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Aging in Comic Books

In comic books, character traditionally stay young forever. However, in the past 30 or so years, several important and critically acclaimed stories have focused on aging super hero characters. Stories like the Dark Knight Returns (Batman) and Old Man Logan (Wolverine) have aged their respective characters well into middle age. These stories are considered some of the best for their respective characters (DKR is a landmark title) but how are these characters different than their younger counterparts. What is the impact of aging super heroes, who are traditionally portrayed as eternally young. How does the reader’s perception of these characters change when they grow old or advance in age?

  • Interesting topic. It could be interesting to also discuss why Spiderman hasn't aged much in his comics, since many have already made fascinating commentary on that (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1dO462ufLc; worth watching the whole thing, but relevant content begins at 4:22). – ProtoCanon 5 years ago
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  • Another interesting affect this has on characters is the sliding time line of their back stories. Sometimes the writers can retcon this sort of stuff with little fuss, i.e. punisher fighting in Vietnam is changed to Iraq. But for a character like Magneto, whose origin story and, by extension, entire world view stem from his experience of the Holocaust, it's very hard to explain why he's not dead at this point. I don't know if you want to touch on this also, but related to this issue is the fact that characters who never age never die(and if they do, comic book death is cheap). So we have golden age, silver age, bonze age, and modern age heroes all occupying the same stage, all very nearly the same age. This presents especially interesting problems for legacy characters with large families. Take the bat family, that has something like four robins, three batgirls, and a bat-woman in it right now. And I think all four people who've held the flash mantel are alive now too. Not to mention the 6(?) green lanterns currently inhabiting sector 2814. Crises only keep these characters dead for so long. – ealohr 5 years ago
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  • Also worth noting is how lack of aging can be tied to lack of development in characters, so writers often reuse the same story tropes instead of letting the characters progress (i.e. the reversal of Peter and MJ's marriage leaving Peter as a single guy again, or bringing Aunt May back to life). – jnardone 5 years ago
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