The doctor was over an hour late for my mammogram appointment this morning. The only magazines in the office were about decorating and polo, and my phone was being wonky, so I had a lot of time to think.
As you might expect, I thought about breasts. A lot.
Specifically, I wondered why, despite our culture’s obsession with breasts, especially among the adolescent man-children who make so many of our commercially artistic decisions, no one (to my knowledge) had ever considered what a super-powered breast might be like.
Even without fictional help, breasts have a lot of power. As mammals, we use them to feed our young. Our patriarchal culture judges a woman’s value (in part) by the firmness, size and perkiness of her tits. While some people (including a fair number of women) think this gives women power, I have never perceived it this way. Instead, in my experience, men think the mere fact that I have them means they can remark on how much they do or do not like them.
I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had a stranger say something about her breasts. While there may be some women who make similarly unrequested comments to men, I’ve never heard about any and must suppose it to be a much less common phenomenon. Telling me what he thinks about my body parts is one way that a man can tell me that he thinks I exist for his appraisal and approval.
What if my breasts could actually be a source of physical or metaphysical power? What if the more than 30-years exposure to radiation charged them up to affect me the same way that radioactive spider affected Peter Parker?
Would they shoot out webbing like Spider-Man does from his hands, but from the nipples instead? Would the webbing be edible, like Twizzlers?
Or would they shoot out death-rays?
Perhaps they would be malleable like Mr. Fantastic’s body, able to change shape and size to rope in criminals, or cushion a fall.
They might turn rock hard, like The Thing, and make my rib-cage impenetrable, so that no one can shoot me in the heart.
Or perhaps they could jiggle at super-speed, creating veritable earthquakes to knock my antagonists off their feet or allowing me to vibrate through walls.
Or they might grow massively in size and strength, like the Hulk, when I get angry, allowing me to use them to smash any cat-caller who gets in my face.
Alas, none of this happened to me.
I did get a clean bill of health, which is a good thing. I urge you to do the same.
Now this is the way you make a Fantastic Four movie.
Trivia: this 1983 fan film was produced by Bob Schreck, who later went on to a long career for DC, Marvel, Comico, and Dark Horse, and is now the editor-in-chief for Legendary Comics. You can see him in the background and the Wookie suit.
Yes, Wookie suit.
And the guy in the orange rocks? Why, that’s Gerry Giovinco, founder of Comico and the current CO2.
We would like to hold this up as a counterpoint whenever somebody says that all you need are people who know comics to make a good movie adaptation. Comics pros are just as capable of embarrassing themselves as anyone else.
We are also now taking bets as to whether this film will end up being more profitable than the FF film currently in theaters.
The newest Fantastic Four movie disaster answers one question, but raises at least one other.
From the menorah conveniently planted in a background shot, we learn that Ben Grimm was indeed Jewish. But from all of the later scenes featuring The Thing, we find ourselves asking the question “Was Ben Grimm’s mohel a raving lunatic with gardening shears?”
This is because The Thing is naked throughout the movie. He didn’t even call Fin Fang Foom to borrow some undies. He should have. Then he would have had an excuse to walk out on this remarkably tedious motion picture. In this movie, The Thing has no, ahh, man-thing.
That wasn’t the worst part and, to be fair, it wasn’t the best part either. It was just as boring as the rest of this movie. There were worse elements. A story with so many holes you’d think you were driving down Manhattan’s FDR Highway. A lead cast that would have been better deployed in an adaptation of Power Pack. A Doctor Doom so poorly designed you’ll believe Galactus looked better in Rise of the Silver Surfer, the previous Fantastic Four film fiasco.
Worse still, and, actually the worst thing to happen in a superhero movie in over ten years…
Jack Kirby’s name was nowhere to be found!
Stan Lee was noted as an executive producer. This was a contractual honorific, so as far as I’m concerned neither Stan nor Jack were mentioned. They certainly were not credited with creating even the characters.
