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Monday, January 19, 2015 

If Arrow's producers don't have a problem with resurrection, why do comics publishers have one?

That's what I'm wondering after reading this Collider interview (via ComicBook) with the Arrow producer Greg Berlanti, where he says he's not against resurrections:
You guys haven’t been shy about killing off major characters on Arrow.

BERLANTI: Yeah.

Can we expect some major deaths on The Flash this season?

BERLANTI: I think we also haven’t been shy about bringing back dead people. We may have one of those shows where no one’s ever really dead, but that’s OK. I think that’s always where a lot of the stakes lie in these shows, so it could happen.

Sarah’s death had a real air of finality.

BERLANTI: Right.

It was pretty vicious. Was that your guys’ way of closing the book on that?

BERLANTI: I don’t close the book on anything ever, because there’s flashbacks and we’ve had Tommy come back a bunch. That’s been really fortunate. I think – Alan can answer this better than me – but it’s like the comic books where the characters come back. They die and that ends a story point, and a lot of times they’re revived. I think it’s like the books that way, to me at least.
This sure stands in stark contrast to the minds of mainstream comics editors and publishers, certainly at DC, who've been adamant about keeping some of the worst character deaths in place no matter how high the protest by fans, and counting on nobody to object when a minor character is killed off (and in Sue Dibny and Jean Loring's case, raped in flashback and turned into a savage villainess), no matter how terribly it was scripted. Or, using a miniseries to pull the vicious deed, because they think nobody could possibly try to find ways to boycott the company.

Berlanti's hardly keeping up with past DC history since Crisis on Infinite Earths, which saw a lot of cases both good and bad involving character deaths. In the bad category, there was the death of Katma Tui in 1988 at the hands of Carol Ferris, then under heavy influence of the Zamorans as Star Sapphire. It was later reversed...but not for long. Zero Hour sent her back to the grave yet again, accompanied by thousands of GLC members. There was the villification of Hank Hall in Armageddon. There were also the deaths of Yolanda Montez and Beth Chapel, the female Wildcat and Dr. Mid-Nite, respectively, during 1993. And, there was the death of Hal Jordan in Zero Hour, subsequently followed by Hank in 2000's JSA tale. Besides the horrific mistreatment of Sue and Jean in Identity Crisis, there was also the death of Tim Drake's father Jack, and that's another hideous error that's remained unrepaired till this day.

The biggest irritant, however, is the inability of many people to distinguish between a good and a bad death, the severity of the mistake, to ask if it can be turned around, and to avoid complaining if there's a chance to reverse a bad decision. As a result, little or no reaction came following the deaths or worse of minor cast members, or, as in the Hal Jordan debacle, they were appallingly divided, with one half thinking we should just let it go despite all the embarrassment that hangs over what's to follow, not understanding that some bad decisions don't just wash away. And nobody seemed to ask if a time warp effect could be performed if that's a good way to reverse a bad step. And here Crisis and Zero Hour were built on time warps! And they both changed some of history, whether big or small portions. How could some people not think to stress that if those past crossovers could serve that function, they couldn't serve the goal of fixing mistakes, if it's of any avail?

I'd like to think maybe these TV shows will persuade the comics publishers to turn things around. But I've got a feeling that's not going to happen so easily. For now, it sure is weird seeing somebody talk about resurrection dead characters in an era where some comics editors and writers are so callous, they won't reverse the worst steps and act like it'll literally make them look silly, while the TV producers clearly have no problem with revivals at all. Resurrection is integral with science-fantasy in every way, yet DC's publishers can't grasp that fact. They probably can't even comprehend character redemptions.

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Both deaths and resurrections in comics are often cynical marketing ploys. Both can be used as publicity stunts, and both are advertised as Big Events when it's a major character.

When secondary characters are killed off, it's sometimes for shock effect, or to motivate the main character (e.g., the girlfriend gets murdered and the hero goes after the killer). Writers (and editors, and publishers) (and TV producers) will insist that the event is necessary "to move the story forward," but it often has the opposite effect. There is no room for character development when characters are reduced to MacGuffins (Alfred Hitchcock's nickname for a plot device that provides a motivation for the characers, but has no importance in itself).

And, oddly, DC and Marvel will both revive characters that no one cares about, then ignore fans' demands to bring back popular characters. Today's creators seem to have a very real contempt for their audience.

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