Few topics stir up fans of superhero comics more than character deaths and reboots. So, in a curious coincidence, what subjects do you think the top editors at Marvel and DC tackled over the weekend?
In his weekly “MyCup O’ Joe” column, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada addressed his often-quoted — but, perhaps, out-of-context – “Dead is dead” statement from early in his tenure:
Eight years ago, my feeling on comic deaths was pretty specific — they were just being handled too willy-nilly, and thus were losing their impact. What I set out to do was challenge my editors and our creative teams to up the ante when it came to character deaths, because I felt that there was no longer any impact.
The rule of thumb I wanted to use was simple, discounting cliché deaths like the supervillain getting “washed away in the river” to his supposed death. This rule only pertained to significant deaths and significant characters. The rule was you had to have a plan. Way too often, I would see creators kill off a major character without a plan as to how to replace them or how to resurrect them in a way that would be as meaningful as the death. Too many characters were being killed for the sheer shock value of it, and without any story-driven motivations.
Phrases like “significant characters” and “significant deaths” leave me wondering about those B- or C-list characters who tend to serve as cannon fodder in “event” comics — to demonstrate how ruthless a villain is, or how high the stakes are. Or who get killed again and again. And again.
Meanwhile, at Fan Expo, DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio lamented his company’s eagerness to revamp characters:
What happens is that if a character doesn’t work, we go, “We got a brand new direction to put him in! We’re moving him into something new! We’re going to try something brand new and different! We’re going to throw everything out and start over again!” We make that mistake, but what that does is, it alienates fans.
Our biggest mistake is that we don’t continue and build on … what we should be doing is let it sit for a while and then come back with a good strong story with what’s going on. That’s what Geoff [Johns] does. That’s Geoff’s secret weapon. He doesn’t throw it all out and start all over. He builds on what’s existed and makes it better … We get too worried about the minutia … all we should be doing is telling great stories with out characters.
Johns’ superhero formula obviously strikes a chord with DC readers, even if I find his approach overly nostalgic and weighed down by a preoccupation with legacies and parent-child/mentor-protégé relationships.
Likewise, I can’t argue (much) with playing the hand you’re dealt — the post-Infinite Crisis landscape is littered with revamps and relaunches that didn’t work. But at least a couple of the characters are certainly worth keeping around, even if their titles didn’t set the sales charts on fire: Jamie Reyes as Blue Beetle and Ryan Choi as The Atom. (DC and Warner Bros. apparently agree about Reyes, as he has a noticeable presence in the promotional materials for the upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series.)