I’ve decided to try not spoiler things for the latest issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men, but you’ve probably already heard about the death of one of the founding fathers of the Marvel Universe.  As it always does, the conversational cycle has again come around to the chestnut about comic book deaths being meaningless, nobody ever staying dead, and blah blah blah fishcakes that we’ve all heard dozens of times over.  Given that the first hero to die in comics (The Comet, for those keeping score) was resurrected just a few years later, I’m somewhat amused to see the inevitable bewilderment about comic death as a sales stunt.  My own recent comic book inventory included copies of Captain America 25, Superman 75, Crisis On Infinite Earths 7 & 8 and other such thanotic foolishness, and I’ll go on record right now as stating that this issue will probably be the top seller for the month, thanks to the mainstream press and the speculator mentality.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, for some reason, with an inexplicable British accent) is fire, is life incarnate, is Tuck everlasting with a side of sweet potato fries and a lovely asparagus gastrique, asking:  Don’t we, as the consumers, bear just as much responsibility for the proliferation of these kind of stunts as the creators do?

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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  1. September 13, 2012 at 11:30 am — Reply

    Yes, we do. If readers don’t buy, there is no reason to publish the book. I have a feeling with this particular issue that Marvel was concerned that the Xavier twist would be lost and that readership would be down (even though #9 and #10 rankings indicate otherwise) and thus pulled the trigger to get the publicity engine running across the web, print, and television in hopes of getting sales way way up.

    With the publicity engine going on, it doesn’t matter if the general reader distanced themselves from the book and event, the mass public would still offset those losses.

    • September 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm — Reply

      And it wasn’t that long ago that they promised a major character death every quarter…

  2. September 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm — Reply

    Gonna have to go with Stephen here. We as consumers bear a sizable brunt of letting these stunts happen. Its exactly what happens when Kirkman changes something, like a costume or killing a whole squad of characters, in one of his titles to pop sales. The “mainstream” publicity of stunts like this pops sales and publishers try to make it so that the cool kids aren’t as cool if they don’t talk about it.

    But I do truly think that as people we can’t help but want to watch the car wreck. Its exactly what George Carlin said “Pardon me officer would you mind bringing that body closer so I can get a better look.” This is those not in the know reporters report because someone who they recognize or think they something about maybe dies.

    • September 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm — Reply

      Nice! You cited your reference…

      • September 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm — Reply

        I try. Sorry I didn’t submit a bibliography or use proper citation.

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm — Reply

          I would cite my references, but you hate when the show goes over three hours.

          • September 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm — Reply

            Wait a second….he was mocking me..wasn’t he…Eh *throws money at the computer*

  3. Xian
    September 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm — Reply

    Events (stunts) are meant to be touchstones for the masses to read, converse about, and refer back to… things that occur in events tend to have more canonical weight if only because editorial and creators read the event whereas they may have missed an individual issue or point in a regular run.

    However, whether the consumer is to blame or not, in my opinion, depends on the tenor of the marketing / press preceding sale. A creator may kick over sacred cows and irreparably “break” the toys he or she is given as a means of drumming up interest or controversy or going somewhere novel… but if the purchaser had no expectations along those lines I can’t really blame them. Superman Returns, for example, had the radical idea of making a modern canonical bastard son… (maybe not a sacred cow, but at least a sticking point for many)… whereas all the marketing leading up to Returns emphasized tradition, sentimentality, and action. I don’t blame the consumers for the stunt of a Super Son because they didn’t buy tickets for that.


    re: AvX11 specifically…
    I didn’t buy the book because of the character’s death. I didn’t even know about it until I after I bought the book. If you read CBR’s “Commentary Track” for AvX#11, even *Marvel* didn’t know about the death until the story was already in motion (Brevoort says it arose from the story rather than being an intended outcome; additionally there was a dissenting writer who was outvoted 4-to-1). Thus people invested in the story based on early promotion didn’t come to it based on the stunt death.

