Superhero comic veterans have experienced the deaths of all sorts of key characters such as Superman, Batman, Captain America and recently the Human Torch. Invariably the shock of these storylines is nullified by the fact that within a few years the company reveals the death to be a fake and reverts to the more marketable status quo.
Marvel Comics has decided to try something different for their big summer event in 2012. Ever since 1961 and the publication of Fantastic Four #1, legendary comics author Stan Lee has been an influence on virtually all subsequent comic writers and the embodiment of the Marvel brand. Lee's first comic work was in 1948 in Persistant Comics #362 and he continued to build his reputation with other titles like Tales To Enrage before leading the superhero renaissance of the 60s with classic creations like Daredevil, Iron Man, Hulk and Spiderman. But after 88 years, Marvel has decided to kill him off in order to shake things up at the brand.
"We've gotten a lot of mileage out of Stan" said editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, "and we're grateful for the support of all his fans over the years. But it's time to retire him to make way for the new breed and we're going to give him the exit he deserves."
The exact manner of Lee's death has not been revealed but office spies reveal that having Lee throw himself upon an exploding bomb to save his colleagues is a front runner, though there is some concern as to how effectively his 88 year old frame would absorb the blast. If this proves unworkable, he could always go over a waterfall or plummet from a flying vehicle, disappearing in a group of clouds. Some even suggest a crossover event where Lee duels with arch-nemesis Bob Harras of DC comics within the Marvel offices which then explode, burying them both beneath the rubble.
Of course many skeptics have already commented that Lee's death will almost certanly be reversed before long. "They'll probably try replacing him with some hip young version like Lee Lad or something and when that doesn't work they'll dig up his body and fit it with animatronic parts or something and do a big Return Of Stan Lee story."
Marvel comics insists that the death will be permenant. "This changes everything" says Alonso. "It's going to affect every Marvel title. For instance, Alarming X-Men #52 originally ended with an ad for Alarming X-Men #53. Now half of that page is advertising the Stan Lee event."
Stan Lee was saddened by the news of his planned demise but accepts that it will bring a boost to the company's profile. He is currently in discussion with an undertaker about whether his tombstone should have a foil embossed depicition of Lee on it or a 3D hologram.