I have a special connection to the property. Fantastic Four #1 was the first Marvel comic I ever bought. Yes, that’s the first Fantastic Four #1. Didn’t you read last week’s column? Anyway, I had just turned 11 and I had never, ever read a comic book that was half as… fantastic. It strip-mined my sense of wonder. I reread it immediately. And then, I read it again.
O.K. So I’m a fanboy. They didn’t make this current Fantastic 4 movie (that’s how it’s spelled in the credits) for geriatric fanboys. They made this movie for people who have been shooting cocaine for a week and need something to put themselves to sleep. The best part of this movie was the popcorn and, like the movie, it was overpriced.
Here’s the plot: a bunch of kids invent a machine that causes the audience to immediately zone out. The end.
What is it about super heroes and prisons? First Ben (The Thing) Grimm went breaking bad by breaking out of jail. Then the good guys warehoused super villains in less-than-legal lock-ups on the TV shows Arrow and The Flash. The Thing, Green Arrow, and the Flash. These are long-time, venerable, white-hat heroes, not your new-fangled heroes of questionable pedigree and even more questionable morality. These were the types of heroes who stood for something. Something noble.
Another in that long line of long-lived, white hat heroes was Captain Midnight. Captain Midnight started on the radio in the fall of 1938. So he’s older and more venerable than any the comic-book super heroes except Superman and, maybe, the Crimson Avenger. And he was just as white-hat as any of them.
Sure his cowl was a dark blue. But let’s face it, neither Green Arrow nor the Flash sport headgear that’s regulation ivory, either. When you’re talking about white-hat heroes, it isn’t the actual color, it’s the attitude. And in attitude, Jim Albright, genius inventor and secretly the costumed hero Captain Midnight, was as white-hat as they come.
Then, after he was transported through time from 1944 to the present, Captain Midnight went to a twenty-first century prison. And like the other heroes before him, he lost his way.
In Dark Horse’s current Captain Midnight series, the good Captain is fighting the secret super villain the Archon, “the most sinister threat [Captain Midnight has] ever faced.” In Captain Midnight #20, Captain Midnight realized that in order to get information necessary for his fight, he had to steal it from the shadowy government organization Black Sky. (Of course it’s a shadowy government organization. In comic books, all government organizations are shadowy. Except for the ones that are just flat-out evil.)
Steal information from the government? We’re not even to the prison yet and already Midnight’s white hat has become a shade of grey. (Only 49 more to go).
In order to steal the information, Captain Midnight enlisted the aid of Helios, an assassin who used teleportation technology pirated from Albright Industries to port to and from his mercenary pursuits with a minimum of danger. Because Midnight created the teleportation technology that Helios uses, Midnight could hijack it by remote control. Midnight used his remote control to override Helios’s suit and jump him from a hit in Moscow to the secret Midnight base. Then Midnight used his remote control and teleported the two of them into Block 13, a Black Sky prison in New Mexico. Both acts done to Helios and against his will.
Did I say “enlisted?” Let me rephrase that.
Captain Midnight grabbed Helios against Helios’s will in order to accomplish his theft plan. That’s kidnap. And broke into a secret government prison. Would you call that criminal trespass? I wouldn’t. Neither would New Mexico. In New Mexico, it’s aggravated burglary. That’s shades of grey two and three.
Because Black Sky was is a comic-book shadowy government organization, it was something real government organizations aren’t; efficient. Armed Black Sky agents were waiting for Captain Midnight and Helios. Which meant that Captain Midnight and Helios had to fight their way through the Black Sky agents.
There were seven agents, so that would be seven counts of assault upon a peace officer. At first. Lots more Black Sky agents showed up while Midnight was downloading the information he needed from the Black Sky computers. Agents Helios shot said agents with deadly force. How do I know it was deadly force? Because Helios told Captain Midnight he was going to have to use deadly force and Midnight said “Fine.” That gives us a dozen or so counts of aggravated assault upon a peace officer or murder, depending on whether Helios actually killed any of the Black Sky operatives. (And considering the bullets to the heads and chest that several of them took, I’m guessing he did.)
