By Beau Smith

Ya know, I really appreciate all the email you guys send to me here at the ranch. I really do. Before I got into the business I used to write quite a few “letters to the editor.” I had a habit of writin’ a letter for most every comic book I read. That added up to a lot of letters. This was before the internet and computers. I used a typewriter that weighed more than a Wal-Mart full of women when Cheetos are on sale. I had a bunch of letters printed in comics. I made a lot of friends in comics that way. It was so long ago, Mike Carlin was an assistant editor at Marvel Comics. As for you? I’m sure you were just a drunken glint in your daddy’s eyes.

So when I get an email written to me I always read it. Some have questions and need answerin’. Others just wanna give me their thoughts on that week’s Busted Knuckles or maybe they are throwin’ in their feelin’s on what goin’ on in comic books at that moment. It seems that a lot of the emails I got this past week were in what some folks are referrin’ to as “Dark DC Comics.”

After I counted, there were 73 emails in two days, that all mentioned that they think DC Comics is gettin’ too dark and gritty. I’m sure this was spurred by the recent murder of Blue Beetle in the DC hit comic Countdown To Infinite Crisis. Most of em’ mentioned that they believe the darkness began fallin’ over DC with last year’s Identity Crisis. It used to be the only thing dark and gritty was a British writer’s teeth. Now it’s taken on a whole new meaning.

They said that DC was followin’ Marvel Comics lead into the deep end of the pool. It seems that a lot of readers were hopin’ that DC Comics would remain their safe haven for cities of sunshine. Where superheroes righted all wrongs with a sense of fair play and a glass of milk. I think what they really meant was that they expected what I will call the JLA type of super-heroes to remain fairy clean and wholesome. They figured that Batman?The Original Mr. No-Fun?was as dark and gritty as they wanted to get with their mainstream superheroes. Now we’ve had mind wipin’ of bad guys and heroes, sweet, innocent Sue Dibney got raped by formerly noted goofball bad guy Dr. Light. Then to top it off she got murdered and fried by the ex-wife of The Atom. Yeah, you could say that’s a little dark and gritty. It might not be manly, but it is dark.

Granted, that ain’t the DC Comics I grew up with. For that matter it’s not the DC Comics of the last 10 to 20 years. The same goes for Marvel Comics. I can remember guys older than me writin’ letters into Marvel and DC back when I was growin’ up complainin’ that the Silver Age JLA wasn’t the same as their Golden Age heroes. They were unhappy that Hal Jordan would never mount up to the “real” Green Lantern-Alan Scott. The same was said about that other young upstart, Barry Allen, the new Flash.

Times change. Along with that so does pop culture and society. It also means that you’re getting’ older. I’m sure most of ya readin’ this are male. You’re also some where between the ages of 20 and 50. Notice I used the word MOST and not the word ALL. So for the three of ya that are female and the handful of ya that are still in high school don’t send me an email tellin’ me how wrong I am. I know you’re out there, but you’re just in the minority of comic book readers right now. I would more than love for ya to prove me wrong.

Like I said, things change. We may not always like it, but in the case of “Marvel without morals” and “Dark DC” someone sure likes it because these darker books seem to be sellin’ enough to where they keep sellin’ out and makin’ more. It may not be manly, but they are sellin’.

A lot of these readers asked me if I was surprised by these darker turns. My answer.


Why would I be? As I’ve said before and have noted with the recent results from my “Branded By Marvel and DC” column, Most readers are male adults between the ages of 25 and 50. Keyword is adults. For the most part mainstream super heroes aren’t being written for anyone younger. Sure Marvel and DC make attempts to have more young reader friendly comics with superheroes, but they don’t sell as well. Reason bein’ there aren’t as many young kids buyin’ comics. Kids never outnumber the adults in a comic store. I wish they did but they don’t. God bless you retailers that work extra hard and have a strong kid readership. Please pass on your tactics and stories of hard work to other retailers and get them to join in. We need this to happen and we need smart people doin’ it. I’m very thankful for Free Comic Book Day and the retailers that bust their ass to get these free comics into the hands of new readers and then work to keep them all year round. Anybody can preach to the choir. There’s not a good retailer out there that doesn’t give some free comics to regular customers all year round to get them to try a new book. That’s good business that always pays back. They don’t have to wait for Free Comic Book Day to do that. They’re ahead of the game. Those guys do Free Comic Book Day all year round. Those same good retailers make sure that when Free Comic Book Day rolls around they are ready to introduce new and young readers into the world of comics. They are there to make sure that those new readers keep comin’ back. They are the real heroes in the comic book business. Check things out at

Getting’ back to darker comics. Like I said, why would I be surprised? The other night I was flippin’ through the TV channels. What do I see on most channels?

Dark and Gritty or Just Smilin’ Smitty?

