The world of comic books has seen the death of many characters, some have been minute like Captain America’s side-kick Bucky and some were epic like Superman. A company has gone so far as to create a hotline and allow fans to vote on how they wanted a character to die; remember DC Comics and the death of Jason Todd? Yeah…that was weird.
Comics have used the death of a character for several different reasons. It has ranged from a character revamp to the overhaul of an entire company. Marvel, the company behind the Fantastic Four, is possibly the greatest offender when it comes to “killing for killing’s sake”.
Marvel has been publicizing the death of the Human Torch as if it is going to be a major event and perhaps it would be considered that if he wasn’t the third member of the team to “die”. The Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic have both “perished” at points in the past only to be resurrected or have it turn out that instead of dying the character was simply transported to some alternate dimension.
Counter to that would be DC Comics. They have done a much better job of this in the past. For instance, they realized in the mid-80s that their core characters needed an overhaul and thus we had the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. If you’ve never read it, you really should. Even if you don’t like DC characters (which I can’t even comprehend the reasoning behind that argument) the art and writing is outstanding. It is what every epic, world-altering story should aspire to be and the standard by which each of them is judged.
DC is not without its faults. Many could and do argue that the Death of Superman story was simply a ploy to garner revenue and the special editions and promotions surrounding the event would tend to support that argument.
But, similar to the Johnny Storm death, the promotion and press coverage is making comics mainstream news; something that rarely happens outside of when a new comic book movie comes out. Obviously the Human Torch is nowhere even remotely close to being as popular as Superman. It is unlikely that his death will, even with all the press and promotion, cause the kind of ruckus or buying frenzy amongst the non-comic book reading public that the Death of Superman story did. But Marvel can aspire and can hope.
It’s true that for the time being this will mean the end of one of the longest-running comic books of all time and will close a major chapter in the lives of the Fantastic Four family (which, all told, has actually had some 10+ members) in this writers opinion it should not go unnoticed.
It does, however, open the door for us to criticize Marvel if and when they bring back Johnny Storm from the grave. If they do it like DC did with Green Lantern: Rebirth, then they may have a chance of saving face, but that story was pretty amazing and hard to match.