I was just reading a review about a recent comic book series, “Blackest Night”, when it struck me why I don’t like many modern super hero comics. Especially the earth-shaking cross over events that happen every year at Marvel and DC. I also just read “The Death of Captain America” omnibus and that probably added to it too.

“Blackest Night” and the Cap book are both about dead super heros. “Blackest Night” has a bunch of zombie/reanimated/returned from the dead (I don’t know which because I didn’t read it) super heros and villains fighting a bunch of Green Lanterns and such. The Cap book is about everyone around Cap carrying on after Cap is killed.

Here’s my problem with them and lots of other comics: Schrödinger’s cat. You can read about it on Wikipedia where they go into it in much more detail but Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment by an Austrian physicist named Erwin Schrödinger. He was pointing out the problem of quantum physics’ notion of sub atomic particles existing in many states at once by creating a thought experiment where, by the rules of quantum physics, a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. An impossibility, an absurdity, and a paradox.

How does this relate to Marvel and DC super hero comics? Because I realized, in my mind, that all their characters have become Schrödinger’s cat. They have killed off so many characters and brought them back so many times that there is no longer a distinction between a character being alive and a character being dead.

In the story line of the moment a character may be dead but we readers know that the character will be brought back to life fairly soon. This has happened so often that I no longer even know which characters are dead or alive at any given time so that all the characters become both dead and alive in my mind. It’s absurd and distances me from the story.

DC killed Superman in the 1990’s. Anyone who was reading his comic knew he was eventually going to be brought back to life. And he was. DC Comics recently killed Batman but are now in the process of bringing him back to life. In the last Captain America omnibus I read they brought back Cap’s old sidekick form the 1940’s, Bucky. They resisted bringing him back for decades but now he’s here again. I could go on for a long time listing characters who died and then came back.

I read the whole “Death of Captain America” omnibus knowing that Cap is already alive again. It was a well done book. The writing and art were fine but it was dripping with absurdity. Here was a whole big comic book, 350 pages or so, of people dealing with a character’s death that every reader knows will be alive again so he’s not really dead. He’s dead and alive at the same time. A paradox. It made the fictional world that they were trying to create not very believable to me.

Plus a lot of these crossover events from Marvel and DC deal with multiple universes and time travel. They constantly creating alternate versions of their heroes and villains who they kill off as they wish within the story. It’s gotten to the point where I see some new version of a familiar face and I know there’s a good chance he’ll be dead by the end of the story. And then maybe be reanimated.

Comics used to be a world where a villain’s death was meaningless. Sure it looked like the Red Skull died but we, and even the super heroes in the story, knew he’d be back to plague the hero sooner or later. But now life and death for both the hero and villain are meaningless. Every hero and villain dies and then comes back to life or is brought back as a zombie. There is no distinction for me between life and death in a lot of these stories. That is bad for the drama of a story.

So now whenever I read any of these big event comics or any comic with time travel or multiple reality elements every character becomes Schrödinger’s cat. And that’s not a good thing because Schrödinger’s cat is meant to point out the absurdity in a system that doesn’t quite work as it should.