Unsightly Paneling

July 29th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

I’m generally of the opinion that the world would be much better if I ran it.  (What?  Like you’re not?)  This principle applies to panels, and all of the things said by all of the people on them.

It applied especially to the Sunday Conversation With Dan Didio panel at Comic-Con.  I generally like these panels very much because they leave aside the usual slideshow of covers that we will be seeing in eight months to two years and the painfully awkward questions.  Instead, they’re a bunch of people talking about comics.  Dan Didio generally does a great job of moderating the responses from the audience, and a panel of comics professionals cuts in with funny commentary.  It’s a really enjoyable panel.

One of the questions this year was, “What was a big ‘wow’ moment you’ve read in comics?”  That was where the panel spiralled down from something fun into the realms of what I can only describe as extreme unacceptability.  Every single reply was “When ____ got killed.”  Every one.

People!  Stop encouraging them!  We just barely got them to stop playing darts with the members of Young Justice!  Maybe it’s a question of when you started reading comics, but to me, standard character death that comes with every single big event is the most predictable and un-‘wow’ thing in the world.  You can practically set your watch by it.  How were any of those people shocked?

But what’s more, one of the other questions was, “What do you like to read in comics?”  My answer?  Fun.  A lot of it.  I want to have a blast when I’m reading.  I want the characters to have a blast.  I want the comic I’m reading to be so much fun that if you gave the reader the option of falling through the paper and joining the characters, they would do it in a heartbeat.

I don’t know if the panel was Bizarro World or if I’m truly that alone in preferring comics in which a hero’s death isn’t the most memorable event.  Aren’t there so many better things to remember?  And if there aren’t, shouldn’t there be?

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14 comments to “Unsightly Paneling”

  1. I was just thinking about this last night. Somewhere along the way the people making comics decided that the only thing that is “Amazing!” in comics these days is killing off a character.

    I remember the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earth #7 and the impact of Supergirl’s death and then issue #8 they killed off the Flash. That was drama.

    The Death of Superman was dramatic (predicable in the fact that they would bring him back) but phenomenal.

    Now days they figure that the only way to leave a mark is to kill off someone. Then let Geoff Johns resurrect them.

    I think I would have more joy reading comics when they do something that is entertaining, well written and engages me on level both as a fanboy and as a writer.

  2. I understand what you’re getting at, but I think it’s unfair to imply that there has never been a heroic and/or meaningful death in comics, that really did just floor people. The Question’s death springs to mind.

  3. @Debaser: That’s fair, but I was disturbed when every single ‘wow’ moment they mentioned was a death. The number alone makes it a little unpleasantly common, and the fact that it was always dead people creeped me out.

    The death of Barry Allen? Okay. The death of Ted Kord at the hands of a character that had shown no signs of villainy? That kind of felt pulled out of someone’s ass as an artificial shock.

  4. As much as I love Conner, his death in Infinite Crisis was a real wow moment for me. It was done so beautifully right up to his, “Isn’t it cool?”

    I also thought Ted Kord’s death was kind of poigniant, but then again I’m too young to have realy JLI.

    Batman and the Martian Manhunter dying? Yeah, that was kind of canned.

  5. Totally agreed. Character deaths in any media (but especially long-form storytelling like Comics and Television) are overvalued as dramatic devices. Sure, it’s a big impact now, but what about the future? That character is gone. Maybe the remaining characters will do things here and there in his/her memory but aside from that, death is really only valuable as a temporary interest-piquer, which is exactly why writers are forced to bring dead characters back in the first place (or kill off more, etc)

    Not to say that there haven’t been plenty of deaths that are memorable, but they’re almost all ultimately pretty futile.

    Can’t blame them for taking advantage of the market, though.

  6. I’m actually kind of guilty of this myself. I mean, I’m not asked my favourite moments often, but when I reflect on them, an unfortunate number of my favourite moments in comics(other forms of entertainment) are death scenes, or at least most of what first comes to mind.

    As was said, the abundance of deaths and returns makes them hard to take seriously though. It’s especially bad when characters have to mourn, because there’s such a contrast between the attitude of the characters who obviously have to feel a sense of loss, and the attitude of the reader who can’t really escape how trivial death often seems in comics.
    It makes me rather glad that Morrison seems to have just skipped the whole mourning-of-Bruce bit in Batman and Robin, and just gotten on with the fun stuff.

