CCI: Comic Character Investigation #61 février 2011
[ENGLISH] This month: Bullseye. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
The Black Art of Bullseye
Villains have often entered stage left with a bang and exited stage right reluctantly with the help of the superhero at hand, but none of them has earned as high a place of honor among rogues as Bullseye. There are a few largely notable events in comic history. At DC two of the biggest would be the first appearance of Superman lifting a car over his head on that penultimate cover of Action Comics #1 and the birth of Batman at the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents in Detective Comics #27. There are others: Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Death of Superman etc. but without these first appearances they would never have happened. Marvel has their character moments too but perhaps since it became a popular company after DC did, plots within it tend to stand out more than characters themselves. Two of these plot points have reverberated across modern comic history.
One is the memorable and dramatic death of Spider-Man’s great love Gwen Stacy at the hands of The Green Goblin. Mary Jane Watson may have been his destined soul mate but the importance of Gwen Stacy’s death and its significance to Spider-Man will never be forgotten. Perhaps it is even a poignant attempt to let readers know that our first great loves may not be our fates after all.
Bullseye’s claim to criminal fame, besides his ability to hit anything he aims it, goes beyond even the Green Goblin’s rare feat of successfully taking a main character out of the picture. He does what many a supervillain has dreamed of accomplishing: killing a superhero. In Daredevil #181, decades of dark dreaming by innumerable villains finally pays off when Electra dies at the hands of the greatest marksman in comicdom. The brilliance of this moment is that it mimics great literature, where significant characters commonly die to reflect the truth of life. The fall of Elektra under a supervillain then, helped raise the comic form. Everyone knows that comics are where the heroes win so when she didn’t, it was a pivotal as well as a classic moment in graphic storytelling.
This seminal moment occurred in 1982 as the Modern Age was drawing its first fine breaths at Marvel and it set Bullseye apart from the usual supervillain. The archenemy of Daredevil, of course one kill was not enough for him and another great love of Matt Murdock, Karen Page fell before him as well. First appearing in Daredevil #1, and hired as a secretary by Foggy Nelson, she eventually became the second love of Daredevil, a position in life which seems to seal a woman’s dark fate, for while not successfully killing Daredevil himself with his best efforts, he seems to be a constant source of lost loves for the red-garbed hero. Fortunately, Elektra is later resurrected (for some characters will not go quietly into the night) but it does not lessen the significance of her death at his hands. Bullseye seems an uncontented killer and has lived up to his name more than twice in hitting such significant targets. He also killed Sentry’s wife so it seems as if as a character he was nominated to knock off “significant others” at Marvel. Yet it is Daredevil who bears the brunt of his attacks and the largest share of pain, until Daredevil finally returns the favor and takes down the master of marksmanship once and for all. Quite poignantly, he kills Bullseye the same way Bullseye had killed Elektra, with the added benefit of breaking both of his arms first. In the end Bullseye became what he lived for, a target. The question of course, remains, who will take up his mantle? Because some marksmen also do not go away quietly, especially if there is something worth aiming at, maybe something red, and always in their sights. . .[James Parducci]
James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.