Off My Mind: Should Comic Characters Be Sad Over Deaths?

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Posted by gmanfromheck (42518 posts) - - Show Bio
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Comic Book Deaths. Seems talking about death would be a heavy subject. It wouldn't be if you lived in a comic book. Over the last couple decades, it feels like more and more characters are dying. I wrote about deaths being cheap a few months ago.

Deaths in comics are meant to be shockers. The only ones that are shocked are the comic characters in the issue. When we see a character die, we all know that character will return someday somehow.

Deaths still occur and we're supposed to react to them as if it was a big deal. For the friends and loved ones of a character that dies, it's always a sad time. They have to stop whatever they're doing and honor the fallen one. With the number of times that this has happened, shouldn't they be used to deaths and the inevitable return by now?

== TEASER ==
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If you think about your favorite characters, it's almost harder to list characters that haven't died (I'm sure this will be rectified soon). Some characters die more often than they get a new look. Death is just too common these days. Consider some of the biggest deaths we've had lately. The two that come to mind are Captain America and Batman. They both got better. Recently in X-Men: Second Coming, we had the death of Nightcrawler (I won't mention the character that just died last week). Nightcrawler's death was sad because of who his character was. Yet the X-Men are still mourning for him. Don't they know by now that if you're an X-Men, cheating death is like putting on a new pair of shoes? Who thinks Jean Grey is never coming back?

The only cure for not coming back from the dead is if you don't have superpowers. Other characters like Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy don't have the ability to return from the dead. I know you could argue that Bucky Barnes "died" and came back and he doesn't have superpowers. Technically he didn't die, as far as the story goes. He was just sort of blown up after he tried stopping Baron Zemo's bomb. It seems if you hang out with superheroes long enough, you start becoming immune to death.

Deaths and resurrections occur so often in comics that it's becoming as common as characters being able to fly. The next time a character like Nightcrawler dies, those around him should raise a glass in his honor but there's no need to be sad. He (and others that die) will be back. It's just a matter of them getting better (and the next writer coming up with the way they'll return).

Do comic book deaths have any impact on you these days?

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#1 Edited by doordoor123 (3817 posts) - - Show Bio

It depends?
I think the characters only care about the deaths there were supposed to care about.
And technically batman and captain america never died. So they never were resurrected.
And i dont know about you, but when someone i know die, im shocked. Even if they will eventually come back, i still dont get to see them in current continuity for at least a year usually.

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#2 Posted by Precise (21954 posts) - - Show Bio
@G-Man said:
"Do comic book deaths have any impact on you these days? "
Not really since they'll be back anyway.
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#3 Edited by rlmay3 (273 posts) - - Show Bio

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No offense intended, but this is essentially how I think most of us feel when a major character dies.
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#4 Posted by ComicMan24 (147740 posts) - - Show Bio

I agree that death in comics has lost whatever shock factor it had until now. It's more of a joke than a shock to us. Can't they write good stories without killing someone? As for non-powered characters not coming back, it's either because they weren't signifiant enough or that their deaths were so important to the heroes, that by bringing them back, the heroes lose their purpose. I mean Batman became Batman because of what happened to his parents and Spider-Man because of Uncle Ben's death.

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#5 Posted by rouju (159 posts) - - Show Bio
@rlmay3: Totally agree dude. I wish if major character died, it's for good and have a long lasting impact (Hell, even I'm Bruce Wayne biggest fan have some hope that Tim Drake / Wayne took the mantle for good)
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#6 Posted by Baddamdog (2836 posts) - - Show Bio

Whers's Big Barda then! D_X

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#7 Posted by astonishing_arome (20 posts) - - Show Bio

 Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) death was pretty sad.

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#8 Posted by dondasch (932 posts) - - Show Bio

Death in mainstream comic books has lost its luster, so to speak.  The only real impact these days is to sell more books.  I can remember being younger, and naive, in how I reacted to say, the Death of Superman.  It was his death that got me into comics, and through that I learned that comic writers generally always find a "get of out being dead" card.  Imagine the shock of being a new reader, recently having read The Dark Phoenix Saga and coming to find out Jean Grey was in fact alive.

