Recently, a spate of shows have taken to killing off main characters to keep the viewers on their toes. Game of Thrones did it in the first season, Downton Abbey did it at the end of Season 3, and The Walking Dead does it as regularly as a zombie drags a limb across the ground. But in comic books it doesn’t happen as often. Why? Well, because comic book deaths don’t matter.
That’s something that all Batman fans should keep in mind now that Robin is going to be killed. Yes, Grant Morrison, the writer of Batman Incorporated (which sounds like a show about a group of Batmans that sing versions of pop songs at a juice bar in the early ’80s), has confirmed that Robin will die in the book’s eighth issue. Robin is currently Damien Wayne, Bruce’s 10-year-old son.
Why doesn’t this matter? Because comic book deaths never stick. I remember when Robin got killed for the first time in the ’80s when everyone on the school bus was passing around a dog-eared copy of the “Death in the Family” storyline where Jason Todd got offed by the Joker. See, he died and Robin still lived. Old Robin is dead, long live the new Robin. And you can say, “Oh, but the character was taken on by a new person.” Hogwash. With all the time travel, alternate universes, body swaps, and other superhuman elements in the comics, no one that the writers want alive stays dead long. Even Todd was eventually resurrected in 2005.
Now, I was never much of a DC comics guy (I’m sort of X-Men all the way) but history is littered with this kind of stuff. Superman was supposed to die in 1992 only to have him spring back to life (with better sales than ever) immediately after. The same thing happened to Spider-Man in the ’80s and Captain America just last year. Those two are both still kicking around, as you very well know. The Avengers also killed off Hawkeye and then found a mystical way to get him back in no time.
As far as the X-Men go, it’s par for the course. Nightcrawler died last year only to be replaced by an all new Nightcrawler from another dimension. Magik, originally a New Mutant, was turned into a six year old, then killed, and then brought back from some alternative future or demon hell zone or some other thing that was never explained very well. Recently they killed former leader Professor X, who is also in the movie franchise, and so far he has stayed dead. I bet this one, like the others, won’t stick.
That’s why this news of Robin’s death doesn’t really mean anything. Conversely, these TV shows have become a hit with viewers because the deaths actually mean something. When Ned Stark got his head chopped off (spoiler alert) he did not get it sewn back on in the next episode. His wife did not go into the bathroom and find him taking a shower with a dragon. That is the problem with comic book kill-offs. When the actions don’t have any consequences, they fail to have any meaning as well.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: DC Comics]
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