Over in the other thread, we've been discussing people (mostly heroes) who died during the Silver Age. Some of them, surprisingly enough, are still dead! That's as it should be, dead should mean dead, but it usually doesn't happen. But in a few cases, it absolutely should.

There used to be a term in fandom that I heard: Bucky-dead. It means a character whose death was so momentous, so memorable or so intrinsic to the stories that were told after the death that the person would never be brought back to life.

Sadly, that term either needs a new name or it needs to be eliminated altogether, on the basis that there is no character who some writer won't want to revive, and their editor will think that's a good thing.

Even so, here's my list of characters who I think should remain Bucky-dead:

 

1. Bucky.

2. Uncle Ben

3. Barry Allen

4. Gwen Stacy

5. Jonathan and Martha Kent

6. Thomas and Martha Wayne

7. Aquababy

8. Battling Murdock

9. Abin Sur

 

Any others? Anybody want to make a case that the MU or DCU would be better off with one of these characters alive instead? Anybody willing to bet their house on one of these that will NEVER be revived? Frankly, I don't think I am.

 

-- MSA

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Also, the Conan Doyle Estate would sue you back to the Jazz Age.*

 

*Obscure MST3K reference.

Was there anything done away with in Crisis on Infinite Earths that hasn't been brought back in some way, shape or form?

I once did a column noting that the only two deaths that stuck, in that the person was neither revived nor replaced with someone else in the costume, were Tula the Aqua-Girl and Prince Ra-Man, Now, that's an event worth remembering!

Actually, the Crisis isn't the problem (at least this problem), it was the Superman reboot that screwed things up (well, worse). Supergirl would've made a heroic sacrifice if that had been the only event. (I think; they would've remembered her death, as they remembered Barry's, they just wouldn't have remembered all the details, right?)

But right after the Crisis, they then rebooted Superman, and wiped away that sacrifice as if it never happened. That really made all that attention to Supergirl dying seem rather pointless, since she was going to "die" even deader in a few months.

The two things done away with by the Superman reboot that were brought back in damaged form were Superboy and Supergirl. You'd think they would have been prepared for that, but apparently not.

Frankly, I never understood the hoops they thought they had to jump through with the Legion because Superboy disappeared. One super-teen inspired them to create a club for dozens of super-teens? It would seem to me that the Teen Titans are a better inspiration anyway, proving that teens could work together and gain the respect of adults, when they weren't boogalooing to the Beatles.

That's the thing about revivals--they're so unnecessary most of the time, because they can put someone else into that costume and get a lot of the same benefits without the monstrous downside of making death a joke. How many current readers are so attached to their memories of Barry Allen, Barbara Gordon or Kara Zor-El that they want to read more stories about them? Do they really have so much embedded good will from those readers, giving them a leg up on a new character in that role (that's done well)?

I think Brubaker could've written a great Winter Soldier story without reviving Bucky to do it. The incremental benefit of doing something that fundamentally disrespectful to the MU doesn't pay off, IMO. Combine that with Steve Rogers "death" and all the hoopla that surrounded that non-event, and it's hard to care about these character's life-and-death situations.

I think that's why we are giving a ho-hum to the death of the Torch. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me ten thousand times, and I'm starting to think that maybe something is wrong. Not to mention the notion that they're going to "end" the Fantastic Four comic. Yeah, pull the other one. How many times as that happened before? I don't even believe them when they say they're going to "kill" a comic book, much less a character.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

I think that's why we are giving a ho-hum to the death of the Torch. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me ten thousand times, and I'm starting to think that maybe something is wrong. Not to mention the notion that they're going to "end" the Fantastic Four comic. Yeah, pull the other one. How many times as that happened before? I don't even believe them when they say they're going to "kill" a comic book, much less a character.

 

Well said, as always, and dead on the mark, as usual.  The problem---and the reason why the comics companies have installed a revolving door on death---is because people keep falling for it.  Oh, not old veterans like you and me.  Not even veterans with half our time in reading these four-colour escapades.  But the latest generation will always accept it as genuine.

 

There is a faction of fans---enough of them to make it financially worthwhile for Marvel---who sincerely believe that, yes, the Human Torch is gone for good.  Or at least, that the possibility is real.

