Another month, another holiday, another list of ten. In honor of Easter, I have decided to take this time to celebrate my ten favorite methods of resurrection in fiction! Originally, I was going to do my ten favorite resurrected characters, but there are just too many of them. And, for those of you offended, just think: I could have done worse. I couldn't think of too many freed slaves I love to honor Passover. Only really Mammy from Gone with the Wind. Yes, Dobby counts as one, but who actually liked him? I know; no one! And then people cried all sadly when he died! But I assure you, no one would like to see him employ any of these methods.
Offenders: Laura Fairlie (The Woman in White), Madeleine Elster (Vertigo), Sinestro (Green Lantern), Laura Bristow (Alias), Aunt May (Spider-Man)
This method of resurrection is a cohort of either very strong plotting or very lazy retconning. In novels and movies, it often serves a larger purpose than simply allowing the writer the shock and dramatics of killing off a character only to use him or her later in the story. The results of the death and the discovery of the deception are the source of narrative tension and therefore the story would be weaker with an actual shuffling loose the mortal coil.
However, this method is also famous in comic books and many television shows as a way for writers to bring back characters that they were annoyed at their predecessors for eradicating. A death certificate sometimes is less valuable than a Blockbuster gift certificate (the worst of all gift certificates). The person in question could have been secretly carried away from the plane wreck or had a secret compartment in the building just as the bomb went off. The writer could be particularly creative (read: ludicrous) and fabricate reasons like “Ah! But you killed a hard-light construction of me I engineered in order to drive you further to the brink of madness!” Yes, that is a real reason used.
In short, Fakin’ It is rife with dichotomies. The recently-resurrected could have instrumented the plan or been a victim of it. It is almost certainly the case if there is no corpse but cannot be ruled out even if there is one. And, most oddly, it has simultaneously been behind some of the greatest films and biggest eyerolls of all time.
Army of Me
Offenders: Ayanami Rei (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Hank and Dean Venture (The Venture Bros.)
You get to have your corpse and eat it too. Or something like that. I suppose you could eat the corpse. The beauty of this convention is that it proffers all the joy of the bloody death (no escape hatch or faked allergy to honey) without requiring some hokey way to have a character drive Charon’s ferry in reverse. The character does die and does not come back from the dead…but you still get to enjoy their company. Why? Because some lovely figure (be it the writer or head of a government agency or both) had the foresight to store a few spare copies of this person just in case. This method also then invites all fun introspections on “What is a self?,” which intro to philosophy college students can gush over for hours!
Offenders: Neo (The Matrix), Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia), Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
Word to the wise: if you find yourself in a world with superpowers (oh, let’s say the guy you’re with can leap over skyscrapers or you have a piece of enchanted lipstick that turns you into a pyrokinetic superheroine), you really should not be all that cautious when approaching the subject of your mortality. Honestly, you should just assume that shuffling loose this mortal coil is a pretty much akin to landing in jail in the early stages of Monopoly. It will be an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world (neither, for that matter, is the end of the world). This point is particularly salient if you were to find yourself dying because you were nobly sacrificing your life for the greater good. That’s a “get out of jail free” card right there. There’s no way you’re going to stay dead. None. You pretty much hit the jackpot in Pascal’s Wager and won not only the glory for being such a noble, good being, but also that precious little thing called life.
Only Mostly Dead
Offenders: Westley (The Princess Bride), Norman Osborn (Spider-Man), Morph (X-Men: The Animated Series)
They say that if there’s no body, there is no death. Well, sometimes, if there is a body, there’s still no death. As Miracle Max explains, there’s dead and there’s mostly dead. Mostly dead allows for the shock of the death and perhaps even the loss of a heart-beat/heart, but without the irritating finality of death. Mostly dead is very similar to “Fakin’ It” (in fact Norman does a little of both), but more often than not lacks the possibility of preplanning by the writer (with the exception of Westley) and is a frequent enough device that it deserves its own category.
I’m a Dark Lord. ‘Nuff said.
Offenders: Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Voldemort (Harry Potter), Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four), Megatron (Transformers)
Word to the wise part deux: beings of unimaginable evil and power always come back after their first death, even more evil and more powerful. If you and your friends have just defeated the Great Terror Lord of Gonthrax, you should not be celebrating. If anything, you should be even more worried! All you have accomplished is chaperoning your calamitous caterpillar into the pernicious pupa stage of his metamorphosis of malevolence (where he will then reemerge as a bloodthirsty butterfly)! Granted, I do not know what the implications of this fact are when applied to the best-selling novel, The New Testament, considering we have the death of a powerful being with multiple supporters, only to reemerge a few days later even more awe-inspiring. Maybe Jesus was actually the first Sauron. And all poor Judas wanted to do was pull a Peter Pettigrew and atone for his alliance with wickedness.
