The Nerds of the Roundtable can be a bunch of vicious jerks who take great joy in the deaths of characters. Here are some of their favorite death scenes!
In Outhouse Roundtable, Royal Nonesuch gathers the writing staff of The Outhouse to find out where they stand in the landscape of comic book fandom. The formula is simple: one question, a joyous multitude of answers.
Week 13: What are some of your favorite death scenes in comics?
Note: This column will have spoilers for some comics. Proceed carefully.
Spoilers for non The Walking Dead readers (or the ones not yet past the Prison Arc), but all the protagonists that died during the massacre of the Governor. Usually deaths in comics I tend to shrug or have a "Damn, that sucks. Good story" then move mentality. Or I get really pissed off because I feel the death is a waste and pointless (Dr. Voodoo!!!). But I was heavily shocked and affected when the characters were dropping like flies. First the death of Tyrese. The first strike to his neck by that sword, I gasp and kept saying to myself, "He's alive! He's still alive! They can still save him." Then another strike, my pleading sped up till finally his head was loped off and I jump back shouting, "Noooo! NO, NO, NOOOO!!!!" Then they proceeded to get rid of the other survivors, including Lori and the newborn baby. I've never been so shocked and saddened by deaths in comics in a while. It made it even stronger because I was reading that whole series in one or two sittings so I really got invested with these characters. Yet I couldn't be mad because I felt the writing was so strong and I didn't feel cheated.
I tend not to remember deaths as much as origins. The Gladiator death was pretty good. The only other memorable deaths for me are things like the Death of Captain Marvel, and Phoenix.
Death in comics are a hard thing to accept. In many titles a death of a character means nothing more than an eventual rebirth a month or a year later, though Barry Allen and Jean Grey can be considered an exception. So I never really look at death of a superhero as nothing more than a story twist as opposed to an ending.
The one ending that I can say I had a very emotional reaction to was in Y: The Last Man when Ampersand, Yorick's Capuchin monkey, died in issue 60. It was a wonderfully heart felt page written by Brian K. Vaughn where Yorick Brown says good-bye to his long time companion. Still to this day I get a little choked up when I read it.
Even though it was reversed long before I discovered the medium, I still think that the original death of Jean Grey is one of (if not "THE") most meaningful deaths in comics history. The impact is even greater when you realize that Claremont and Bryne have been building up to this since "The All New All Different X-Men #100" where Jean Grey was set to sacrifice herself to save all of her teammates, past and present. From there, Jean's story would lead her on a path where her dark side would take control, leading to death of a Star System and every last one of its inhabitants (5 Billion in all). It would all come to a head in the legendary The Uncanny X-Men #137 where her friends and teammates would valiantly fight to save her life, only to fail because as The Watcher would put it...
"Jean Grey could have lived to become a God. But it was more important to her that she died... a Human"
The aftermath of her death would not only be felt in the comics (as it would propel Storm into her iconic leadership role), but would be felt outside the comics. Between this and equally legendary "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, Marvel propelled itself into being considered the premier creative force in the medium for much of the 1980's. However, the even bigger impact was that many people cite "The Dark Phoenix Saga" as the watershed moment that propelled X-Men from being one of Marvel's fringe books into the Marketing and Licensing Juggernaut that would dominate the sales charts for more than 20 years. Even to this day, I still get a chill in my soul whenever I take out my "Dark Phoenix Saga" collection and read it from start to finish. Although death in Big 2 superhero comics has lost almost all of its emotional impact, Jean Grey's original death still resonates and still matters, because of everything surrounding it is the stuff of legend.
The best death is Adrian Chase's. After his family is murdered by the mob, Chase, a respected prosecutor, became the Vigilante and sought justice outside the law. What made Chase an interesting character, and not just a run-of-the-mill Chuck Bronson knockoff, was that he tried to quit the Vigilante business before it consumed his soul. The only problem: he inspired copycat Vigilantes, guys who were more violent than he was. Chase felt compelled to come out of retirement to stop the murderous copycats. But in the process, the life of violence overtook him and he turned into a cop-killing, alcoholic lunatic. Eventually, in a fleeting moment of clarity, Chase committed suicide and put an end to the Vigilante legacy.
Chase's death is great because it is the logical outcome to a life of crime-fighting. His story examines the pain, stress, regret, and inevitable mistakes of being a masked avenger, and shows the ugly consequences of vigilantism. Unlike the Punisher and Batman, who never tire against the forces of evil, Chase burned out quickly and tragically. He was, and remains, the most realistic masked hero.
So..A second X-Men title comes out by Claremont and Lee, and it's titled simply X-Men. It features the Blue team of X-men but really, how soon before the Gold Team showed up anyways? These are after all Claremont's children of the atom right? Well most of them, (apologies Stan and Jack). I remember when I could buy these issues along with Excalibur, What If...?, Wolverine, X-Force, X-Factor, and Marvel Comics Presents just by going out and sweating via lawn mowing and car washing...no, no bikini's here.
I felt it hit home with Magneto's sacrifice and words. I remember Rogue coming to the conclusion that Magneto was beyond redemption and rather than the Professor sacrifice himself or talk to a brick, no steel wall, it was best to vacate the premises. I also remembering that this issue was the turning point for me in Magneto quickly becoming one of my favorites. I think also not too much time before this issue I read some of the back up stories in Classic X-Men that featured Magneto's past, a la the camps and losing his child to burning building specators and therefore the manifestation of his powers. I'd be interested in seeing what Chris Claremont's own story arc for Magneto is, at least from his perspective unencumbered by editorial or event control. Because when the man writes Magneto at his end or at his most transitional, when he's on? He's really on!
For a more contemporary comparison, take a minute to re-read Magneto's dialogue and then compare it with the current wrapped up arc of the X-men's "Schism." A perfect precursor to Jason Aaron's splendid event. Granted Magneto is alive and well in the new arc, but notice who has taken the place of head tiger? I'll give you a hint...He has one eye.
The death of Gwen Stacy, but not the way you think.
I actually first read the death of Gwen Stacy story from Amazing Spider-Man #121 maybe two years ago and it was after I had read through most of Spidey's early adventures and learned what a cool character Gwen Stacy was and how much the comics were poorer for her absense. That would probably put this on top of my list (and the fact that she hasn't returned to life in anything but clone form doesn't hurt) but the real reason she's on here is because of a comic I read long before I became a jaded comic book reader.
Marvels Chapter Four.
Before I got tired of the work of Alex Ross, he released this gem of a series with Kurt Busiek. Busiek, by the way, is a man who really "gets" his Silver Age heroes. Spider-Man especially works under his pen. In just a few short pages, Busiek and Ross make me care about Gwen Stacy long before I had really read any real Spider-Man comics with her in them. Photographer Phil Sheldon really hurts with her death. He had gotten to know her over the course of the issue and knowing her inspired him to work on a book about the Marvels. Her death made him rethink that and eventually retire.
Now, I know that the death of Gwen Stacy continues to affect Peter Parker to this day. She's the "girl that got away" and nothing he can do will ever bring her back. It ended a chapter in the life of Spider-Man. A good chapter. You can go on and on about his marriage to Mary Jane and how she was the perfect girl for him but that's only because Gwen wasn't around. No matter what Mary Jane did, the shadow of Gwen would always have haunted Peter. It always will.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch
As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well. You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
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