Friday, October 06, 2006

Gruesome Challenge Time!

Let's put this one to the test.

Name three male characters who have been decapitated on-panel in DC Comics since January 2006.

35 comments:

  1. I hadn't realised that Trajectory had been decapitated. It's not at all clear from the art in 52, even if you are looking for it. There's only one panel where there's a full body shot and there the area where her head would be is so shadowed that it's hard to say whether or not it was still attached.

    I suspect editorial interference at the last minute because the panel doesn't make a lot of sense in context. In the previous panel Blockbuster has her head in his left hand. Next panel his left hand is thrown out behind him and he is holding her by the leg in his right hand. There is a "krak" sound effect that doesn't appear to relate to any action occuring in the panel.

    In two following panels we see the head fall but it is so far to the side, and at such an angle that it is impossible to tell whether there is anything attached to it. Certainly she is dead, but it could easily well be read that he just broke her neck from what we are allowed to see. It's only the website entry that explicitly states what happened.

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  2. Hm... I'm noticing people on some boards still taking it as decapitation. That there's a sound effect and the hand that was holding her head is thrown behind him implies him tearing the head off and throwing it behind him. Ick. I think you're right that it's either editorial influence or an artist goof... But my thinking is if she died from a broken neck, why only show the head falling? Usually they show the body going or being limp to get the neck breaking across...

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  3. You're correct. The official 52 site calls it decapitation. They are just being all coy about showing it in the comic. What makes me suspect late editorial involvement is that it's so completely vague that it might as well have not happened.

    If you are not going to let the pictures tell the story then you need to have some indication in the text. Here you can only work it out from the compositions that look odd unless you know this is what's happening and from what is NOT being shown in the pictures.

    Time for a little rant of my own, methinks.

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  4. Decapitation's pretty specific. Does neck snapping count, or do we need a clean break? And does it need to be at the neck, or if the majority of the head is gone does that count?

    I'm guessing Robot Man's decapitation in last week's Secret Six doesn't count, considering he's still wise-cracking afterwards.

    OKAY! Black Adam went on a bit of spree in issue #3 of 52, crushing Noose's head in his hands and bi-secting Terra Man. Do those count?

    Booster was almost bi-sected as well

    Alexander Luthor had half his face burned off.

    What is that, 2 1/2?

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  5. Jonah Hex cut the head off the 'Doc' in issue 12. The action isn't shown on-panel, but we see the headless corpse and the head on a counter.
    But this doesn't count because A) it's not on-panel & B) the tattooed woman/fortune teller gets repeatedly raped (but not on-panel)

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  6. Does Doctor Psycho's exploding head on the hands of Black Adam counts?

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  7. In what way does rape invalidate decapitation? I'm seriously boggled.

    I'm wondering if Psycho man counts. I mean there was no head left after Black Adam hit him in Infinite Crisis.

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  8. Don't you hate it when someone else posts the same idea while you are writing yours?

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  9. It’s like rock paper scissors:

    Rape invalidates decapitation.

    Decapitation nullifies total skeletal extraction.

    Deskeletonizing quashes rape.

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  10. He's the Psycho Pirate. Hate the swash, but respect the way it's buckled.

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  11. Oops. You're right. My brain needs a service check.

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  12. Actually the decap may count. The rape was in issue 11 and the decap was in 12. Sheesh, I gotta quit reading two issues back to back.

    The reason that rape would invalidate decap would be because Ragnell & others have pointed out how terrible rape as a story device has become. That & I was trying to be funny.

    And by the by, Ragnell, was that you buying comics in Edmond last night?

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  13. Marionette: It is really sloppy, but DC's saying it's decapitation, so they're saying how to interpet the scene.

    Steven: It's specific because, well, three women characters have died almost the same manner (Pantha and Mongul both by a punch). Being cut in half is a different case, isn't it? They definately don't get as graphic or extended as Pantha, Mongal and Trajectory's death scenes.

