5
Feb
2011
Random Pop Culture Top Ten List
Top 10 Characters in Comics Who SHould Have Stayed Dead
Chris and Jordan
Random Pop Culture Top 10 List is a (fairly self-explanatory) weekly list in which the Review To Be Named gang take stock of the realm of pop culture, and come up with their Top Ten in a specific category.

Geoff Johns, writer of Green Lantern, and its death-obsessed event Blackest Night, once said, "Death in superhero comics is cyclical in nature, and that's for a lot of reasons, whether they are story reasons, copyright reasons, or fan reasons. But death doesn't exist the same way it does in our world, and thank God for that." Characters in comics die and return so frequently that the death of a famed character can sometimes be rendered completely meaningless, so obvious is it that they will return in a matter of time. The following is a list of characters who died, and really should have stayed that way (this should be evident, but SPOILERS follow).

10.Danny Noonan's Junk, Young Liars

David Lapham's brilliant and all too short lived creator owned series Young Liars gave us one of the weirdest and most disturbing narratives in recent memory. The protagonist and narrator Danny Noonan, as most of the characters were as the title suggests, was a liar. This lead to the status quo and continuity of the series changing often, and usually these changes would blatantly contradict events we had seen earlier in the series. At the close of the first story arc, Danny and his friends were ambushed by a band of assassins, and one particularly uber violent dwarf overpowered Danny, raped his friend Cee Cee, and then castrated Danny. A few issues later, everything was back to normal including Danny's genitals. While this didn't hurt the overall flow of the story, uncastrating the protagonist took away a dimension of the story which Lapham never really had a chance to explore.

9. Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders), Hawkman

Ok, the Hawks are a bit of a continuity quagmire that it would take us several flow charts and at least a bottle of extra strength tylenol to adequately explain to you. Long story short, in Ancient egypt, two lovers were cursed to be reincarnated again and again, only to die once they rediscovered each other and re-embraced their immortal love. Over time, they would remember their former lives. In the modern time, they were reborn as the super heroes Carter Hall, Hawkman and Shayera Hall, Hawkgirl. They both eventually died, cuz that's pretty much what they do, and returned as Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Only this time there was a snafu. Carter Hall returned with full memory of all his past lives, but Shayera's soul found a home in the body of Kendra Saunders, a young woman who attempted to commit suicide, and woke up with all of Kendra's memories. Kendra went on to take up the mantle of Hawkgirl, but when she was reunited with Hawkman, she rebuffed his advances, having no memories of their previous lives together, although she had an unexplainable attraction to him. Kendra hated the idea of fate and shared destiny, and wanted to feel like she had control over her own life. This was a much more interesting twist on the saga of the Hawks, and lead to a number of stories previously unseen, such as during Brad Meltzer's brilliant run where a growing attraction blossomed between Hawkgirl, and Red Arrow, the former sidekick of Green Arrow, a fellow hero who took great pleasure in pushing Hawkman's buttons. During Blackest Night, the Hawks were killed (again), and resurrected (it's like Wolverine's healing factor, only suckier), and Hawkgirl returned with all the memories of Shayera Hall, thus reestablishing a much less interesting and less dramatic status quo.

Of course this might be a moot point now, cuz DC killed them off again last week in Brightest Day, (honestly they must draw straws in the JLA Watchtower to decide who has to organize their funerals THIS week).

8. Warren, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

Warren Mears was pretty much the King of the Creeps on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Introduced after he abandons the sentient sex robot he built, Warren became the center of The Trio, Buffy's most human adversaries. While a part of The Trio, he used mind control in an effort to rape his ex-girlfriend, made Buffy invisible, framed her for murder, corrupted his generally well-intentioned fellow geeks, and murdered Willow's girlfriend Tara. So it was a sick sort of justice when a grief-stricken and vengeful Dark Willow, overcome by her anger, actually flays Warren alive near the end of the shows sixth season. A fitting death for a heinous human being. Yet Warren's work was apparently not done, as he returned in the series' canonical comic continuation as the magically resuscitated boyfriend of Amy Madison. There's no real reason to have him back except that it provided a great twist to end an issue on. And by the end of Season Eight, Warren is dead again. We think it would've been much better to not bring him back in the first place. He murdered the love of Willow's life, and he got what he deserved as a result. His presence in the comics did nothing to improve upon the series, and served no real narrative purpose. Hopefully, this time his death takes.



