Yesterday, one of the most beloved characters in literary history died.
I’m referring, of course, to Ishmael.
The beloved narrator of Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s classic tale of sea-faring adventure for kids, Ishmael is remembered by children around the world for his plucky charm, his heart-warming friendship with the gruff Captain Ahab, and his encyclopedic knowledge of 19th Century whaling techniques.
And now, he is dead.
Ishmael met his demise not on the sea he’d devoted his life to, and not at the fins of that dastardly white whale, but on the frozen wastes of Antarctica, beneath the rails of a motorized sled hired by evil industrialist Charles Foster Kane. How can this be, you ask? How can such a beloved literary figure have died in a manner so dramatically inappropriate?
The blame lies with Alan Moore, a British funnybook writer of notorious reputation. Moore (a sorcerer) has disgracefully opted to prop up the flagging sales of his bloated League of Extraordinary Gentlemen franchise with the cheapest stunt possible: character death. It’s not a new trick; Shakespeare did the same thing when he used the totally unnecessary death of John Falstaff to spice up the otherwise-bland Henry V (confusingly, only the fourth of the “English Hal” plays). But it was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now.
When will these writers see that death only hurts a story? Certainly, it gives you short-term dramatic gains, helping to define the characters around the deceased and giving satisfying closure to fictional lives well-spent. But think of all the endless potential of Ishmael! Think of all the stories that could be told (and the money that could be made)! And… need I even say it? Think of the children! The little ones who love their old pal Ishmael, and who don’t want to see him crushed beneath a symbol of lost innocence and the relentless march of American progress!
But this matters not to Alan Moore, a tired funnybook hack who thinks that stories should have endings, and that concerns such as “theme” and “narrative cohesion” are more important than making sure that fans can always get all the stories they want about any character, no matter how bad and uninspired they become. Why, Moore even protested the Watchmen prequels DC Comics is making so much money with right now! Obviously, he is a man of warped judgment.
What’s next, Alan? Killing off the Boy Wonder?
Nemo: Heart of Ice, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, is available in fine funnybook stores everywhere. But no self-
loathingrespecting fan of serialized adventure fiction should read it. It’s, like, good and stuff.