Anyway, Halloween is when we talk about what scares us, so I decided to talk about something that creeps me out and also relates to the blog theme: comic book covers. That's right, comic book covers can freak me right the hell out. Embarrassing, no?
For the record I'm not talking about ALL comic book covers. Most are pretty benign. I mean it's not like I run screaming if I see an Archie comic or something. There have just been some that have freaked out.
The first one I can remember that got under my skin was back in probably the mid-80s. I'm not sure what title it was, maybe the Justice League or something. Anyway, it involved Batman, Superman, etc. and they were in Africa where there were all these starving people (this was during that "We Are the World" period when we actually cared about people dying over there) and Lex Luthor (or someone like that) was saying something like, "Ha ha ha, not even YOU can save them." (BTW, if anyone knows what comic that was that would be cool to know. I obviously can't type a vague description into Google and hope to find anything.)
In this case it wasn't really the actual artwork that bugged me but the underlying concept behind it that some problems were too big even for superheroes. I mean I was probably about 8 years old at the time, so I hadn't really ever thought about that. You know like any white kid out in the suburbs I had to that point been pretty sheltered.
Now if you think this effected some great change in my life, you would be mistaken. I mean it sure as hell didn't get me to stop eating. Or maybe I just ate more so I wouldn't end up like those people. Yeah, there you go.
I think overall the biggest culprit of freaky comic book covers was also my favorite hero: Batman. In large part because when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s there was a tendency to draw Batman on the cover looking positively demonic. From what I read on Tony Laplume's blog, I guess this Kelley Jones guy was behind that. Thanks for giving me nightmares, Kelley, you jerk. Here's just one example from the Knightfall storyline:
When I actually read that comic it reminded me of something from Michael Chabon's Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, where he talks about a kid looking at a comic book and being enticed by the cover, despite that he knows the story inside will bear little resemblance to that cover. This is because most covers are done by another artist, who isn't involved with the actual creation of the story.
In this case you look at the cover and you see a very evil-looking Batman about to kill some guy. In the story inside it's not so dramatic. Batman (Jean-Paul Valley at this point) does beat some guys up but it doesn't look so evil. For one thing he has a hammer in the comic, not a board with nails in it. I'm just saying.
A few issues later then we have this:
From that you assume Bruce Wayne is going to be killed by Batman! Well, that doesn't really happen either. Bruce does surprise Jean-Paul in the Batcave but there's not really a fight or anything. But I guess the point is to make you want to see what's inside, right?
I think for the most part what made Batman look so scary in these is how first they make his costume black (when it was really blue) and they extend the bat ears so they look like horns. You know, devil horns. That's definitely not someone I want to meet in a dark alley, I tell you whut.
The champion of all scary Batman covers (to me) was this one:
I first saw that in a comic book store like 15 years or so ago. Not as a cover, but as a big-ass promotional poster on the wall. So it was kind of hard not to notice it. There was a slogan on it too, "He's Become What He Hates Most...A Vampire." Something like that. I suppose that only added to the freakiness for me. I mean do you want that thing coming in through your window to suck your blood? Yipes!
When I started buying some Batman graphic novels, I did actually buy this one. I think I was trying to face my fears. Plus the idea of Batman fighting Dracula and becoming a vampire was kind of neat. Anyway, I failed in facing my fears, at least partially. I did read the book, but the thought of actually TOUCHING the book gave me the willies, so I decided on an ingenious solution: I put on a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves. It made turning the pages a little awkward at times but at least I had a barrier between me and it. I also read it on the floor so it wouldn't be touching any part of me. (Hmmmm, I should probably tell that to a shrink.) That was only a year or two ago, so it's still a problem. I don't even like to THINK about it sitting on my bookshelf, as if it'll suddenly come to life or something.
Though this doesn't happen nearly as often now. One reason is I don't SEE many comic book covers these days. I don't go into comic book stores and only rarely do I go to bookstores where those would be. The other is especially with Batman they got away from that style for the most part. On occasion though they slip a creepy one in there:
Before you think I'm too much of a wuss, I can watch like "The Human Centipede" or "Nightmare on Elm Street" at night and it doesn't bother me all. I've buried a whole pet cemetery's worth of dead animals. So I'm not a total wuss, just a big wuss. But even tough guys like Indiana Jones are scared of something, right?
Tomorrow, we kick off Dark Origins: Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Volume 0!