The Death of #711

As we spoke about earlier, the deaths of super hero characters didn’t really become a thing until the 1960s, and didn’t become an industry-wide trend until the 1980s. Nowadays, virtually every character has died and been resurrected at least once over the years, but back in the day, this was relatively unthinkable. The Comet was the first headlining super hero to be killed off, but he was followed shortly thereafter by #711.

#711 was a back-up strip in Quality’s POLICE COMICS, the title that headlined Plastic Man. The deal with #711 was that he had been Dan Dyce who agreed to take the rap for a crime in order to give the guilty man a chance to see his son be born==the true perpetrator promised to turn himself in and clear Dyce once his child had come into the world. But the real criminal was in an accident and killed, and so now Dyce was stuck serving his sentence. Rather than attempting to prove his innocence, Dyce instead found a way to tunnel out of the prison on the regular and adopted the guise of #711 as a foe of evil–#711 was his cell number.

It was a second banana strip that did second banana business. Entertaining enough, but not especially memorable. It began in the first issue of POLICE COMICS, but moving into the title’s second year, somebody clearly thought that it wasn’t pulling its weight.

So the decision was made to retire #711–and the method used in this instance was to kill him off. Like with the Hangman, the death of #711 would be used to set up the replacement strip, Destiny.

All that said, this final #711 story is pretty good. Like much of Quality’s output, it had a nice sense of story about it, and the artwork was a cut above most of what was then being unleashed onto the racks. You can see the influence of Will Eisner on this tale, I think, as #711 is almost a bystander, the story mainly being about the underworld career of his eventual killer, Oscar Jones.

Sort of an ignominious end for a super hero, but also probably the most realistic super hero death in comics for a very long time. #711 is killed just by some guy he’s after, not an arch-enemy, not saving the city or the world. His death accomplishes nothing–he simply goes out the way he had lived.

I’m not going to leave you hanging, but neither am I going to post the whole of Destiny’s pursuit of Oscar Jones (since it goes on for multiple issues.) But here are a few salient moments from POLICE COMICS #16

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