Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Wolverine and Archie (RIP)

Dear Wolverine and Archie,

I was in elementary school when they killed Superman. It was big and dramatic; my mother ordered my brother and I separate copies of the black-bagged issue without even asking us because it seemed so culturally important. Being a villain-kid, I was just happy to see such an annoying icon scrubbed, but I was interested. The cafeteria buzzed with speculation about how it happened. It was a pop culture event.

It's been a stupid twenty-two years since then. The decreasing relevance of superhero comics has led the industry to many stunts, including killing characters whenever they get desperate for attention. I'm afraid you two are the most recent victims, and I sincerely apologize to you both that you had to share an announcement month. Archie, you're not even a superhero. You both worked hard enough to deserve better P.R. You're both iconic in such different ways that you getting stunt-murdered at the same time makes it all feel like… well, stunts.

And your announcements came only weeks after Marvel announced the who-dunnit murder of The Watcher. Oh, for a meta-comic about The Watcher observing this desperate trend.

Even as a villain kid, you were my hero, Wolverine. I was a runt like you. This is a perplexing week, as I should be upset that you're going to die, and yet, I'm not. If anything, I'm upset that I'm not upset. The problem is that you'll be back, probably in the next two years. Why, just last week Marvel resurrected Spider-Man after a year of being dead. He's alive again in time to make his own movie premiere.

Not only did Superman come back, but his killer, Doomsday? He's been killed and resurrected at least three times. In the last few years they've killed and resurrected Batman, the female Robin, Captain America, Nightcrawler, Superboy, Wasp, and Thor. Every dead Flash has come back. Marvel and D.C. brought back the perennial tragic sidekicks Bucky and Jason Todd almost in parallel, to identical drama with their mentors and antihero lives.

D.C. pulled "Blackest Night," a Green Lantern story that brought back every dead character in their universe, and boldly ended it with the characters surmising the dead could never return again and death was now permanent. A year later, D.C. rebooted its universe and brought back a bunch of those same dead characters.

Remember when Marvel killed Ultimate Spider-Man, a Spider-Man from another universe, and tried to convince the public they'd killed the one they actually knew about? Just to get on CNN? Later they killed the real one, but as you both know, he's back.
This has devalued death, which ought to be the greatest stakes in all the combat-based stories superhero comics keep telling. Archie, you've never been about fighting, so it's not fair that you're been sucked into this, but you have. I honestly wonder if you'll return, too, the next time your publisher needs attention.

And Wolverine? Death may be the rest you deserve, but it won't be permanent. In the last ten years Marvel has already killed and resurrected your nemeses, Sabretooth, Gorgon and Cyber. When Psylocke died, you yourself visited a friend in NYC for a method of bringing her back. That guy can probably hook you up if you want it.

You both have no control over your mortality, just like me. But if you could write for your own comics, don't you think the interesting story at this point would be about a universe where death isn't permanent and what it does to people's psyches? If C-list heroes routinely rise from the grave, does the public no longer fear death? How does religion change? What happens to the blood feuds between heroes and villains when bloodshed doesn't end anything?

There are stories there. There's an upheaval of the way I live, and the way you both will probably be living again in a few years.

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry you died. You deserved better.

John Wiswell


  1. NOW I SEE YOU? how have you been? think of you often!!! Great entry!!! :)


  2. I hadn't heard about Archie, but did Wolverine and it honestly didn't surprise me and my first thought was "He'll be back." Why invent new characters to replace a dead one when you can bring the dead one back to life? That's just too risky.

    1. It has seriously mired progress in the major comics universes. Characters, Wolverine included, wind up with full grown children despite themselves not appearing to have aged. We don't get any of the progress in society, rather having events like Civil War and Dark Reign washed away or ignored by all the titles months later.

  3. Nailed it.

    When Jean Grey/Phoenix died, she was dead. The plotlines that arose from that spun out for decades. When they brought her back as Marvel Girl via a plot twist, I felt like it was cheating. There was still a vestige of surprise when Captain America was "killed" several years ago, but even then, everybody knew it was only temporary.

    Now, it's just business as usual. Pity.

    1. I admit that Cap re-dying only gave me pause in that major media paid attention to it. It was certainly no Jean Grey for me. Funny that at this point both Jean and the clone that replaced her have both died and come back to life.

  4. Yeah, what's the point? It's like if a TV show does a series finale, then they bring the show back a few years later. Has that ever happened? Is this the one thing that TV does better than print?

    1. Further. I just read the Archie link, and it looks like they'll killing off a future-Archie series while keeping the main "eternally in Riverdale High" series intact. The "Life with Archie" series, as described in the article, sounded pretty gimmicky to me anyway. They actually have two alternate timelines; one where he's married to Veronica and the other to Betty. Yeah, that needs to die. I used to read the comic, and watch the cartoon. I always felt like Betty was his lifetime match; Veronica liked to string him along. Eh, what do I know?

  5. 'If C-list heroes routinely rise from the grave, does the public no longer fear death?'
    I suspect it means that the public is terrified of death and refuses to accept its finality. And also refuses to let its heroes go.
    Which is more frightening than death in my head.

  6. What Elephant's Child said.
    Either that, or it's all about making a buck.

  7. At best, these death stories mean "we're going to attempt to find an interesting approach to resurrecting them/filling the void they leave", which is what the death of superman/batman knightfall storylines gave us. Yes, it might be interesting to have a story where heroes look at the consequences of not dying. But it would take a really brave publisher, in a world where it seems like only a few titles make money to go "no, we're never writing anything about a particular character people care about again".

  8. Wait, Superman died? Did I read that?


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