It used to be that the death of a superhero was an “Imaginary Story” or a What If…? tale. Then, with the death of Superman in 1992, it became all about the publicity, the sales boost, the net dollars.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the accountants. The impermanence, the easy reversibility of death trampled on the audience’s feelings; we felt disrespected and we fought back in the only way we could – with our wallets. And the companies answered with more stunts and more exploitative stories in which heroes like Captain America and Spider-Man died and were brought back, or supporting characters like Aunt May and Jason Todd died and were brought back, and when that stopped working, they revived long-dead characters like Bucky Barnes.
Sometimes it works out. The morphing of Bucky into the Winter Soldier was and continues to be a brilliant piece of storytelling.
And sometimes people who are dead stay dead. Gwen Stacy. Uncle Ben. Karen Page. Thomas and Martha Wayne. Jor-El and Lara. Their deaths are constant echoes in the lives of Spider-Man and Daredevil and Batman and Superman. Their lives continue to reverberate in the hearts of those who loved them.
My father died a week ago today. His death will be a constant echo in my life. His life will always reverberate in my heart.
“Papa, how I love you…
“Papa, how I need you…
“Papa, how I miss you…
“Kissing me good night.”
- Barbra Streisand, Yentl (1983)