As an avid comic book collector (and fan) for well over two decades, I believe I’ve earned the right to express my disappointment with the legendary Marvel Comics and its decision to snuff-out a member of the classic Fantastic Four team with the release of issue #587 yesterday. Not to mention the fact that – as is usually the case in these scenarios – the identity of the newly-deceased hero was leaked prior to #587’s release (I’m guessing intentionally) as that of Johnny Lowell Spencer Storm, aka the Human Torch.
Yes, I realize this isn’t the first time a beloved comic book hero or villain has kicked the bucket – DC Comics did it with the fan-voted murder of Jason Todd (Robin) in 1989 and the apparent deaths of Superman and Batman in 1992 and 2008 respectively – and I’m certain it won’t be the last.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The problem, at this point, is that the tactic has been rendered impotent over time. It’s the “Stairway to Heaven” or “Free Bird” of comic book tragedy and there’s no element of surprise or drama to it these days. Even worse, that lack of creativity is only magnified by the insane amount of marketing synonymous with the death of any popular, iconic character, no matter the medium.
In many ways, it’s similar to Hollywood’s recent obsession with motion picture knock-offs and the newly-discovered “reboot.” While some of these films truly stand on their own – primarily due to good writing, casting, acting and direction – others fall far short of the original they’re meant to modernize. For example, J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” and the Coen brothers “True Grit” both stand out as fantastic films, representing completely different genres, and were extremely enjoyable (and remain so after repeated viewings). On the other hand, I think we can all agree Hollywood dropped the ball with its remakes of “Clash of the Titans,” “The Karate Kid” and “Friday the 13th.”
Sometimes it’s better just to leave well enough alone, if you get my drift.
Far too often nowadays, it seems we’re continuously being force-fed just enough unimaginative and listless fare – as it concerns entertainment – to keep us interested, but certainly not inspired. The death of the Human Torch is simply one more nail in the coffin of truly great, original entertainment.
It did, however, have me wondering why more of those involved in the entertainment industry – particularly those with zero talent and even less intelligence – don’t fake their own death every once in awhile. It’d be a great marketing strategy and just think of the publicity. Then again, with the invention of Twitter, all an entertainer or performer would need to do is find a good buddy (and fellow superstar) willing to get the rumor mill started. I can just see it now, mega-super-star so-and-so tweets about the tragic loss of his best mate in a freak gardening accident, following which the press immediately picks up the story. Two days later, the recently deceased is discovered on a beach in the Bahamas.
“Sorry mates, I didn’t realize my phone’s been off,” he explains. “No harm done.”
And that’s just about what I expect from Marvel with the passing of Johnny Storm. Those currently overseeing the Fantastic Four franchise will milk this for all it’s worth, count the money they’ve accumulated and come up with some way to bring the Human Torch back from the dead. It happens every time and again, it’s no longer effective. In fact, it’s a big let-down to a fan like me.
While I realize this column will forever mark me as the über-geek of Chenango County – a title I already hold here in the office of The Evening Sun – I can honestly say that’s the least of my concerns at this point. I just can’t get over the fact that this was a pointless, shameless ploy to sell comics – nothing more, nothing less (and don’t tell me how great the writing is either, I’ve read this story-line and yes, the writing and artwork are exceptional). That’s no excuse, however, and with the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four right around the corner – in November of 2011 – you can’t tell me this isn’t simply a set-up for Johnny Storm’s eventual return to the pages of Marvel Comics.
And that is truly comical because as always, most fans, if not all, will buy it regardless.
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