Movie fans and comic readers alike are still gnashing their teeth at the dramatic mess that is Batman vs. Superman. While the film has earned an unreasonable eight hundred, thirty million dollars at the box office, the film leaves ticket buyers asking the same question.
Why did they kill Superman… AGAIN??
Now granted, I know I'm in the minority here, but I have never liked the “Death of Superman” books from 1992. Or any other year for that matter.
The killing and re-killing of Superman highlights a serious flaw with DC Comics that needs to not only be addressed, it needs to be solved. And re-writing the universe again is not going to fix it.
Starting in the 1970's, DC began letting their characters dip into darker territories. Part if it was in response and retaliation towards Marvel, which had already gained ground with comics that openly talked about drug use, violence and death, but another part of it was a desperate, but successful attempt to gain new readers, who wanted less to do with the “kid's stuff” of superheroes and more to do with edgier, more taboo story-lines. By the 1980's, DC had allowed Frank Miller, better known at the time for his writing for Marvel's Daredevil, a four issue shot at re-envisioning Batman as a more darker, brooding soul, while their usual staff was hard at work writing out the sad story of Starfire, kidnapped princess and child sex slave turned leader of the Teen Titans and tortured girlfriend of Nightwing.
But while these off-putting topics were a break away from the usual “good vs. evil” DC had been known for, they were stories all written within a clear, linear context. There was a reason why these stories were being told, and it wasn't just to deliver some after-school special PSA. They served their purpose. We learn about Starfire being sold into slavery so we can understand why she has a troubled relationship with her older sister, Blackfire, who is responsible for her sale. We learn about Raven's father being the demon Trigon so we can better understand why she is a polarizing character. These are all stories that flesh out the superheroes and the cast surrounding them, making their brawls make more sense. If not everyone can have a clean cut story, such as Batman foiling the Catwoman because she's trying to rob the museum, then we can have a dark story with twists and turns, but again, with respect to context.
And then in 1992, the shelves of my local comic book store began to look very bleak.
It started with the Doomsday arc, concluding the following year with the Funeral for a Friend story. During that tumultuous time, we saw a monster named Doomsday beat the pulp out of Superman with little story behind it. With a paper-thin plot and little explanation, the pages began to fill with the gory images of Superman being beaten to death, followed in later issues with his body being entombed, stolen, preserved by Lex Luthor, discovered again by Supergirl and Lois Lane, and then buried again.
The “shock jock” move led to a dip in the sales of DC titles, since nobody wants to read about depressed, grieving characters. So they un-killed Superman and gave him a mullet just a few months after the final funeral for the fallen hero. This cop-out may have set the universe back in time to score a new TV deal for the Man of Steel, but the damage was done.
And not learning from the lesson of the Death of Superman fiasco, DC has kept up with the mistakes they made in 1992. Consistently. For 24 years.
Since the first death for the Man of Steel, Superman has died several times, in more than one universe. More than twice in TV and DVD cartoons, a few times in video games, and now in live action film.
And when DC is not satisfied with killing Superman, they're killing his adoptive parents, re-killing his birth parents and the planet he came from, killing Supergirl and all of her bubbly, blonde replacement clones, and you know what? They've even killed Lois Lane a few times. In fact, while she's the only Superman-themed character asking for it, they weren't happy just killing her off alone, either. In the video game Injustice, they let The Joker kill a pregnant Lois, because what fun is killing Superman's loved ones without throwing a fetus into the mix, right?
They've killed Batman, Terra, Speedy's nine year old daughter, and a long litany of superheroes and civilians, only to bring them back later. And when they start running out of people to kill for little to no reason, they re-write the universe, just to do it all over again.
By consistently hiring in writers with clear and obvious “Daddy didn't hug me” issues and making their comic world more gritty and dark, they've tried to retain those edgy, Goth and Emo kids that used to dominate comic shops in the 90's and early 2000's, and the brooding, whiny “If it's not miserable it's fake, if it's miserable it's real” Hipsters of the current millennium, who quite frankly, don't read DC comic books to begin with.
But by caving in with the constant, depressing, cop-out writing, DC has done plenty to alienate the fans that actually were buying their merchandise. And while initial sales aren't bad for the current live action film, there is no chance the company can hope to real where Marvel is in the terms of cinema.
And while I don't need for DC to return to a campy, kid-friendly “Super Friends” state like they were in the early 1970's, I don't need to be bored to death with another over-blown drama. Marvel has drama, yes, but within the context of a story that usually ends with a twinge of hope, leading to a more positive sequel story or bright ending. DC's drama is ~ even for a superhero story ~ unrealistic.
As a kid, I initially turned to DC comics to get away from real life drama. I loved reading comics that didn't have “50 Shades of Grey” behind every character. Everything was black and white. You were either a good guy or a bad guy, and it used to be that the good guy would win, without having to wrestle with the grim reaper in doing so.
When I was having a lousy day, I would watch the Superman Fleischer cartoons, because I wanted to be whisked away to a world where everything was clear-cut. There was a Superman who could do anything and would always take down the bad guys, and there was little threat to his life. I wanted to be in a world where my heroes could hold back the terror humans could not. Someone to make it better.
With the current state of the world, movie goers don't need more drama. Most of us already deal with death, depression, angst and people in our lives with unreasonable trust issues. We don't need the death of a childhood hero thrown on top of it, when we already deal with the real-life deaths of our childhood celebrities on a weekly basis.
We don't need another moody man.
We don't need another dead man.
We need a Superman.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!