After Captain Midnight finished downloading the information, he activated his escape plan. It was literally an escape plan. Midnight hadn’t just downloaded information from the computers, he had also uploaded a virus into the computers. He used that virus to open up all the cell doors on Block 13. Suddenly, like the dinosaurs on Jurassic Park, all the inmates were running wild. Then, while the Black Sky agents were capturing the escaping prisoners, Midnight and Helios teleported to the base’s hanger and commandeered one of the Black Sky jets to make good their own escape. (Because of a plot contrivance, Helios could teleport a short distance inside the base, couldn’t teleport out of the base. Hence the whole stealing a jet plane gambit.) Meanwhile, an explosion that Captain Midnight triggered created an additional distraction to cover their escape.
And that brings us up to god knows how many counts of aiding and abetting escape from a penitentiary by unlocking all those Block 13 cell doors. Several counts of conspiracy. One count of computer abuse. One count of unlawful assault on a jail. One count of larceny. One count of unlawful taking of a vehicle. One count of criminal damage to property. And, if any of the Black Sky agents were hurt in the explosion – I’m guessing yes – even more counts of aggravated assault upon a peace officer. That’s quite the laundry list of felonies. Even Al Capone was telling Captain Midnight to take it easy.
And that’s just from a quick perusal of New Mexico’s criminal statutes. I’ll bet I could find a lot more offenses, if I really delved into New Mexico’s criminal statutes. But why bother? Captain Midnight has so many more than fifty shades of grey on his white hat, it’s not funny.
Seriously, it’s not funny. We used to call our favored reading material funny books. Not any more. Turning super heroes – especially the super heroes of old who were classic white-hat heroes – into people who are every bit as bad – if not worse – than the villains they fight is many things. But it’s not funny.
First a show of hands, how many of you think the Puppet Master is dead?
No, I mean really dead. Sure Puppet Master’s always been a second-tier villain. After all, anyone who had access to his radioactive clay and a grade school art class could duplicate his powers. But how many think he’s really never-coming-back-from-the-dead dead?
Probably the same number of people who think that the Thingreally killed him. However, as things sit in Fantastic Four v5 #13, Thing was sitting in Ryker’s Island waiting trial for murdering Puppet Master. Until Thing recruited his own version of the Impossible Mission Force and broke out of prison.
Step One: Thing met with his lawyer, She-Hulk. Step Two: Ant-Man shrank down to subatomic size so he could navigate along the wiring of Ryker’s Island and use a pulse bomb to shut down the cell cubes and power dampeners that Ryker’s used to keep its super-powered inmates under control. Step Three: Sandman used his sand powers to hamper the efforts of any of the other inmates who tried to escape during the power outage. Step Four: Thing and Sandman ran along one of the prison’s supply tunnels to the prison wall. Step Five: She-Hulk and Darla Deering– who was wearing her Miss Thing exoskeleton – knocked down the wall from the outside, because Thing’s strength hadn’t returned to full power yet. Step Six: They all went outside, where Medusa and the Inhumans waited with an airship which flew them to safety. Thing, why’d you stop there? Six more steps and you could have had an intervention.
The whole operation was a big success, although Sandman wasn’t always sure it would be. Still, he joined anyway. “What’s the worst they can do if it fails? Send me to prison?”
Well, yes, that’s exactly what they can do to you.
Escape is a crime in New York. According to New York Penal Law § 205.15 when a person charged with, or convicted of, a felony escapes from a detention facility that’s escape in the first degree. Thing was charged with murder. Sandman had been convicted of a felony – several, in fact. Both escaped from a detention center. Nuff said? Escape in the first degree is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.
So yes, Sandman, they can they send you to prison. But it’s not the worst they can do.
Most judges’ view on escape is dimmer than a ten-watt bulb. Judges tend to sentence people convicted of escape consecutively to whatever sentence the criminal escaped from. So the worst isn’t that they’ll send you back to prison. The worst is that they’ll send you back to prison for even longer.
