Collective Consciousness: Hard hitting, emotional moments

by Nick Devonald on June 28, 2020

For this month’s Collective Consciousness we thought we would take a look at a moment which has really affected us emotionally, or to put it another way a comic which has ruined you emotionally. With so many comics to pick from we bring you some of our personal moments.

To open the article we have Olivier talking about his chosen moment:

The Death of Sarah Essen in Detective Comics #741

When Nick suggested we go with the moment that ruined you emotionally as a topic for this edition of Collective Consciousness, I knew right away what I was going to talk about : the death of Jim Gordon’s second wife at the end of the Batman event No Man’s Land. To this day, I can still remember reading this issue and what the emotional state I was in afterwards.

No Man’s Land was my first foray into the Batman Universe back in 1999-2000. Before then, I had mostly been collecting Marvel comics since 1996 and would pick up some odd DC books here and there and my experience with Batman was limited to Batman 1966, Batman The Animated Series and the Batman movies. I had never picked up a Batman comic other than in those Wal-Mart grab bags they used to sell.

What drew me to No Man’s Land was a feature I read in Wizards magazine and the premise instantly hooked me. From that moment on, I went to all the comic book shops I could close to where I lived and picked up as many issues of the event as I could. I loved everything about this series. I loved the introduction of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl, I loved that Gotham was split amongst Batman’s rogues gallery, and I still remember faintly those maps that they would include in each issue showing the reader who controlled what. It was amazing!

The I read Detective Comics #741. You can read the full synopsis online, but it was the ending that, pardon the pun, ended me. I remember that I was reading this issue in the afternoon, and as I was reading through it, I had no idea what was to come. However, once Joker pulls the trigger on Sarah Essen, Jim’s wife, to save some kidnapped babies, I almost lost it.

To me, up to this point, I knew Joker was a killer, but I had never experienced it in comic book format before. I barely knew anything about the character of Sarah Essen (I had to look up her name for this feature), but her death at the hands of the Joker still resonates with me 20 years later. It was so impactful, that I remember on the day, I was playing hockey that night after reading the issue, barely paying attention to what was going on - the only thing I had on my mind, playing on repeat, was Joker pulling the trigger.

It’s funny, having to look up the issue for my part in this article, shows me that Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka were the writers of this issue, with Dale Eaglesham and Damion Scott on art. Back then, I didn’t really pay attention to the creative team as much (I was 17 and only really cared about Joe Madeueira), but knowing that one of my favorite writers, Rucka, and one of my favorite artists, Eaglesham, were part of one of the most impactful reads I’ve ever had in comics brings some joy to my heart.

An unexpected death is a sure fire way to evoke some emotion, even if it’s not a character we’re overly familiar with. A nice little detail finding out it’s from some of your favourite creators as well. Next we’ll hear from Harlan with his first contribution to a CC column:

There are many that come to mind, but the one that has best stood the test of time is Amazing Spider-Man #248, also known as the Kid Who Collects Spider-Man, written by Roger Stern and pencilled by John Romita Jr. I won't spoil the ending on the off chance that you don't already know how this story from 1984 shakes out, but the gist of it is that Spider-Man meets a young fan, Tim, and does a private Q & A with him. He lays it all out, demonstrating how his powers work and even explaining why he is Spider-Man in the first place. By the end of the visit, Spider-Man has revealed that he is actually Midtown High's professional wallflower -- Peter Parker.

Why on Earth would Peter share his secret with this kid he's never met? Does he really trust him to hold on to this secret for the rest of his life? The answer floors me every time I read it. This is probably my second favorite Spider-Man story because it focuses on the very human, friendly neighborhood side of him. Few heroes take time out of their day to give to the little guy like Peter does. I realize I'm rambling more about how great Spider-Man is than I am explaining the emotional effect that this story has on me, but it's hard to get into it without talking spoilers. You'll have to trust me on this one.

I had to look the issue up after that description. Talk about a hard hitting storyline. And thank you for avoiding spoilers, it’s definitely more impactful without knowing what’s coming. Our third contribution is from Nick:

Once this month's collective consciousness topic was chosen my first thought was which Brian K Vaughn series am I going to choose? I’ve lost track of the number of times one of his series has brought a lump to my throat or tear to my eye, with his track record of killing off loved characters towards the series conclusion. A quick perusal of my graphic novels in case I’d missed one and I was set. Or was I? As I debated potential choices I found myself coming back, time and time again, to a different comic. One which only released this year. And I found myself settling on The Resistance #1, not from Brian K Vaughn as I’d planned, instead written by J. Michael Straczynski with art from Mike Deodato Jr.

