Has reading comics made me immune to Avengers: Endgame grief?


I was all ready to sob my way through Avengers: Endgame (opens in new tab). I even brought two packs of tissues along to my screening. TWO. I was ready for the pain. I was hoping for the pain. And yet, I held it together. To be clear, I don’t mean that I was dignified – I hollered, I cheered, at one point I found myself screaming “SHE’S ON A FLYING HORSE!”. But, to my surprise, I didn’t cry. Maybe I’m just a cold hard bitch, but when Tony Stark delivered his last “I am Iron Man” and heroically sacrificed himself, I just felt a peaceful acceptance. This isn’t my first comic book rodeo, and dying is simply what superheroes do.

“Everyone is your favourite character until your new favourite character comes along. We’re fickle beasts.”

Perhaps my years of reading comics have immunised me against superheroic death – it’s so omnipresent, even if it’s hardly ever permanent. But, more than anything else, comics have taught me how to move on from the deaths of fictional characters. I bawled my eyes out when the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker died, but within two or three issues of Miles Morales’ turn in the Spidey suit I was completely sold. Peter Parker was a distant memory. Over in DC, when Barry Allen was killed off as The Flash and replaced by Wally West, fans were outraged. A couple of decades later, when DC brought back Barry and wrote Wally out of existence fans were once again outraged, so much so that DC brought Wally back, and the cycle of being a comic book reader continues. Everyone is your favourite character until your new favourite character comes along. We’re fickle beasts.

Image credit: Marvel / Disney

Image credit: Marvel / Disney

Ongoing characters, different faces

And we have to be, because comics are a strange landscape – ever shifting, but ultimately always the same. There will always be a Batman and a Captain America, it just isn’t always Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers wearing the costumes. There will always be an Iron Man. I mean that partly in a literal sense – just because he’s died on screen, doesn’t mean he won’t keep having adventures in the pages of comics – and in a figurative sense. The spirit of Iron Man will live on. The sound of a hammer striking metal over the Avengers: Endgame post-credits scene (opens in new tab) – or what consisted of one – is a reminder that, in comics, there’s always someone new waiting to step into a legacy role. Perhaps, on screen, Morgan Stark will one day don her father’s armour. Maybe Shuri will build herself a supersuit. Maybe Riri Williams from the comics will make her on-screen debut as Ironheart. This is comics, people. There’s always something else to move on to.

If you can’t move on, then comics simply aren’t very fun. Even if characters don’t die, writers or artists can depart from your favourite comic, and the next creative team on the book might not tick your boxes. You may temporarily lose interest in a character that was once at the top of your pull list. But you also might discover that the new creative direction is even better. Most comic book fans have favourite eras – usually whatever they were reading around their late-teens/early 20s – or favourite runs that, like classic books, you can go back to time and time again. But if that’s all you like, and you complain relentlessly about how modern writers and artists are ‘ruining’ comics, then, to paraphrase Tarantino, you don’t really like comics – you just like the comics you like.

Image credit: Marvel / Disney

Image credit: Marvel / Disney

Being a comic book fan is about being open to change. Stories have to end – it’s the ending that makes them good. But that doesn’t mean the story can’t start up again, in a slightly different place, from a slightly different angle, starring slightly different characters. The other benefit to being a comic book fan is that we know just how much is in the Marvel Universe that the movies haven’t even scratched the surface of yet. Yes, I’m sad that the Infinity Saga is over. It was a lot of fun. But I’m excited about what’s to come next. I’m ready to move on.

Most of the original Avengers may be gone, but the MCU is still going strong, it’s still stuffed with great characters, and has so many places to go next, both on the small screen and the big. I can be sad that Cap’s story is over, while still being excited at the prospect of finally getting to see Kate Bishop on screen. Reading comics gives me that advantage.

Plus, we still have Tom Holland’s delightful Spidey, which, frankly, is all we really need.

Want more Avengers: Endgame gossip? Why not listen to our discussion on all the biggest questions that remain after the Avengers: Endgame ending (opens in new tab) below:

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