 

Case in point:  back in 1992, my wife's son, my step-son, was into comic books for about a year  He was thirteen then, and the hobby never took with him as it did with me, but for that year or so, he was a dedicated fan.  Like most young fans then, he was caught up in the "Death of Superman" hoopla.  Not because I thought it was any great investment, but because he wanted a copy of Superman (Vol. 2) # 75, I went out and purchased him a copy for his birthday.

 

The conversation of that Kodak moment went something like this:

 

He was dutifully appreciative, and then he added, "This will be worth a lot of money some day."

 

"No, Rick," I said.  "It won't ever be worth much more than it cost me to get it for you."

 

"Yes, it will," the boy insisted. 

 

"I hate to burst your bubble, son," I replied, "but no it won't."

 

"But they're killing Superman and ending the series."

 

I had to chuckle.  "Superman has been DC's cash cow since 1938.  Do you really think DC is going to really stop publishing Superman?"

 

"But they said so."

 

"Sure---to get everyone to buy the comic.  But really kill off Superman and end the series?  Huh-uh.  Not gonna happen."

 

At this point, the Good Mrs. Benson entered the conversation.  Now, my wife is a highly intelligent woman with good perceptions.  But like most people who only know comic books from seeing them on the newsstands or shoved under their kids' beds, the idea that the production of comics is an industry, in which real people write and draw and edit and market them, sort of drifts past her radar.  She certainly didn't grasp the commercial aspect of comics.

 

"Well, then why are all the issues being sold out?" she said.  "Why is everybody buying them if it's all a come-on, if they really aren't going to kill off Superman?"

 

"Because so many people believe that Superman is being killed off," I said.

 

"Oh, so you're right, and all of those people are wrong," said the GMB.

 

"No, a great many people know the same thing I do," I said, "but you don't see them standing in long lines at the comic-book shops.  Because they know better."

 

"All I know is all of those people wouldn't be buying that issue if it weren't going to be valuable someday," she said.

 

"Yeah," said Rick.

 

"That's another thing," said I.  "Let's say Superman really is being killed off.  Let's say that the publishers at DC Comics were all struck at the same time with a bout of insanity and they decided to kill off the character that has made them gazillions of dollars for the past fifty-odd years.  That wouldn't make this issue valuable.  At least, not in the monetary sense that, if you wait twenty years, you can sell it and retire off the proceeds."

 

"Yeah!" said Rick.

 

"But it's a landmark issue," the GMB argued.  "It's the last issue of the series.  They're.  Killing.  Superman."

 

"Yeah," said Rick.

 

"So what?" I replied.

 

"O.K., what comic book did the first Superman story appear in?" asked the GMB.

 

"Action Comics # 1---June, 1938."

 

"And how much would that be worth to-day?" asked my wife.

 

"Oh, if it were in mint condition, or even close, probably a half-million dollars."

 

"Aha!  So if the first Superman story is a landmark worth a half-million dollars now, then this issue you got for Rick---the last Superman story---is a landmark and will be worth a lot more twenty years from now."

 

"Yeah," said Rick.

 

I admit to shaking my head reprovingly at this point, like a father trying to explain to his five-year-old why the time expression "a quarter 'til three" doesn't mean "twenty-five minutes to three." 

 

Then I continued.  "Yes, Action Comics # 1 is a landmark issue.  It's the first story about Superman.  But that's only a small part of what makes it so valuable.  The reason why it's worth six figures to-day is because it's so rare.  In 1938, nobody knew it would be such an important landmark, so nobody held on to them.  The kids read them and tossed them away, or their moms threw them out.  There's only around a dozen or so copies of Action Comics  # 1 still around.  That's what makes it so valuable.

 

"But DC has sold thousands of copies of the 'Death of Superman' issue.  Thousands of them that their owners are going to place unread in Mylar bags and lock in an air-proof vault, waiting on the day when they're worth a young fortune.  Thousands of copies of the same comic book ain't so rare.  'The Death of Superman' might pick up a few extra bucks in twenty years, but don't expect Rick to retire after selling it then."

 

"But they're killing off Superman," the GMB insisted.

 

"Yeah," said Rick.

 

Sigh.

 

 

I know that conversation; I actually had it with a woman this summer, who upon hearing that I was a comics fan, said she had a copy of Superman #75 put away and what did I think it was worth now? I told her I really had no idea, and I don't. It could be as high as cover price, for all I know.

You apparently have not yet faced the other boot dropping yet--when they find a Price Guide and look up the values today. I just had that happen with my nephew, who was just the right age when Image started and bought into all the hype, mostly on the Image ones--Youngblood, etc.He loved boarding and bagging and checking out the Wizard guide each month.

