So Sayeth the Odinson: Things in Comics that Used to be Shocking but are Now Cliché: Part 1 of 2

Greetings from the Odinson,

Comics, and the shows and films inspired by them, are full of moments that can blow your hair back.  These are pivotal moments that pull an involuntary, and sometimes audible, gasp from the reader or viewer.  I’m talking about moments that catch you by surprise, sometimes make you feel uneasy, and in some cases even shock you.

Bane breaking Batman’s back.  The revelation that Annihilus is the leader of the Annihilation Wave, or that the Anti-Monitor is in league with the Sinestro Corps.  In the Iron Man film when Tony Stark stares down a throng of reporters and declares, “I am Iron Man.”  Or, Scarlet Witch uttering, “No more mutants.”

Some moments in comics once upon a time held such power that the sheer weight or impact of them threatened to overwhelm the imagination.  They were monumental and treated with such gravitas that we just knew this meant something.  Unfortunately, some of these significant moments have been used so often that they have lost their weight, their impact, and quite frankly, they have become mundane.   

Things in Comics that used to be Shocking but are Now Cliché

Part 1 of 2: DC Comics

#1: The Death of Superman – I don’t think it is hyperbole at all to state this is the biggest event in Comics History.  If you weren’t around for it in 1993, it is hard to explain just how monumental this was.  Newspapers and broadcasts around the world were reporting on it.  However, in the nearly 30 years since this happened, the death of Superman has become somewhat passé.  The death of arguably the greatest and most important super hero in history has become something of a hobby for creators.  The Man of Steel is seemingly killed off so often and in such matter of fact styles that the moment itself has lost all weight.

The devaluing of the death of the world’s greatest super hero was gradual, but with each passing demise, the impact grew less and less.  During The Obsidian Age caper, Superman, along with all the Justice League, was laid low by a collection of ancient super beings from the distant past.  It’s been a while since I read this story but as I recall, their deaths were nothing any more spectacular than just getting whipped in a fight.  In the climax of Infinite Crisis, the Golden Age Superman, yes, THE original Man of Steel who appears on the cover of Action Comics #1 is beaten to death by an insane Superboy. 

As the years rolled along, the frequency with which Clark meets his end grows substantially.  Kingdom showed us Magog was responsible for the deaths of many Supermen from many alternate realities.  DC made a point to make sure we knew the Batman Who Laughs has murdered hundreds of Supermen on hundreds of different worlds.  In the Last Knight on Earth, Superman’s demise basically comes at the behest of internet trolls.  For crying out loud, the New 52 Superman just crumbles away to dust!

In the film Batman v. Superman, Clark is killed in battle against Doomsday after only having appeared in one previous DCEU movie where he inspired a good portion of the world to fear and hate him, including Batman.  In Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Diana murders her friend because she is upset, and to honor his memory, she makes a weapon out of his spinal column.  I can’t make this stuff up.          

Even the climax of All-Star Superman, perhaps the Odinson’s favorite Superman story of All-Time, ends with the Man of Tomorrow’s demise.

I know there are more examples but I just rattled off nine times since the classic Funeral for a Friend from the early 90s where the Last Son of Krypton has met his end.  Need I remind thee we are talking about a guy that is bullet proof, can turn a tornado upside down, and fly to the sun?  Once upon a time, the Death of Superman was the biggest story in comics.  Now? Whether it is in continuity or in an alternate reality, the demise of the world’s greatest super hero feels almost like a throwaway plot point.   

And how this questionable feat is pulled off more times than not brings me to my next cliché.         

#2: Kryptonite – I understand why Kryptonite exists.  Superman is extremely OP.  What I cannot wrap my head around is why there is such an abundance of Kryptonite on planet Earth.  It’s like our world is a magnet for the stuff.  Plus, in The Search for Kryptonite, didn’t the World’s Finest spend an entire story arch traversing the globe and gather up all the Kryptonite in the world and then destroyed it?  Yet, a few weeks ago, Kryptonite was featured in no less than four separate DC titles whose tales had nothing to do with each other.  It’s almost as if in the DCU, Kryptonite can be purchased at the local 7-11.     

