The Really Long Halloween Article...
Halloween and fall in general is one of my most favorite times of the year. The weather is great, the atmosphere is great. Dressing up is fun if you are in to that kind of thing. I must admit I hate being scared but for some reason I am drawn to Halloween. I do not watch scary movies generally and I do not go to haunted houses or anything. Strange. It must be all the good times I had as a child going trick-or-treating with my best friend oh so long ago. We tend to cling to things that make us comfortable, and that is a memory I still cling to today. In honor of Halloween and the kid in me, I thought it would be interesting to write about some of the creepy, scary and disturbing things I have come across in my few years of reading comics! Now, if you know me, you know that this is going to have a lot of Batman stuff in it. Actually it is going to be all Batman stuff and is a bit Joker heavy. Isn't that natural though?
His character lends itself to scary villains and scary situations and he has some of the most bizarre stories written by equally bizarre writers.
Some images I will post, but others are simply too graphic in nature, in my humble opinion, to share. You can always just read the comic and judge for yourself! So here…we..go!
I thought I would start with some of the more disturbing villains. Number one has to be the Joker, right? Right. I will get into some of his more disturbing acts later, but this guy has done just about all the awful things a human can do, from torturing Gordon in the Killing Joke and shooting Barbara (maybe Alan Moore is the real disturbing one, am I right?) Killing Jason Todd in a terrible fashion, mentally torturing Batman over and over, to cutting off faces. The list never ends with this guy. At least he didn’t support Red Skull during the Marvel/DC crossover. So there is that.
The next disturbing villain for me is Professor Pyg. This fella was created by Grant Morrison, so that tells you everything you need to know. If you described him in words, he doesn’t seem too scary. He wears a pig mask. Then you learn about Dollotrons. They are his minions that have permanently attached doll faces. Creepy. You see him in the comics and Pyg looks like something out of Saw. He is an extremely detached villain and is often depicted wearing an apron of some sort, gloves and is seen cutting things to pieces with copious amounts of blood everywhere. Not light reading.
To round off the disturbing Batman villain, I will talk a bit about James Gordon. But he isn’t scary, you say! Well, have you met his son? I have. I first read about him in The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, drawn by Francavilla. What an awesome team and what a disturbing story.
We normally associate Gordon’s glasses with good thoughts, but then we meet his son. When we see his glasses, it instills terror.
Who would have thought glasses would cause such a visceral reaction? But you often see the glasses with nothing underneath, no eyes, no anything. Gordon Sr seems to have turned a blind eye to all the terrible things his son did, and that enabled to further delve into darkness and become an awful serial killer. He has a grandiose plan, but what really had me on the edge of my seat was his interaction with Barbara Gordon. She is in a wheel chair because this is pre-New 52 and thus a good story, and Gordon Jr breaks in. They have a very uncomfortable chat, and then the panel pans out and you learn that while they were chatting, he stuck two knives into her legs. She didn’t notice of course, because she is paralyzed. He explains that if she pulls them out, she will surely bleed to death. I will not spoil what happens, but man that is creepy. Gordon Jr really puts Gordon Sr in an awful spot in the end. It is a very tragic, disturbing story but one that I would recommend, oddly enough.
Another disturbing comic I have read is by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean called Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. The story isn’t overly scary. Batman is asked to stop a riot that has been going on in Arkham. In doing so, he finds out about the history of the place, about Amadeus Arkham and about all the awful things that have taken place. What I would like to highlight is the art. Wow.
It looks like a Goya painting; otherworldly. The images are done in broad, dark strokes and are very grotesque and exaggerated.
Most of the images aren’t super detailed, which makes it even creepier. Shadows and silhouettes rule the night. His depiction of the Joker has to be one of the most disturbing I have seen and that is saying a lot. Even the lettering is creepy.
This brings me to The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brain Bolland. Now this is probably the most disturbing comic I have read. It is a very important comic as it has ramifications that last all the way to the new 52. Readers beware, however. This is not your father’s Batman story. In his comic, we learn about the tragic origin of the Joker, a failed comic who had one bad day and snapped. I actually thought that was well written and executed brilliantly. Then we go to the present day and that is where things go insane. He knocks on Barbara Gordon’s door and shoots her in a very graphic panel. She is permanently paralyzed. He then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. He is stripped naked and tortured with visuals of Barbara dying. We see a disturbing image of Joker on a throne surrounded by (presumably) dead babies. Yea. Not your father’s Batman story. It does have an ambiguous, interesting ending I must admit, but I am not sure it is worth all the other things I witnessed in this comic! But again, I am probably in the minority as this is a very popular and important comic that fans often clamor to see either on the big screen or small screen.
Alan Moore, the writer, hates this comic it seems, as he seems to hate everything he has worked on.
Hey, I’ve just written a new comic and I hate it. Don’t read it. That seems to be his attitude. He has since stated he regretted injecting such crazy psychology into a Batman story. He felt he had gone too far but DC was game with whatever he did. So there you go.
While not scary, I would be remised if I did not recommend The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. I mean, it has Halloween in the title, so how can I not discuss this a bit? It isn’t super scary, more intense than anything, but it is a wonderful read. It is a story about the crime families in Gotham. There is a killer on the loose named Holiday because, well, he kills someone on each holiday. Many of Batman’s other villains make an appearance in this epic tale. Who is this Holiday? Is this person brought to justice? I have to say, the identity of the villain was a total surprise for me. A must read for sure. Sadly the follow up, Dark Victory, is forgettable.
I do want to write a bit about a few other disturbing moments that I have come across along my comic book journey. How about Robin being beaten with a crowbar over and over and over again and then dying at the hands of the Joker in Death in the Family? How about Joker again in Snyder’s Death of the family? Capullo draws a Joker who had his face cut off and stapled back to his head. Brilliant and gross. As the issues went on, one notices that the face begins to rot and darken. Flies begin to buzz as well. Joker breaking his own neck in the Dark Knight Returns was fairly disturbing (and fitting). In Snyder’s Court of Owls, we find Batman given some type of toxin which makes him go insane. We see bug eyed batman, images of him turning into an owl, and an amazing device in which Capullo makes the reader turn the comic to the side, then upside down, then backwards, followed by a knife to the back of Batman by the Court. Amazing.
So there you have it folks. Batman can be a very fun, intriguing character but man, given the right author and artist, his stories can be very very dark and disturbing. I hope you enjoyed this, and Happy Halloween! -Stuart