And it’s not like She-Hulk, Ant-Man, or Darla Deering would get off scot free. N.Y.P.L. § 115.08 calls helping a person to commit a crime criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. In addition, N.Y.P.L. § 105.05 says a person is guilty of conspiracy in the fifth degree when he or she agrees with one or more persons to engage in a felony.
Okay, both of these crimes are Class A misdemeanors so the possible sentence is anything up to one year. It may not be the seven years Sandman’s facing, but give them one year on each crime, run those sentences consecutively, and that’s two years. That’s more time thanAnimal Practice got and Animal Practice was a crime against humanity.
(BTW, I left out Medusa and the Inhumans, because they might have diplomatic immunity. I’m not sure what the Inhumans’ diplomatic status is. Just as I’m not sure what the status of their home city Attilan is other than blown up.)
Oh yeah, She-Hulk also joked about getting disbarred for her involvement in the escape. Not a joke, Shulky. Look at what New York did to Matt Murdock. If they catch you, they’ll disbar you, too. Then you can laugh all the way to the bank. The blood bank. Because you’ll be selling your blood to earn grocery money.
Then there’s Thing. Like Sandman, he’d be facing seven years for escape. Unlike Sandman, he wouldn’t have any underlying sentences that his seven years could be stacked on consecutively. But seven years is still a long time. Still, seven years in comic-book time is an eternity.
Which brings up an interesting question. In books, comic books, TV shows and movies, prisoners who are wrongly accused of a crime frequently escape in order to prove their innocence.Richard Kimble escaped more times than Harry Houdini on tour. And once they prove their innocence, everything is hunky dory. They’re never prosecuted for escape, even though the escape charges would still exist, even if they were actually innocent of the other crime for which they had been arrested.
Do fictional prosecutors feel the innocent people suffered enough by being charged with a crime they didn’t commit so don’t bother charging them with a crime they actually did commit? I say fictional, because I certainly never met find any real-life prosecutors who felt that way back when I was practicing. Those prosecutors tended to press charges.
See, escapees escape from a prison or detention center or police custody. The guards, correction officers and police tend to be embarrassed when escapes occur on their watch. So they try to discourage escape, by making sure prosecutors file escape charges on anyone who escapes. That other detainees won’t get the same idea.
But that’s not how it’s going to happen. The Thing will be exonerated. Then neither he nor any of the people who helped him escape will be prosecuted. And they’ll all live happily ever after.
The trial shown in Fantastic Four v 5 # 5 started because some creatures escaped from the pocket universe created by Franklin Richards and wreaked havoc on Manhattan. A bunch of citizens upon whom havoc had been wreaked sued the Fantastic Four in a class-action suit. Had that been the extent of the trial, I would have had no problems. But somehow the trial morphed into something so unrecognizable that I became gobsmacked and I found myself spouting British slang instead of simple American words like nonplussed or flabbergasted.
And I found myself unable to understand what happened in the comic.
What I do know – what I was able to understand – was that what had been a simple class-action suit for damages had become a “hastily formed” “special judicial inquiry.” What kind of “special judicial inquiry?” I don’t know. It can’t be a civil case, because opposing counsel was prosecutor Aiden Toliver and prosecutors appear in criminal trials.
In civil trials you have plaintiffs and defendants v. In criminal trials you have prosecutors and defendants. If prosecutor Toliver is the FF’s opposing counsel, it would appear that the civil class-action case had become a criminal case.
How? A civil case can’t just become a criminal case, they’re entirely different types of cases with entirely different burdens of proof. Remember O.J. was tried in a criminal case for murder and found not guilty because the prosecution couldn’t prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Remember how he was then sued in a civil court for wrongful death where the jury found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had committed the murders? His criminal case didn’t suddenly become a civil case. He had two trials. Trials in the plural.
I suppose that while the class-action lawsuit against the FF was being prepared, some party became alerted to the FF’s history and brought criminal charges against them. But that would have been a separate case and a separate trial, like O.J.’s trials – trials plural – were. So what happened to the civil case? It didn’t just become the criminal case, as the story implies.