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#9 Posted by ComicMan24 (147740 posts) - - Show Bio
@Baddamdog said:
"Whers's Big Barda then! D_X "

I think Big Barda was resurrected along with the other New Gods in Earth-51 at the end of Final Crisis. Not sure though.
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#10 Posted by rlmay3 (273 posts) - - Show Bio
@rouju: I can even understand BIG NAME characters like Batman or Superman coming back, but I totally agree that characters further down the totem pole could stay dead. Like Blue Beetle has had three incarnations. Ted Kord died and stayed dead!! And people still think it's sad, so it has a lasting impact.
@astonishing_arome said:
"  Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) death was pretty sad. "
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#11 Posted by mimschkin (649 posts) - - Show Bio

Should Comic Characters Be Sad Over Deaths?

Yes, because they're human. If I died, I'm sure my family would bother grieving even if there was a possibility that I was coming back (to haunt their dreams). That last part was a joke, but I find it astounding how little panel time is devoted to characters grieving, and the fact that they get back to work so quickly.
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#12 Posted by rlmay3 (273 posts) - - Show Bio

Blackest Night was pretty much a rather twisted response to this very issue, wasn't it?

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#13 Edited by xscarletkittie (634 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't see why they shouldn't be sad over the deaths. While the characters may have experience with others coming back from the dead, there are many instances when they don't come back. They see everyday people die and not come back. Just because the characters that we follow come back, that doesn't mean everyone does. I think keeping that in mind makes the characters' reactions a bit easier to understand.
As for the comic readers, I agree, death isn't as powerful as it could be. I think one of the only times a death really shocks us is when the character actually stays dead. Especially if it's for longer than 2-4 years.

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#14 Posted by Ston3face (95 posts) - - Show Bio
@rlmay3:  hahaha!!!
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#15 Posted by Asymmetrical (23750 posts) - - Show Bio

to go with a current example on comic character death: yes Constantine is trying to bring Phoebe back to life but he's going about it in a very insane way and success seems unlikely though even if it does work out the story to get to that point fits the mood of the book perfectly and since he's actually the one trying to bring her bad to life, his sadness/insanity seems justified...and what about Boy Blue from Fables? he seems to be the opposite scenario since he doesn't seem to be coming back even though the character's all believe he will return someday and don't seem sad about his death in the slightest

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#16 Posted by wallymonster (16 posts) - - Show Bio

comic book deaths make me roll my eyes.  I feel that It has more to do with inflating sales through a new resurrection event series than it does with the Character or his/her journey.  Its annoying and becoming a giant parody of itself. 
When a character dies, i expect a rebirth very soon. Its  the norm. I'd be shocked if a publisher actually killed off a character and kept them dead permanently. 
When i was a kid, i got really upset when they killed Superman. I took it seriously. Then i saw they brought him back. It was all planned! never again would i fall for that!!!! 

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#17 Posted by MichaeltheFly (6651 posts) - - Show Bio

Most comic book deaths have become useless since the character are being brought back to life, a few issues later, I mean why kill a character if he comes back in a couple of months. But anyway the last death that ment anything to me was Kid Devil's death I mean I liked it, i had the meaning and it left me wanting more, I hope he doesn't comeback in a year or two.

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#18 Posted by arrowfan237 (497 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't know sometimes a character like Red Devil does actually die for real. When a character dies I think the writers are just trying to get a shock so more people will buy it. I mean look how popular the death of superman was.
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#19 Posted by cbishop (12935 posts) - - Show Bio
@wallymonster: To be fair: DC said from the start that Superman was coming back a few months after they killed him.  You may not have known that as a kid though.  That's a perfect example though: they actually said: "We're killing him, but he'll be back in a few months."  People still went insane buying as many copies of the death issue as they could.  It was a sales gimmick, and nothing more. 
I was much sadder over Ted Kord's death, than I was over Batman's.  Batman didn't even phase me, because there's no way they're going to leave Bruce Wayne dead.  Ted Kord, on the other hand... there's another Blue Beetle out there now, so they have no need to bring him back. 
That doesn't really explain Flash and Green Lantern though, does it?  It's about sales.  The more people write in demanding the return of their favorite character, the more sales seem possible, and the more likely the company will find a way to bring that character back.  Right now, DC's decree is "the revolving door of death is now closed."  In a few years, that will change.  I don't care if a villain vaporizes the hero's head with his eye beams, and then punches into his chest, rips out his heart and eats it, on panel.  If they want to bring him back for potential sales, they'll find a way.
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#20 Posted by sora_thekey (8812 posts) - - Show Bio

I will always have a sad feeling for Gwen Stacy's death... (and Nightcrawler... if he never comes back)

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#21 Posted by conformist21 (422 posts) - - Show Bio

some of the deaths turn out to "have never died' so i don't know how to judge it really,
but the x-men shouldn't mourn as much, since they die and come back more often than the other heroes.

