One of my favorite lines from animated movie classic, Heavy Metal. There is no greater threat than death. Is there? Isn’t that why we value life? Isn’t that why you should cherish each and every day as if it were your last? And why? Because it’s the be-all end-all. The last frontier, the final destination. There’s no coming back. Death is so... permanent. Isn’t it?
It’s no secret by now that Chris Pine will be reprising his role as Steve Trevor for Wonder Woman 2. While that’s super exciting, didn’t he die the first time around? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how they get out of that one. And now we discover that Robin Wright will be returning to her role as Antiope. Once again, this is really good news. Antiope was definitely one of the break-out characters of the first Wonder Woman film, and Robin Wright totally nailed it. I think she could definitely support a movie based on The Amazons. (Warner Bros., make it so!) But... didn’t she die, too? They’re going to have to come up with some extremely clever resurrection tricks if they want to pull it off. My suspension of disbelief may contain glitter and unicorns, but it still has its limits.
I realize that the characters probably died in the first mvoie to add emotional weight to the story, and who could have expected an Amazon general cool enough to deserve a stay of execution, but doesn’t bringing them back negate said emotional weight? Doesn’t it sort of poop on the gravitas?
The Death of Phoenix was, and is, one of the greatest comic stories going and certainly a watershed moment in fandom history. Chris Claremont and John Byrne took one of the founding and most popular members of the X-Men, turned her into evil incarnate, and then blew her to smithereens. It was shocking. It was perplexing. It carried emotional weight, because she died and stayed dead. Mostly. They would tease her return a couple of times, but she wasn’t really brought back until years after her initial demise. And when she did come back, I think it was where death in comics definitely jumped the shark. I think she has died and come back since then. In fact, I think she’s had more returns than Cher at this point.
Now, death has a revolving door. The only thing more impactful than a meaningful death is an unexpected return. Pass the dip! At the end of the day, I realize that these are just comic book characters, many of which are tied to licensing and endorsement deals, so the odds of certain characters staying dead is pretty slim. So, why kill them in the first place?
Death definitely took a front seat in the '90s with the legendary Death of Superman. After that, everyone was dying. Wonder Woman even did it (at the hands of murderous John Byrne, no less). Jean Grey, Donna Troy, Aunt May, and Queen Hippolyta seemed to be at the forefront of the dead beat club. If dead-forever Bucky Barnes can return, no one is safe.
Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.
The moral of the story? Death is meaningful. It is powerful, and it is permanent. Wouldn’t you have cried a little less at grandma’s funeral if she was going to show up the next day with some strudel? I implore writers to wait and see how popular their characters are before they kill them. If the best thing you can think of to do to a character is kill them, maybe it’s time for you to move on and let the next writer breathe life into our beloved characters.
Death is cheap and easy. Staying dead is an act of class. I think it’s okay if that was the original intent and not a case of “Just kidding!” What do you think? Is it okay to kill characters only to bring them back. Or should you let sleeping dogs lay?
Follow me on Instagram (@MichaelFitzTroy).