So Bruce Wayne, aka the Caped Crusader, Batman, has been killed off! He is no more. He is an ex-superhero.
The news has been reverberating around the internet all day, and guess what? He’s been shot by his father, the one we all thought was dead, Dr Thomas Wayne.
Comics, by their very nature, can be daft episodes of pure escapism, with little or no regard for reality, but this latest storyline, by Grant Morrison, does take some beating.
Of course, it’s not the first time that Wayne has given up the Batcowl. Longtime readers will recall the Knightfall/Knightquest saga back in the early 1990s when Bruce Wayne’s back was broken by the villainous Bane and a new younger model – Jean-Paul Valley.
That particular saga, which ran over the whole gamut of Bat-titles from April 1993 to August 1994, is a bit of a mess. It is not high on most people’s favourite Batman stories and there is a reason for that. No one liked Jean-Paul and his hi-tech new costume and there was a palpable sense of relief when it was all over and Bruce Wayne returned to normal, crime-fighting duties.
Not that there was any doubt he would return. Of course he would be back. No one ever stays dead in comics. It’s the first rule of the genre. Look at Superman; they bumped him off in 1993, only for the Man Of Steel to come back in a yawningly over-indulgent epic, which is notable for two things – it was totally impenetrable and giving Supes a mullet. Thanks DC. It was just what we, the fans, needed – a superhero with a bad haircut and yet more comics in shiny plastic bags (with armbands), which we couldn’t open because it would ruin the value of them, like totally.
There is a comic fan out there to this day, still fretting about opening his mint condition Superman #75 and donning the arm band. Get over it.
So why do comic publishers kill off their most beloved characters? Could it be money? The death of Superman was the comic book event of 1993 and copies did indeed fly off the shelf.
The mainstream media loves a story like this. It makes for good easy copy. Bad news will always sell and if it’s bad news about a much-loved fictional character, then all the better. Most journalists are frustrated comic book writers, so it gives them the chance to indulge their inner geek.
The second, more creative reason, is that it allows the writers to shake things up a bit. You can’t do much with a well-established character, particularly one with 60 years of back story, so a death can take the title in a new and unexpected direction. Ed Brubaker’s brilliant handling of the death of Captain America suddenly made one of Marvel’s warhorses a must-read title. It was such a good read that you could almost forgive him bringing back Bucky.
But will Steve Rogers stay dead? Will Bruce Wayne be back? Of course, they will. In the world of comics, no one stays dead for long. You can bet on it.