There's no formula to creating a successful character. Otherwise, our self-published novel Wolverine Skywalker Of The Clan MacLeod And The Philosopher's Skynet would have sold more than five copies. But every once in a while, someone will come up with a character which captures the imagination of millions worldwide ... only to say, "You know what would be cool? Killing their ass."
Yet, whether it's through persistence, greed, circumstance, or plain dumb luck, some iconic characters have managed to survive their own creators' best attempts to waste them.
As Far As Joss Whedon Is Concerned, The Avengers' Agent Coulson Is Still Dead
Let's face it, death is laughably cheap in the superhero genre. If a beloved and lucrative character "dies" in the comics, it's only a question of whether it will turn out the corpse was a doppelganger or if they'll have to invent some pseudoscience to justify resurrection (like the time Spider-Man posthumously gave birth to himself, as one does). It's a quick way to insert some emotional drama that can easily be taken back later. So when SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson "died" in The Avengers, it's easy to assume that writer/director Joss Whedon always intended to bring him back in a sequel. You know, even though his death serves as the entire motivation for the heroes through the film's climax and is kind of the central tipping point of the plot.
And sure enough, ABC quickly announced it was launching the TV series spinoff Agents Of SHIELD, starring Agent Coulson -- complete with a convoluted and half-explained resurrection.
"It was a surgical, memory-planting thingamajig. Don't worry about it."
But what many don't know is that the people in charge of the Marvel TV spinoffs and the people who make the film franchises are not the same people -- they're two different divisions of a huge company, which is itself owned by an even huger company. You'll note, for instance, that Coulson hasn't turned up in any of the 58 or so Marvel films that have been made since The Avengers. That's because, according to Whedon, not only was Coulson supposed to stay dead, but in the universe of the films, he still is. Here's the quote:
"[T]he Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead ... But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids ... and watching Coulson die but [thinking], 'Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn't,' it did take some of the punch out of it for me ... I think it's disingenuous to say we're going to fight this great battle, but there's not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I'll let you guys decide if they stay there."
"Sweet, he's 100 percent cool with it. Call Clark's agent!"
"That's not exactly what I ..."