Now he's in his 20s and married and just had a kid, so he pulled them out to cash in. And he sent me this e-mail saying, "I just discovered that all the comics I saved from when I was a kid are worthless!" Yeah, well. I told him to put them away and forget about them, and maybe his kid will be able to sell them, after everyone else does what he was gonna do, which was throw them out.

-- MSA

 



Mr. Silver Age said:

That's the thing about revivals--they're so unnecessary most of the time, because they can put someone else into that costume and get a lot of the same benefits without the monstrous downside of making death a joke. How many current readers are so attached to their memories of Barry Allen, Barbara Gordon or Kara Zor-El that they want to read more stories about them? Do they really have so much embedded good will from those readers, giving them a leg up on a new character in that role (that's done well)?


Wait a minute -- what, exactly, is wrong with a comics company writing for its long-time readers?

Clark Kent_DC said:

"Wait a minute. What, exactly, is wrong with a comic book company writing for its long time readers?"

 

Personally, nothing as far as I'm concerned.

But as I'm sure Craig/Mr. SA will explain, the comic book industry never originally planned for long term readers.

Starting back in the 1930s with the very beginning of the industry, publishers thought they would have a specific reader from their mid-childhood to their young teens at best. Then that reader would go on to other things and the next generation would come on board, hence the rehashing of plots/stories; and not worrying about continuity until the start of the Silver Age.

That is when the older/long term readers started raising questions about continuity, stories/writers repeating themselves, etc; and the comic book industry, especially DC and Marvel, realized they had issues that would have to be addressed.

DC's response was to start the multiple Earths theory, with Earth 2 for the Justice Society and all the original characters from the pre-World War 2 era, and Earth 1 for the Silver Age versions. To their credit, Marvel actually tried to work some of their past into their present.

Which practice worked best dependent upon personal opinions and which company you liked better.

But then came the 1980s. Realizing that even for fictional characters, things were getting stretched a bit thin in some areas, hence arose the Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Last Days of the Justice Society, and other "events" at DC.

But to the publisher's surprise, the older fans were still there! So while DC got a new Batgirl, Green Lantern, etc; Barbara Gordon evolved into Oracle, Hal Jordan became the Spectre for a while, Connor Hawke took over his "deceased" father's role as Green Arrow, etc; to attempt making the long term readers happy.

Good or bad, it all sold books, and that's the bottom line for any publisher.

what, exactly, is wrong with a comics company writing for its long-time readers?

Nothing, I suppose. They're just so old and whiny.

No, actually, there's nothing wrong with writing for long-time readers and doing things they enjoy, because they no doubt are going to keep buying comics after others leave.

But I don't think long-time readers want these characters back, and that creates a problem. Digging up Gwen to give her babies isn't something long-time readers want to see, and more recent readers (like in-the-past-35-years recent) haven't read any Gwen stories and aren't that attached to her. So it doesn't seem to be attracting anyone. Both sides end up feeling like the story is not being written for them.

Maybe I'm wrong and long-time readers couldn't wait to be reading Barry Allen stories again. I sure wasn't, and I thought his death served a real purpose, which is fairly unique in comics. And they gave that up to have one more Flash running around--and making death even less important.

I think it's more likely that some of the writers want to write about these characters they've heard about, or want to prove they can be the one that can revive them well. That's not a good enough reason to do it.

-- MSA

On that Craig, I most certainly have to agree.

Barry's return during the Final Crisis could have been just a time travel moment, and he could have stayed the noble hero of memory he was afterwards.

As I mentioned in a previous post on this thread, Jean Grey could of stayed the noble hero she was at the end of Uncanny X-Men #137, and the surviving members of the original X-Men could have formed X-Factor without her.

To be able to prove "I can do that" is certainly not enough reason for a writer/company to revive a character, regardless of their status before said revival takes place.

Then again; Barry, Jean, and Kara Zor-El (Crisis on Infinite Earths # 7) should have remained in the great beyond.

Others deserve better treatment than they received at the time and should never have been killed off to begin with. Hal Jordan could have beseeched the Guardians and the Corps for help with the post Reign of the Supermen events and then retired honorably to let Kyle Rayner take over around Green Lantern # 50. Oliver Queen could have realized he lost his way after Green Arrow #100 and stepped down in favor of his son Connor Hawke taking over the Emerald Archer mantle. Barbara Gordon could have realized being BatGIRL was for a younger woman and still stepped down to become Oracle without the Joker crippling her in The Killing Joke.

