Skybound, the imprint of Image Comics that prints Robert Kirkman’s titles, has recently been teasing a big moment coming in Invincible #100, apparently a major character death.  Of course, it was only last month that the same creator gave us The Walking Dead #100, which featured a major character’s death as the driving force of the issue’s drama.  Kirkman makes no secret of his enjoyment of 90’s comics, their characters, and the big event books with chromium covers of his youth, but these two anniversaries coming so closely together bother me somewhat.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) would probably have had a fling with Dupli-Kate, if it were young and superheroey, asking: Even though the books are different beasts, what do you think of the repeated use of character death as a sales ploy?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. August 22, 2012 at 11:06 am — Reply

    Like everything, repeated use of the same trick, catch phrase, or habit becomes tiresome, and it loses its effectiveness.

  2. Sydness
    August 22, 2012 at 11:08 am — Reply

    Always annoying. Almost as annoying as the inevitable rebirth. That said, people were freaking out when they thought Atom Eve was killed by conquest, so I guess it just needs to be done while the character is still fresh enough for it to stick and is involved in something creator owned. Death in X-Men? Next guy will fix it. Hal Jordan Dead? Changed by the whim of a writer’s pen (still the worst comics decision in the last 20 years not involving clones). Death in Invincible? Kirkman will keep the person dead if he damn well wants to. I think it means more here.
    The question this leads towards is has death in mainstream comics and its regularly being a temporary status causing a negative effect on other comic based media, and to this I say yes. I’m still waiting for Cyclops to get randomly reconstituted in the next Thor movie or something stupid like that.

  3. Verse
    August 22, 2012 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I had this long post about The Walking Dead typed out. Saw it was just a rant and started again. I think the repeat character death is just a lazy way to get sales. I know without sales there is no comic book, but it is still lazy. I think a better way to drum up sales is to come up with a really good story idea or a way to make for interesting reading and new stories in gernal. Like or hate The New 52, it has increased sales and has come out with some good stuff.

  4. August 22, 2012 at 11:56 am — Reply

    I’m going to echo the comments here and also say that “This Issue, Someone DIES” is incredibly played out & tired. Like Verse said, it would be a bigger deal & way more interesting if they used the anniversary to kick off a story they know will be a future classic. Or maybe we could shake the image of comics as being joyless & grimdark and do an anniversary issue focused on a positive event (reunion, marriage, etc.) instead of yet another depressing bloodbath.

  5. August 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    You know that guy…the one who says, ‘That’s what she said!’ after any comment, and thinks it’s funny, except it isn’t? That’s pretty much what what death in superhero comics is now…

  6. Dino
    August 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    Spoilers Ahead!

    The dramatic impact of death (or the lack thereof) seems to depend wholly on the medium upon which it is delivered. This seems to be the problem with ongoing media such as comic books. In “The Dark Knight Rises” I saw it as a distinct possibility that Batman could die. The ending of the videogame “Batman: Arkham City” packed a punch because of the death the Joker. Compare that to something like Knightfall, where Batman’s recovery is sort of a foregone conclusion. The fact of the matter is that if someone is going to die, it is 1: not going to keep , or 2: be the death of a character that people have marginal interest or dislike of. So yes, it is a very tired, old, and boring trope, largely because of how it is handled. So DC, be brave, and give Batman permission to die.

  7. 1mozart1
    August 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm — Reply

    What Stevieboy said.

  8. dantemarx
    August 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm — Reply

    As for whether I like it, I think that using any gimick to sell books, in place of strong writing, is an obvious insult to your readership. However, if the gimick fits, and changes the books status quo, then perhaps the death is a component of strong writing. At a certain point, it is fair to say to your readership, there will be a big change soon. You should try not to miss it. Spoilers ahead: An interesting contrast to the “character will die” that was recently used was the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, featuring a character actually, genuinely retiring and leaving the limelight in that way. Likewise, I do think major changes to the status quo can be based around events other than character death.

  9. August 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    I would love to agree with everyone above that the ‘death of superdupercharacter #02’ is an annoying sales pitch in every case. I honestly wish I could agree with everyone here since Marvel had done it to death and it almost never stuck so it is just headache inducing….

    …..I’m going to say to each and every one of you though that it worked. I had never picked up an issue of Invincible until I started seeing these promos and something about the artwork made me pickup the first collection. The day after I picked it up I ordered the rest via Amazon Prime and have since read up through everything. (I lucked out and my local shop had enough of the recent issues for me to catch up after the collections.)

    I’m completely sold on this series now and would not have picked it up if it wasn’t for these stupid teasers that usually make me want to hate a comic company and/or franchise.

    I’m hooked on the series now… and its all because of these damn previews. (Oh and the art style and interesting characters/writing/plot lines of course..) ;)

  10. August 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm — Reply

    DC and Marvel has killed the same guys and girls again and again. Kirkman on the other hand has shown (more or less) that if you get put down. You stay down.
    I still think that in a series as Invincible the death of a main person is a big deal.

  11. August 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm — Reply

    this is a really tough question because as a reader I want to be surprised!! Because I enjoy sobbing myself to sleep. I really despise being told “CHARACTER DEATH IN THIS ONE”. Also, 9 times out of 10 it’s someone I don’t care about at all but if they hadn’t hyped it up it would seem more natural. On the other hand, I feel really really bad for retailers when they under-order.

  12. Luis Dantas
    August 23, 2012 at 5:07 am — Reply

    It doesn’t bother me at all in The Walking Dead; it is a genre necessity and serves the plot well.

    Superhero deaths, however, have become a joke. Not only meaningless, but an actual joke. Steve Trevor alone died twice before 1980, and he was nothing but a supporting character. And it got way worse since, to the point that I can’t even be bothered to keep track of how many times any particular hero died. Often enough it is not even clear: did Thor die last year? Did he in Secret Wars? Do we even know if Jean Grey can die?

  13. Oldcomicfan
    August 23, 2012 at 8:17 am — Reply

    Death in superhero comics has become a joke. The worst offender is Wolverine, resurrecting from a spatter of blood, the whole storyline ignoring the fact that his adamantine skeleton and claws were additions to his body and not carried in his DNA. The second worst was “The Death of Superman” where they invented a new villain solely for the purpose of killing Superman, and then sprang seven new Supermen on us to see which one would work best as a replacement, and then, inexplicably, bringing the original back with a black costume and “cooler” hair cut. The problem was that none of it made sense, and little of it was fully explained. When they kill off a classic character and then, later, bring them back, it cheapens the whole thing. And, speaking as somebody whose lost all their grandparents and parents, I find the idea that comic book heroes are so special that they can treat death like it’s an on-off switch a bit insensitive.

    (The other thing that isn’t permanent in comics is marriage. Or kids. It all harkens back to the basic comic premise that the character, at the end of the story, has to be unchanged from the beginning of the story. But, hey, I’m jaded, since I grew up in the era where every life-changing Batman or Superman story was, at the end of the tale, dismissed as an imaginary story.)

    That said, the only fake death in comics I appreciated was in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Halfway through the series, one of the Ohmu swallows Nausicaa whole! Then the Ohmu and, presumably Nausicaa, were consumed by the toxic forest! I screamed “NOOOO!” and it was right before one of Miazaki’s lengthy delays in publishing the comic – I think it was a year long gap that time. Later, Nausciaa was found wrapped in protective serum, among the giant bug’s remains. But it engendered a feeling of relief that she had not perished, not one of being played the fool by some hack writer. And, since “The Death of Superman” the publishers have played the “Now Somebody Dies” card so often it’s long played out, in my opinion.

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