    I bought the book because I felt like I was promised a conflict between the Avengers and X-Men where they would have opposing, but equally justified, views and come to blows over it. The disappointment with this issue, for me, isn’t that it resorted to a stunt… it is that the stunt killed that promise. Even as bad as the last issue was (really, all of Act 2 on), Cyke was still arguably benevolently exercising his ideological purity… the missteps came from Emma’s manipulations or Namor’s wrath. Cyke’s failing is undoubtedly hubris, but Marvel had built him up as the one true believer that could possibly succeed (and this is me really pulling for the X-Men to have any semblance of credibility… which they more or less lost when they started hunting their “messiah” against her will).

    This issue tends to establish, with finality, that there was no ambiguity. We have to suffer “Cap was right!” shirts again because anyone who sided with Cyke was wrong, period.

    Well, who knows? Maybe we’ll get a “dot dot dot”… if this event single-handedly reverses the fortunes of Marvel’s mutantkind as Cyke desired originally, then there may still be “ends justifying the means” ethics to chew on (but not really… since it arises, if at all, from more arbitrary place than Cyke’s intentions).

  4. zebgotbetter
    September 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm — Reply

    Are “we” the public at large, or the regular readers? The distinction could be made that, as readers, we have more responsibilty than some casual, perhaps lapsed former reader, or starry-eyed kid off the street, if for no other reason than some of us have been reading The Story So Far. We can make the aesthetic judgement to buy or not based on quality (whatever that means to the individual) rather than the bombast of an “event.” That having been said, let’s introduce the Monkey.
    Have you ever kept buying a comic that failed to live up to expectations? Felt that little tickle of need to keep at it, one more time, maybe it’ll be better this time, or wasn’t it great when, until that need has you owning mediocrity? I didn’t build up a large run of early Spawn in my teenage years, Your Honor, the Monkey did it.
    It is a little ridiculous to get mad when a company run by a bunch of people who sell comics for a living make a marketing move designed to sell comics. Should this particular case be judged by it’s own merits? Is the fact that this death wasn’t hyped until now to be taken as oversight, or a careful maneuver? How does this timeframe and marketing compare to the deaths of Cap, Batman, Superman, etc.?
    Yes, the consumers, as the audience, bear the weight. We always do, some with more grace than others. Would you guys ever devote a cast to the Dreaded Speculator Menace (early signs, the Dark Time, and the state of this Capitalist threat today)?

  5. B.V.K.
    September 13, 2012 at 10:20 pm — Reply

    Yes we do, but does it really matter? For me it always comes down to the story. If its is interesting and engaging, then kill off and bring back to life as many people as you need to. I think that’s why I liked Ultimatum when so many people didn’t. They killed off a ton of heroes/villians in that story and some complained that it was done all willy and or nilly, but at the end of the day I enjoyed the story. So yes we are at fault. Now lets see how to take out a bald telepath.

  6. September 14, 2012 at 3:04 am — Reply

    Marvel (and DC) don’t have to worry about fans not buying event issues, because they have perfected the soap opera technique to the point where the event issue does not stand alone, but is part of an ongoing neverending storyline. You can’t read the issue before or after and get the full story (and in the case of events like this, even if you only buy, say, AVENGERS ACADEMY you’d have to get ALL Avengers and X books for several months). It’s not the death of a character type of event that is the problem so much as the cross-company continuity.

  7. September 14, 2012 at 3:11 am — Reply

    Where did you get your information on The Comet being “resurrected just a few years later?” 1941 to 1966 is more than a few years. Since MLJ was by then Archie and basically a different company, it’s not untrue to say that the original Comet was never ressurected.

    • September 14, 2012 at 6:59 am — Reply

      I was, in fact, erroneously referring to the 1941 to 1956 gap as “just a few years,” as my brain, for some reason, was putting his death in the late 40s/early 50s at the time of writing. For some reason, my brain cross-wired some numbers. Of course, I am also old, and 25 years is “just a few” to us ancient folk.

      And as for MLJ being basically a different company, that argument would apply to many of the Marvel characters we’re seeing killed now. Marvel killing Reed Richards in the 90’s was basically a different company than the Marvel killing the Human Torch last year. For that matter, Marvel under Disney could be seen as basically a completely different company than the one of 2005.

  8. September 14, 2012 at 3:13 am — Reply

    Seriously? Xavier is dead AGAIN?

    • September 14, 2012 at 6:48 am — Reply

      When was he dead before? Other than back in the Silver Age, with the eventual retconned Changeling story?

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