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#22 Posted by TheMess1428 (2211 posts) - - Show Bio


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#23 Posted by gmanfromheck (42518 posts) - - Show Bio
@cbishop said:
" @wallymonster: To be fair: DC said from the start that Superman was coming back a few months after they killed him.   "
I remember early on they said that sales were low on the titles and decided to kill him off. They tried giving the impression that it was final. But then, obviously we had Reign of the Superman right after.
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#24 Posted by Aspenite (935 posts) - - Show Bio

Just because they will return someday doesn´t mean their friends aren´t allowed to mourn. I mean they lost someone they loved that´s a sad story. And it´s not 100% true that all characters will return...

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#25 Posted by EndlessKnight (433 posts) - - Show Bio

Only the unwanted characters ever die for good.  As always, the events of the comic universes are based on the whims and realities of the writers and the company execs, not the "realities" of the character's world .

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#26 Posted by gmanfromheck (42518 posts) - - Show Bio

Ron Marz said on our podcast that when he kills someone, they're dead. Jeph Loeb told me the same thing about Ultimatum. The problem is when editorial makes the decision to bring a character back and gets another writer to do it. I remember when Peter David decided to kill Betty Banner (I think in his final issue of Incredible Hulk). In that very same issue, they had someone else put in a little bit opening the door to her still being alive.

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#27 Posted by scourgexlvii (127 posts) - - Show Bio

To me, I get angrier when the secondary characters die, since you know, characters like Cap, and Batman will come back, but secondary characters are more likely to stay dead longer, and you know they will likely come back, but there's always that waiting time, where you still have that bit of doubt. Honestly, I hate shock-deaths, and the like, since it's just a tool bad writers use to make their writing more interesting, or have larger implications. At best, it is used to better characterize other characters, as in Gwen Stacy's death, but it's still a cheap trick, and it makes it worse that it makes it that much harder for other comic writers to tell their story.

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#28 Posted by mistrx75 (209 posts) - - Show Bio

I guess the argument is that the characters themselves don't know that this isn't the one that'll stick.  I don't even know why writers even do it anymore, though.  Death is cheap in comics and we all know it.  What's the point?

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#29 Posted by Zonza Lee (236 posts) - - Show Bio

Comicbook deaths haven't affected me for awhile. It's like Dragonball Z anymore. If a character dies then give it a few issues and somehow they'll be brought back to life through some plot device. Honestly I'm waiting for Sentry to simply be revived by the Dragonballs because everyone knows that it wouldn't come as any great surprise if he did.

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#30 Posted by CylonDorado (1880 posts) - - Show Bio

Because they just know that the one time they don't cry, that'll be the time they don't come back.

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#31 Posted by Fredgerd (12 posts) - - Show Bio

LOL..... dead again??? Guess we better start gathering the dragonballs. See ya in a week.

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#32 Posted by Jumpercliff (6 posts) - - Show Bio

Okay, first off, Nightcrawler and Cable SHOULDN'T have been killed. Seems like for both DC and Marvel in recent years have had death on the brain. In fact, I think we should've gotten some very decent revivals. Towards the end of Necrosha, I would've liked to have seen Banshee, Synch, Rusty Collins, Bolt, Caliban, Darkstar 1, Risque, Tarot, and Thunderbird revived in a similar manner to Cypher. Thunderbird would've had an epiphany of sorts, and then who knows what'd happen next. I feel the same thing with Blackest Night, in addition to the twelve who were revived (who I think should've been marked or something to distinguish them from others), I would've liked to see the following brought back: 
-Katma Tui 
-Elongated Man and Sue 
-Tempest, Tula, and Dolphin 
-Holly Granger 
-Celcius, Tempest (Josh Clay), and Negative Woman 
-Ted Kord 
-Vibe (he'd have an epiphany of sorts, causing him to shed the persona that made him unlikeable to fans) 
-Hank Heywood III (the "Steel-before-John Henry Irons") 
-Mirror Master (Sam Scudder), Golden Glider (who'd then go hero), and the Top

-Airwave (Harold Jordan) 
I felt sorry for some of those who were killed when I first read Crisis on Infinite Earths, especially the Earth-Two Huntress and Robin. Though tey actually weren't killed, since it said that their bodies "were never found." I have an idea of what to do with them that I may submit to DC and see what they think.

