The Lunchtime Take-Out: Aunt May Must Die … Eventually

If you ever want to see a comic book fan’s head spin a full 360 degrees around on their neck, all you have to do is mention these three words: Brand … New … Day.

For the majority of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, please allow me to summarize why this is so. “Brand New Day” was aAunt May dies story arc which kicked off in 2008 in Marvel Comics’ “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Well, actually, that’s not entirely correct. See, Peter Parker’s Aunt May got shot during Marvel’s “Civil War” event and was on the verge of death in the storyline “One More Day”, so, really, everything starts there. Anyway, Peter was married to Mary Jane, but he really wanted his aunt to live, so he made a deal with the devil (Well, not the actual devil. It was really Mephisto, who’s kind of like the devil … but he’s not.) to sacrifice his marriage in return for Aunt May getting better. And then…

Oh, good grief. I try and keep up with comics as best I can, and even I realize how ridiculous that last paragraph sounded.

On Monday, Marvel Comics Publisher and President Dan Buckley boldly proclaimed to the Associated Press that creativity would drive comics in 2012 and that no one should fret about the comic book industry ending anytime soon.

“This is an American storytelling medium that people love and respect,” Buckley said. “Let’s stop talking about how this is going to end because I’ve watched this try to end three or four times already, and it doesn’t end.”

Buckley may have hit on something significant there: It doesn’t end. In the world of comic books, nothing is ever allowed to end. More specifically, no one is allowed to end. The old saying used to be, “No one stays dead in comics … except Bucky” … until Bucky actually returned to the pages of Captain America a few years ago as the Winter Soldier. Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben is the new standard of deadness these days, I guess.

I’ve been a fan of Spider-Man ever since I was a kid, and I’m 37 years old now. The web-slinger was around for a while before I ever came along. If you were judging by actual human years, Aunt May would be somewhere around 150 years old by now. Batman’s been grieving the murder of his parents for over four decades. Tony Stark’s been through, like, 17 sets of armor. The Hulk has been grey, green, dumb, intelligent, separated from Bruce Banner, shot into space, and held a job briefly as a Las Vegas mafia leg-breaker. I love every one of these characters, but let them rest.

No one wants to see their heroes die, whether they’re real-life examples or creations made from ink and paper. I don’t think anyone really enjoys seeing their heroes fade into obscurity or, even worse, hang around long enough to become caricatures of themselves either. What can we expect to happen, though, when we demand that our heroes remain the same age perpetually, fight the same villains over and over again, and nurse grudges and hurts for years on end? When your childhood hero is reduced to selling his marriage to the devil (Well, not the real devil… Oh, wait, I already covered that, didn’t I?) to save the life of a woman who already died in the comic book once, something is terribly wrong.

Some steps have been taken to try and rectify this situation. A few years back, DC Comics actually had the moxie to kill off a couple of its older, very popular characters (Green Lantern and Flash) and replace them with younger versions. The fact that DC recently relaunched every single one of its titles should give you an indication of how that went over. Marvel introduced its “Ultimate” line a few years ago, but the results have been very hit-and-miss. The line is still around, but it never proved popular enough to dislodge Marvel’s regular titles from their place at the table.

To put it bluntly, some major comic book characters need to die. I don’t care if it’s from old age or in a blaze of glory, but there’s only so long some of these stories can be milked. I mean, Bruce Wayne, let it go. Peter Parker, your uncle is not coming back, and your aunt is living on borrowed time. Hal Jordan, you killed some people; actually, you killed a lot of people. How many times can The Joker be released from Arkham Asylum? Lex Luthor, Superman is here to stay; get over it.

Yep, I’m ready for some heavy-duty death. Watch out, May Parker. You’re number one on my hit list.

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