Also the FF’s trial can’t be a criminal case. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment absolutely forbids the prosecution from calling the defendants as witnesses in its case in chief. Yet Prosecutor Toliver called Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Richards, Johnny Storm, Reed Richards again, and then Sue Richards again as prosecution witnesses. He called more defendants than a bailiff in the arraignment room. So it must be a civil case for damages not a criminal case.
Except, in the end the judges presiding over the trial – yes, judges, there were clearly three of them sitting at the bench – didn’t award any civil damages that I saw. Instead, the judges evicted the FF from the Baxter Building and took custody of the Richards’ children and the other children of the Future Foundation and put them in the care of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Only I don’t see how that could have happened. If the case was a civil damages suit, the trial court wouldn’t have had jurisdiction over the question child custody. That would have been the purview of Family Court, and that court wasn’t involved in the case at all, that I could see.
Now, I suppose forfeiture of the FF’s custodial rights and eviction from their home could have been conditions of probation http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/probation. But that would mean that the case was a criminal case, that the FF was convicted, and that they were put on probation. That might work. (Are you starting to feel like you’re watching a Tennis match here?)
Yes, a criminal case. The case couldn’t have been a civil case, because there were three judges. In the United States, when a civil trial waives a jury and tries the case to the judge, the judge who hears the case is the judge presiding over the trial. That’s judge in the singular. Civil trials don’t normally have three-judge panels.
Of course, criminal trials don’t even have three-judge panels for the most part either, unless it’s a death penalty case. This wasn’t a death penalty case. At the end of the day, the FF was evicted from the Baxter Building, but they weren’t relocated to Death Row. Or even to Def Jam.
Wait, a criminal case with a three-judge panel. And the cover copy said “Accused: Crimes Against Humanity!” Was the FF being tried in the International Criminal Court, or as it’s more commonly called the World Court? Maybe. The World Court does conduct its criminal trials before a three-judge panel with a prosecutor representing the plaintiffs.
But, if it was the World Court, then why was the trial being held in “Manhattan’s central courthouse,” and not the World Court building in The Hague? Possibly, because Article 3 v of the Rome Statute, the multi-national treaty which created the World Court, says that, “The Court may sit elsewhere, whenever it considers it desirable, as provided in this Statute.” Most of the witnesses – which mostly seemed to be the FF itself – lived in New York. I could see the World Court relocating this trial to New York as being more convenient to the participants.
That’s it then, the FF was being tried for crimes against humanity in the World Court. Crimes such as, oh what heinous acts did Prosecutor Toliver ask them about? Minor physical damage caused by the Invisible Woman. Property damage caused by The Thing. Property damage caused by the Torch. Property damage caused by fighting the Hulk in Manhattan. Not helping S.H.I.E.L.D. or some other agency trap Namor so he could be tried for war crimes. Not sharing what they knew about the Inhumans with any branch of national security. Letting Reed and Sue’s daughter Valeria live with that known terrorist Dr. Doom. Misplacing the Ultimate Nullifier. Letting Annihilus and Blastaar and other such nasties come out of the Negative Zone portal to attack New York City. Sue causing a riot and destruction in New York after she had been brainwashed by the Hate-Monger and adopted the name Malice. Oh yes, and Ben Grimm, in a fit of pique, destroying the taxi cab of one Mr. Dupois and the FF’s lawyers failed to make reparations in a timely manner.
So that, property damage and negligence is how prosecutor Toliver definescrimes against humanity. Know how Rome Statute defines it? “[P]articularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings.” Crimes against humanity are also the acts of government, not men. Okay, men do the acts, but do so either as part of a government policy or with the approval of the government. Crimes against humanity include such things as murder, massacres, extermination, human experimentation, slavery, cannibalism, torture, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts. They don’t include forgetting to throw the dead bolt on the Negative Zone hatch.
That being the case, the case wasn’t a trial in the World Court for crimes against humanity, either.