7.Captain America (Steve Rogers)

When Steve Rogers was assassinated at the end of Marvel's Civil War, in the midst of Ed Brubaker's brilliant and critically acclaimed run on Captain America, it was a shocking moment that ushered in a new era of darkness and unpredictability in the Marvel Universe. Tony Stark who was already carrying a heavy burden following the tough and unpopular choices he made in the Civil War, was further crushed by the death of one of his closest friends, and the conscience of the superhero community. Eventually it was revealed that Steve wasn't actually dead, but lost in time thanks to the manipulations of the Red Skull. Steve's return ushered in a new Heroic Age, where he took on Nick Fury's traditional role as director of world security (a brilliant new status quo, and one that has allowed us to see a very different side of Steve Rogers). Steve Rogers is in the minority on this list, as he is a character who has been used very well since his resurrection, and we genuinely look forward to seeing what the future holds for him. However, when thinking about the road not traveled, we can't help but wonder if the dawn of the Heroic Age, and the subsequent stories that followed would have been filled with more drama and tension, had Steve not returned, and the heroic community been forced to mend relationships with the death of Captain America still hanging over them as a constant reminder of their greatest failings, and to forge ahead without Steve's iron clad set or morals to guide them.

6.Aunt May, Spiderman

This is more of a case where the character should never have been killed in the first place. Death is something of a revolving door in super hero comics, however the great suspension of belief required where resurrections are concerned is made a bit easier when the character already has super powers of somepoint. Aunt May was a 70 year old woman whose heart was always one missed dose of Bayer Aspirin away from shutting down faster than your local Long John Silver's when the health inspector comes a calling. So I can't really explain why the decision to kill Aunt May was made. I can tell you that the resurrection what a mess. It was revealed that the woman who Peter thought was his Aunt May was actually a dying Actress (really Pete, you didn't notice her missing a few key memories and personality traits?) disguised by Norman Osborn and switched out when he kidnapped the real Aunt May with no real practical endgame in mind, at least not one that would have been more effective than actually killing Aunt May right in front of Peter. Getting away from the poor decision to kill her, and the even poorer explanation for the resurrection, Aunt May should have stayed dead, because in a time where one of the biggest complaints regarding the character of Peter Parker is that he is an adult stuck in a weird limbo of adolescence, the death of his parental figure could have really allowed for Peter to come into his own as a self reliant adult.

5. Ra's al Ghul, Batman

One of Batman's greatest nemeses and the father of one of his most fascinating romantic interests (Talia al Ghul, mother of Batman's son Damien), Ra's al Ghul is a terrorist and an assassin without rival in the world. He is so bad ass, he leads an organization known as the League of Assassins. Leage. Of. Assassins. Need we say more? A fantastic villain at the center of several great Batman stories (including "Son of the Demon," "Contagion," "Legacy," and "JLA: Tower of Babel"), Ghul was struck down in a plot orchestrated by his estranged daughter Nyssa, who planned to kill Superman with Kryptonite bullets and then turn on her father. Surprise surprise, Superman lives (thanks to Batman saving his ass), but Ra's is mortally injured. As he lays dying, he reveals to Batman that his death was part of his own masterplan to convince Nyssa and Talia to accept their destinies as his heirs. One of Batman's greatest enemies revealing that his own death was part of his larger plan to ensure that both of his daughters take his place and continue his efforts to destroy the world. The death of Ra's al Ghul was pretty much the ideal end to any villain's story, and gave him the last laugh in his struggle with Batman.
So why did DC honchos decide to bring him back two years later with a half-baked retcon that had Ra's consciousness hiding in another body and him attempting to take Damien as his own new body? Ra's al Ghul was much better left off as a great villain who scored a final victory in death.



4. Jean Grey, X-Men

Jean Grey was never a particularly interesting character. One of the original X-Men, she was the weakest member of the team until the infamous "Dark Phoenix Saga" made her by far the most powerful. She was also the love interest and eventual wife of Scott "Cyclops" Summers, a relationship so staid and lifeless that the only thing to shock it into being interesting was Jean's suicide at the end of the Phoenix Saga. Allowing a once fairly weak character to evolve into a godlike force of ultimate pyschic power, be with her beloved, and die sacrificing herself to save her friends and the entire Universe seems a fitting arc for the character to end on, and a great excuse to get rid of a pretty boring presence on the team. Unfortunately, Jean did not stay dead, returning to the comics (and bizarrely retconning the best story she ever took part in, claiming that the Phoenix Force took her form and her essence, but that she was alive the whole time) to take part in X-Factor, which reunited the original X-Men. This time around, she got to marry Scott and train a new generation of mutants before being "tragically" struck down by Magneto. Jean was never a great character, and her last words to her husband, "All I ever do is die on you" were pretty accurate. Though it has widely been hinted that her return is imminent, we really hope that this time she stays in the ground. Cyclops, and the X-Men, are much more interesting without her.



