Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top Tenth of the Month: Who Watches the Dark Knight Returns!

Top Ten Grim and Gritty Assholes

I literally typed "Grim and Gritty Asshole" into Google images and this is what I got
The Concept:  When the 90's came around people decided that Alan Moore and Frank Miller knew what was up.  Things like humor, optimism and colors were out.  What was in was dark colors, crushing nihilism and stubble.  That's what's "adult" and there's nothing more a bunch of pubescent kids want more that to be "adults".  So, when Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns sold all the comics the major companies, of course, decided to completely misunderstand what was happening and scramble over each other to create garbage.

In this case being the worst is
still just the worst

10)  Fate
--Who They Are:  Jared Stevens is a smuggler.  Because Han Solo was a Smuggler and he was pretty cool right?

--Why They’re 10:  Fate is a joke.  He is the poster boy for shitty Grim and Gritty make-overs.  When people make fun of the Grim and Gritty era this is what they are making fun of.  Everything about Fate just seems calculated to hit all those notes.  A person with a morally ambiguous career and a gray moral compass takes the traditional trappings of an established concept and changes them into something "cool".  Also he has multicolored hair and tattoos.  To prove how bad-ass he is Fate melted down the sacred helmet and amulet of Nabu into a knife and throwing ankh's.  Then when he was approached by an actual authority figure he told "The Man" to suck it while he went off on his own.  Fate is everything stupid about the G&G fad.

Also known as Blue Lobo
9)  Jack T. Chance
--Who They Are:  Jack is the Green Lantern of Hell Hole, the grittier than thou planet.

--Why They’re 9:  He has the most powerful weapon in the universe and he carries a fucking gun.  The highlight of this jabroni's run is getting a few solid licks in on a recently turned evil Hall Jordan.

Marvel's answer to Lone Wolf and Cub
8)  Nomad
--Who They Are:  The former 2nd Bucky Jack Monroe got sick of the spandex life, dressed in leather and stole a kid just so he could wander the US aimlessly.

--Why They’re 8:  I'm not going to lie, I used to think Nomad was the shit.  His super power was gun, he had a baby strapped to his back and shotgun strapped to his hip.  His stories weren't terrible but he was SUCH a byproduct of the time and a hard sell to the Punisher crowd.  Also he STOLE A KID.  Not just any kid but a crack baby.  Not explicitly a crack baby but he stole the kid from a drug addicted mother.  That's fucking dark right there.  Dark and ridiculous.

In the future his ass will be a hand grenade
7)  Gunfire
--Who They Are:  Andrew Van Horn got attacked by an alien and as a result developed powers to turn any item into a gun.  Because guns are bad-ass.  It's like Gambit if Gambit didn't have to throw anything and Gambit is also bad-ass.

--Why They’re 7:  Gunfire here is the first of two heroes on this list created by DC's brainwave Bloodlines.  Bloodlines was DC's attempt to introduce some new characters that readers could get behind.  It was a huge crossover event spanning all the major books at the time and the basic plot was that a group of aliens where feeding off people but instead of killing all of them it gave a select few special powers.  When I was a DC mark I did like Gunfire because he really was their version of Gambit and they did approach him in an interesting way.  What sticks out to me is that neither he nor his supporting cast knew just what the hell his powers were.  This was put on display fantastically when he tried to use his power on an actual gun and instead of creating a super gun it just literally blew up in his face.  However he fizzled out pretty quick, like most of the other characters created during Bloodlines, and he just sort of disappeared becoming kind of a joke in the process.

Solo on the battlefield and
Solo in the bedroom
6)  Solo
--Who They Are:  He's The Punisher if The Punisher could teleport.

--Why They’re 6:  Well, he's The Punisher if The Punisher could teleport.  Also his catchphrase is "While Solo lives, terror dies!".  It seemed when Punisher got huge and he was suddenly everywhere, like Wolverine was for a while, they needed some place holders to fill in the few non-Punisher voids they had.  They also wanted to capitalize on any potential money missed by not having Frank Castle in every book.  So, we got guys like Solo and guys like Nomad.  If Punisher couldn't be everywhere then guys LIKE Punisher would be.  Nomad was Captain America's Punisher.  Solo kind of took over Punisher's role in Spider-Man, which is where he debuted.  Solo just kind of farted around for a while until he went after Bullseye and Bullseye threw a chunk of glass into his eye.  He looks like a Hydra soldier if that soldier forgot his regulation mask.

Subtlety thy name is Clown
5)  Clown/Violator
--Who They Are:  He's the demon that annoys Spawn.

--Why They’re 5:  I was tempted to put Spawn himself on here since Spawn is a great example of the dark, angsty anti-hero but Spawn was restrained in his grim and grittiness when compared to his foil Clown.  Clown is just the embodiment of unnecessary, over the top violence.  Just look at that fucking picture.  He's wearing a spiked leather jacket, holding a bloody knife and he's using somebodies face like a finger puppet!  That's grim.  That's gritty.  Clown likes his violence casual and his enemies blood constantly flowing.  He's a cartoon.  It's hard to take him seriously and he certainly hasn't aged well when taken out of the context of the 90's.

Save your "fish hook" jokes for someone without a beard!

4)  Hook Hand Aquaman
--Who They Are:  He's Arthur Curry, the underwater Superman.  He's been around forever, you know who he is.

