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Thoughts on the Fantastic Four Death…

I’ll eventually review the issue in question (I’m thinking of just doing a big ol’ review on Hickman’s whole run), but I just wanted to make a note about the death in today’s Fantastic Four #587 (don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled about who dies in the issue)…

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An interesting thing I’ve noticed about the coverage of the death of the Human Torch is the heavy spotlight we’re getting on the impermanence of superhero deaths, and how with this death, we are seeing different responses from the creators than we normally get in these instances. To wit, in CBR’s coverage of the death, they quote Joe Quesada as saying, “”Whether the human torch comes back or not is really a question that will be answered in time…While I will never discount that a character can come back from the dead because it is one of the staples of comic book story telling . I’m not going to tell you if he will, or when he will and if he does, how he will, but I can assure you that it’s going to be very, very interesting and not what anyone expects.”

That’s a far cry from when Superman died, or even when Steve Rogers died four years ago.

I suppose the “only” four years between Cap’s death and the Torch’s death makes it tougher to sell it as a “death” death, but I think that that concern is a bit silly.

Jonathan Hickman obviously has a story planned, and it involved the Torch dying. Just like Ed Brubaker obviously had a story planned that involved Steve Rogers dying.

This is not some willy-nilly gimmick.

And obviously, the book has received a lot of hype, but really…

A. That’s not Hickman’s “fault”

and

B. Why is pushing a good comic book a BAD thing anyways?

The Death of Captain America was a good storyline, Three has been a good storyline, does it really matter if they get a lot of mainstream attention and get sold to people who think that they can finance their kid’s college education with copies of the issues in question?

And when you’re getting good comic books, what does it matter if it involves a time-old tradition of impermanent superhero death? If the story itself was stupid, then yeah, of course, hype around a dumb story is annoying – but hype around a good one? That works for me.

It is kind of funny, though, to look back at Marvel’s statements about how they were putting the book into a black bag to cut down on spoilers, since we knew then that they would almost certainly end up spoiling it themselves on the morning of the book’s release (which they did). It’s not like anyone could begrudge them for wanting to sell more copies of the book by putting it in a black bag like the Death of Superman, so pretending as though it was a spoiler-deterrent was a bit unnecessary.

36 Comments

I thoroughly agree with you on this one. If it’s good, who cares? And Hickman is one of the best. He hasn’t disappointed yet. The word “genius” gets thrown about willy-nilly these days, but he’s one of the few to which the term still applies

I’ve liked the Hickman run but the moment that Three was announced I was bummed. I think my biggest problem is that I like reading about the Fantastic Four- Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny. While Hickman’s concentrating on Franklin and Valeria added to the overall picture, it’s not the same without the actual Fantastic Four.

I was pretty upset about the spoiler. I mean I would have hunted it down myself anyway, but its sort of cheap if the mainstream media just throws it out like that. And I was reading comics when Superman died, knew it wasn’t permanent, it wasn’t half as annoying as reading one more reason comics should be ignored from the press.

I also want to throw in that while it’s too early to tell the sales response, it seems that Dean was at least partially right that the response to this one would be diminished in comparison to similar announcements of the past. People do seem to be jadad about comic book death based on the questions being posed in the interviews and Quesada’s answers. Even speculators perhaps. If this isn’t the end of death as a gimmick, it’s at least the beginning of the end.

I’m digging his work on the book, but I’m somewhat annoyed that he felt the need to tell another “FF Member Dies” Story. There have been at least 2 off the top of my head (DeFalco & Reed, Waid & Ben), and yet this one is being treated like it’s some sort of big event. I’m pretty bummed that there will be no more Fantastic Four title, at least for a bit, as that seems like the one title that shouldn’t be rebooted or go away, at least anymore than it has.

“The Death of Captain America” storyline may have been good, but the “Bucky as Cap” and “Rebirth” stories following it were mediocre.

I still think it would have been funny if after all this hype, Sharon Ventura walked through the door saying, “Hi guys, long time no see! I just dropped by to say … ack …” and then dropped dead.

What’s 587 plus 13 again? Oh, right.

Michael P – good one!

Hey, maybe I am wrong for not caring, but the past couple “good stories” about deaths lasted what, a year or two? If the past is any indication of the future the Torch’s rebirth is coming, especially knowing that FF 600 is right around the corner. So that dampens the impact of the death for me, no matter how great the story is.

Don’t count on the torch returning for issue 600 as Reed died a little over a year before issue 400 and everyone assumed he would return by then and he actually took almost another year to come back.

Does it really even matter if Torch stays dead for years? Marvel and DC have completely killed “superhero death” as a story element. They’ve killed it so badly that “superhero death” even negatively impacts *other* stories.

