Death of a Superhero: Why Marvel Need to Look to Morituri
In Feburary, this site put the spotlight on Strikeforce: Morituri, a fairly minor entry in the Marvel universe but an entry non-the-less. Its 'hook', which singles it out from many a superhero comic book, is that its heroes have a limited lifespan. The Morituri Process imbues candidates with un-specified-at-the-time super powers but has the side-effect of limiting their lifespan to around one year from the point of undergoing the process.
Fast forward to April and Marvel's Avengers (with added Assemble, depending on your territory) is released on a public over-saturated with marketing guff. It goes on to make more than enough money to buy a failing UK bank. The rest is history.
But, somewhere in all that, The Avengers had, and still has, a problem. In a franchise so profitable, stacked with superhero after superhero, and one or two supervillains, for good measure, who can you get away with killing?
It needed to be someone minor enough not to effect the box office but big enough for audience and characters to care about. As the eventual victim says during the film, 'this was never going to work if they didn't have something to [avenge]'.
To many though, the death didn't go far enough. Sure, the character was, in their own way, a fairly crucial piece of the puzzle but they didn't, so far as we know, have a loved one, a background, any major characterisation at all really. They probably didn't even have a trading card. I can't say I really care that they're gone.
So, with single superhero franchises continuing to develop around Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor - therefore ruling them out of this particular death race on profit grounds - it is to The Morituri Process that Marvel must look in order to give future Avenger films some much needed threat, unpredictability and heart.
Avengers 2 opens with a new threat being posed to Earth looming just over the horizon. For argument's sake, lets call him Thanos. Thanos has the unique ability to absorb energy, which, The Avengers realise quite early on, is going to make him somewhat difficult to kill.
Professor Morituri (casting suggestion: Richard Jenkins) steps in with a solution. He can, through his process, create a superhero with the ability to produce a type of energy Thanos can't absorb. If this superhero can defeat Thanos in one-to-one combat, Earth can be saved.
To explain the departure from canon, Morituri tells an elongated story of his inability to control the process. Since the arrival of Thanos though, he has put all his effort in to singling out the configuration needed to produce this power. He has identified the human gene structure that will result in this outcome. He can control the power produced. He cannot overcome the side effect of shortened life span.
The Avengers are dispatched to find people with the right genetic makeup to undergo the process. Along the way they encounter some smaller battles to keep the plot action-packed enough. Perhaps Thanos learns of the process. Much soul searching is done. They ultimately settle on someone (girl or boy) who is willing and able. The process is undergone.
In the elongated finale, The Avengers - all but a sideshow - hold off Thanos' minions, whilst the new superhero fights Thanos to regain control of Earth (by dramatically convenient coincidence, the conflict takes place around a year from point of process). New superhero defeats Thanos and promptly begins to suffer the final, inevitable outcome of the process, surrounded by the now very humanly-characterised Avengers, the person has come to call friends their friends.
Final curtain. Not a dry eye in the house. Another gazillion dollars made.
Thank me later Marvel.