Now, I suspend disbelief and concede that an errant rock or two of the substance, no matter how improbable, made its way across a sea of stars, did not completely burn up in the atmosphere, and landed on our little blue/green ball.  I’ll even concede that some of it may have came along with baby Kal-El and Kara Zor-El in the wake of their rocket ships.  I’ll take that leap.  But the frequency with which Kryptonite shows up in comics, especially when they have established that Batman and Superman rounded it all up, is absurd. 

Here, let’s look at it from another angle.

Krypton was millions of lightyears on the other side of the galaxy.  It explodes, sending chunks of itself in all directions.  Let’s set aside the fact that it would take centuries for the rocks to make their way across the cosmos.  But that so much of it would land on Earth, bypassing all other celestial bodies and gravitational pulls along the way?  Come on, that’s insane even for comic book logic. 

Let’s do an experiment.  Go to a football field and place a baseball on the goal line.  Now, walk to the fifty yard line.  Take a fistful of marbles and chuck them at the baseball.  How many of them do you think will hit the baseball? 

Now, extrapolate that to a cosmic scale and add in an infinite amount of variables.           

#3: Batman with a Gun – Bruce Wayne’s entire crime-fighting existence was the result of a gun.  Yes, in the very beginning when Batman was inspired by the pulp heroes like the Shadow and the Spider that came before, he used a firearm.  Here, on the cover of Batman #15, the Caped Crusader can be seen firing off a machine gun with a smile of pure joy etched across his chiseled face. 

But that came to an end soon after the end of World War II when his adventures softened and leaned more toward the fantastical.  Since then, the Caped Crusader’s opinion that guns are tools of the weak and his aversion to them is well established.  So, the visual of Batman brandishing the very thing he hates most can be unsettling to say the least.  The cover of Batman #301 sees the Caped Crusader holding a smoking gun with the ominous title “The Only Man Batman Ever Killed!”   

The very first time the Odinson can remember seeing Batman brandish a firearm was in the pages of The Dark Knight Returns.  Even though the rifle turned out to be a harpoon line, still, the visual was jarring.  There is also a scene in this story where Batman is holding an M-60.  This was a visual filmmaker Zack Snyder took to heart as the Batman of the DCEU has seemingly no qualms of doing that very thing.        

The next time I saw Batman arm himself with the weapon of his enemy was in Year 2.  This was equally as jarring.  Most of the time, when we see Batman holding a gun in the modern era, he explains that he must master and understand all the tools of the enemy, even the weapon he despises the most, like in Detective Comics #710 and more recently in Batman: Urban Legends #1.  As much as I love Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, I can still remember being shocked when twin machine guns pop up out the Batmobile and the Batwing starts firing missiles at the Joker.  Easily the most shocking moment involving Batman and a gun was in Infinite Crisis when he actually held a gun to Alexander Luthor’s head in a moment of rage.  I actually almost believed he might pull the trigger. 

But lately?  Seeing Batman brandish a firearm has become less and less shocking as the frequency of this happening has increased. 

In Final Crisis, Batman shoots Darkseid with a gun.  In Batman: Odyssey, the Dark Knight resorts to using firearms to save lives.  In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne retires when age and decades of crime fighting have broken him down to the point where he is reduced to grabbing for a gun.  There are even Batmen in the multiverse like Flashpoint Batman and the Grim Knight whose primary weapons are firearms.

Above are over a dozen examples of seeing Batman with a gun, and I’m sure there are a dozen more examples that can be found.  It can be jarring the first time a young fan sees this, even scary in some instances, but what it isn’t anymore is surprising, or shocking.  But it should be, right?   

Side Note: In The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman, SPOILERS, shoots Bane. Am I the only one that finds it ironic that Batman’s life is saved by the very thing he hates more than anything?   

These are 3 examples of things that happen in DC Comics that once would have been considered shocking, but now have become quite cliché. Be sure to tune in next week when the Odinson takes a look at some of these clichés Marvel Comics is guilty of.   

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE.  Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE.

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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