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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Mostly Dead

In the comic-book world, mortality seems to be just a passing phase.



Captain America died last month. Maybe you heard'Stephen Colbert got his shield in the will. The thing is, Cap will most likely need it back sooner or later, because if there’s one thing jaded fans have come to realize, it’s that no one in the world of comics stays dead forever. As in soap operas, anyone can pop back at any time, with little or no explanation'and that’s become a problem for fans and creators alike.

In the past two years, more characters have returned from the dead than any time in recent memory. Jason Todd, the late Batman sidekick Robin, came back to haunt Batman. Colossus from the X-Men showed up again, as did Captain Marvel. Even Bucky'Captain America’s original sidekick, unseen since the ’40s'returned as The Winter Soldier.

This is an issue because any time a character dies, pretty much no one believes it. Fans just assume that it’s some kind of marketing ploy to get people caring about a book with failing sales or an idea for a new title that could be successful. Earlier this year, Captain Marvel returned from the dead in a one-shot tie in to Marvel’s huge Civil War event. The only thing is that he didn’t have a role, or even a cameo, in the actual miniseries nor has he been seen since his big return. That’s left a lot of fans wondering if it was just a last minute quick-cash idea by Marvel to fill a hole during Civil War’s delay.

Sometimes there is actually a plan in place (or so it seems) by a writer when a story has begun. When Ed Brubaker relaunched the Captain America ongoing series, he introduced a character called The Winter Soldier that many fans speculated (correctly) was Bucky. At first, it seemed like a terrible idea, as he was one character that most fans believed should stay dead. But with each passing issue, he was developed into such a well-rounded member of the cast that Brubaker essentially earned the trust of fans to be able to do anything he wanted. So, naturally, his next move was to kill Captain America.

“The Death of the Dream,” as the storyline is called, has been met with the same fan response as an earlier moment in Civil War where Peter Parker revealed himself to the world as Spider-Man'namely, “How long is this going to last?” Skepticism reigns, and the majority of people think Captain America’s alter-ego Steve Rogers will be alive and well and back in the red, white and blue uniform within a year. It seems that the only reason fans are supporting the move at all is the way Brubaker has handled the series over the past two years, apparently grooming Bucky as a replacement. Other writers haven’t been quite as lucky; if there’s enough fan backlash, the writer is replaced and everything that’s been done is quickly returned to the status quo.

It’s not as though this is a recent development, either. In the early ’90s, people lined up around the block to buy their black-bag copy of Superman #75, where The Man of Steel dies at the hands of Doomsday. A huge amount of press surrounded the event, but in almost no time at all, Clark Kent was back in the blue and red like he never even missed a beat.

Sadly, that’s how plenty of comic fans prefer it. They like things the way they are and fear significant changes in the lives of their favorite characters. It makes it hard for writers to get a character’s death approved and even harder to pull off when it is because there’s a good chance that as soon as a new writer is hired, everything will be undone. In other words, Steve Rogers’ return as Captain America seems inevitable. Hopefully, Colbert won’t give up the shield without a fight.