Nobody Stays Dead In Comics: Overcoming The Fear of Death
When I was a kid, there was an expression in comics; “Nobody stays dead...except Bucky.” This was referring to the fact that in the world of comics, killing a character may be dramatic for a moment, but due to story, finances, or whatever reason that character would eventually be brought back. Bucky, Captain America’s “Robin” knock off, had proved to be the only exception...wait for it...but then Bucky came back. Bucky was dead from 1945-2005. That’s a long stint to be dead for a comic character. I’m not complaining. I really enjoyed “The Winter Soldier,” but still I liked it better when that saying included “Bucky.”
But it’s just a common theme in comics that if someone dies, they will eventually come back. I mean looking at it objectively, who hasn’t died in comics? Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Thanos, Cyclops, Groot, a few Robins, Poison Ivy, Jean Grey, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Flash, Elongated Man, Captain Boomerang, Captain America, Spiderman, even Wolverine died recently. But we’ve learned to not take these losses seriously because for profit, fan outcry, or for furthering a story, these characters will eventually be brought back from
death. It may be because a psychotic Superboy is punching through the walls of time and reality like in “Infinite Crisis,” it may be because an event like Flashpoint, or Secret Wars reset the entire timeline, or maybe their death is just explained away. But in any circumstance we know they’ll eventually show up again.
I remember back when the “Batman R.I.P” story was coming out, I was getting flustered and I announced in one of my messages at my campus ministry that “When they kill Batman, I’m done! I’m not reading comic books anymore.” I took them killing Batman very personally, but I should have known better. Technically he never died. His body was swapped out with a clone and the real Batman was jumping through time like Doctor Who, and tada, he eventually came back.
At this point the death of a comic character no longer fazes me, but actual death is another story. Since I’ve been a kid the concept of death has been a struggle for me, bringing me to point of panic attacks and cold sweats on a couple of occasions. I’ve been a believer since I was 13, but that still hasn’t prevented this anxiety from sneaking up on me now and again. Usually it’s when I’m lying in bed and I’m not quite sleepy enough, and the thoughts start running through my mind, “What if I’m wrong about everything I believe....what if when I die, I just cease to exist?” I don’t believe this to be true, but that thought will invade me, making me panic like there is something I could do to possibly prevent this. And when I’m this distraught thinking of Heaven or eternity doesn’t really bring much comfort because life lasting forever is just as hard of a concept to mentally grasp as life ceasing. I fully believe in God, The Bible, Jesus Christ, His death, His resurrection, and His ability to resurrect us as well. It’s just sometimes my mind is my own worst enemy. When I am in my right mind and focus, I see things much more clearly and this thought settles;
“Death is no more real and relevant to a Christian than it is to Batman, Wolverine, or Superman. We’re gonna come back.” While they may be fictional characters that breathe again with a few pencil strokes, we have a Savior who handled death, faced death, defeated death, and overcame it. If we truly believe the Gospel to be true, then we have to truly believe that death has nothing on us. Look at the situation with Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5 “ While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore? ” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.
He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Verses 35-43).
When Jesus was faced with the death of a child, he didn’t fret. He responded “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” How comforting would it be for us that when we are bogged down with fear in this situation to hear Jesus speak the words “Don’t be afraid; just believe?” While we may not hear them from His lips, these words are His and meant to bring us comfort now as well.
Even the situation with Lazarus; in John 11, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Verses 21-26). Martha believed Jesus held power over life and death, but even face to face with Him she limited his ability to her own understanding. If we believe Jesus has power over death, then we need to take confidence that His power far exceeds our own understanding as well.
As Peter stated about Jesus in Acts 2, “24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
It was IMPOSSIBLE for death to keep its hold on Him. I love that. And ss a believer we aren’t going blindly into this whole resurrection thing, just as we accept life through Christ, we experience resurrection through Him, by the power of our great God.
As Paul nails it down in 2 Corinthians 4, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” (Verses 10-14).
Believing the Gospel of Jesus isn’t just believing we get out of Hell, or are a better person. Believing the Gospel fully includes believing that death has no power over us. 1 Corinthians 15, “ Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (Verses 12-14).
If we can place our faith in Him to save our soul, is it so much harder to believe that we will be raised from the dead?
One of the verses I’ve always heard, but have in my heart thought “umm....not too sure about this,” have been Philippians 1:21. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I’m 100% on the “Live is Christ” part, but have I gotten to the firm belief that “to die is gain”? That’s the place you arrive at when you truly believe the WHOLE gospel, and not just the easy parts.
Comic creators kill of characters for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that people will buy in when ; A: A character is going to die. and B: When they come back.
Killing off a character is often a big win for them because people will run out to buy that issue, and the same is often true for the comeback. This week (as I’m writing this) Damian Wayne, aka Robin, just came back from the dead. I totally don’t have time to read that issue right now, but I bought it.
We need to have the same confidence of these comic companies, that not only is death not really a threat, but in actuality it’s a win for everyone. We need to believe this, 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “... Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”