Being realistic, anyone reading this probably already knows. But Donatello was supposedly killed in the most recent issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though originally created with no real defining characteristics, Donny has grown into a fan favorite as he has evolved into the technologically savvy and intelligent member of the team. Donny has fallen victim to something that hasn’t happened within the Ninja Turtles universe before, the death of one of the 4 turtles. The past week has seen people clamoring for a copy as the comic book market worships “the death of” issues as achievements. Furthermore, people continue to cling onto the idea that these comics will somehow be valuable.
The sad fact is that none of these issues really retain physical worth. Sentimental worth for sure, but have little monetary value. People have this ridiculous idea that their Death of Superman #1 will pay for their children’s college fund. While this comic has value, this isn’t an issue that will ever pay for even a semester in college.
But I digress; the real topic I wanted to discuss was why we kill comic book characters off anyway. Let us look at Donny’s death. While presented as dead within issue 44, we have solicitations for May’s Free Comic Book Day issue with Donny fully healthy. And while this might not be within continuity, it points out the absurdity that is killing off a comic book character. They will come back. It is inevitable. It happens. To the point where they explain in continuity the fantastical and miraculous way in which a deceased hero (or even villain) makes it back to the land of the living. So why does this continue to happen? Wolverine was killed off about 3 months ago, and yet it is inevitable that he will be back. So why write a subpar books only to bring back the character a few years later.
In a book like All Star Superman, there is a narrative significance in Superman’s death. Today, there is no such significance. It’s seen as an event, almost decadent. Our characters are killed off, often in brutal ways, and we gleefully devour this media knowing full well we’ll get the character back.
Or let’s look at Marvels (now doomed) Ultimate Universe. Death matters in this universe. Dead characters don’t come back. Yet this only makes the death frenzy more rabid. After Ultimatum (in which half of the Ultimate Universe was killed off) Marvel felt they needed to out due this event, and has almost annually culled the remaining heroes. This only proves that the death frenzy is even worse if the character’s death is deemed permanent.
Thus why do it at all? Death has no story real story significance in the current comic book environment and causes unhealthy and unrealistic expectations by those who frenzy over it. So why do it? Why not focus instead upon writing great narratives for these characters? Why not focus on great interpretations of these characters? Why not use death as a narrative tool rather than a narrative in that of itself?
Until the next time,