Lawyer. Avenger. Hero. Friend. Jennifer Walters has been called many things – but to most, she’s known only as the She-Hulk! Today, Marvel is proud to present your first look at SHE-HULK #1 – the all-new ongoing series written by rising star Charles Soule and drawn by fan-favorite artist Javier Pulido! Savior of the world on more than one occasion, Jennifer Walters is embarking on a brand new, and no less dangerous mission – opening a new law practice!
There are the Great Eternal Fanboy Questions. (The Eternal Fanboys sounds like a comic itself or a geek Goth band.) One of them is “Who is stronger, the Hulk or the Thing?” Or the variation “Thor or the Hulk?” You can even ask who is stronger – the Hulk, the Thing, or Thor, but that gets complicated and a little metaphysical.
The Classic Eternal Fanboy question, though, predating the others is “who would you rather be, Superman or Batman?” Supes can fly and has all those powers; he’s become sort of the Swiss Army Knife of superheroes as more and more abilities were added over the years, like super-breath. There are mornings when I’ve had super-breath. Not quite like Superman’s but still pretty potent. It had me grabbing the Kryptonite mouthwash.
Batman, on the other hand, is all dark and moody and mysterious and he has all those wonderful toys! And, underneath that cowl and cape, he’s human. One of the prevailing arguments in the debate is that we could never be Superman because he’s an alien from another planet but if we really worked at it, if we were as dedicated as Bruce Wayne, we could become the Batman.
In your dreams, pal. Never going to happen. All us Eternal Fanboys also have second lives as the Eternal Couch Potatoes. Maybe we could be Herbie the Fat Fury, who got his powers from special lollypops, but not The Batman.
As a comic book writer, I’ve been asked the question more than once (and have pondered the answer a few times) which character would I prefer to write – Superman or Batman? Most of you who know my work would probably guess Batman and, for much of my early career, it was true. My forte are dark, moody, violent characters and Batman certainly fit into that. Superman was this big blue Boy Scout with an annoying girlfriend and a personality almost as thin as the paper on which he was printed.
Over the years, however, that’s changed and these days I find I’m drawn more to the Man of Steel. I suppose it started with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal in the 1978 Superman movie. It was Superman’s humanity that struck me. That also came out in Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman run, simply one of the best incarnations of Superman that I’ve seen.
For me, the heart of Superman, the basis of who he is, is not the powers that he has. It’s that he was raised on a farm in Kansas and those are the values that were instilled in him. At heart, he is Clark Kent. Not Kal-El of Krypton and not Superman. Not even the Clark Kent as perceived at the Daily Planet. At heart, at his core, he’s that Kansas farm boy. There is a humility in him; his upbringing is what defines him as a character and not his powers and that, I think, is how it should be. It’s who he is and not what he can do.
Batman has become a much darker and less human character over the years. It’s his way or the highway. He no longer tries to intimidate just the bad guys but his friends and co-workers as well. Batman is the central personality; Bruce Wayne barely appears and then only to serve Batman’s needs. He’s a compelling character, no question – but not one I feel drawn to as much anymore.
Maybe it’s just that I’m growing older but I value Superman – Clark Kent – for that humility, that humanity, and find that it speaks more to me. For all his being an alien, I think Superman is more human than Batman. So, for me, the answer to the Eternal Fanboy question is – I’d rather be Superman.
This week, the Earth Station One podcast crew travels back to a time before texts, tweets, and Twilight. A wondrous age when nearly every trip to the movie theater was a viewing of a future classic. Blade Runner, ET – The Extra-Terrestrial, The Dark Crystal, Tron, First Blood, Conan the Barbarian, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and many more made their debut that year. Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and Bobby Nash are joined by some familiar New Pulp guests Derrick Ferguson, Dr. Scott Viguie (a real life Indiana Jones), and award-winning artist Mark Maddox try to name them all, but one name keeps rising to the top of the list – KHAAAAAAANNNN!!!
(Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral, by Edward Counsel)
Except in comics.
