February 23rd, 2008

The Zombie

Destined - or Designed - to Die?

February 23 -  Well, according to the whispers and hints coming from this weekend's Wondercon, J'onn J'onzz is a goner.  It sounds like he'll sacrifice himself somehow to save the DC Universe.  This reminds me, somewhat, of two very different stories.  The first is of Moses, who, although the quintessential spiritual (and literal) leader of the Jews for forty years, was fated to never set foot into The Promised Land after he had led everyone to it.  It's entirely possible (and I'm trying to ignore two decades of callous sales ploys to believe it) that J'onn is something of a DC Moses, whose life-arc ends with the birth of a new era that he was instrumental in creating and securing.  There's some poetry in that, and it's totally within his character to sacrifice himself thusly.  Another story of which I'm reminded is that of an I-won't-reveal-his-name-yet character from my own WOMP Universe.  This character (who actually has been seen in one of the published issues of The Adventures of Monkey) was designed to die.  Sort of.  When I imagined him at first, he was merely a concept, but as Official Friend of WOMP Eric Gillitzer fine-tuned my idea, we both realized that he must die.  It just made everything fit the kinds of stories in which he'd be involved.  It's an odd thing to develop a character whom you know will expire soon.  Many was the time when one or the other of us lamented his inevitable demise, or even tried to find ways to keep him alive.  Still, when all is said and done, his death should prove to be more important and meaningful than if he'd continue to live.  Of course, this unnamed WOMP character has been destined to die since about his second character-design drawing, whereas J'onn originates from the era of "nobody ever dies."  Still, as DC's creative folks played out their stories in planning sessions, it may have struck them, as it struck Eric and me, that a character's death was a logical and meaningful conclusion.  Maybe.  I hope that's the case.  If it turns out that he just croaks for the sales boost, as everyone suspects, then DC will have taken a stupid wrong turn down a very disturbing road.  Now, if we were talking about a Vertigo character or storyline, then all bets are off...but we're talking about a crucial member of the mainstream Justice League here.  I guess...I guess that, in the end, none of this really matters.  Beyond the fact that these are just characters in comic books (which can be brought back to life, go back in time, or just have an inexplicable re-introduction as though nothing had happened), is the reality that there are real problems in the world.  Still, comics can (and should) speak to that larger world.  Relevance is not only a good goal (if even just from a sales standpoint), but something for which all artists should constantly strive.  What these creative people do with J'onn J'onzz at this particular point in history may later be used to understand the very times in which they made their decision.  When writing these "Earth-shaking" storylines, the creative folks at the major comics companies - especially those at DC - should never lose sight of the fact that they are also stewards of our modern mythology.  While mythic characters do die on occasion, they should never die to meet a sales goal.  Speaking of sales, I have to get back to my commissions and such, so here are your African American Cartoonists of The Day for the 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd - E. Simms Campbell, Rashida Lewis, Elaine C. Oldham, and Jay Jackson!