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#33 Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir (19151 posts) - - Show Bio

When you know they are coming back in 5 months it's hard to care

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#34 Posted by Big (329 posts) - - Show Bio

Do we really know? Some come back, and  some won't. Who ever said that resurrection was guaranteed? And besides, whose to say when, if ever, a characte will return. We, as readers can assume that certain characters will return, but, in the world of these heroes, where, everything seems uncertain, it's not so easy to guess. Martha and Thomas Wayne never came back, and NIghtCrawler hasn't popped up yet.  
Death is pretty serious business in any circumstance, especially in the dangerous lives that superheroes lead. Even if we know that superheroes CAN come back, it doesn't mean they necessarily WILL. Plus, the act of death can pretty painful. Don't you feel sad when you find out that someone broke their arm, or is sick in bed? They'll probably get better, right? But we feel empathy for that person's suffering. Now imagine that someone is a dear friend, and a superhero, and they got blasted with the Omega Sanction and may NEVER return. What your feelings then?  
Let's not play down the effect of this event in a hero's journeys. It's highly transformative, and the outcomes, even with a rebirth are unpredictable, i.e: Jason Todd.
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#35 Posted by scorpius72 (74 posts) - - Show Bio

Killing off characters to me is stupid and desperate for sales. i think its mostly the writers lack of talent to create drama by creating death.   

i dont think its not that the character will come back its when that keeps people excited.  
Barry Allen was dead since 1985. there were alot of flashbacks, ghost stories etc, but while others came back he stayed dead. when he did come back, in one of the most ridiculous stories ever (id prefered he woke up in a shower ) it was a true surprise.    
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#36 Posted by Jaebird (4 posts) - - Show Bio

It just depends on how well the writer kills off a character and brings them back. I'll always feel that the deaths of Supergirl and the Flash from Crisis on Infinite Earths were the best character deaths I've ever experienced. Simply put, they both went out fighting. And the death of Crazy-Eight from Spider-Girl, and the following, "silent" issue, made me want to cry. No joke.
But like I said before, it just depends on the writer and how well he/she tells the story.

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#37 Posted by CaptainCockblock (3834 posts) - - Show Bio

Very good point, G-Man. I'll think about that when I'm working with my company. Sometimes, it's better that they stay dead, or come back with some sort of consequence.

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#38 Posted by Video_Martian (5650 posts) - - Show Bio
@rlmay3 said:
No Caption Provided
No offense intended, but this is essentially how I think most of us feel when a major character dies. "
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#39 Posted by Nova`Prime` (4172 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't have a problem with character deaths (marketing ploy or not) and I also don't have a problem with characters grieving. Some of the best writing I can remember is reading about the reactions to characters deaths and the following mourning (Cap and Superman's deaths come to mind). Of course to us the reader we know that eventually the character is coming back, to have the characters act like that makes the death that much "cheaper" you can't have a character act like nothings happened and still try to make it "believable".

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#40 Posted by Video_Martian (5650 posts) - - Show Bio
@TheMess1428 said:
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#41 Posted by ArtisticNeedham (2730 posts) - - Show Bio

Superhero deaths are sad, but I have wondered about that.
In Brightest Day Aquaman was talking to Mira about dying and coming back to life and how he hasn't gotten over it.  He was feeling very out of place because of it.
But isn't that like the 3rd or 4th time he died and came back?
I think because of the Heroes Reborn thing, the Avengers had died and came back, and there was a scene where Cap and Thor talked in a diner while crowds watched from outside because these heroes had died and came back.  Thor talked to Captain America about how this is what its like being him, or something.  Cap was having trouble with all the attention and the whole back to life thing.
Even Spider-Man died in the Other, apparently.  But was the Other canceled out because of Brand New Day?  I mean he no longer has those new powers.
Other characters have died and come back, you would think that would be almost like a common thing with those particular characters.  maybe starting to feel almost immortal, like the Minions on Venture Brothers sort of, where that character might start to become fearless because they know if they died they would come back.
 Or maybe when a character dies some characters just say See you when you come back, because they have seen too many characters return from the dead.
I once tried to do a list of characters who hadn't died.  But I couldn't do it.  Its somewhere on this website though, on the forums.  Someone posted characters who never died for me.
On one end I think that it takes away from the impact of the story where that character died, unless they were killed off just to sell comics.  Bringing them back cheapens their death and almost cancels out their death story.
But on the other end I feel like these are comic books, superhero stories.  Characters get amazing powers and fight super powerful bad guys in bright costumes.  They fight monsters, aliens, demons, ghosts.  Why not have them die and return?  Its a comic and fun,
Why not do amazing things in a comic that you cannot do in other stories?
So I say why not have characters come back to life?

