Tim Pilcher, ex-Vertigo Comics editor, is serialising the first chapter of his new book Comic Book Babylon: A Cautionary Tale of Sex, Drugs & Comics on Bleeding Cool. The Kickstarter to fund publication has just started.
Comics were going through a renaissance. A brief, short-lived one, as it turned out, but one that caught enough of the public’s imagination none the less. Suddenly in every magazine and newspaper there were articles about, and interviews with, Alan Moore and Frank Miller. The Daily Mail’s Sunday supplement, You Magazine, even put The Dark Knight Returns on the cover of its 2 November 1986 issue, with a four-page article inside. A young journalist called Neil Gaiman wrote a piece on Watchmen for the now defunct Today newspaper.
But the majority of newspaper articles around that first attempt for comics to gain respectability featured immature headlines like “Biff! Baff! Pow! Comics Grow Up!” These became so prevalent that they became a cliché in comics circles and were a testament to the distinct lack of imagination of newspaper and magazine sub-editors.
Similarly, whenever you switched the TV on there was another dodgy documentary talking about the new wave of serious adult comics; all illustrated by terrible sound effects and puerile sub-Sixties Batman TV series graphics, that only highlighted that the production company had completely missed the point. Yet again.
Alongside The Dark Knight and Watchmen, Art Spiegelman’s Maus was elevated as proof of comics’ new-found maturity. These three graphic novels (despite all being serialised elsewhere and the press being completely uninterested then) formed a “Holy Trinity” that was exulted by the media for almost a decade. It was just a shame that the industry didn’t back them up until the 21st Century.
But despite the mishandling of the subject matter, the point was that comics were getting the column inches and airtime previously denied them for so long. The genie was out of the bottle.