    I wouldn't count Robot Man, since, of course, decaptitation isn't a big deal for robots (Didn't ever stop Bender!). He's still alive.

    Booster's potential bisection doesn't count because his death ended up being completely different, and not as graphic, I think, as the Three. And I don't know where Alex Luthor's involuntary Two-Face homage fits in. His death was shown off-panel.

    I'm not a Jonah Hex reader, so the "Doc" thing is going to have to be explained to me...I think I might concede Psycho Pirate, though I'm not quite sure it matches up. But it's interesting that only villians like Psycho Pirate, or Noose, or Doc are being suggested as coming close, when there's two heroes in the trend.

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  14. Well, if we assume that robots/androids/etc don't count.. I actually can't think of three on panel decapitations of male superheros.

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  15. I'd hardly call Trajectory's death "graphic" if most people couldn't even tell what happened.

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  16. I mentioned this conversation to a friend who pointed out that several of the Metal Men got decapitated in JLA #1. Whether or not it's permanently disabling for them, that's still a whole lot of decapitation going on.

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  17. rob s.: True, I may have been thinking of "excessive," with those panels of the head falling and the implication of Blockbuster tossing the head.

    marionette: Hmmmmm... I dunno, I'm still not convinced; we have three flesh-and-blood women being killed in this way, and something just feels off about using a robot as a counter. Robots can be repaired, it's not so easy with people. Not to mention there's a stronger response to seeing blood, torn flesh, and a person killed than oil, cords and bolts, and a mechanical-looking robot (Think of how often robots are used as conscience-free, disposable enemies in games and kid's shows).

    And, from what I can find, it was Platinum, a female model, and Gold, a male model, who were decapitated, so it kinda cancels out, I think...

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  18. In Fifty-two #17 Devilance was decapitated by Lobo. These days it sucks to be a DC character.

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  19. Yeah, I don't really think any robot, male or female, really affects the head count.

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  20. Dwayne -- Nope, haven't been to Edmond in months. I tend to stay south of 40.

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  21. I believe there were two criminals that Black Adam squished on panel in two different issues of 52. Would those count?

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  22. Didn't they cut the heads off of Platinum and Gold in JLA #l? I think it was Gold...one of the Metal men at any rate. Of course this goes back to robots....but they're NICE robots.

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  23. Anon: But Devilance wasn't killed from decapition, and it wasn't shown on-panel either (in fact, Devilance's death is pretty restrained compared to Mongal and Pantha's). Although Lobo impaling the head on his bike does give me pause from dismissing it...

    Sandicomm: Are you referring to the same guy Steven is? The guy who got his head squished by Black Adam? I don't think that does count, since it's not the same kind of death as the three in the trend and they cut away to Adam and a splash of blood, unlike the Three's deaths being in full view on panel (well, Trajectory is still debatable in that aspect). Who's the other crimial, and was he decapitated?

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  24. "Don't you hate it when someone else posts the same idea while you are writing yours?"

    But I got my wrong cause I said Doctor Psycho, and that's the midget that fights Wonder Woman once in a while, and I meant Psycho Pirate, so could have corrected me and claimed nerd superiority.

    "Anon: But Devilance wasn't killed from decapitation, and it wasn't shown on-panel either "

    We don't know what Devilance died from, but we did get to see his unattached head impaled on his own lance, so I saw it counts.

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  25. Jlg, you're doing an awful lot of rationalising to dismiss evidence that doesn't fit your hypothesis.

    From all the responses here it looks a lot to me like head removal/destruction is strangely popular lately (regardless of whether it is terminal, the victim is a robot, or whatever), and if it is showing up as happening to female characters particularly, maybe that's because there have been more female characters killed than male characters?

    I'd be interested to know how many male and female characters have been killed (or incapacitated for robots) during this period by means that didn't involve them losing their heads, and then compare the numbers to those that have.

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  26. One more thought. Perhaps it is simply an indicator of a trend toward more graphic violence generally.

