The Roulette Wheel of Death and Rebirth

Thursday March 18, 2004 @ 02:07 PM (UTC)

Some of you may know – in fact, many people who have a minimal or marginal interest in comic books know – that Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl, aka Phoenix, aka The first X-Woman) dies all the freakin’ time. So much so that I have it on good authority that the following exchange actually occured in X-Men continuity at a recent Jean Grey funeral:
Emma Frost (reformed villainess and X-Man): snicker
Scott “Cyclops” Summers: Goddammit Emma! It’s not funny!
Emma: Yes it is, Scott, and you know it.

If my source didn’t invent that passage through wishful thinking, then Marvel knows damn well that Jean Grey’s tragic deaths are as predictable as the tragic deaths of any number of Captain Kirk girlfriends. Why do they keep doing it? Why? I think I have the answer.

Last night I was perusing the polychromatic pages of the periodical (okay, I’ll stop now) Batman/Superman. Er, Superman/Batman. Whatever, this is why they have a logo, not a title. And the last frame of this comic book, after several frames of people talkin’ Kryptonian (yeah, Kryptonian. It’s kindee funny-lookin’.) shows Superman telling Batman as he gives the blonde girl he’s been talking to his cape to wear, “This is Kara Zor-El, my cousin from Krypton.” At this point, my head broke.

You see, DC has had this here “Cousin from Krypton” angle before. She was the original Supergirl. Or the second one. Or something. Before Supergirl was an angel, or an alien-human hybrid, or an angel-human hybrid, or a shapeshifting girlfriend of Lex Luthor’s…umm, okay, I’m already confused. I don’t read Superman, and I don’t understand Supergirl history. But I do know she’s been reinvented so many times that even I, who, as I said, do not read Superman titles have seen at least one Supergirl debut — she was supposed to be Lois and Clark’s daughter from the future. So do you start to see what I’m saying here?

A long long time ago, someone at DC and someone at Marvel made a bet that he (Marvel) could kill Jean Grey (Marvel Girl) more often than he (DC) could reinvent Supergirl. It all makes sense! At the time, it was a lark! Now, so many Jean Greys stenciled on that Marvel guy’s desk, a dartboard of Supergirl concepts mounted on the DC office wall, it’s a grim battle, each comics titan straining against the other to control the cheesiness of the superheroine ethos. This week some poor schmo at Marvel, with “counterintelligence” scrawled on his cubicle tag, read Batman/Superman and groaned. “Guys? Do you have the next Jean Grey death ready? I mean, have you got her alive again and ready to go? Those wily bastards have hidden it in this Batman/Superman thing – I know, a Bat-title! Sneaky! But “cousin from Krypton” only has one meaning…”

Or, you know, maybe it sells comics.


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