Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Resurrection (of my blog) and Resurrection (in comics)

Super Critique of Blogger.com, Rise!

Since this post is resurrecting my blog, I decided to use it to address resurrection in comics.  Specifically, the "Revolving Door Afterlife" that many comics have, where death is nothing but an inconvenience.

The Revolving Door Afterlife annoys some comics fans, and both DC and Marvel have attempted to close the Revolving Door Afterlife, but it never seems to work.  Why?

The Revolving Door Afterlife is a good thing.  To demonstrate why, I'm going to address a few complaints and criticisms that the Revolving Door Afterlife gets:

1) It cheapens the deaths of the characters!  The sad fact is: most of the deaths were cheap way before the character got brought back.  Characters (especially C-Listers) are often used as fodder for story lines.  Many times they are not introduced or named before they are killed.  Many of these characters could be (or have been) amazing under the correct writer.

There are some extraordinarily well-written deaths.  But a live character is always more interesting than a dead one.*

2) But it's a cop-out!  Yes, it is.  No argument here.  But it's a cop-out that can lead to some amazing story lines.  Think about it.

What must it be like to live in a universe where resurrection is real?  What would it be like for you to lose a parent, a sibling or a child, and then they come back from the dead?  How many people would refuse to go on with their lives because there was even a tiny chance that their loved one would come back?  Why did a mass murderer get a second chance at life while your 8-year old daughter never came back?

These issues are rarely addressed . . . but they should be.

3) It isn't realistic!  Um, are we ready the same comics?  You know: the ones with spandex clad heroes who can lift entire city blocks but lose all their power in the presence of a green rock?  The ones where seeing his parents murdered in cold blood leads a child to become a superhero rather than just requiring massive amounts of therapy?  Although some things about comics can be realistic (characterization, for one), comics are by their nature unrealistic.

Resurrection, the afterlife . . . these are things that we debate whether they exist in the real world.  But in comics, we know they can and do exist.  I can suspend my disbelief in this situation because it's a long-established element of both the Marvel and DC Universes.

4) It ruins any tension for character deaths.  This (in my opinion) is probably the best criticism of the Revolving Door Afterlife.  It's hard to get upset when Captain America, Batman and Superman died.  We know they'll be brought back.  It's a given from the start.  No way that Marvel or DC will get rid of them for good.  They're too afraid of risking alienating and losing fans, and - more importantly - money.

And yet . . . Superman's death still managed to make me tear up.  And the way I learned about his death was by hearing about his new resurrected form, so I knew that it wasn't permanent.  But the story still holds up.  It can still get an emotional reaction from me.  While the cynic in me will always say "no way they'll kill X off for good", well-written deaths can still make me react.  I still care about what happens.  I can still relate to the pain and heartbreak that their loved ones experience.

The big names of comicdom are guaranteed a free trip out of the afterlife.  But most characters aren't.  Most of my favorite characters are C-Listers: I almost never have a guarantee that characters I love will come back from the grave.  The fact that these deaths are often so gratuitous and unnecessary only makes it worse.  Characters with amazing potential are slaughtered and may never appear again simply because they aren't household names.

As long as there are poorly written deaths in comics, the Revolving Door Afterlife is not only a good thing.  It's a necessity.

* This sentence is paraphrased from an article about how to write good fanfiction.  Sadly, I read it several years ago, and I was unable to find it again when writing this post.  If I ever do run across it again, I'll post a link.  It had a lot of good advice that can be applied to all types of fiction writing.

Edit: Found the site. Link here.

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