I know, I know…I just committed a mortal sin; I confused Harry Potter with Lord of the Rings.
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Explanations!
Offenders: Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes), the crew of Sealab (Sealab 2021), Action League Now! (Kablam!)
How does Daffy survive a gun-shot to the face (or a visit to Hell at the end of some episodes)? How does the Flesh reconstruct himself after being blended, run over by an SUV, exploded, crush by a block of concrete, etc.? How do the denizens of Sealab continuously survive the undersea holocaust and rebuild their home (and don’t say there is no continuity, because they reference past episodes)? WHO CARES?! Look at all the stupid explanations there are for characters coming back to life: Horcruxes, clones, lookalike twins, magical flowers, bullets that send people through time, cocoons at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – sometimes the best explanation is no explanation. You know what they say: if you don’t have anything half-credible to say, don’t say anything at all.
Hell-bent on Slaughter
Offenders: Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason (Friday the 13th), Freddy Kreuger (Nightmare on Elm Street)
This category is almost a subsection of Daffy’s category. Personally, I am not as well-versed on slasher movies as I should be; I’ve only seen the first one of each series. Of course, I have never really surmised that all that much energy is devoted to concocting reasons as to why that axe didn’t fully sever Michael’s head or how Jason survived the room of a thousand dynamites. All that matters is that these creatures have one reason to live: to exenterate the insides of every horny teenager on the planet. And, clearly, there are still horny teenagers out there. In fact, they’re multiplying in numbers! And sometimes this very increase in numbers is due to, you guessed it, horny teenagers! These guys can’t give up on their duty! They have a varsity-level commitment that I only wish I had back when I did track. Death to them is like a few broken bones to an Olympic gold medalist: enough of a reason to pause for a moment, but that’s it. Afterwards, they slap on some duct tape, grit their teeth, and continue the chase. And good for them!
(I can express such sentiments since, as a horny 23-year old, I’m pretty sure I’m exempt from their eviscerations)
I Had an Extra Guy!
Offenders: Pac-Man (Pac-Man), Mario (Super Mario Bros), Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog)
Man, wouldn’t the world be an interesting place if you had multiple deaths before you truly died? I know that The Onion did an investigation on the personal psychological implications of such a reality…but there is so much more. Would people sell their extra guys (or green mushrooms, etc.) in times of economic distress, leading the rich to become nigh-immortals? Or, in fact, would people be born with different amounts of extra lives, which in turn would decide their level in society?
Oh, the possibilities for anti-utopian novels are endless!
Lazy Writing/The Fans Demanded It/Cocoon in Ocean
Offenders: Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Barry Allen (Flash), Bucky (Captain America)
Okay, so usually the writer will ultimately fall back on one of the aforementioned categories or a particularly special case of “cocoon in ocean” (yes, I already mentioned that, but it’s SO freakin’ stupid!). But some cases of resurrection are far more transparent than others. While I can half-buy into certain cases of averted death, there are points where the movie or telev – oh who am I kidding, comic book writer should just devote a few panels to his hand reaching into the grave and picking the dead character out of it before imbuing life back into him or her. Because, no, Barry Allen isn’t alive because of the Speed Force…that is unless Speed Force is “Geoff Johns wants it to be the Silver Age” in another language. What? Grant Morrison wrote that story? No, not believing it. Because, to be fair, Morrison is probably the only one who executed my suggestion. Seriously. Read Animal Man sometime.
It’s My Other Mutant Power
Offenders: Pretty much everyone who has every graced the pages of X-Men
I could pretty much populate this entire list with mutants. Fakin’ It? Yup, Magneto has done that so many times he should probably meet with Dr. Ruth. Clones? Uh-huh. Even if you’re an X-Men and aren’t Multiple Man, a cosmic, nigh-omnipotent deity will provide a few clones of you just to ensure you can die tragically and still come back to grace the shiny variant covers of issue 300. And don’t even get me started on the last category I just discussed.
I’m relatively certain by this point that one of the prerequisites for joining the X-Men is that the potential member in question has to have died at least once. That must be what X-Force, X-Factor, Generation X (oh, am I dating myself?), and all those other teams are force: acquainting the next class of mutants with the concept of their own mortality and their mortality’s mortality. The X-Men are the most elite group of mutants out there; they cannot be wasting their time dealing with death-virgins who actually get worried when a Sentinel beam fries Cyclops. Come on!
Did I miss any of your favorites?
Links & Viewings - 2/6/15
3 years ago