Jean Grey died at the end of Morrison’s X-Men run, and she’s still dead. And the moment she died, readers were expecting her to come back and end up back with Scott. Any remotely related story element or event was viewed with “Oh, Marvel is just setting up for Jean’s return.” Emma is acting a bit evil? Obviously Marvel was getting ready to split her and Scott, so that Scott and Jean could immediately be put back together without all that “Scott ditching his wife for his ex-deceased flame” stuff that happened with Maddie. Repeat that every few months, because every few months Emma was doing something new that was potentially evil or getting some affair with Namor retconned into existence. Since Marvel could barely even pretend to hold to the idea of “No More Mutants” from the start, it would obviously eventually end. When would it end? Obviously when Jean Grey/Phoenix came back and “fixed” it. Hope? Obviously Jean Grey reincarnated. (Of course it didn’t help that Marvel intentionally pushed the Jean Grey similarities with baby Hope.)

DC didn’t even try to pretend that Batman was dead when they “killed” him. Not that there would be any point, as both death and life are pretty much meaningless at DC, where the next reality punch is always lurking around the corner. DC slaughters its minorities and kids so often that both are clearly disposable at the moment of creation. (And since they aren’t the characters that the writers remembered from their own childhoods, said slaughtered minorities and kids tend to stay dead.) The big names never stay dead. Even if the torched was passed and they have a whole legacy family spring up, everyone knows DC will constantly reach out to an ever-aging ideal and the characters will come back, and DC does. How many “iconic” (in the minds of DC writers and editors, if not the non-comic buying public) DC heroes *haven’t* died and come back at least once?

It is sad, but comics have managed to reach a point where “revolving door death” was the good old days of fine character death storytelling.

” If it’s good, who cares?”

That is a maxim that we should all follow and be happy. I wholeheartedly agree. Who gives a hoot about Quesada’s hyping? They’re doing it to drum up interest. If the quality is there, like the rest of Hickman’s stellar run, than we should enjoy the book on its own merits, not its company’s attempt at sales. Which by the way, is totally Quesada’s job.

I think it is not a matter of it being a good storyline or not. What it really comes down to (for me) is that fact that it has all been done before. It HAD to be the Human Torch. He is the only member of the Fantastic Four NOT to have been killed off.

Think about that for a minute.

In the last 20 years, every member of the Fantastic Four has been killed and (so far) resurrected. Are we truly out of Fantastic Four stories? Are there no stories left to tell? Can no one figure out a way to make a dramatic story without the death of the character?

What made the Fantastic Four grat was that their adventures were boundless. Run out of adventures in our universe? There’s the Negative Zone! How is it that there are no more stories to tell? OR, is it that the writers have just gotten so lazy?

I like Hickman’s writing. I really do. I like his writing on the FF. But, c’mon. I had hoped for better.

I agree with Billy Bissette. Given the frequent use and abuse of death stories, there’s no such thing as a great death story anymore. They’ve all been cheapened until they’re only mildly entertaining, at best.

The thing to do is have an office pool on the month, title, and issue no. in which the Torch returns. Any guesses?

P.S. I think Emma Frost will be revealed to be an evil clone of Jean Grey. They’ll merge and…voila! Scott can have both Jean and Emma.

There’s still Franklin and Valeria to kill off. Then they can resurrect them as teenagers with young-adult problems. Because that’s never been done before.

Besides, Lyja the Skrull took Johnny’s place several months ago. It was really her who died.

The only thing to really care about as far as the hype was the kinda meta way most of the suspense in the actual story Hickman told depended on the reader knowing someone was gonna die.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Didn’t the Thing die once during Waid’s run? How many issues before he came back?

Did the Invisible Woman ever die at all?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Woman#The_Death_of_the_Invisible_Woman

Not really, but she’s quit the team a couple of times, which amounts to the same thing.

I don’t really care if it’s permanent, I just care if the death, the mourning and the return are all executed well and logically, and they use the period to tell unique, quality stories that couldn’t have been told without the death.

” If it’s good, who cares?”

Not me, as i don’t care about this storyline at all.

Also, if it’s bad i won’t care either.

DFTBA

Sir Manley Johnson

January 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm

” who cares” is an interesting response to the super-hero “death” story-lines. I care less and less. On the one hand the stories have no emotional weight on the other they have no shock value anymore. They cease to be novel. More and more I find myself turning away from comics and reading books again, but then who cares.

In the last 20 years, every member of the Fantastic Four has been killed and (so far) resurrected. Are we truly out of Fantastic Four stories? Are there no stories left to tell? Can no one figure out a way to make a dramatic story without the death of the character?

Well, maybe you are right, and there are no stories left to tell. The Fantastic Four has been in continued monthly publication for FIFTY consecutive years. After a while, you run out of things to do. Same with pretty much every other major character at Marvel or DC who has been in print uninterrupted for half a century or more. Sooner or later, even the most incredibly brilliant writer is going to be left wondering how to do something with these characters that has never, ever been done before AND that the company owning them will approve of doing.

