In the last decade, films and television shows from Marvel and DC Comics have become a huge part of global popular culture.
In this world, character regeneration is commonplace. It’s also of great recent interest to fans due to the movie, Avengers: Infinity War (but no spoilers here) and with the release this week of Avengers: Endgame.
Character regeneration is also the subject of research at Florida Tech.
Lisa Perdigao, Assistant Provost for the Honors College and Professor at Florida Tech, has examined the roles of death and rebirth of superheroes in comic books, television and movies.
In her paper, “’No Resurrections This Time’: Thanos, Thanatos, and Eros in Avengers: Infinity War,’” presented at the October 2018 Popular Culture Association in the South/American Culture Association in the South conference, Perdigao analyzed the life and death of characters in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War in relation to Yale Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus Peter Brooks’ study of narrative to further examine the role regeneration plays in the superhero world.
The juxtaposition of the finality of death and the recognition of it, as well as the attempts at resurrection, stood out to Perdigao when she studied Infinity War. She cited the representations of Loki and Vision and how their deaths are presented as final in a world where the audience is certain many deceased characters will return. Perdigao also explored Spider-Man’s death in the movie and how the teenage web-slinger’s pleas with Tony Stark in his final moments added a dose of harsh reality to the fairytale nature of comic book films.
“The way in which the disintegration of characters that appears magical or supernatural contrasts a real, stark reality is part of the fabric of superhero comics and experimented with in the film,” Perdigao said.
Perdigao’s research has found characters regenerate for various reasons. In the big business of film, a regeneration of a character can be done to reinvigorate a series, as was the case in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it represents the process of adaptation itself, of telling new stories.
“I think that the Captain America character and films epitomize, at least for Marvel, the idea of introducing a character to a new audience and a new world,” Perdigao said. “Much of the film depicts his fish-out-of-water syndrome and how he adapts to the modern world, highlighting different aspects of the movie business itself. We’re in an age, especially with Hollywood films, of sequels and adaptations.”
This weekend’s release of Avengers: Endgame will introduce the possibilities and impossibilities of resurrection as well as the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.