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So back in 1986, I knew this guy who was BIG into comics. He introduced me to independent comics, which I barely knew existed (stuff like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the hilarious Dr. Radium), but he also turned me on to two other very influential comics: Watchmen, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Batman was pretty amazing. It started off as your typical "imaginary story," with a fifty year old Batman, and from there, deconstructed the entire IDEA of Batman, turned it on its head. Very good stuff!
Watchmen was even more amazing, starting with its artistic choices (the cover image was invariably the first AND last panel of the actual story) and following through with its bizarre, noirish deconstruction of everything superheroes stood for. Only one hero had powers, and he seemed like an example of why a society (and government) would never be able to tolerate a genuine superhuman. All the OTHER heroes? Only one is genuinely motivated by the idea of truth, justice, and righteousness; the others fight crime for a variety of reasons judging from sadism, sexual sadism, commercialism, fameseeking, cosplay... and sheer hatred. Author Alan Moore made a creepy point: in a real world, people who dress up in costumes to fight crime are going to be a rather ... odd bunch of people. Most of them won't be very nice.
"Wow," I thot to myself. "This is the first comic I think I have ever read that really qualifies as literature." And then I got on with the rest of my life.
Fastforward four years, and another friend of mine has got a job at a comic shop. The night Superman died, he asked me if I could come help out, in exchange for store credit; the Death Of Superman had made the news, and everyone was gonna buy fifty copies and save them for ten years, and then retire on the profits from the resale. Superman dies tonight!
"You are large and bearded," he said. "Could you put on that jacket that makes you look like a biker, and come play security, just in case? We're not expecting trouble, but..."
And so myself and several other thuglike presences formed a human barrier while the owner and my pal unbundled the comics and put them out for sale. Two copies to a customer. There was grumbling, but no trouble. And I spent a lot of time looking over various comic books with which I was unfamiliar. Apparently, super heroes carried guns, now. Guns, bigger than my torso. The artwork seemed sketchier than I remembered. And pouches; apparently capes were out, but ammo belts with many, MANY pouches were now mandatory. Whatever these heroes were using to fight crime, apparently, they needed a LOT of it, in single-serving sizes, even the ones who didn't carry guns.
Since I wasn't a regular consumer of comics, I had missed the Dawning Of The Age Of Grimdark, aka the Dark Age Of Comics.
In hindsight, the reason was obvious. The Dark Knight Returns had been grim and gritty, with dialogue like "There are seven working defenses from this position. Three of them disarm. Three of them kill. The other one... HURTS!" And a Batman who was filled with anger and rage and not QUITE willing to kill the Joker, but fully prepared to put him in traction, break legs and bones, and do whatever it took to restore order. And in the same story, Batman gains a mob of teenage imitators, who go so far as to maim a store clerk that they think "didn't put up enough of a fight" against a robber. The Russians launch a nuke, which blacks out Gotham and nearly kills Superman, who stops it from wiping out the city. Grimdark, indeed.
Watchmen is similarly dark and violent; hell, the story BEGINS with someone throwing one of our heroes out a window, and ends with a slew of murders and a near apocalypse.
And these were the two most influential comics to come out of the eighties. It's no surprise that the trend after that was "Grim and gritty, to the point where there's not much difference between the good guys and the bad, as long as there's plenty of blood and gore and guts and veins in m'teeth, sarge, I wanna KILL... KILL... KILL..."
And so all this leads up to a few years later when superheroes carry gigantic guns that look like Star Trek vacuum cleaners, many ammo pouches, have superhero names like Deathkillblood, and Superman is dead. Not long after, there was a market correction. Market saturation and waning interest on the part of the fans led to a shock in the comic book market. People quit buying. Some publishers went out of business. A LOT of comics went unsold. And on eBay, you can still buy a black bagged "Death Of Superman" comic for only slightly more than cover price, more than 25 years later.
Two comics, made by very talented people, who had a reason to deconstruct, and an actual story to tell, had revitalized... and then gradually derailed... the entire comics industry.
Which got me to thinking about the movies.
I saw the movie version of Watchmen. It was among the first of the current wave of superhero movies, if I recall. And it was among the first to get that grim, gritty, grimdark feel. I walked out thinking, "Well, that Zach Snyder guy got the overall LOOK right, but somehow, I think he missed what the author was trying to SAY."
And while the Marvel movies drew audiences and made big big box office, whoever was in charge at Time Warner said, "Hey, this Zach Snyder guy seems to 'get' superheroes. Let's put him in charge of all OUR superhero movies, so we, too, can draw audiences and make big box office."
And Man Of Steel was... well, it wasn't a Superman movie, despite the presence of a guy dressed in a rather dark colored Superman suit. And Batman Vs. Superman just freakin' creeped me out. These were not superheroes; these were simply people strong and ruthless enough to force their will on others, and the little people should damn well stay out of their way if they know what's good for them. I haven't seen Justice League yet, but I had come to a decision: the characters on all the CW superhero TV shows were far closer to the comics I grew up with than the violent, ruthless, arrogant man-gods of these dark, unpleasant movies.
Watchmen was the finest comic event in years... but it shook comics, and ultimately, its imitators badly damaged the entire industry. And crazily enough, the movie based on it had the same effect on the comic book movies made by the same company.
Alan Moore went on record as saying he felt that DC/Time/Warner had ripped him off, and that he would never work for them again, after Watchmen. Wonder if he's realized that his revenge was practically built into the process?
By Jack Brown
I like this guy. Nice detail without going overboard.
I think I got eager to move on to another figure before I was completely done. It shows in the buttons and the pistol. I kicked myself a little when I saw another example the other week where someone has removed the gun from the figure. I should have done that in the beginning.
I'm pretty happy with the red jacket and the beard.
I have for you two day both a commission ( the dwarf ) and a figure painted by a student ( the Necromancer ). I offer painting classes at my store and this was one of the first minis painted by a student with 0 prior experience I think all things considered she turned out amazing. One of my favorite part of the mini's hobby is getting to make custom bases and even though the base on the dwarf Captain may seem simple I feel it brings a lot to the character and makes them feel like they are on the deck of a ship.
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