Doesn’t have the right ring to it, does it?
Anyway, Marvel says that in issue 587 of the comic, one of the four — the Thing, the Human Torch, Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic — will die, and, unlike previous character “deaths” that were fake or led to convenient story lines that involved them being taken to another dimension, will be just plain dead. From then on, the comic will involve the remaining three, plus “new alliances” and maybe new member(s). And they’re pulling out all the stops by wrapping the issue in a black polybag so you can’t peek.
Well, they got your attention, right?
Killing off regular characters is, of course, a time-honored tradition that results from one of a few situations: the writers can’t figure out what to do with the character, the actor wants more money and the producers want to teach him or her a lesson, that kind of thing. Sometimes, it’s established as a regular part of the action — “Lost,” for instance, although, technically, they ultimately killed off the whole cast — but there are a lot of examples. It’s rare, however, that a main, lead character bites the dust. The classic was Maj. Henry Blake on “M*A*S*H,” dispatched for good after McLean Stevenson quit the show.
And then there was the show that killed off the lead, title character but kept the actor. How do you get away with that? The show was “Nichols,” a western starring James Garner in 1971. Ratings were poor, and the producers decided that maybe the problem was that the lead character, Nichols himself, was the problem, because he was sort of an anti-hero — pacifist, money-focused, motorcycle-riding — and audiences weren’t taking to him. So they decided to kill him off in the final episode of the first season to bring in — seriously — an “identical twin” out for revenge. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for that meddling NBC, which canceled the show, leaving the “transitional” episode the last one.
But TV, and comics, and all of popular culture are littered with the bodies of popular-but-not-popular-enough characters who met an untimely demise. Remember them in the comments. And place your bets on which of the Fantastic Four is about to be significantly less fantastic.