  7. I think my biggest “wow” from this year was the frame story Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem: J. Jonah Jameson acknowledging that Spider-Man was a hero was just so fucking poignant, and such a wonderful character turn. (A secondary “wow” was that something so good came out of an utter crapfest like Ultimatum, but the joy of that one is tempered by the existence of said utter crapfest.)

    Immortal Iron Fist delivered a lot of character-death-free “wow”s, too; the whole tournament arc and then the eighth city…that was some seriously good storytelling.

    And there was a little bit of “wow” when I realized that Dick Grayson as Batman and Damien Wayne as Robin made an interesting combo that was actually fun to read about. I didn’t expect that series to turn out nearly this well.

  8. I totally thought this entry title was going to refer to the Wonder Woman story in Wednesday Comics. What a mess.

    While I don’t entirely disagree, the first thing that I thought of, the thing that has probably sucker-punched me most in perhaps all my years of reading comics was **SPOILER**

    this is the spoiler in case you’re accidentally still reading knock it off the death of Agent 855 in Y. It just absolutely shocked and floored me. I actually sat up, all alone, and said “No!” fairly loudly. I had to go back and read it several times, and it really got/got to me.

    So, sure there are plenty of awesome moments (Jesse and Tulip’s reunion, Dream’s contest with Choronzon, Constantine glassing the devil), but the first things that come to mind are the exits of 855 and Zora in Powers. I can say that this is because of their genuine emotional impact on the survivors, but that doesn’t serve to counterbalance your point.

  9. When Professor Zoom tells Wally, “Hate Barry Allen? I’ve never even met Barry Allen! But I’m his biggest fan!” In Flash #79

  10. oh, boy. “Wow!” moments in comics, eh? man, there are a lot of those for me. Usually in my case they are also “Aww!” moments.

    I guess I understand why the deaths are a big deal. I’m not the kind of person who rolls my eyes when a character dies, even if I know they’ll just be resurrected when it’s convenient (J’onn). But I’m also not somebody who thinks back over what’s been amazing and cool in what I’ve read and thinks of death scenes. When I think of “wow” moments, I think of Clark talking to Lex in prison in All Star Superman. I think of Bruce finally legally adopting Dick. Or Superman storming in and reclaiming cute little Chris after the government tried to take him. I think of Skeets screaming “Michael!”, and Clark without any superpowers eating his lunch on top of the Daily Planet building, and most recently I think of “Batman and Robin, together again for the first time.” (How can that NOT make you say “wow!” ??) I think of moments that kind of touch your heart, or clarify/express important aspects of characters that you KNEW all along were a part of who they were even though it was never so perfectly illustrated before.

    So, yes, there ARE better things than deaths to be impressed by in comics. That panel definitely sounds like Bizarro World to me!

  11. Mhnn…I’d like to see which way such a panel would take at a con over here… (europe in general) or in japan…

  12. I winced reading that all the things they mentioned were deaths. A good death is like any other dramatic device–if it’s done well it’s memorable and it means something. Death on its own is not automatically meaningful, as the overuse has proved. Especially since it usually seems like they don’t really want to deal with the aftermath.

    As someone else said, once a character is dead they’re dead. That’s a loss. You can’t do anything with them and you’re stuck, if you’re being honest, having people grieve, which people rarely seem to want to do.

    Really, even deaths that I think have been done well I liked not because of the OMG THEY’RE DEAD! moment but because they did something interesting afterwards. Batman’s recent ‘death’ wasn’t interesting, but I’ve been interested in what the Bat-family is doing now and the way the loss of Bruce seems to honestly hang over everything.

    I don’t think it’s only comments that has this problem. TV has also fallen prey to the “shake things up” syndrome where they do things for shock without realizing how much they threw away for their surprise.

  13. Cry “fun!” and let slip the dogs of whimsy!

  14. Three of my favorite non-death WOWs:

    “KHAJI DA!” from the new Blue Beetle.

    More understated, but Renee Montoya not killing Jim Corrigan in Gotham Central.

    The Carters saving the multiverse in 52.

    (And btw, it’s Agent 355–and fully agreed on her.)