I like to share my opinion. It happens quite often. I typically put a lot of thought into it. Thanks for reading this one.
The last two and a half decades of comics has been something else!
A lot of these stories were really well handled and written to fans to show that you can’t beat a hero, even if you kill them. They are emotional and powerful. Crowning achievements of comic storytelling.
Stories like “The Death of Superman”, and “The Other” come to mind. Also, “Age of Apocalypse”, “Kingdom Come” and “Batman: Year One”. These, to me, are amazing stories that challenged the reader, without violating them. They showed us what heroes were made of, and also, that they can be beaten, and even killed (even if only temporarily).
Then there are stories like “Sin’s Past”, “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” and “The Evil that Men Do”.
The themes? Fuck the themes. The writers and editors assaulted our senses with rape, murder, more rape, and Gwen Stacy, who may as well have been an angel up until then, having sex with Norman Osborne.
If not for the fact that JMS apologized, stating that the editors at Marvel changed it from Peter’s kids to Norman’s, because they didn’t want to age Peter, I would think him the most vile and disgusting of writers. Ever. Sadly, editorial staff can warp writers stories. That was a huge assault to the image of Gwen Stacy, thus, destroying her angelic innocence. Straczynski stated that he wished this would have been retconned with One More Day/Brand New Day, but was saddened to find out it was still canon. He asked to have Gwen brought back with Harry Osborne, but only Harry made a triumphant return, while her Goblin kids stuck around. Seriously, not cool, and completely unnecessary. Even if JMS had got his way, having spider-powered kids that he didn’t know about with his dead girlfriend, not something I would enjoy reading. This made me forgive the story that revealed Peter’s parents seemingly returned were fucking robots.
Kevin Smith. Now, there are lovers of the man, and haters. I am a fan of some of his films, not fanatical, but they make me laugh (sometimes). I am not a fan of his comic writing. Black Cat was a strong female sometimes heroine that had an awesome history of strength over her family past, and even a bit over her own. His story, “The Evil That Men Do”, reduced her heroics from, doing the right thing to impress your boyfriend and yourself, to, you hurt me so I hurt you. The writing was out of character and off the map. In a bad way. Like if you asked for directions to the nearest Days Inn and wound up in a swamp infested with mutant man-eating alligators, bad way. This story took away so much awesome and made it so she needed Spider-Man to validate her as a woman. Shit move, Silent Bob.
Some of you may lynch me for saying this, but “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” was a sorry excuse to make money. The story feels like the filthiest orgy of bad 80s movie ideas with the skins of DC characters being worn over characters like Dirty Harry (playing Green Arrow) and Snake Pliskin (playing Batman). Superman acts like a tool and a trained dog. Captain Marvel is dispatched by Brainiac, who is in league with Lex Luthor. Okay. I can almost buy that. Carrie, the young female Robin from the Dark Knight Returns, is now Catgirl. Ugh. Dick Grayson is some monstrosity who is the ultimate weapon through genetic manipulation. Argh! Worst of all. The artwork. One panel to the next was a constant assault of visuals and styles that were so disconnected from the previous styles of the artist, Lynn Varley. This felt like it would have been better suited for a Sin City comic than a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns.
Now, it would not be fair to say that, stories that break our comfort zones are all bad. Unlike many, I liked “Identity Crisis” and “The Killing Joke”.
These two stories, in particular, made me uncomfortable. They made my skin crawl at what had happened. They made my blood boil for what had been done. The heroes that suffered, did not deserve their fates, but they chose to be heroes, and never even thought the day would come that it would hurt them so badly. Rape, violence, obsession, all used as weapons against our senses, to give us the type of shock and pain that would turn out stomachs.
But we kept reading on.
Because “The Killing Joke” showed how we survive from tragedy. “Identity Crisis” showed how our friends are not always the ones to help us, but rather hurt us, too.
In real life, these are lessons that happen all the time for people. We struggle against events that punish us without reason. Some of us survive, with the scars and disabilities left in the wake. Sometimes they take our lives, but our loved ones carry on for us.
Every time a writer tries, though, maybe we shouldn’t question why. It’s all for the story. Sometimes they want to inspire us. Sometimes they reveal the darker side of the world. I may not like some stories, but their are fans that do. I get it. It’s what it means to you. Sometimes it’s just the art. Sometimes a fan doesn’t need a reason to be a fan.
I believe, boundaries of comfort are meant to be discovered, and crossed, for the sake of personal growth. I believe a good story can help us do this.