Comic book companies should not repeatedly kill and resurrect characters for the sole purpose of earning money and having sales.
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Bucky Barnes, Jean Grey, Robin, Captain America, Superman, Gwen Stacy, and Spider-Man. Out of these once deceased comic book characters, only Gwen Stacy has remained dead.
Comic book companies such as Marvel and DC get their comics sold either by creating fan interest in the character, or through dramatic storylines. The latter is often used by comic story writers, as the pursuit of generating fan interest has gone to the movie industry.
In the comic book business, a dramatic storyline is now synonymous with the death of a character. As fans have gotten used to seeing a hero fight a villain on skyscrapers, writers have gone to extreme and desperate measures to get sales - killing off the character.
The depth brought into the storyline by killing off any character attracts many readers. But when readers get bored of the storyline, the writers resurrect the character.
Character death generates a whole new storyline in which characters progress in different ways. The progress could be emotional, psychological or even physical, and the progress adds more credence to the characters as well as the comic.
A perfect example is Batman’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Their death is the reason that Bruce Wayne donned the Batman costume and become the Dark Knight.
If Batman’s parents were brought back to life, their revival would trivialize all the changes the hero underwent, jeopardizing the whole reason of the storyline.
Marvel and DC, the two comic book giants, are both guilty of overusing this gimmick technique. Characters such as Jean Grey from the X-Men have been killed and resurrected several times, making the death storylines seem like a transparent sales scheme.
This is not the only trick that the companies have, but it is the most cheap and disreputable. Comics can try different things, such as crossovers between titles or even between companies, which are largely popular yet underused.
For example, the Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-man crossover in 1976, tying in the Marvel and DC comic universes, was largely popular with both fan groups. Although sales numbers were not released, the comic was exceptionally popular.
Another trick that the companies can use is tackling real life issues. Marvel often chooses to use it’s “Daredevil” title, regarding a blind superhero, to touch the emotional topic of living with disability. These issues are not only popular, but also send out an important message.
A recent example of the resurrection sales trick was when Marvel killed off Peter Parker -- the alter ego of Spider-Man, their flagship character -- in “The Amazing Spider-Man #700.”
Dan Slott, the current writer of the Spider-Man series, has been receiving death threats from fans to revive their beloved character. In conjunction, many fans have realized that Marvel could not keep him dead, so it was no shock when early this year Dan Slott revealed that Parker is being revived.
Not only did this almost destroy the experience of the 31-issue storyline without Parker, it also showed that the whole storyline was a cheap sales trick, and would not affect the depth of the character.
There once was a famous saying regarding comic book deaths that was widely accepted in the industry. “The only people who stay dead in comics are Bucky Barnes (Captain America’s sidekick), Jason Todd (Robin), and Uncle Ben (Spider-Man’s uncle).”
But in 2005, both Bucky Barnes and Jason Todd were resurrected in Marvel and DC comics respectively, showing that comic book companies are willing to do anything for money, even things that ruin their comics.
Instead of ruining the comic’s reputation, the company can try some different tricks, like crossovers into another comic, or storylines providing a new perspective to the character. Perhaps they could even keep the character dead.
The resurrection scheme, although respectable when used few and far, generally takes away from the reputation of the title.
Even if it generates money for the company, it would turn out better for the companies if they create a long lasting fan base that would respect the comic and subscribe, because the fans are the ones who make the comic successful in the end, not the schemes.