There’s a sequence near the beginning of the comic which gets me welling up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. For those of you who haven’t read the comic (Seriously? You’re missing out. Get to your LCS and get it right now. Or read it here on our site FREE) The Resistance features a virus which is decimating the human race. With a 100% contagion rate and 95% fatal it’s lethal. The timing of the comic, with COVID-19, makes it no longer feel like science fiction and brings it home a little closer. But the section that gets me every time is only two pages long and features four unnamed characters.

A weary doctor tells a little girls’ parents their daughter has the virus. That there is nothing they can do. There is an unspoken decision made between mum and dad that there is something they can do. Then after sharing a tender kiss they enter the isolation ward to be with their daughter so she isn’t alone when she dies. It’s such an incredible bit of storytelling, using a minimum of words, the art as important to telling the story. Somehow I get sucked into this family's little tale, a small tragedy in a world that’s collapsing which hits me so hard each time.

Perhaps it’s partly down to the timing of COVID-19, perhaps as a parent myself it just makes it hit particularly hard, but something about that scene resonates and is incredibly hard-hitting each time. And the impact doesn’t lessen each time I re-read it either.

The timing of this story was always going to make the impact more real. It shows what an effective medium comics are, that even without knowing these characters skillful writing and art can evoke such a strong emotion. Next we’ll hear what gets Carlos bawling like a baby:

My emotions always get the better of me, always. I do it to myself, though. I can’t help but to love movies like Grave of the Fireflies, or those heartbreaking anime that apparently always have to kill off one of the romantic interests, and even though I know better, I will watch any movie where the protagonist has to face the loss of a pet (looking at you My Dog Skip).  

Of course, some of my favorite comics of all time I hold in such high regard because they leave me bawling like a baby. There’s been so many moments that’ve just overwhelmed me emotionally: the parallel scenes between Bruce and Dick in Dark Victory, Matt letting Kirsten in during Waid’s Daredevil run, Ralph’s loss of Sue in Meltzer’s Identity Crisis. Though they’re all so incredibly beautiful in their own right, none has devastated me more than Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer.

I can’t narrow it down to a single moment in the series, each issue is a masterpiece to me and builds upon the run. It’s absolutely lovely and impossible not to fall in love with Norrin, Dawn, and of course Toomie. The best/worst part of Slott’s run is that it lures you into a false sense of security; the plot can be silly and the Allreds’ artwork definitely emphasize that and enamor you with the magnificence and splendor of the universe they create. By the end you realize you’re completely invested in the lives of these characters and while the ending is gorgeous and sweet, it wrenches your heart and leaves an imprint.

I’ll always remember the night I closed the final page to the last issue. My wife found me in the kitchen with tears streaming down my cheeks. She’s told me that I was babbling the rest of the night about how “sad” and “pretty” it all was.  So! If you’re looking for a series to utterly destroy your heart in the best way possible, I implore you to read this series.

Talk about a moment that emotionally destroyed you.And to finish this months CC column we’ll hear from Stephen:

When this month’s subject for our Collective Consciousness column was first announced, which comic book you read that invoked the most emotion while reading, I thought ok which Jeff Lemire book am I going to pick! I was very close to going with his Royal City series but decided to peruse my graphic novel collection to see if I was forgetting anything from my years of comic book reading. I got to my Vertigo collection and instantly spotted the ideal book for this month’s column, Daytripper!

Daytripper is a beautiful story based on life and death created by the Brazilian twin brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. It was originally published as a 10 part mini-series by DC’s Vertigo but I read it in one emotional chunk in its collected form.

The story focuses on Bras De Olivia Domingos. He’s the son of a world famous author as well as an aspiring writer himself but at the moment he is an obituary writer for a newspaper. The story takes a look at random days his of life at different ages and how they shaped the outcome of his life. The twist at the end of each issue is that Bras is killed. The series as a whole are all the possibilities his life could take or end. There is a real emphasize on how each moment of life no matter how small or insignificant shape our overall being. At first I thought this was a story about mortality but when I got to the end I found myself thinking it was more about life and how precious each day really is.

The authors really accentuates how moments in our lives not only affect how we live but also how we affect others around us. Through life, death, relationships, and friendship our life plays a huge part to those we hold dear. Life moves so fast we tend to forget how each action we take can touch others. This was a very emotional read that I found inspires you not to take life for granted.  My personal favorite issue of the series was number 5 where Bras is 11 years old visiting his grandparent’s ranch. The whole extended family is there for a week and it brought back a flood of memories from my childhood when we’d visit my grandparents.

The art adds even more to the story with such realistic images and details. The facial expressions make the characters come to life. In fact each scene seemed alive moving from panel to panel like every day life. The pictures added what words sometimes fail to.

A very thought provoking read that in the end left me examining my life and  realizing how lucky we truly are. I highly recommend this series to everyone.

What a great recommendation for a series Stephen.

We hope you’ve enjoyed sharing some of the more emotional moments that comics have with you. We’d love to hear from you what moments have really hit you hard and stood oput. Let us know either here in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter. Until next month.