    If you want to show someone die in a graphic manner, head removal is simple and obviously terminal. Rip off any other body part and you don't get automatic death. Few characters, even super powered, can last long without a head. So decapitation becomes shorthand for graphic murder image, to the point where it is even used on characters where it is not terminal (robots, etc).

    I'm not saying this is correct, just suggesting it as an alternate hypothesis that might be worth exploring.

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  27. Marionette: You do make good points and ideas. There is a general trend of gore across the comic industry, and maybe that list would be good.

    I don't think I'm trying be stubborn and go out of my way to dismiss anything that doesn't agree with my hypothesis. In comparing the characters and scenes suggested, they just don't all seem to match up to the original three to me. What's shown on-panel and how the scene is set-up is different (Lobo isn't shown actually taking off Devilance's head, for example, or that one criminal's head rolling along) than with my three original examples.

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  28. Decapitation is (other than in the case of robots) a way to tell the audience "Yes, they're really dead." At a time when everyone expects characters to return from the grave like swallows returning to Capistrano, decapitation seems like a shorthand way of saying the writer really means it.

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  29. jlg: "But Devilance wasn't killed from decapition, and it wasn't shown on-panel either (in fact, Devilance's death is pretty restrained compared to Mongal and Pantha's). Although Lobo impaling the head on his bike does give me pause from dismissing it..."

    Ah yeah, he was not decapitated on-panel.

    He wasn't *killed* from decapition either, but on the other hand Ragnell never clearly specified this. Decapitating a dead body is still decapitation in my (comic-) book.

    I don't think his death was "restrained", his guts were splattered all over the place. Oh look, the small intestine! :-)

    Marionette: "If you want to show someone die in a graphic manner, head removal is simple and obviously terminal. Rip off any other body part and you don't get automatic death. Few characters, even super powered, can last long without a head."

    Small variant: if a gun is used in the committing of a violent crime, you can show that the head of the victim has been blown off. In Catwoman #52 Selina Kyle killed Black Mask by shooting him in the face at point-blank range.

    Once again it was off-panel, save for the blood. Not that I'm complaining…

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  30. Anon: Well, Mongal, Pantha, and Trajectory, the three women of the trend, were killed by decapitation on panel, so I thought it was already implied that was the cause of death. I could just be anal retentive about it, but I think it is different (or at least as an asterisk) that Deliverance was killed some other way, and is dead already when decapitated.

    As for how restrained it was... well, it'd look gorier from outside the ship, wouldn't it? :)

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  31. I don't know whether Trajectory's death "counts" for what we're talking about since I stopped buying 52 a while ago, but I think the real trend here is increasingly graphic displays of on-panel violence in mainstream, non-adult superhero comics. Infinite Crisis was full of this sort of thing (the various Freedom Fighter deaths, the Psycho Pirate's eye-popping, Superboy-Prime's decapitation spree, etc.), but even before that you had the surprisingly gory brain spray coming from Blue Beetle's head wound. The longstanding tradition of victimizing female characters still exists; what we see here is a couple instances of it overlapping with a trend of increasingly gory on-panel violence.

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  32. The most recent BATMAN issue features another male decapitation death: The Spook.

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  33. Off the top of my head (har-de-har-har), I thought of Robotman, Gold, and Red Tornado (I think his was on panel; I know his head's been making the rounds on its own), and didn't Mercury lose his head in the most recent 52? Granted, all robots of one sort or another, but it's not something I keep track of.

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  34. Ah, reading the comments; yeah, I read Trajectory's death as a decapitation as well. Is 52 a Code book? I know the weird rules of the Code contributed to folks thinking Alex DeWitt was dismembered, when she was just supposed to be shoved in the fridge. As the makers of Jaws learned, and Hitchcock knew, sometimes it's better and/or more gruesome when you can't see everything.

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  35. Well, this answers my question from jlg's thread. Heads are rolling. Yeesh. And my husband and I keep getting cautioned about splatter?! Seems to me like we aren't only nowhere in the ballpark, we're in an adjacent state!

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