until 1984.

    This is how “faded” characters should be treated: Leave ‘em in limbo until someone latches on. Ted Kord might have returned recently only to die again, but it was sort of left up in the air. Again, a window of opportunity for another writer should Jaime Reyes go the way of Connor Hawke. Leave the hero or villain an “out” so the reader will keep reading instead of becoming upset at all the pointless carnage.

    In the end, death has become a fad, the latest sales tool used to attract new readers. I believe Vic Sage may be back if Renee Montoya doesn’t sell enough comics as a character. Even Max Lord might return as a good guy if a popular writer convinced editors that he/she could pull it off convincingly.

    That said, don’t believe this stuff about Final Crisis being part of “trilogy sequels” to the original 1985 work.

    Crisis was Marv Wolfman’s baby, his great attempt at redefining the DCU. Identity Crisis was all about the heroes’ private lives and a grisly exercise in “shock deaths.” Infinite Crisis was DC basically undoing Wolfman’s series right down to the ending. Final Crisis is a follow-up to Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers mini-series, later tweaked to include events such as J’onn’s death and Barry’s return.

    Don’t believe the hype, guys.

  • jamesjesse says:

    Actually, the Marvel family has already been twisted inside out. Billy Batson is the Wizard, Freddie Freeman is now Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel is a villain and the only one left cool is Black Adam.

    The only Charlton character left in her original form is Nightshade.

    The Quality Characters are all gone save for the long ago revamped Ray(Freedom Fighters massacre) if not unrecognizable. (Although the new Uncle Sam Freedom Fighters minis arw quite good)

    The JLI is almost all gone and everything that happened in the post Crisis 80s and 90s is being undone.

  • Hourman says:

    The DC Universe has become an unreadable mess in the last 5 years, thanks primarily to Dan Didio and Geoff Johns, the golden boy is is golden no more. Trying to write one sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths was hubris at best, and apparently someone decided it was a good idea to rewrite that sequel over and over again until they get it right. Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, feh. What about my Crisis of Confidence brought about by DC’s ongoing Crisis of Vision and Talent?

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