Comic book death is a topic that once had weight, but is now horrendously lampooned. Long ago, when a character died, it was a momentous event with lasting influences on continuity. In more recent times, however, comic book death has become utterly meaningless: a character will only stay dead for a brief span (maybe four years, tops) before his or her resurrection, usually in a manner deemed, for want of a better term, total bullshit.
I believe that comic creators have become too frightened of fan backlash and subsequent lost sales to stick with the character’s demise. Those same fans, however, will complain when their favorite character returns “too easily,” which always seems to be the case with few notable examples (see Barry Allen the Silver Age Flash who stayed dead for a whopping 23 years).
I will say that character death is something that should be struggled with. Nowadays fans expect a character to return shortly after his or her death. Such an expectation cheapens the character’s passing and makes the event seem for the sole purpose of garnering increased sales. I do believe, however, that there are a number of key characters that should be killed and remain dead, at least for an extended period of time (a decade or more). I’ve chosen characters whose deaths would lead to good stories, rather than simply characters I dislike.
Obviously, for this list I’ve only selected characters that are sufficiently well-known and popular to warrant meaningful passing; I’m not going to disparage people who are fans of Image, Dynamite, or other non-mainstream heroes, but for this list I’ve stuck with Marvel and DC given that their characters are more widely known and carry longer histories which make killing them off for a long time (or better yet, permanently) carry greater weight. I’ve tried my best to explain why this character should be killed off, what manner befits his or her passing, and how his or her death could influence future stories.
Now, onto the candidates!
5. Harley Quinn
Harley may be the only villain on this list, but she’s definitely a character whose permanent (or at least long-lasting) death would result in huge repurcussions. Harley is an awesome character: she’s intelligent, tough, witty, and likable despite her madness. Her greatest flaw is her love of, and reliance on, the Joker. Her death, however, would definitely be something that would shake up the DC Universe. Perhaps she’ll die at the hands of a hero; whether by accident or on purpose, that individual will find his or her life endlessly plagued by a vengeful Joker.
Imagine the potential if, say, King Shark killed her on a Suicide Squad mission; surely the Clown Prince of Crime would get ready for revenge (and make some jokes about “shark fin soup”). Or, perhaps Batman could kill her by accident, weighing heavily on his conscience while drawing more ire from Mr. J. Such an event could perhaps be as a response to the Joker killing a Bat-family member, or cause the Joker to assault a Bat-family member.
Conversely, having the Joker kill Harley could be rather awesome in its own right. Perhaps Batman can have her as his hostage but the Joker, showing his madness and self-absorption, will shoot her to prove she ultimately means little to him. That would definitely make a huge impact and show just another level of the Joker’s depravity. Harley is a cool enough character that her death, if done right, would surely transition into some solid plotlines.
4. Aunt May
I’m not the world’s biggest Spiderman fan, and I probably never will be thanks to a story many people grudgingly remember: “One More Day.” Just before that trainwreck, however, The Amazing Spiderman series saw almost limitless potential: Aunt May took a bullet intended for Peter and was rushed to the hospital. By this point the world knew Peter’s identity as Spiderman (thank you, “Civil War”) meaning he had to stay away from her so she’d be safe from future attacks.
Spiderman resolved to track down the man who put out the hit, Kingpin, and take him down. What followed was an amazing comic: Spiderman dons his black suit, rushes into the prison where Kingpin is held, and engages in combat mano-a-mano with the big boss. Peter curb stomps Kingpin and gets ready to kill him…but says he won’t do it until Aunt May dies too.
Of course, most people know that Spiderman made a deal with the devil to save her life, but just think of the possibilities if she had died: we could’ve seen a darker Spiderman and deal with Peter coming to grips with not only the loss of his final family member, but also the repurcussions of killing in cold blood. Basically, Aunt May’s death could rocket Spiderman to an even deeper level of storytelling. Obviously, with Superior Spiderman coming out soon Aunt May’s death would carry far less merit, but I still feel like she’s a character whose loss would resonate with fans and leave a lasting imprint on the Marvel Universe.
3. Alfred Pennyworth
I expect a lot of people will hate me for this choice, but hear me out: Alfred’s outlived his usefulness. Alfred is a wonderful character and has acted as a father figure, sounding board, and even surgeon for the Dark Knight for decades. I feel, however, that his death could take Batman in an amazing direction: how could Bruce Wayne move ahead without his closest confidant?
Will the Dark Knight try to find someone to fill his butler’s place as his closest friend? Or, instead, will Bruce become more of a loner than before, perhaps alienating allies such as Nightwing, Batgirl, and even the Justice League? If he died before Batman’s eyes that’d be especially powerful, as it’d give Bruce a feeling of weakness at the inability to save the life of the man who protected and raised him after the loss of his parents.
There are already fan theories floating around that Scott Snyder is going to kill Alfred as part of “Death of the Family” but I’m not sure if this will actually happen. If it does happen, Alfred’s death would have broad implications for the entire Bat-family and definitely make Batman’s struggle even harder…and lonelier. No matter what, Alfred’s death needs to be handled with finesse: he can’t merely be found dead somewhere. Perhaps he could die saving Batman’s life, such as overtaxing himself performing surgery on the Dark Knight. Obviously, Alfred’s loss would echo powerfully through every Bat-based title.
2. Professor X
This choice could be called cheating since Professor X is technically dead in the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men. Thing is, Professor X has “died” numerous times before but it was always a clone/psychic image/who the heck even knows anymore. As the Martin Luther King of the Mutant world, Professor X is the pinnacle of the X-Men’s legacy. His continued death can allow him to remain a mutant martyr and would have a lasting impact on the world if he remains dead, permanently.
In fact, his sustained death could spark some sort of mutant civil war with different sides claiming to represent Xavier’s true ideology. There’s also a lot of potential for character like Cyclops, Wolverine, and Magneto to question their motives and choices as they consider what Xavier would have wanted or done. Regrettably, I get the feeling him may come back “just in time” for X-Men First Class: Days of Future Past. Seriously though, Marvel, please let him rest in peace…
1. John Stewart (Green Lantern)
I’m going to come right out and say it: John Stewart is the most redundant character in the DC Universe. With the introduction of Simon Baz, who I’m liking quite a bit, there are definitely too many Earth-born, male, human Green Lanterns. If one has to go, it needs to be John. I don’t dislike John as a character: his experiences as a marine give him a different outlook on combat than his fellow Lanterns, while he often must make difficult choices for the greater good, such as destroying Mogo, which he later is forced to atone for despite saving the lives of his accusers.
That said, I think John has experienced sufficient development for his character: he’s faced love, loss, sacrifices, in-fighting, and more, and come out on top every time through sheer grit and determination. He’s got a significant fan-following thanks to his appearence in the Justice League animated series from the early 2000s, but popularity, as I mentioned earlier, should not be enough to keep around a character who doesn’t offer much in terms of story potential.
I honestly like him a lot better than Kyle Rayner, but I think that speaks to why Kyle needs to be kept around for awhile longer; he deserves sufficient development before some sort of heroic self-sacrifice. As for the other Earth Green Lanterns, Hal is somewhat “dead” now, Guy’s too ridiculous to die, and Simon just got here. Obviously, there’s a (slight) chance John will die in the ongoing “Rise of the Third Army” storyline; I think John deserves an entire comic to himself where he goes down fighting off legions of Third Army soldiers to defend him fellow wounded Green Lanterns. John is a great character and that’s why he needs to die.
Anyway, those are my takes on the comic characters who need to pass on for the sake of good story-telling. Do you agree with my choices? Are there any other characters you think shouldn’t stick around?
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