Cronin Theory of Comics – Theories on Comic Book Death
The rabbit got me thinking about comic book death, and about some thoughts I have about the appropriateness of it all.
To open, do note that I am really against the basic concept of “Big event? I guess we have to kill somebody.” I think it is generally a ridiculous concept that hurts comics by depriving readers (and future writers) of interesting characters just to add momentary importance to an event. That said, for better or for worse, it works, sales-wise. So we’re going to keep seeing it.
Anyhow, here are some theories of mine on the topic.
1. You should try not to kill any character that there is likely a whole pile of writers craving a chance to write said character.
Kitty Pryde is the first example that comes to mind, but Jean Grey in Morrison’s New X-Men is another good one, I think.
I have never seen Morrison’s thoughts on Jean, so I do not know if he intended Jean to stay dead. I would imagine he didn’t, but I dunno. In any event, she’s still dead – which is odd.
It is debatable, but Colossus and Martian Manhunter MIGHT fit into this category (Ted Kord did not).
2. You should try not to kill any character that has been written well by another writer within the last year.
I get it – sometimes, you figure that a character isn’t being used, so that character might be a bit expendable. Fair enough.
I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it. So that’s why I think a character making a notable appearance within the same YEAR as you planning to kill him/her off is a fair compromise position.
This also allows the exception that if you, yourself, are the one who has been handling the character for the past year, it’s a little easier of a pill for the reader to swallow.
This is why I wouldn’t have Sue Dibny or Ted Kord killed. They were just being used by Giffen and DeMatteis THAT YEAR very well, so it seemed silly to have DIFFERENT writers kill them off.
3. If a supporting characters lasts 30 years, you best have a very good reason for killing them.
It is so hard to make it as a supporting character in a comic book. People are going to want to kill you off left and right. So to make it THIRTY YEARS as a supporting character is quite an achievement, and a demonstration that many writers found said character quite valuable.
Therefore, if you want to get rid of them, you better have a really good reason to do so.
This is why I disliked Karen Page’s death.
Alfred, Foggy Nelson, Commissioner Gordon, Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May, Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant – these characters should be considered practically parts of their respective comics by now.
Do not kill them off – unless, of course, you have a darned good reason to do so.
4. If you need to kill off a minor supervillain, imagine someone else is putting together a new Masters of Evil/Injustice League in a few years. If the character you’re thinking of killing would be seriously considered for such a group – don’t kill him/her.
There is a bit of a shortage amongst villains on the lower tier, like Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew and Tiger Shark. Don’t kill them off.
5. Quit killing Chuck Dixon creations.
Now Hellhound was just killed, too! Cut it out! The dude spends all this time introducing new characters, only to have them all killed off!!
Okay, that’s all I can think of right now. As you can see, I left a TON of openings for deaths, even ones I disliked – these are just some instances where I think comic book death should be monitored more closely in the planning stages.
In fact, here are a few characters whose deaths annoyed me, but I can understand them:
Banshee – Not a big-time character, no one had really written him in awhile.
Bart Allen – Not his fault, but had been basically ruined to the point where he was NOT a character anyone would really want to write anymore.
Ronnie Raymond – No one was lining up to write Ronnie, and had not been featured in awhile.
The Darkstars – I REALLY hated it when Diggle killed them, but I had to admit, no one was trying to revive them, and they hadn’t appeared in years.
LONG TERM PLANS EXEMPTION – By the by, none of this applies to writers who have long term plans in place to deal with the “death” and return of a character, such as Superman, Magneto (Morrison never intended Magneto to actually die, it was just a meta-commentary thing), Psylocke and Steve Rogers.