I’m stretching a little with the title, forgive me, Y is weird and I really wanted to talk about this subject. First, you should know that I am not an expert at comics. I know things, but I don’t know all the things, and my knowledge only begins in the mid-nineties for the most part. Lots of you might go, “no no, you’re getting it wrong,” and that’s fine. I might be. Please feel free to chime in.
Sometime, I don’t know an exact date but my gut tells me early to mid-nineties, comics started toeing their way over the standard heroes and villains and PG rating to explore edgier, darker, sexier content and many of those people doing the exploring were independent artists and authors. These edgy, dark comics caught a foot hold and eventually led to the birth of some of the dark and edgy imprints from the big boys (Vertigo and Icon, for example, and the darker series from Image, IDW Publishing, Slave Labor Graphics, Dark Horse, etc). But before that time, the jump from yesterday’s comics to exploration of the psyche of human deprivation, you could expect your ten year old to pick up any comic and it be appropriate language and art for their age group. Comics were for kids and it was fine, sorta, if you were an adult who liked them too, but they weren’t made for you. They just weren’t.
I think, and again, I could be wrong, but I think the turning point for making darker, more haunting stories mainstream was with the publication of The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. It had no real hero or villain, it was a serial of stories centered around a mythology and there was sex and nudity and murder and torture and the mentally unstable. There were really scary monsters (Corinthian, anyone?) and really disturbing characters, and an exploration of the literary on the medium previously solely intended for the young.
And it was gorgeous storytelling. The retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sandman #19) landed Gaiman the prestigious World Fantasy Award – the only time a comic has ever won this award. The Sandman series was originally published by DC Comics, but then was published by the Vertigo imprint, which was created by DC to primarily publish stories for mature audiences.
I like the edgy indies and stories published by the naughtier imprints of the big publishing players. I was never devoted to many of the superhero comics, here and there but I found trying to keep up with them to be exhausting – both on my psyche as a reader and on my poor college pocket book. I liked the stories I knew had an ending, even if it was a ways down the line, there was a stopping point and eventually I’d find it. As I grow older, I like the super short stories even more, a 4-10 comic run seems to be my sweet spot.
In the late 90s I discovered Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and had a love affair with anything Jhonen Vasquez penned. I was also going through my leathery goth girl phase, so you know, his boots sort of did it for me anyway. Johnny was published by Slave Labor Graphics, who also tends toward the stories that wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone who likes bright colors.
After that there was Preacher, which has some of the most graphic and gross scenes I have EVER seen on the printed page. And Roman Dirge came into my life, followed by a long and varied list of tiny print run stories with disturbing covers and beautiful storytelling. Some of which I sometimes feel I am the only one who has ever heard of them and they sleep quietly in boxes in my closet.
- A-to-Z Blog Challenge Official Site
- Blog Challenge Host Arlee Bird!
- My popular post series: