In which I don’t spoil the Fantastic Four “death.”

§ January 26th, 2011 § Filed under death of superman, investing, retailing § 15 Comments

So the new Fantastic Four is the way-overhyped “death” issue, in which it looks bad for the character in question, sure, but not necessarily a cut ‘n’ dried demise by any means. I’m not going to get into spoilers, for those of you who’ve managed to miss the media blitz about the event which happily revealed the comic’s alleged starring corpse, but anyone reading the story can see it for the “all the other characters think this character is dead, but we’ll eventually catch up to that character and see what he/she’s been up to in the months during the apparent deceased-ness” situation that it is.

Not blaming the creative team of the book, I should note, which has been turning out a solid adventure serial. Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting are presenting complex, interesting, intelligent and still fun superhero stories. This “death” was clearly just a plot twist in an ongoing saga that got blown out of proportion to a general audience of non-comic-readers who are becoming increasingly wary of these stunts. (Let me link again to this post of mine about this sort of promotion.) Unfortunately, I can’t really blame Marvel for this promotional stunt, as it’s hard to get widespread mainstream attention on comics that isn’t “somebody dies, no really!” or “soon to be a movie!” or “this comic has a swear in it, WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN” or, as pal Dorian noted to me, “found strewn about the killer’s apartment….” It’s a shame you usually can’t get this amount of attention simply by saying “this is a good comic people might enjoy,” but the saying isn’t “if it reads, it leads,” after all. You need a gimmick, and “SOMEBODY DIES!” is the one that gets the real world attention. Conversely, “SOMEBODY COMES BACK!” never works as well in grabbing the public, as every return of a dead character since that white-bagged Adventures of Superman #500 has shown.

It’s interesting to see that even the mainstream news media stories are now including the implied “what, again?” eyeroll regarding this kind of marketing stunt (such as in this spoiler-filled article), which may further undermine the influx of magpies clutching at the shiny investment potential of yet another temporary death. Especially since the last few have been reversed relatively quickly, turning hypothetical fortunes into just so much polybagged paper.

Ultimately, I expect we’ll sell out of this new FF…we didn’t go overboard on ordering it, and it comes sealed in a familiar-looking if fairly pixelated black bag which will certainly grab attention. But if we do get some new folks in looking for the comic, it’ll once again be a one-shot media-fueled bump, bringing a few bucks into the comics marketplace, but won’t be built upon, won’t be sustained, and will only return when the next “death” comes along, assuming there are still some people left who’ll continue to buy into the hype. The returns diminish each and every time.

Well, I’m certainly Mr. Downer-Pants. Here, let a little stuffed bull treat the topic at hand in the best way anyone can…with big laffs!

15 Responses to “In which I don’t spoil the Fantastic Four “death.””

  • Alex says:

    Hey Mike,

    Is there ever an effort at the store to capture more of the potential audience during stuff like this, by say, pulling up a box of dollar bin FF issues, or ordering a few extra reprints of steady selling, intro friendly trades? Does Marvel solicit any stuff that you can order around event time that is explicitly solicited as such?

    I’m just curious. It does seem like this “character dies” media event has happened often enough now that companies (particularly Marvel) should have figured out how to hook some new readers and sell an extra comic or two. But maybe my memory is a little fuzzy – were those 9 cent Batman and 25 cent FF comics from a few years back the type of tie in I’m thinking of? If they were, did they work?

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    So I’ve been following the FF and am pretty excited about the stories nowadays, have been enjoying the suspense, and was looking forward to finding out what happens this issue. And yesterday, a co-worker of mine who is not himself into comics but read some article greets me with “hey, what do you think of [FF Character] dying?” Auugh!

  • ostrakos says:

    Wait, wait…it really does come in a polybag? I thought that was a joke.

  • I doubt that anyone REALLY thought this would be a “real death” anyway.
    Even Joe Quesada (he of the “dead means dead” edict a few years back) stated in a recent interview for the “event” that when and/or if the character comes back, it would be in keeping with the storyline (read: the story as pitched to editorial already outlined the method of “return”).

    As for character deaths, is it weird that I firmly believe the most impactful character death (which also was in an issue of FF) was the John Byrne issue where Sue has a miscarriage?

    That was powerful (if melodramatic) stuff.

    That heavily-blacked paneled last page was a gut-punch, unlike the last page of this new issue, where we know that those on THIS side of the door just can’t see “Character # 4″ pulling out a win and/or being rescued.

    Still, the creative team HAS been batting 1,000 on the title (although, as much as I like Epting’s work, I truly miss Eaglesham’s retro-Kirbyesque artwork).

    I’m on board for the foreseeable future.

  • Bully says:

    Wow, who woulda thought Willie Lumpkin was even still alive?!?

  • Mikester says:

    Alex – Past efforts have shown that folks driven into stores by media-hyped events such as this are only interested in the item they heard about in the news. They don’t care about other products, they don’t even care about future issues of the very comic they’ve come in to buy…they just want their investment and we’ll never see them again.

    There are always exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.

  • Tim O'Neil says:

    It’s funny you mention Sue Storm’s miscarriage – I was just thinking, even *that* death was eventually reversed. In a really convoluted way, but there you go.

  • A.L. Baroza says:

    Isn’t Valeria a sorta-kinda retcon of the Sue miscarriage story? Like, the spirit of the dead baby ended up manifesting in her new baby or some such nonsense? I wasn’t following the book when it happened, but I remember reading something to that effect online and if it’s in the internet it must be true!

  • A.L. Baroza says:

    Ah, Tim, you beat me to the punch.

  • Alex says:

    Mike -

    That’s too bad, I was really thinking that by 2011, the “investment” mindset of the early nineties had to be slowly fading away in the collective consciousness.

    Still, there’s always Free Comic Book Day!

  • There IS a backdoor way for [REDACTED] to return, so I’m not bovvered.

    BTW, FF#587 is one hell of a read.

    [Note from Mike: I edited the name of the “deceased” out of the comment — not that it’s a big secret NOW or anything, but I didn’t want anyone who didn’t already know to find out from my post!)

  • Andrew says:

    The obvious way of promoting comics would be to attach an advert to the related movie and its DVD release — a short film with various people suggesting great comics that could follow on from the movie.

  • Wes says:

    I worked for a newstand distributor during the “Death of Superman” debacle and I remember that we all thought that the hype reached such a frenzy, simply because it was a slow news week. Then when the “resurrection” happened, Waco, TX was all over the news with David Koresh and Janet Reno. So nobody really cared about Superman. I think that’s why so many people who got sucked into the hype of it all think he’s still dead. They missed the memo.

  • Kid Nicky says:

    I’m really surprised there’s still any non-fans at all who would still care about these things. Presumably these same guys fell for Superman’s death,McFarlane toys,and Turok #1,wouldn’t you notice that you never make any money from this crap?

  • to Tim O’Neil and A.L. (and others)

    Yes, Valeria was indeed the retconned reintroduction of Sue Richard’s miscarried baby.

    Ironically, I WAS going to mention the retcon in my initial comment, but the damned story is SO convoluted and ridiculous (she’s from another timeline?… no, wait… is she Dr Doom’s daughter via Sue?, no Reed was in Doom’s body at the time?, no wait… her spirit was floating in the aether?… no wait…she was brought back to life by Franklin?… no wait…) that I just let it go.

    Seriously, here’s the wiki page for her origin. It’s all kinds of screwy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeria_Richards

    But, that’s why I said it was IMPACTFUL (not a real word, I know), and not “permanent”.