3. Magneto, X-Men

Magneto is arguably the greatest villain in the history of comics (at least IGN thinks so, placing the character at #1 in their "Top 100 Comic Book Villains List"). A Jewish Holocaust survivor bent on ensuring that Mutants don't share the same fate, and willing to go to any means to guarantee it, Magneto has been the X-Men's arch nemesis from the very first issue in 1963.
From his debut attacking an American military base, to his formation of the Brotherhood of Mutants, to the brutal torture of Xavier's love Moira MacTaggart, Magneto has been at the center of many of the worst things to ever happen to the XMen. He once ripped the adamantium clear off Wolverine's bones. He single-handedly created the Mutant sanctuary of Genosha. In what would have been his last story arc, under the guidance of brilliant writer Grant Morrison, Magneto infiltrated the XMen under the guise of Xorn, became addicted to the power-enhancing drug Kick, killed Jean Grey, re-crippled Xavier and devastated New York City, turning it into a human concentration camp. His reign of terror ended when, in one of the most bad ass moments in comics history, Wolverine decapitated him. A modern masterpiece of the form, Morrison's run on XMen gave their greatest villain the final arc of a lifetime. But comics are terrified of change, and of course Magneto was "resurrected" almost immediately, with a retcon implying that Xorn was a separate entity that has impersonated Magneto (though why he would impersonate Magneto infiltrating the Xmen doesn't make any sense...) and that the real Magneto was actually just hanging out on Genosha the whole time his name was being sullied by a different genocidal megalomaniac. Sigh. A great villain (maybe the greatest) was given a great end. But no. Comics are infinitely ongoing and terrified of giving anything a real ending, and so Magneto had to return. He should've stayed dead, and gone down as the greatest villain of all time.

2. The Flash (Barry Allen), The Flash

Barry Allen was the Silver Age Flash, and his introduction rejuvenated the concept of the Superhero and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. Unfortunately for Barry, (and his Silver Age contemporaries, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen), there came a time when DC didn't know what to do with their silver age characters, and started to view them as anachronisms. Barry especially found himself in hot water as his moral code was very similar to Steve Rogers and Clark Kent, causing some fans to view him as something of a boy scout, and a bit of a dull character, and after a few misguided attempts to darken Barry up by having him murder his arch nemesis The Reverse Flash, DC decided to kill him off as the major death of their Crisis on Infinite Earths event. Barry died a hero, saving the Universe from destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. Barry's death allowed for the rise of a more interesting and relatable Flash, Barry's former sidekick Kid-Flash, Wally West. For the first time in mainstream super hero comics, a sidekick took up the mantle of an established hero. Wally was forced into a situation where he was expected to stand shoulder to shoulder with the biggest names of the DC universe, and do so while trying to live up to the saintly legacy of Barry Allen. Wally is a much more relatable character than Barry because we can all identify to the idea of trying to step out of the shadow of our parents and striving to realize our full potential as adults. While Barry's return has been handled well, it has forced Wally back into the background, and regressed a character whose hook was the journey of personal growth readers invested themselves in for over 20 years.

1. Jason Todd, Batman

The death of Jason Todd effectively ushered Batman forward into the modern age, taking the darkness of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and bringing it into the mainstream book itself. An unpopular replacement Robin after Dick Grayson assumed the name Nightwing, Jason Todd so annoyed fans that a phone poll was conducted to determine whether he should live or die. The result was 1988's A Death in the Family which found Todd beaten to death by the Joker and left to die in an explosion. His death formed perhaps the largest mark on Bruce Wayne's psyche since the deaths of his parents, and became an equally important part of the Bat mythos. That Batman could let Joker live after he had killed Jason Todd was an ethical choice the character has been judged on ever since, and his failure to save his protege haunted Bruce more than anything else in his life. So it was actually insulting when Todd returned as the antihero Red Hood in 2005's Under the Hood. Apparently Jason Todd was returned from the dead when Superboy punched reality (which is apparently a thing that can be punched) and spent the next decade or so training with Ra's al Ghul (see? great villain!) before returning to Gotham to act as a vigilante willing to use lethal force. The return of Jason Todd unwrote the greatest tragedy in Batman's life, took away one of Joker's biggest victories, and undermined two decades of Batman storytelling. Jason Todd's death was one of the most historic events in comics history. Bringing him back may go down as one of the medium's biggest missteps.

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