posted by @CalmTomb
Charles Xavier died last week. You’ll forgive me if I don’t wear a black armband.
It’s nothing against him. I’m not a die-hard X-Men fan, but I’ve dug Xavier – better known as “Professor X” — in a few of his incarnations. It was amusing to watch him try to pick up college girls with his line about “a really groovy mutation” in X-Men: First Class. I loved seeing him walk again and battle his evil, died-in-the-womb-but-somehow-survived twin Cassandra Nova in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men (a great series until it went nuts at the end. See also: Grant Morrison’s JLA).
And I imagine for kids who use wheelchairs, it was cool to see a superhero who looked like them (I know my girlfriend, who has a disability, feels the same sort of affection for D.C. Comics’ Oracle). But I can’t get too sad over learning that Marvel killed him off in the latest issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men.
In comic books, at least mainstream superhero comic books, death has no meaning anymore. When news of Xavier’s death broke this week, a few different news outlets ran this quote from Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief:
When we first crafted ‘Avengers VS. X-Men,’ we didn’t set out to kill any characters, but as the story progressed it became obvious that this had to be the last stand of Charles Xavier.
Who knows? Maybe they really mean for Professor X to stay as dead as Gwen Stacy or Bruce Wayne’s parents. But the track record for dead – or fundamentally altered — major comic book characters says otherwise.
At this point, I feel just linking to Max Landis’ excellent Death and Return of Superman video on YouTube and just calling it a day. One of the points he makes – which I’ll steal – is that death in comics has been a lot less final in the last 20 years.
Superman, of course, died and came back in the span of about a year back when I was in high school. At the time, it was a big deal, the type of thing – for 14 year-olds, anyway — that made traditional superhero comics seem cool and relevant again in the age of Image Comics.
Side Note: writing at age 35 about how stuff like Spawn seemed “cool” makes me realize how my parents must feel looking at pictures of themselves in the 1970s. Jesus, were those comics terrible.
Kids who didn’t even read comics bought that infamous black-bagged issue. Some of them just wanted to see what the commotion was about. Others had the misguided notion that “it’s going to be worth something someday.” (That “something” amounts to about $16)
And from there, the damage was already done. It seemed like every major comic book character had to go through some sort of upheaval. Batman had his back broken (but it got better). Daredevil got a 1990s-idea-of-badass new costume (he doesn’t wear it anymore). Aquaman lost a hand, and gained a hook (?) or something (for a while). And for all I know, the Flash became Fem-Flash, and Iron Man decided he liked bronze better.
Granted, a lot of these changes happened during an extremely low-point for comics (other than Vertigo, did the big two companies do ANYTHING memorable in the ‘90s?). Yet, we’re not exactly in a Golden Age now, either. Between re-launches, “Zero” issues, dual universes and the like, comics are changing all the time. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, but none of it’s ever permanent.
So, RIP, Professor X. We’ll see you next year.
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