DENNIS O’NEIL: Springtime For Superheroes
So how’s the resurrecting going in your neighborhood? Despite a very warm March, it’s pretty much on schedule here in Rockland County. Oh, most of the trees are still barren, but here and there, some of them are getting beleaved; the dogwood in the front yard is growing buds and wow! – the forsythia bush in the back is covered with bright yellow flowers. So fecundity is returning to southern New York and I guess Gaia will make it through another growing season.
I’m thinking of death and resurrection partly because I’m typing this the day after Easter – a real holiday, this, because it acknowledges and celebrates something real and vital, the aforementioned fecundity. The proof, I guess, is that it – the return of the fecund – is reflected in a lot of myth/religion, the area in which we humans often attend to stuff like this. Give a quick Google to Persephone, Osiris, Adonis if you doubt. (Am I leaving a name off that list? An obvious name? Ummmm….) And don’t forget that the word itself – “Easter” – is derived from the name of a pagan goddess of fertility, Eostre.
For a while now, I’ve had an unparsed and maybe dunderheaded notion that the history of comics recapitulates the history of religion (the way ontogeny is supposed to recapitulate phylogeny?) Maybe I’ll someday do something with the idea, maybe not, but for our present purposes I’m happy to remind you that resurrection is not a stranger to comic books, though sometimes it has been more reincarnation than resurrection. I have (he said, thrusting out his chest) personally presided over the demise of Jason Todd, a.k.a. Robin The Second and, editing Marvel’s Daredevil when Frank Miller was doing the title, the very thorough scragging of Elektra and behold! – both characters are back in business, seemingly unharmed by their stays in the afterlife.
Superman is probably comics’ best known resurrectee. His fans know that, in a long, much-crossed-over storyline that appeared in the early 90s, our favorite Man of Steel was put down by the villainous Doomsday and later revived by a visit to the regeneration matrix in his Fortress of Solitude. (Should I have prefaced that last sentence with a spoiler alert? Sorry…)
Superman may be the numero uno returner-to-life in the DC Comics universe, but there are others, including Green Arrow, the Flash, Donna Troy, Elongated Man, Green Lantern…You might want to complete the list yourself.
Across town, in Marvel’s universe, the death of Jean Gray, known as Dark Phoenix, was a big deal in the X-Men saga and generated some pretty a deluge of fan mail from – brace for it! – die hard fans. I’ve already told you about Elektra. Again, the list can undoubtedly be amplified.
There are pros and cons to this reviving the dead and they might be worth a longer discussion. Maybe later. For now…get your nose out of the damn comic book and look out the window. The dogwood’s blooming!
RECOMMENDED READING: The Superman stories mentioned above are available in book collections that your comics shop or online book purveyor will be happy to sell.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases Takes Us From To Kill a Mockingbird to Mein Kampf