Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Tights and (optional) cape
When I was about eight years old, my mom took me to the barber shop one afternoon and while sitting and waiting to have my head decimated I happened to glance at a little table next to me and spotted a comic book. A figure that was barely recognizable to me as Batman graced the cover, swathed in shadows and looking very spooky and gothic.
I was puzzled and intrigued. The only Batman I knew was the bright and funny camp of the Adam West TV show, which I of course adored at the time. I picked up the comic, started reading… and from that moment on I was a Born-Again comic book fan.
I still remember the story, even: Batman was chasing some crook through the woods, over a suspended bridge at night. He tracked the guy to a little camp where a group of circus freaks were hanging out. The story’s climax featured Batman rescuing some kid with flippers from being thrown off a bell tower. I wouldn’t know (or care) until years later that this was a classic issue written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams—creators credited with ushering in a newer, darker version of Batman that harkened back to his earliest adventures.
But whatever. At the time I just knew that the story made my heart race, the art was full of sinister grace, and Batman was seriously fucking cool in it.
After that, no trip to the local drug store (they actually had comic books at the drug store in those days!) would be complete without me begging and cajoling for three or four comics. My mom fed my habit willingly because comics were cheap those days and kept me occupied. When I wasn’t reading them, I was emulating them: wrapping a towel around my neck, running around humming my own theme song and jumping off the porch to pounce on invisible bad guys.
Batman was my favorite, but anyone in colorful tights (and optional cape) was okay in my book. Spider-Man, Captain America, Flash, Hawkman, whatever. I was a fanatic.
Over the years, of course, my taste in comics changed, just as the comic book industry did. If you’re a fan at all, I don’t need to tell you about the explosion of maturity and talent in the eighties, like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, or Frank Miller’s dystopian Dark Knight Returns. I was on-board for all that, sure. And then, of course, the halcyon days of Vertigo. I still enjoyed the occasional foray into super-heroics but most of my pull list consisted of stuff like Doom Patrol, Sandman, Shade… and then later, Lucifer, Preacher, 100 Bullets… you get the idea.
In the last few years, sad to say, I’ve almost completely lost interest in those fellas in the tights and capes. I mean, I’m 45 now, after all. I suppose it comes down to your own personal world view, because despite the fact that super-hero comics have indeed matured and often contain adult subject matter, they still tend to be occupy a rather simple moralistic place. There’s good and there’s bad and the areas of gray in-between are dangerous traps that a true hero needs to steer clear of.
These days my comic book reading is a little harder-edged, a little more challenging not only morally but emotionally. They still have all the visceral punch that we expect from comics but are much broader. My pull list these days: Scalped, PunisherMAX, American Vampire, and Hellblazer.
Oh, and two Batman titles: Batman & Robin and Batman, Inc.
I still love Batman, sorry.