I was doing a search for quotes about death when I found this one, which is so apropos. I never heard of Edward Counsel; did a Google search, but couldn’t find him?? Found a reproduction of his book on Amazon; the original was published before 1923. All I can gather is that he was an Australian who was born before 1900. Anyone who has more info is welcome to let me know in the comments section.
The reason I was looking for a quote about death – of which there seems to be milllllllllions – is because all us comic fans are buzzing about the YouTube video The Death and Return of Superman, by Max Landis (son of John Landis), who stars in The Chronicle. I was going to post it here, but Martha (Thomases) beat me to it three days ago – which amazingly points out that DC actually thought Tim Drake’s/Robin’s new costume was more of a P.R. event than Supe’s kicking of the bucket – so I won’t do that. All I can say is that, if by any chance you haven’t seen it, do so at once. You have my permission to stop reading this column, go watch it (it’s about 16:00 long) and then come back. It is bitingly hilarious, and exceptionally on the mark!!!! (Major kudos to Landis and his fellow actors btw!)
SPOILER ALERT!: Okay, I’m going to assume that you have either already seen the video or have taken the 16:00 to watch it before returning here, because I’m going to give away the ending here.
Landis concludes his short film by stating that Superman’s death and return opened the floodgates for other comic characters to die and then resurrect. In other words, said resurrection cheapened the dramatic impact of said death, and ended the ability of readers to mourn the loss of the character, because the reader knew the character would eventually return. Cynics like me will always point out that the death of a character in the comic book world is always due to (1) marketing; and (2) the dictates of Hollywood – as Martha ably points out in her column concerning Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
As a comics writer, a editor, and a reader, the “make-believe” of death in comics really pisses me off.
I’d like to point out that the ability of fiction (any fiction, from comics to television to movies) to help children understand and cope with finality of death is incredibly important. J. M. Barrie understood this, as he has Peter Pan say “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” And of course, J.K. Rowling did not flinch from the meaning of death in the Harry Potter And The novels; it was one of the themes of her “magnus opus” – beginning with the main character. Need I remind you that Harry was an orphan?
Okay, young readers of comics are scarce these days. We all know that. But they are still out there; my eleven-year old niece Isabel being one of them. And children are curious about death. About six months after my husband left me, the family was out to dinner. Right in the middle of the laughter and the eating, Isabel, six years old at the time, said to me, “Is John dead?” (That was a conversation stopper, let me tell you.) Of course her parents had explained what had happened. But obviously Isabel couldn’t grasp the concept of marital separation and divorce, so all she knew was that John was gone, which in her thoughts equaled death… because, as her mom told me later, she had just seen a movie – I don’t remember which one, it might have been one of the Harry Potter’s – in which one of the characters died. And she was trying to wrap her young mind around “death.”
Which I think is good; our society tends to put death into a dark, dusty corner where it molders and mildews and mutates into something unbearably monstrous. Remember the uproar over Terry Schiavo? How about the Republican bullshit of equating Obama’s healthcare bill with death panels? And as a registered nurse in the operating room, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen terminally ill or extremely aged patients subjected to the stress of unneeded or useless surgery or treatment because the family insists on it because they can’t deal with the impending death of their loved one.
Death can be welcomed as an end to unending pain and torment. Death can be aggressively fought against with all the tools of modern medicine. Death can be sudden, or it can be stretched out into nanoseconds.
But death is real.
I’m still reeling from the death of Kara Zor-El – Supergirl – in Crisis On Infinite Earth. Don’t talk to me about the reboots.
The Very Short List of Comic Book Superheroes Who Have Died And Returned: Alfred Pennyworth, Aquaman, Aunt May, Big Barda, Bucky, Captain America, The Doctor, Elektra, Fahrenheit, The Flash, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, The Human Torch, Jean Grey, Moon Knight, Negative Man, Punisher, Robin, Supergirl, Superman, The Thing, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (many if not all), Wonder Man, Wonder Woman, Yellowjacket.
TUESDAY: Michael Davis. Sponsored by the Bacon Council.