Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Mary Alice Wilson's Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett continues his discussion of comic publishers that kill characters.


In last week's Joe Fridays column on Newsarama, Joe Quesada seemed to feel a bit put upon by those people who were reacting badly to his 'amusing' comments concerning Marvels plans to kill off certain of their characters.  I quote:


'I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Sometimes people act and defend comic characters like they are three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood people and they treat and behave with us actual flesh and blood creators as if we're two dimensional characters in some comic book forgetting that we are real people with families and feelings.  'How dare you do that to Peter Parker, you @#$%@!!!! Die, die, die!'


Of course there's no excuse for creators receiving abuse for doing their jobs (i.e.; putting characters in peril), and forgive me for telling you how to do your job (of course, you've never been shy about telling retailers how to do their jobs, though your advice usually is limited to 'buy more Marvel Comics, now').  I hate to be reasonable, but it seems, to me, when you get this kind of reaction you probably shouldn't go out of your way to make fun of the poor deluded dopes for actually caring about your characters.


At least not publicly anyway.


I'd like to suggest that this is a good thing; it means you're successfully plying your trade because I'm guessing that it's somewhere in your job description that you're supposed to make us suspend our disbelief and create an emotional investment in a bunch of flimsy, two-dimensional fantasy constructs.  Enough that fans don't mind (much) having their pockets regularly vacuumed to pay for the privilege of following their adventures.


Because it's your job to make us care; you might find it somehow demeaning but the bottom line is Marvel, the corporation, depends on this rank and file of True Believers to keep clapping so Tinkerbelle will come back to life. And every decade or so there's fewer and fewer of them and you're certainly not helping matters when your response to their concerns is, effectively, 'get a life.'


Whether you're with comfortable the fact or not, there really is a bond between readers and their heroes, and when you kill off one of them temporarily (even Hawkeye), it breaks that bond.  And when the inevitable resurrection finally occurs there's really no 'good' way of doing it; the very best method seems to be to invoke The Skinner Protocol* and hope for the best.


But probably the worst thing about killing a character is; you can't use them any more.

Take, for instance, the apparent (he didn't look at all well) incredibly pointless death of one Foggy Nelson in the Daredevil #82.  If true, its no doubt because writer Ed Brubaker wants to completely isolate Matt Murdock for the year or so he's going to spend in prison (in spite of being legally blind and the government being unable to prove he has 'powers' of any sort, he's idiotically put in the general population while awaiting trial because the Director of the FBI is, apparently, just EVIL).


It makes sense for the story, but the real question is; who is Matt going to talk to five years from now?  Foggy was the last surviving member of his original supporting cast and now the only ones Matt can count are a couple of lethal ex-girlfriends who can't be in the same room without death threats being exchanged.  Who's going to commiserate with him, keep his secret, and become repeatedly imperiled?


Like I said, it makes sense, in the short term, but in the long term, is this really in the interests of the character, the comic, its fans or the Marvel?  And that (I think anyway) is the real problem; publishers who can't or won't think beyond this quarter's big stunt to remember they are caretakers of these characters, for both their corporate masters and, yes, us. 


*In 'The Principal and the Pauper' episode of The Simpsons it was revealed that the real Principal Seymour Skinner died in Viet Nam and one Armin Tamzarian took his place.

At the end it was decreed by a judge that no one would ever speak of this again 'under penalty of torture.'  Invoking it isn't necessarily a bad thing; it keeps us all from thinking about 'Teen Tony Stark' ever again.