  • Crime Shows: Every crime show is about some psycho serial killer or sex perverts that are doin’ things I wouldn’t even want to see done to Billy Tucci let alone on TV that I pay for. What happened to organized crime? Don’t guys knock off banks and steal cars anymore? Same with comics. Does every comic have to be about some sick sex killer or a bunch of devil stuff. I had enough of that when I was workin’ for McFarlane. It’s old and tired.
  • Reality TV: Personal humiliation and degrading antics by people that would do anything to be on TV. The love for celebrity life has sucked out all the dignity folks used to have and have turned everyone into a peepin’ Tom without every havin’ to leave their living room. It’s a constant car wreck that ya pay per view. It’s one thing for stuff to come out of the closet. Most of that needed to come out, but this other stuff is comin’ out from under a slimy rock and out of a trash can.
  • VH1: I don’t know the label for these shows. They’re the ones where nerdy, never got laid comedians that I’ve never heard of get on the screen and make fun of everyone else in Hollywood and the world. It’s bad enough we have to smell the donkey dump that comes out of one asshole, why do we need two? I remember when comedy used to be witty and smart. Now it’s like a bad scene out of Jr. High.
  • Sports: My last fortress of sanity has been breeched. I’ve got more people on ESPN Sports Center yellin’ at me than I did in grade school when I got caught flippin’ nose turds at the kid in the next row. None of these guys give the scores anymore. Chris Berman keeps makin’ up stupid nicknames for players and makin’ really dated music references that nobody wants to hear. Stuart Scott continues to try and trick us that he’s from the ‘hood and is down with all the turmoil that multi-million dollar ball players go through. He reminds me of Carlton on Fresh Prince From Bel Air. Give me the friggin’ score and get off my screen.
  • News: There is no more news. It’s all yellow journalism and they’re tryin’ their best to spray it all over my TV screen. They don’t want to report the real news unless it’s got a sex scandal about a former drugged up, major league ball player that is now a religious politician that used to date the Olsen Twins when one of em’ was skippin’ one too many meals. I love a good lookin’ babe with killer legs like the next guy, but when it comes to the news give me an old man with a real broadcast degree that can give me all the news, sports and weather in 30 minutes.

    And ya wonder why comics are getting’ dark? A less manly time I have never seen.

    Am I getting’ older? Sure, but that don’t mean I’m sittin’ here in a trailer with my shirt off, wearin’ a mullet, toothless and waitin’ for cops to drag my ass on to the pavement while my 300 pound live-in girlfriend screams and complains that I was seein’ her mom on the side.

    I’m sorry to say that the things people think are shocking and terrible today will be the mild good ol’ day 10 years from now.

    Whose fault is it? Everybody gets a little blame. I think the media should get the bulk of the blame for findin’ a way to break down our wall of decency and get us give in to our darker sides and thoughts. It’ll only end if we want it to end.

    Blue Beetle R.I.P.

    As for my answers to those questions. What did I think of Identity Crisis? I thought it was a pretty good mystery that unfolded nicely and had really nice story tellin’ art. I really liked the idea that some of the good guys mind wiped the bad guys and even Batman. Let’s face it; Batman is as psychotic as some of the bad guys. If you hung around him and had the chance you’d do it too. For the last 30 years he’s been one gun and a stranglehold from bein’ the Punisher, and we all know Frank’s a nut job. Guys with no sense always are. I was hopin’ the identity of Sue’s killer would have been somebody with a bigger impact or on a level of real surprise, but it was still good.

    As far as my quick thoughts on Countdown to Infinite Crisis so far. Blue Beetle dies. As much as I liked him it’s still not that big of a deal. As I hope you know by now, nobody ever really dies in comics. Ten years from now Ted Kord could be back on monitor duty for the JLA. Hell, ten years from now you, the bright-eyed college kid readin’ this could be the guy that has shoved Judd Winick out of his writin’ job and into his 40th year reunion of that reality TV show he was on when you were in grade school.

    A lot can happen in ten years.

    A lot can happen in comics. Be around for the change. It’s later than ya think.

    Countdown To I’m Outta Here

    Well, I guess I ranted a bit this week. I was all over the place like woman without a map and a man to read it to her. Been a while. I’m sure there were some of ya that agreed with me and others that are outside puttin’ a flamin’ bag of poop on my porch and ringin’ my doorbell waitin’ for me to come stomp it out.

    Close The Barn Doors On Your Way Out

    These empty beer bottles on my desk tell me that it’s time to lock the barn doors here at the ranch and call it a night. I look forward to hearin’ from all of ya and thank ya for once again comin’ over to read my not always sane thoughts. At least they’re manly thoughts and their mine.

    Your amigo,
    Beau Smith
    The Flying Fist Ranch
    P.O. Box 706
    Ceredo, WV. 25507

    Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

  • About The Author

    Beau Smith

    Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin