Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 3: RIP Johnny Storm, Camelot Hero

Death of the Human Torch, in FF #587 released January 25, 2011. Fantastic Four vol. 3 #587.

I no longer read the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man regularly, but it looks like no one in the comic book industry is stepping back from the Revolving Door of Death any time soon. Both Marvel and DC have claimed they are shutting the door, that is, they will keep killing characters, but that resurrections of characters that have been killed off will stop. But death still sells, and money talks louder than integrity in story-telling. Editorial 'dead means dead' declarations are merely attempts to reinvest an overused trope with meaning. The whole point of using death as a narrative device is that it supposedly adds a tone of momentousness to a story. Yet with the recurrent use of the device, the emotional weight of death has diminished.  And no one seems to understand that when they kill off a hero, they kill the values he represents; they attack the ideals that his powers symbolize.

A death story like the one that appeared this week in Fantastic Four #587 sparks nostalgia over the dead character among those who have not followed that character for years. When I read the Fantastic Four decades ago, Johnny Storm was my favourite member of the FF. He's one of several young male heroes who debuted in the early-to-mid 1960s whose powers and behaviour were unconventional compared to the likes of Superman, Captain Marvel and Captain America. I've always had a soft spot for these characters from the late Silver Age: The Human Torch (1961), Spider-Man (1962), Cyclops and Iceman (1963), Ironman (1963), Daredevil (1964) and Beast Boy (The Changeling) (1965). They are all, in their own ways, fallible, yet they still have the gloss of confidence, a gutsy heroism.

In their origins, these are bridge characters, retaining some values from the preceding aftermath of World War II - but they anticipate the social upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s. Thus, they reflect some of the moral absolutes of the war (arguably the source of their courage). But their brand of heroism equally incorporates the lingering ambiguities of the Korean War, as well as the rebellious attitudes of the Angry Young Men and the Beat Generation.