--Why They’re 4:  When it became clear that DC needed to up their game they decided to bring the nonsense to one of their legacy characters.  It wasn't enough to turn a jobber like Fate into a fucking clown shoes parody, if they wanted to succeed they would need to turn one of the big guns... into a clown shoes parody.  Maybe one of the big guns that's been misused for a while.  One that had a lot of potential but hadn't been doing that well in sales.  Someone who has been a little stagnant.  That leads us to how Aquaman lost his hand.  In a battle with another fish-talker he got his hand gnawed off by piranhas and Aquaman got all beardy which indicated his change from a no personality seahorse rider to cranky King of the Seas.

This era of Aquaman is probably my favorite because after the dude got a hook hand he proceeded to beat the shit out of errybody.  They rebooted his series and suddenly he was taking on, and taking out, Superboy, Lobo and the Justice League.  And not that shitty Justice League with Metamorpho.  A real version of the Justice League with Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman among the members.  Hook hand Aquaman is still considered a joke because on the surface and on paper it looks like a shameless cash grab and the unnecessary changing of a beloved character.  The reality is it probably was the boost in the arm that the character needed to become relevant again.  Of everyone on this list he probably benefited the most from his Grim & Gritty makeover. 

Seen here setting orphans aflame
3) Bat-Zrael (Jean-Paul Valley, Knightfall Batman)
--Who They Are:  When the Bat got broke he needed a replacement.  Rather than go for the obvious choice, Dick Grayson, or just let any number of the myriad Bat-cast just do their thing, Batman picked random psycho Jean-Paul Valley to step in.  Jean-Paul swiftly went insane and started shredding petty criminals with bat-shaped shrapnel and burning henchmen alive.

--Why They’re 3:  Bat-Zrael was a HUGE part of the DC universe.  They had killed Superman and now they were sidelining the Batman.  But instead of doing something interesting with the concept, like promoting Dick Grayson, they just grimmed up ol' blondey face.  The next thing you know he's talking to himself and wearing a metal war-suit.  Obviously they couldn't transform the ACTUAL Batman so they had to settle for putting someone else in the role.  It was a totally unnecessary move that did very little to help the character in the long run.

Post looking at Wonder Woman's
boobs, pre vomiting on Batman
2)  Hitman
--Who They Are:  Tommy Monaghan is arguably the most successful character that was created during the whole Bloodlines fiasco.  Really, on paper, there's no reason he succeeded while others failed.  He was just a petty, mook hitman who got himself killed right away in his first appearance.  It pretty much comes down Garth Ennis and John McCrea's raw talent and sheer tyranny of will.  On the powers side he has limited telepathy, x-ray vision and guns.

--Why They’re 2:  Hitman was able to transition from joke to something more significant in very little time.  After his great solo series you'd be hard pressed to find any of the trappings of his Grim and Gritty origins as Tommy snaked his way into the main DC continuity in short order.  In a way he's number 1 because he's a prime example of taking a fad and turning it into a success.  Unlike our actual number 1 who started life as a parody and just continued to devolve into parody until he was not only making fun of his Grim and Gritty cohorts but also making fun of himself.

Yeah, that's about right
1)  Lobo
--Who They Are:  Lobo started out as sort of a generic space Wolverine and slowly turned into a unique space Wolverine.

--Why They’re 1:  He's the main man!  The Bastich!  Perennial Superman baddie and a bounty hunter extraordinaire of questionable morals and methods.  He's like the original Jack T. Chance.  Actually, he and Jack T. Chance are essentially the same thing.  Also, he and Wolverine are essentially the same thing.  His Grim and Gritty makeover mostly consisted of giving him a cigar, a spiky leather jacket, a hook and the ability to casually inflict horrific violence.  Lobo was a ridiculous clown and he was kept around because kids were attracted to the destructive non-hero.  He was such a bad guy that you can't even classify him as an anti-hero, that's how grim and gritty he is.  He was the kind of gruff, take no shit, give only shit bad-ass asshole that appeals solely to pre-pubescent boys.  And that right there is the Grim and Gritty era personified.  

  What started out as an attempt to intelligently deconstruct the superhero genre was misinterpreted as the public wanting "realistic" characters and worlds.  Frank Miller took that to mean hyper-masculine hyper-violence and when the general public ate that shit up with a spoon it was decided that was the wave of the future.  So to cash in, old characters were re-envisioned with leather jackets and horrific weapons and entirely new characters were created, also with leather jackets and horrific weapons.  But the important thing is they weren't afraid to curse or kill people with little or no compunction.  They weren't even conflicted by the violence, in fact, they reveled in it.  Because that's realistic.  That's dark.  That's pushing boundaries and "evolving" comics.

  Most of the characters vanished when the bubble burst, those that didn't vanish softened somewhat for the mainstream.  Not Lobo though.  Lobo stood a tall and proud artifact from an era that many people would like to forget.  That's why he's number 1.  He's an unapologetic dinosaur of a bygone era and dammit that's the way he likes it.


  1. Oh man this post brings back memories. I grew up on 90's comics so I was all about the grim and gritty era. Might be sad to say, but I liked the guntoting bat villains introduced during the Knightquest storyline. Mekros, Tally Man and Gunhawk. Grim and gritty galore. Great post!

    1. Thank you for commenting! That was my era as well. It came on just as I was hitting that rebellious teenage phase when I wanted to be an adult but had no idea what that meant. I nearly forgot about the Tally Man! It was quite an era indeed, nothing was like it and nothing will be like it again. When it came on I totally bought everything they were selling.

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