What Does it Mean When a Superhero Dies?

This week Marvel Comics killed Spider-man. Sure, it was only in the Ultimate Universe (an updated retelling of the Marvel Universe’s most classic stories and some new storylines that fit our world today) but it is still Spider-man, the unofficial mascot of Marvel. Every once in awhile, comic book writers feel the need to kill off a major superhero, but then they bring them back, making the emotions that came with the character’s death meaningless. So then what is the purpose of killing major heroes like Spider-man?

Some of the most memorable superhero deaths include Superman, Captain America, and Batman. None of their deaths were permanent. Despite the writers claiming that ol’ Web-Head’s death is permanent I have my doubts because of comics’ notorious habit of resurrecting dead characters (I don’t have the patience nor the time to check how many times Jean Grey has been brought back).

In film, superheroes are still too young to be killed off. The only major death I can think of is Professor Xavier’s death in X-men: The Last Stand, which was not handled in a way that did the character justice. His death was undone anyway in the end credits scene.

So while the internet buzzes about the apparent demise of Peter Parker, fear not! In the main continuity, The Amazing Spider-man, Spidey is still kicking, and I am sure that in a matter of time we will see the return of Spider-man in Ultimate Spider-man.

Superhero deaths mean nothing and serve only to entertain the writers for a few issues, make headlines, and sell more comics. Eventually the writers realize that they cannot continue the series without its main character (I feel like I should make an Office reference here).

The best deaths lie within miniseries that have no effect on the main continuity. Silver Surfer: Requiem, a miniseries focused only on the death of the Silver Surfer, is one of the best comic books I have ever read. The dystopian future set Dark Knight Returns killed off the Joker brilliantly. However, these great stories have no effect on actual continuity yet they are some of the best stories to offer for their respective characters.

Killing off major superheroes is too big for any typical issue by issue series, but for a miniseries it can lead to the emotional depth seen in many other forms of media. This means that superheroes are exactly what people need them to be: immortal.

photo credit: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2011/06/marvel_does_not_care_if_it_spoils_tomorrows_ultima.php

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