Calm down dear, its a showy title only...no-ones actually dies (though my hayfever is making me feel half way there), its the title from a Batman story which saw the then current Robin meet his maker...brutally. No, not the actual death of an actual person but I am going to talk about death in one form or another. Hold on. Don't look too worried, it's far less serious than it sounds.
Now its true that people die and we all must accept that truth, but there are ways to learn about the actual event, how we may react and what the lasting effects could be to us. No, lets not all go out and kill random strangers or even people you dislike (that would be wrong), no, lets instead scamper up and explore that most serious of subjects through the medium of...comics.
No, not comedians (though the death of The Comedian is an important one in comic book history), I'm talking about illustrated stories, crafted by towering imaginations and creative powerhouses. Now at this point I hear you shout 'THEY NEVER STAY DEAD!' There is a certain wisdom in those words, but sometimes that's not true...sometimes they stay dead, and it's the ones that real effected me that tend to stay dead.
Think of comic book death and we know it's a tool to get readers coming in. It increases the numbers of units sold and causes 'buzz' around the book, this is a false economy in my opinion. You kill someone off just for them to come back and you're toying with the audiences feelings. You're disrespecting their commitment to you're story. Granted it can be cool to have someone die and come back but it lessens the impact each time you do it. Does anyone still look back on the Phoenix Saga and not feel a ripple of irritation when they see Jean Grey for the first time, knowing she will be back and then dead and then back and dead again? How about Superman? When he died facing Doomsday it was in all the newspapers and I even took a special trip to Brighton to pick up the special edition black cover issue with the bleeding 'S', but everything that followed that event makes a mockery of that pilgrimage. Then we go to Steve Rogers death on the steps of New York's Hall of Justice, Batman gunned down...the list goes on and on.
Still, enough about the mistakes and the ones that were tainted by later mistakes, I want to take you to two comic book deaths that made a difference to me. They hit me personally and still do. They mean something. In two of those cases they didn't come back.
I thought about the ones I'd seen go like Jean Grey and asked Twitter and a few friends about the heroes and villains that they remember and 'Boy Blue' from Fables came up. Yes, arresting, heroic and sad but not one of my top three. I can think of two who came close, hell maybe they are in my top three, but I'll look at them another time. Those two heroes are Ted Kord 'The Blue Beetle' and 'Chopper' the greatest Sky Surfer ever; he died inches from the finish line of the most brutal sky surf ever in the pages of 2000AD. I was stunned. These two made a huge difference to me but they are not in my two for today. Lets meet the 'winners' shall we? Here they are, in no particular order.
In a story I'd still argue is the greatest Spiderman story ever told one of his enemies came back to exact a terrible revenge for all those previous defeats.In a six part story arc Kraven shot the newly married Peter Parker with a hunting rifle and buried him. It was shocking because Peter didn't leap out in the next issue, no, Kraven pulled on the black Spiderman costume and hit the streets, killing criminals and driving down the crime rate. The Police went after Spidey, his new wife; Mary Jane Parker, sat at home and watched the perpetual rain hammer down on the streets of New York and had to start to face the possible reality that Peter was indeed dead.
It took several issues for Peter to Dig himself out of his grave (having been drugged) and return to her before he headed onto the streets to do battle with Kraven, but he didn't get to fight him. Kraven gave up. He told Spidey he had defeated the local criminals (he had) and captured a killer that had been eating people in the sewers (Vermin). He then released Vermin back onto the streets and told peter to stop him if he could. When Peter Parker leaves to go after Vermin Kraven takes a rifle, leaving all the evidence of his crimes while in the spider costume by his coffin...and he shoots himself.
He knew he was mad. He knew this would be his last act. He won...and to make sure Spiderman can't take that away from him he ends his life. He's stayed dead and though his daughter has come into the comics and he is remembered he has not been resurrected. Nor should he be. Evil Bastard.
It is full of iconic images, poetry and insanity. It conjures up such powerful emotions in me that I will always stay with me.
Johnny Alpha rampaged around the universe as a mutant bounty hunter working for the Strontium Dogs. He was backed up by a Norse warrior (yes I know) who he had met when he went back in time to capture a cold blooded killer called Max Bubba.
Max was super pissed with Alpha and so went down to his home in the country, captured the pair of them and then staked them out in the sun to die slow painful deaths. At this point the rubbing of hands and monologuing was inevitable but what happened next wasn't.
He's discovered and as he tries madly to fight off Max Bubba's gang and free Alpha he's shot and slumps down to die slowly by his friends side. We see the story of how they met, the hardships they went through and as the dawn sun peaks over the Horizon Wulf dies. There's no escape for Alpha either. At the end of that issue Alpha dies.
Okay, so next issue Alpha is revived, goes to hospital and returns to full health, he then goes on a huge killing spree and goes after every single person that helped Max.
For the bonus, and this is important, we have another death that really mattered and that was Max's itself. You see this hero, Johnny Alpha, goes after Max and corners him. There is a gun fight and Max is hot dead, only not. He wakes in a hospital having cheated death. He escapes and heads out of the hospital but Alpha is waiting for him outside.
Max is caught unarmed, unprepared and completely dead to rights. He hasn't got a chance and that's because Alpha had wounded him on purpose. He wanted Max to think he's gotten away with it. Max demands to know why?! Why hadn't he killed him cleanly. Alpha takes aim and shoots him dead after simply telling him coldly why.
'Because I hate you.'
This hero with a gun had become a killer as cold as Max. It was murder. Max deserved it but even with that it was cold...and Johnny never recovered while I read 2000AD. He was changed forever.
That's what death does; it changes those that are left to live with the loss of the departed.