We Need to Talk About Jean by Shawn Spurlock

June 6, 2022 Articles

 “We all got it coming, kid.” -Unforgiven

Yeah, it’s all jean Grey’s fault. All of it. Every time you think to yourself how sick you are of comics constantly offing their characters, you should simultaneously be thinking about how stupid the name Marvel Girl is. Maybe that’s why Chris Claremont and John Byrne decided to change her name with a shuttle crash that Sully would have slept through. Anyway, just like those sponge dinosaurs you throw in a bathtub, Marvel Girl gets nutty as a wet Gremlin and pops out of the water like a Busby Berkely girl but with more force beams and less sequins, basically dying and coming back in the same issue.

Claremont and Byrne then proceeded to make her super interesting for the next three years in what are generally considered to be the best X-Men stories ever told. These were essentially the very first years of Wolverine and Phoenix, and stellar years they were. Everything was just peaches and cream until Jean feels peck-ish and eats a planet.  Although not specifically addressed in the Comics Code, the “spirit of the document”, along with the creative team and Marvel Editorial (much more powerful than the aforementioned Marvel Girl) decide that justice must be served. Eat a planet, pay the price. Strangely, this was also the promotional slogan for Golden Corral at the time.

Thus in 1980, three short years after her debut, Jean Grey throws herself in front of a moon cannon. Sure, it sounds dopey, but fans freaked out.  Imagine how swell angry nerds are on the internet. Now take the internet away and have it all be in person.  The response from Marvel-She’s dead and she’s staying that way. Yep, Jean was going to be what was once referred to as “Bucky dead”, a whimsical term from a time when comic book characters sometimes actually stayed “dead” like Captain America’s kid sidekick from the 40’s. Who is now the Winter Soldier? If it weren’t for Marvel Girl, he’d probably still be that corpse kid from that one rocket that one time. At least the kid had the manners to stay dead for a few decades. Also, he didn’t come back in a cocoon. Why no, you actually did read that right.

Jean Grey was never really dead (just moon cannon dead) you see, she just sat back chilling in a cocoon that looked something like a really old egg salad sandwich until Marvel wanted its Ginger IP back. So, kind of Phoenix/sort of Jean emerged from her sheath of shredded wheat and like elevator doors in a Shining trailer, the floodgates opened for death and resurrection. Of course, there were always characters who were mostly there to be in peril. Spider-Man wouldn’t be half as beloved if he didn’t have the Aunt May of Damacles hanging over his head all of the time. Poor Aunt May needs her medicine more often than Methheads do on early Sunday mornings.

Yeah, Aunt May’s died…twice. Aunt May.

The problem was that Jean showed the people in the suits that death sells comics. Of course, those of us who were reading them before Robert Downey Jr. signed a studio contract knew this. Marvel knew this, as they perfected it. But even Marvel couldn’t get the civilians interested.  Nope, that was DC.

Having noticed that readers were freaking out over the costume of a dead Robin in a tube in Dark Knight Returns, DC introduced a second Boy Hostage because clearly some poor urchin had to expire. Death had become to comics what Gorillas on covers once were.  Why they never just had a book filled with gorillas dropping like flies escapes me. Anyway, DC introduces this kid who gets to be Robin until they have an actual call-in contest to have people vote to see if he should be killed. By the Joker. With a crowbar in the desert. Which is ironic because crowbars are generally excellent at breaking glass tubes.

Then DC killed Superman. Those of us who knew he was never truly alive and would continue to sell Underoos in perpetuity were not concerned. But boy did the civilians fall for it. They were all over that one like a bum on a cheese sandwich. You see kids, back in the olden times there used to be a thing called a “slow news day”. Like Bucky Dead, this is no longer a thing. But it sure was the day that DCPR let the world know they were going to murder the world’s first superhero. I went from clearly developmentally challenged comic book reader to financial advisor in the space of a week. Of course, my fiscal advice was to tell everybody that this polybagged item was not a sound investment vehicle, but l was ignored harder than Rick Jones can ignore a Gamma Bomb Test Site sign. Looks like Junior might not make it to college on that one, but you can probably fill up a 17-gallon tank if you can find somebody to buy it. Maybe somebody will even wipe your windshield if you still have the armband.

It was the armband that prevented DC from printing enough copies of that one, so feel free to blame it on the band if you must, but you secretly know that it was all Jean Grey’s fault. Now comic book death is so common that nobody even notices. Within the last couple of months, we’ve seen the deaths of Deathstroke, Ra’s al Ghul, Doctor Strange, and the entire Justice League. Naturally the place where character death is most egregious starts with an X. Now we can blame the constant resurrection of mutants on Jonathan Hickman, although I suspect that Marvel Girl told him to do it in a fever dream, he may have had. Now it just seems like superheroes fight death more often than they fight the villains. Am I the only one who wants to see Batman scare the crap out of mugger? Spider-Man used to stop a bank robbery every once in a while. The only way that would happen now is if it was some “dark” spider-type-person fleeing with burlap bags emblazoned with $

The best way to politely beg Marvel and DC to stop killing all of their characters is to vote with your dollars. Next time DC decides to kill off the entire JLA, just don’t buy…oh wait, bunches of you didn’t buy that.  The only way to get the publishers to stop is by supporting the titles that are focused on how your heroes live rather than perish. Use your purchasing power wisely, and maybe the next time somebody throws themselves in front of a moon cannon, they’ll stay dead.