“This is an EX-Catwoman!”

jjjDon’t Get Me Started #2

Well, this wasn’t even what I had planned to rant about this time.

But some things just present themselves and you have to either address them or let your brain explode.

(SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about events that occur in JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 which goes on sale today.  I can’t imagine anyone who will read this blog will actually want to read that comic but, just in case, I’m going to bring up a pretty major plot point.  And, right here, in advance, I want to categorically state that I have not read this comic nor have any intention to do so, hence this rant.)

Ok, you’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t read a lot of new comics anymore and those that I DO read aren’t published by Marvel and DC.  There’s a lot of reasons for this but the subject of this post is a REALLY big one.

I’m sick of all the death.

Listen, this world is rough.  We get that.  We have wars and famine and tornados and nutbags shooting up schools.  But I don’t need to see that in my comic books.  Or, at least, I don’t need to see it done with the kind of school-yard glee that exists in modern comics.  It’s what I call a “culture of mega-violence” and, in terms of comics, I feel it started with the appearance of Wolverine and the Punisher.  These were characters who, a few scant years previously, were considered villains.  Suddenly, the culture changed and these characters were considered “bad-ass” while others like Cyclops and Spider-Man were “lame” because they didn’t want to go out and kill everything that moved.

But it really started to go to hell when DC published the moronic, insipid, insulting and misogynistic IDENTITY CRISIS in which it was revealed that Dr. Light had previously raped Sue Dibny (wife of the Elongated Man) and that Sue was later killed by Jean Loring (ex-wife and erstwhile love interest of the Silver Age Atom).  Things went downhill fast after that like Fat Albert, the Blob and John Candy riding an Olympic bobsled fast.

After that joyful read, we were treated to the murder of Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) by Maxwell Lord in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS which became a slaughterhouse smorgasbord.  This is how that murder looked:

blue_beetle_ted_kord_death

Yeh, because we needed to see that.  Never mind that Ted was a noble hero who struggled to do the right thing.  Let’s just blow his brains out and make way for a new ‘Blue Beetle’.  Yay, DC! That was in 2005.

Now, earlier this year, DC killed off Batman’s son, Damien, who had assumed the role of Robin.  Why?  I have no idea but it was probably to enjoy the little sales bump from all of the newer readers who don’t realize that death in comics is about as permanent as the Rolling Stones’ retirement.

And today, words reaches us that JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 features the death of Catwoman.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Catwoman.  A character that was created in 1940 (most likely by Bill Finger, unappreciated and generally uncredited creator of much of Batman’s mythology) and who has appeared in hundreds of comics and most likely every media version of Batman ever created.  Dead.  Kaput.  She “has joined the choir invisible” as John Cleese might say.  And this is the panel that showed it.

catwoman-dies

Look familiar?

Now, I’m not opposed to death in comics.  Some of the best stories have come from the deaths of certain characters (like Gwen Stacy in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN).  What I am opposed to is gratuitous, sensationalistic and generally unnecessary death.  A death that is really nothing more than some corporate fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy of “let’s kill off Catwoman!  That’ll really shake them up! Think of all the media coverage we’ll get out of this!”  And if you don’t believe they think like that then you really haven’t paid much attention to comic books in the last 15 years.

Comics today are an endless parade of death, rebirth, reboot and then death again.  These are the literal equivalents of when I used to play with my DC Mego Action Figures in the 70s.  “Bang!  Catwoman’s dead!  And here comes Batman!  And he saves her and she’s not dead after all!  Yay!  What’s for dinner, Mom?”

I can’t read DC or Marvel comics anymore and that saddens me.  I can’t read them because there is no joy in these comics.  There is no ‘sense of wonder’.  There is only death and grittiness and darkness.  If I want that, all I have to do is turn on my television and watch the news.

Way to go, DC.

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About Sam Gafford
My name is Sam Gafford and I've been doing critical work on William Hope Hodgson for many years. I wrote the article "Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson" in which I presented evidence that WHH wrote his novels in the reverse order in which they were published. I've recently written an article on Hodgson's confrontation with Houdini and am currently working on a book length study of WHH.

10 Responses to “This is an EX-Catwoman!”

  1. Michael Fraley says:

    Thank you.

  2. John D. says:

    Thank you for articulating why I quit reading most American superhero stories. I’m tried of the push for “edgy” characters and situations. I want to see more comics where the hero is a genuine hero. I don’t mind if there’s a character death that actually means something but the problem is that it never does. You can be sure within a year or two the “dead” will find a way to come back and it’ll be straight back to the status quo. Nuts to Marvel and DC when it comes to their comics. Give me PS238 any day of the week.

    • Sam Gafford says:

      Thanks, John! Glad you liked the post! It’s this type of gratuitous and pointless death that is ruining many comics these days. And I agree with you that Selina, or someone else calling themselves “Catwoman” will appear within a year.

  3. And just how necessary was Gwen Stacy’s death, while you’re at it? What great stories might have resulted, had she actually been turned into an interesting character – for example, if she’d found out Peter Parker’s identity as she blamed Spider-Man for her father’s death, for starters? What is now seen to be iconic struck me at the time as a quick fix for a nonexistent problem.

    • Sam Gafford says:

      Very true in that Gwen’s death wasn’t what one would call ‘neccesary’. It did add something to Spider-Man’s history by once again showing that he could not save everyone (ala Uncle Ben) but, in the end, it was a death that I still wish had never happened.

  4. Jim McClain says:

    Agree wholeheartedly. Well put.

  5. Mike P says:

    UGH. Thanks for expressing my thoughts exactly, Sam! (Although you kinda ruined a subject for my own blog, lol.) I had not seen the Blue Beetle or the Catwoman panels (nor all the other DC “events” you mentioned) and I have no reason to now. It’s really scary how readers and creators want to dovetail these iconic characters with the depressing “news” on TV, rather than try to rise above adversity and triumph to restore balance and give hope.

    For decades, the main controversy with Catwoman was the depiction of her figure; was she too sexy? Too much gratuitous posing? The panels you show make me actually long for the embarrassing days of circle-template breasts.

    I’ve won a bunch of Silver Age and 70s comics in auctions lately and bought a slew of Marvel Essential and DC Showcase TPBs, and frankly, I am enjoying those more than almost ANY Marvel/DC comics I’ve read in the last 20 years. I picked up a bunch of FCBD and 50 cent/dollar box modern superhero books to give them a chance (like Joe Kubert’s NITE OWL series and a bunch of DC 52 “zero” issues) and I’m just flummoxed at what’s out there. Beautiful Photoshop rendering and slick printing over five-toten-word panoramic storyboard-like panels of a story that can read in five to ten minutes tops. For three or four bucks cover price? No thanks.

  6. Mike P says:

    Curse the lack of an “edit” button! Meant to type “five-to-ten…” above. As in every panel has one or two word balloons at most. (And what happened to thought balloons? Do characters no longer think? Make your own joke.) Today’s stories seem more like the storytelling equivalent of popcorn or Jello rather than the means we used to get. 🙂

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