The Original Redshirts

“Don’t worry, Redshirticus, our leader will save you. He’s around here somewhere…”

I was recently reading a book on Greek mythology, and I was struck by just how much of a jackass Odysseus is. Also the people who wrote about his adventures. I mean, wherever he goes, his crew die, and this is treated as OK because the hero got through. They’re like the redshirts in Star Trek, only thousands of years in advance. Their lives are harsh and apparently expendable.

Matt Wallace recently wrote an insightful series of tweets relating to this. He was talking about ancillary characters rather than random mooks, but I think the point still stands. If the author or the heroes treat other people as expendable, if they just move on from death, that sends a message. It’s a message that can make the story harder to believe, or worse yet harder to care about.

I’ve stopped caring about death in mainstream superhero comics because it doesn’t matter. Endless resurrections have seen to that. Death is powerful in a story because it matters. Treat it any other way, and some of that power is lost.