Chris Jam of Seattle, Washington asks a lot of interesting questions. In a recent letter to this column, Chris poses no less than nine intriguing subjects for me to wax knowledgable (or at least opinionated) about. Here’s one of them…
Q: How do you feel about bringing back characters who have seemingly died? Does a certain amount of time need to pass before you do it? When you kill off a character, do you leave a way out?
There are a number of different kinds of death in comics. There’s the Arbitrary Plot Device sort of death, where a certain character (usually a villain) seems to die for no other reason than to make the end of the story seem more dramatic and final. If a character comes back from this type of supposed death, it doesn’t really bother me. Then there’s the Compelling Storyline Denouement sort of death, where a character has sown the seeds of his or her destruction in the course of the story and it would be a cop-out for him or her to escape scot-free at the end of the story. If a character comes back from this kind of supposed death, it generally negates the entire dramatic point of the previous story. I’m against those kind of resurrections. There’s also the The Too Stupid or Complicated to Let Live kind of death, where a character has either been ill conceived to begin with (such that any story s/he is in weakens the credibility of the Marvel Universe) or has become so hopelessly convoluted in history, powers, or motivations that you’d need an encyclopedia to figure out what his/her concept is. (The MARVEL UNIVERSE book of the Dead issues are full of these folks that deserved to die.) Resurrecting characters like this only makes their histories, powers, and motivations even more complicated. These guys deserve to stay dead, and there is a special circle in Dante’s inferno for writers who bring these characters back. To sum it all up, it there’s a good compelling reason for a character to die in the first place, as far as I’m concerned, there’s a good compelling reason for him/her to stay dead. If there’s not, then we’ll probably bring him/her back after a “reasonable” time. (Does anyone think Doctor Doom is ever going to die a permanent death?) If a character has a few good traits mixed in with the overall mess, a writer can always take what works and make a new character out of it, recycling a good name, a good power, or even a good costume.
That’s all the room I have this time. Hey you out there, you too can pose questions for me to answer in this space. Just write the Mark’s Remarks at the address above.