Maybe Ben and Sue could have an affair, or Johnny could come out gay, or Reed could turn into a homicidal maniac. Those stories haven’t been done yet.

The problem is, superhero comics are SO saturated with death these days -and characters returning even from the most improbable destructions- that it fails to make an impact by itself. Which doesn’t mean a good, well-handled death, even if we know it’s going to be undone in a year or so, doesn’t make for a good story. However most deaths in recent years haven’t made good stories, either. Maybe I would have enjoyed Captain America’s death more if he’d died in a noble way, instead of being shot while arrested (and following his ‘moral defeat’ in Civil War, even less.)

Right now, I’m not reading Fantastic Four, and knowing Johnny won’t be there anymore does not entice me to do so either. I need more plot details, in particular who is going to replace him in the team, before I decide.

Ronald Kearschner

January 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Bucky being brought back from the dead upset me more than the death of Captain America because I knew Steve Rogers would be back, but the return of Bucky negates 40 years of survival guilt for Cap. For me, the best way to tell this kind of story is how Chris Claremont did it in X-MEN 113-125. In those issues Jean Grey and the Beast thought the rest of the X-Men were dead and vice versa. The reader knew all were alive but got to see the grief of the individual characters.

Come to think of it, they managed to “kill off” the FF member I care about least.

And hey, now it can be more like the cartoon! H.E.R.B.I.E. can join, and then Ben can get a “Thing Ring” and hang out with Fred and Barney.

Just wanted to point out that within six or seven issues of bringing Reed back, the entire team “died” again — Onslaught!

I remember hearing that planning for Onslaught was the main reason Reed was brought back, so that the whole team would die together and the Heroes Reborn / Heroes Return stuff would make sense.

I knew I had to stay away from news of any kind on Tuesday. I went to the comic shop as soon as possible, listening to music in my headphones so I wouldn’t hear a stray comment from anyone else in the shop that might spoil something.

I do think it’s ridiculous that Marvel felt the need to spoil the news before ANYone had a chance to buy it. That’s just overkill. But there are ways to avoid media, both mainstream and industry-centric.

I think it’s actually more unfortunate that they showed The Thing in the Fear Itself teasers, because that sort of spoils the four seconds of suspense that we have between the time Ben decides to sacrifice himself, and Johnny switches it up. But it didn’t really ruin things, it just detracted a little bit.

I actually thought Reed was going to die, but Johnny was my second guess.

Fantastic Four is the best superhero comic presently being published. It deserves every bit of attention it’s getting.

It would be interesting if someone does an article which chronicles deaths which haven’t been reversed yet. Nightcrawler may count as i don’t think there is much to be gained bringing him back immediately, but the Human Torch death is screaming “Will be reversed”

If Marvel hadn’t done the whole “black bag-spoiler free-hush hush-media push” would anyone in the mainstream media have cared about the Human Torch dying? Superman, Spiderman, and Batman are the top tier, with Wonder Woman, Captain America, and maybe Wolverine behind them. Outside of those guys, none of this can remotely be called “news”. I mean, Aquaman died at some point recently and he was around for decades before Johnny Storm. Nobody cared about that. This is all manufactured sound and fury for the purpose of selling books to people who don’t normally buy them, and when Johnny comes back anyone who did buy it for that reason will feel like they got hoodwinked.

It irritates me that Quesada says that characters coming back to life is a staple of comic book storytelling, because that’s crap. Characters die because the writer may have a particular story to tell ABOUT death, or because the publisher wants to boost sales. In the case of the former, that story will be undone as soon as the next writer has a particular story that THEY want to tell. If that story requires the character to come back to life (or if the writer just loves the character), then they come back.

Superhero comics are serialized stories with very decisive breaks in continuity every few years or so.The insistence on viewing superhero comics as an unbroken chain of continuity creates a ridiculous situation where there are no real consequences to anything, and death doesn’t matter. When people who don’t read comics regularly look at this from an outsider’s perspective, they see a medium with childish storytelling conventions, that often leaps from hype event to hype event. It’s absurd. Superhero comics become soap opera. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t have it both ways. At least, I’m pretty sure that soap opera doesn’t constitute intelligent storytelling.

None of these characters is ever going to die, and pretending that they will in order to get a blurb in the news or to sell a few more books is dishonest. It undermines comics as a storytelling medium, because so many people conflate superhero comics with comics in general.

I mean, Aquaman died at some point recently and he was around for decades before Johnny Storm. Nobody cared about that.

Come on dude. He’s AQUAMAN. Of course no one cared.

Eh

Nobody gives a crap about Fin Fang Foom.

Aquaman rocks

Fact is, if it wasn’t MARKETED as a death, I wouldn’t have seen it as anything other than a cliffhanger.

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