Name me a superhero who has had their own title, and they have died. One of my favorite aspects of superheroes as a whole, is that those who have died are not all or always dead. Sometimes the resurrection occurs by examining the artificial nature of reality, as with Pax Americana. Superman, in one of his deaths, either came back to life because his adoptive father, temporarily and clinically dead, teamed up with him to punch out demons, because of crazy Kryptonian super science, or because his own alien body brung him back ‘round. That Superman story drove the media wild, and the entire run, comprising dozens of individual comics, stands as the clearest example if a Big Superhero Death, while something like Batman dying during Grant Morrison’s run is such a small death (by heart attack, and later, very probably, by being poisoned, hit over the back of the head, and set on fire by a woman dressed as his mom) is almost immediately forgotten in favor of his being disappeared by a cosmic supervillain.
We cannot keep clear track of superhero deaths, they so often occur. Every one, even of a very minor superhero, will be greeted with dramatic care and distress. We are suddenly much stronger fans of some superhero because they are being killed off or are being kept dead. Resurrections usually sell decently, too. But somewhere in that mix, we – most of us – forget to care, until reminded.
Slow news day? Run something about Superman’s new belt or Captain America’s new boots. The mask is smaller or the heels are taller on Black Canary’s new outfit. Dragon has a new pair of bluejeans.
Superhero costumes constantly change, especially if there are multiple artists involved or the hero has a movie or television show in the same moment, because you want a costume that looks recognizable to fans of those, but movie and tv costumes don’t often look as great on the page, as is also true in the other direction.
We feel, especially as fans, that these costumes are inviolable designs, but they’re mostly unified not by specific designs or cuts, but by surprisingly generalized concepts. Five artists drawing Batman in the same month, change specifics of his costume. The precise length of the Scarlet Witch’s gloves or how far down past his chin, Grifter’s mask hangs, vary from comic to comic, if not, like the Thing’s rocky skin, panel to panel.
Serial comics renumber willnilly these days, because the renumbering, whether they jump backwards and do a new number one, or a new zeroth issue, or leap back to a higher number from an earlier accounting, it gets our attention. News sites tell us to pay attention. The highlighted new numbering draws our eye on covers.
It does not reflect the contents of the comic, itself. It has no narrative oomph. It is attraction without impact. And, it won’t make the issue collectible for very long, or put anyone’s kids through college.
Stories or scenes that tackle flaws or failings of title characters, or of the book’s overall dynamics get attention. They can reward our own inbuilt convictions. They might upset our sacred assumptions. Sometimes, they do both at once. It is only natural, then, that the media make these into bigger stories than they are, because that makes them big (for a moment).
The truth of fictional characters, though, is that they exist more in our collective and individual memories, than they are real on the pages or in published tales. The Wonder Woman we know, is the real Wonder Woman. The Magneto of our understand has precedent over the Magneto appearing in specific comics. No matter what any specific comic makes clear.
Batman’s exposed genitalia blew up the internet and several late night talk shows. We never! They couldn’t, but they did! Will comics and fandom ever recover the way Spider-Man’s did?
You don’t rememeber Spider-Man’s exposed lil spidey? That is because those comics were published more than five years ago, and we just don’t care. The nude, tastefully softcore Nightcrawler on a Wolverine cover? The genitals of an aged Peter Parker. Even when these are “canon,” published by the rights holder, and not fan art or parody, even the people it most excites or most upsets are going to forget far sooner than media might like us to believe. The days of an Overstreet Guide telling you that “possible nipple” will raise the value of a book have passed, and even in days or yore, I think that extra value was as exaggerated as the shockingness of the big blue nudist in Watchmen.
5 Things That Seem Like Big Stories (That Are Forgotten Within 5 Years)
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