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#42 Posted by xerox_kitty (17342 posts) - - Show Bio

It's ridiculous for Cyclops to mourn the loss of a couple of mutants he hardly knew... It lessens the impact of his mourning for those he genuinely did know like Nightcrawler & Cable.   
But overall, characters should mourn.  It makes it more realistic.  If death isn't going to be addressed as a realistic issue that people have to cope with, then death shouldn't be in comics.  But comics have long since evolved passed the stage where everything serious has to be sugar coated.  If kids can watch Disney villains meet grisly deaths, then they can read characters mourning in comics.

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#43 Posted by Quest (111 posts) - - Show Bio

in the first couple issues in x factor when banshee died siyrn (banshee's daughter) did not care the her father died because she knows the x men charcters come back to life all the time.     
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#44 Posted by daredevil21134 (15860 posts) - - Show Bio

Long Live Jason Todd
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#45 Posted by excalibur5150 (132 posts) - - Show Bio

Bottom line, A character should always mourn a death because that's how life is. 
I agree that popular characters , like Superman for example< should reserve crying for great friends and family like Jonathan Kent and Supergirl, because mourning for just any character is kind of cheap.   
That is unless unless they love the person doing the mourning for the lesser character because then that is them showing sympathy and honestly it's kinda contagious when you friend cries. For example, Superman wouldn't cry for Hippolyta when she died because he really didn't know her, but he would definitely cry for Wonder Woman who just lost a mother because he has a love for her.
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#46 Posted by TheMess1428 (2211 posts) - - Show Bio
@mr.obvious said:
" @TheMess1428 said:
Actually, I don't really mind. I like the character and I also like having a character stay dead. So it doesn't really matter to me.
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#47 Posted by Video_Martian (5650 posts) - - Show Bio
@TheMess1428 said:
" @mr.obvious said:
" @TheMess1428 said:
Actually, I don't really mind. I like the character and I also like having a character stay dead. So it doesn't really matter to me. "
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#48 Posted by TheMess1428 (2211 posts) - - Show Bio
@mr.obvious said:
" @TheMess1428 said:
" @mr.obvious said:
" @TheMess1428 said:
Actually, I don't really mind. I like the character and I also like having a character stay dead. So it doesn't really matter to me. "
But do you want everyone to live forever? Those who are mortal should die sometime...
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#49 Posted by BeanoFritz (18 posts) - - Show Bio

I know most of this talk is about super heroes, but what about The Walking Dead? EVERYBODY dies in that book...well maybe not everybody, but the deaths in that book are still shocking every single time.  
Also Rex Splode from Invincible died and is NEVER coming back, so that counts for something right?

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#50 Edited by roadbuster (1159 posts) - - Show Bio
@Quest said:

" in the first couple issues in x factor when banshee died siyrn (banshee's daughter) did not care the her father died because she knows the x men charcters come back to life all the time.      "

That's exactly right and while it was an entertaining angle it highlights why the characters still have to mourn... we want to pretend / believe they're at least somewhat real.  It's why we tolerate Clark's disguise working or never challenge Spidey's use of skyhooks to get from Queens to Manhattan.  We suspend a lot of disbelief and if the X-Men start taking resurrection for granted- literally feeling entitled to returning- that's just one more step away from being something the reader can relate to in terms of characterization. 
That said, if you want an in-story explanation, I say you treat it something akin to cancer.  Everyone knows it can go into remission, you may even know someone yourself who has had it go into remission, and we even know people who've come in and out of it... nonetheless, despite the frequency, the common knowledge, the personal experience, or the advanced technology getting diagnosed is still scary and solemn. 
It should be noted that the heroes certainly ARE glib about the death of VILLAINS... who wrote the book on appearing to have died only to return... so it's not like they've got blinder completely on, they know that the appearance of death is not always certain (and likewise don't take resurrection for granted).

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