Some readers realize that there is somewhat of a "timeless" quality to fiction and want their beloved characters to stay just the way they are.

Other readers realize that even in comic books, time does pass after a fashion, and the characters must change with the world eventually.

But regardless of which option you believe in, there are definitely some characters who deserve better treatment than what they actually received.

Lee Houston, Junior said:

Clark Kent_DC said:

"Wait a minute. What, exactly, is wrong with a comic book company writing for its long time readers?"

 

Personally, nothing as far as I'm concerned.

But as I'm sure Craig/Mr. SA will explain, the comic book industry never originally planned for long term readers.

Starting back in the 1930s with the very beginning of the industry, publishers thought they would have a specific reader from their mid-childhood to their young teens at best. Then that reader would go on to other things and the next generation would come on board, hence the rehashing of plots/stories; and not worrying about continuity until the start of the Silver Age.

That is when the older/long term readers started raising questions about continuity, stories/writers repeating themselves, etc; and the comic book industry, especially DC and Marvel, realized they had issues that would have to be addressed.

DC's response was to start the multiple Earths theory, with Earth 2 for the Justice Society and all the original characters from the pre-World War 2 era, and Earth 1 for the Silver Age versions. To their credit, Marvel actually tried to work some of their past into their present.

Which practice worked best dependent upon personal opinions and which company you liked better.

But then came the 1980s. Realizing that even for fictional characters, things were getting stretched a bit thin in some areas, hence arose the Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Last Days of the Justice Society, and other "events" at DC.

But to the publisher's surprise, the older fans were still there! So while DC got a new Batgirl, Green Lantern, etc; Barbara Gordon evolved into Oracle, Hal Jordan became the Spectre for a while, Connor Hawke took over his "deceased" father's role as Green Arrow, etc; to attempt making the long term readers happy.

Good or bad, it all sold books, and that's the bottom line for any publisher.


Okay, fair enough: Back in the 1930s and 1940s, comics publishers didn't plan for long-term readers. But after nearly 80 years of comics publishing, shouldn't they realize by now that long-term readers are a significant part of the audience?


Mr. Silver Age said:

I think it's more likely that some of the writers want to write about these characters they've heard about, or want to prove they can be the one that can revive them well. That's not a good enough reason to do it.


It isn't? Why isn't it?
Mark S. Ogilvie said:

  It's retreading.  The writer looks at what was written, decides he can do it better or that it needs to be modernized because no one now would take the story seriously and suddenly there appears a new character with the same name, just more modern.  Bucky becomes a Ranger who kills, Norman-as noted-becomes Lex Luthor junior, no need to introduce a new character when you can renovate the old one.  The writer can then sit back and congradulate himself that he wrote a far better version of the character than was originally written.


Wait a minute: Shouldn't a writer make a honest effort to do a better job than his predecessors? Shouldn't we as readers expect -- or at least want -- him to try?

Would the story in Captain America be any less great if the Winter Soldier was not Bucky Barnes? Beyond that brief emotional hook, couldn't any American soldier "play" the part? Even if you wanted a revival, if you substituted, as an example, Junior Juniper for Bucky, would not the plight of the Winter Soldier be just as tragic? True there would not that "kicked-in-the-gut" reaction that Cap had but would he have been any less compelled to help a non-Bucky, brainwashed American G.I., Soviet pawn Winter Soldier? After freeing his mind and bringing him home, deciding to give him direction which would lead him to the events that would have him accept the mantle of Captain America. There were other Captain Americas and none of them had to be Bucky or have strong ties to Steve Rogers.

The same goes for Norman Osborn. Frankly Spider-Man has enough villains that any could have replaced the former Green Goblin as a twisted, Machiavellian mastermind. The Kingpin, Mysterio, the Hobgoblin, the Rose, even Doctor Octopus are possibilities. And no one has mentioned Kraven the Hunter's recent resurection, either.

Peter has a new love interest who has certain Gwen-like qualities and characteristics. So a new figure could share similarities with past ones yet still be different.

However, with the Flash, Green Lantern and the Human Torch (who I picked from before), famillarity breeds not contempt, but fondness. The temptation to create new stories of these iconic heroes is apparently too great to resist.

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