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R.I.P.: Rest in Panels

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Has reading comic books given us an unhealthy view on death?  So much talk of Michael Jackson’s passing has me wondering the answer to that question.

Hawkeye died.  Jean Grey too.  Hell, even the Man of Steel… A guy whose name implies his superness (Superman in case you weren’t paying attention) was put to rest for what was thought to be a permanent worm nap.  But, as we funny book readers have all come to learn, nothing is permanent in our beloved comic universes.

Case(es) in point:

Hawkeye returned.  Jean Grey too.  Hell, even the Man of Steel… A guy who you absolutely knew, without a shadow of a doubt, would rise from the ashes like the phoenix (not the Jean Grey variety) to return to his butt kicking ways, woke up from his worm nap.  What was dead is now alive… And this has always been the cycle of life in comic books.

Unfortunately, the cycle of life in reality works a little differently.

Two weeks ago Michael Jackson died.  Given the constant media coverage surrounding his death, I’d assume I’m not catching anybody by surprise by revealing that bit of news.  The thing is, after hearing about his death (over and over and over again thanks to The Today Show), it got me to thinking about comic books.

I grew up in the era of Thriller, the red jacket with all of the zippers, and Bubbles the Chimp.  A little later in life I became a rock junkie, preferring Guns N’ Roses over the R&B-infused pop of Michael Jackson, but there was a time around the release of the Billy Jean video where I tacked a few MJ posters to my wall and attempted my own moonwalk in the privacy of my bedroom.  Eventually I grew out of his music, and ultimately, Jackson the entertainer, but looking into the faces of the thousands of fans who showed up to mourn him, clearly there has been a segment of the population who never moved on from him or his music.

To those people, MJ was their hero.  Sure, he never fought crime using archery, telekinesis, or superhuman strength (at least not to my knowledge), but for an assorted group of the population, he was their Superman.  As a comic fan, when the actual Superman died, you knew his absence was only temporary… That the world would once again see that big barrel chest of his painted with an S.  As for Michael fans, their hero is gone forever and the world will never again see the iconic glittery glove dancing on his hand.

Has a steady dose of comics given us an unhealthy view on death?  I wonder this, not only because of the recent passing of Michael Jackson, but because of the hundreds of people who are lost every day… Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, friends and colleagues.  Every obituary leaves someone somewhere in mourning…  Every death a Superman-sized loss.

Knowing that reality works differently than the Marvel and DC universes, our only defense against death is to live life.  Once we’re gone, we’re gone… There is no resurrection, no revival, no return to Avengers headquarters.  The cold truth is, tomorrow only comes for those who are around to see it, so live for today as if there was no tomorrow… And put down those comic books and imaginary heroes long enough to spend time with the real people in your life… The real heroes.

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