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Comic Book Legends Revealed #297

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Welcome to the two-hundred and ninety-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and ninety-six.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Music Legends Revealed to learn the scoop behind Jon Bon Jovi’s first professional song recording! Plus, what exactly is the deal with AC/DC’s name? Come sort through all the crazy conspiracy theories to find out the truth!

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Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The phrase “grim and gritty” first appeared in connection with Batman…on the 1960s Batman TV series!!

STATUS: True

The term “grim and gritty” is sort of a catch-all phrase used to describe the trend since the mid-1980s to make superhero comics, well, grim and gritty.

Typically, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns are credited with inspiring this trend…

but really, you could go much further back than that if you’d like. I suppose, though, Moore and Miller’s works were SO popular that people tended to follow their leads more so than other similar works.

Heck, Batman was so “grim and gritty” at one point that it even became a plot point where a young boy, Tim Drake, feels Batman has gotten TOO grim and gritty, and needed a Robin to balance him out…

Later, DC even took the idea to the next level by replacing Bruce Wayne with a SUPER grim Batman for a time!

However, when Bruce returned, the stories still got pretty grim and gritty at times.

But anyways, what is and is not “grim and grittY” is not really the point here, the point is that, amazingly enough, the term actually appeared…in the 1960s Batman TV series!!!

Yep, in the second season episode, “Batman’s Anniversary,” the cliffhanger of the two-parter was that Batman and Robin were trapped in quicksand on top of a giant anniversary cake (a fiendish plot by the Riddler)…

Well, in the opening of the next episode, “A Riddling Controversy,” the announcer, as he was wont to do, set up the cliffhanger again and told the audience, “A grim and gritty end awaits them unless something awfully good happens awfully fast.”

Now, it is highly unlikely that whoever coined the term “grim and gritty” after Dark Knight Returns was specifically referring to that Batman episode, but still, it’s very cool to note that the campy Batman series used that precise term.

Credit goes to Tom Peyer (comic book writer extraordinaire) who discovered the usage and told his friend, Mark Waid (who, interestingly enough, ALSO writes comic books), who confirmed the usage and wrote about it in the introduction to the Infinite Crisis novelization. Which is where reader Travis Pelkie saw it and wrote to me suggesting that I use it here.

Thanks to Tom, Mark and Travis!

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38 Comments

I’ve always wondered about John Warner and his career in the industry. Thanks for including him this week and hope John is out there so he may read it!

That is some cool legends!

Is there a website that lists the comic creator’s aliases?

Web site for comic creator aliases: Yes.

Go to the web site for Jerry Bails’ “Who’s Who of American Comic Books” here: http://www.bailsprojects.com/whoswho.aspx

Then search for “pen names”

You’ll get a list of creators who had pen names (aliases).

The Grand Comic Database (GCD; http:\\www.comics.org\ ) also has this information wherever an alias was used in most cases (including name changes like Ernie Chua/Chan).

I was kind of caught off guard just now by how good looking John Warner was. Usually whenever I see pictures of 70s comic writers they look way nerdier.

Ooh wow, since you moderated that one comment several weeks back, I knew you’d be covering this soon! Thanks for the shout out!

Man, if Mark Waid and Tom Peyer had been at Ithacon as scheduled in the fall, the 3 names thanked there would have been in the same room. So weird!!

OK, maybe it’s just ME that’s excited about that…

And I HAVE that Captain Atom issue. It’s like this column is geared towards me!

Great stuff as always. Cool to find out about John Warner and Greg Weisman

Is CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON #186 the issue where that stupid,unnecessary,and stereotypical (if not borderline racist) retcon was made to Falcon’s origin, where he was revealed to be a “street hustler” who was turned into the perfect partner for Cap by the Red Skull using the Cosmic Cube?

Wasn’t John Warner also the co-creator of Ulysses Bloodstone? That’s another series that Gerber worked on, as it turned out; no one seems to know what Warner’s endgame was, but it probably wasn’t Gerber’s “everything you know is wrong” twist.

“Gritty.” Quicksand. Oy.

Sorry but grim and gritty in the 66 series has nothing to do with Batman, or his disposition, or the stories.

It was simply a way to describe the unfortunate fate that may befall the hero. Its really stretching it to assign that term to that episode.

I call shenanigans.

At the end of the grim and gritty myth were you thanking the band Blink 182 whose members are Tom, Mark and Travis? Ha!

Sorry but grim and gritty in the 66 series has nothing to do with Batman, or his disposition, or the stories.

Yeah, Brian made that very clear if you read the words between the pictures. But it would totally be shenanigans if he said something completely different from what he actually said.

Wasn’t John Warner also the co-creator of Ulysses Bloodstone? That’s another series that Gerber worked on, as it turned out; no one seems to know what Warner’s endgame was, but it probably wasn’t Gerber’s “everything you know is wrong” twist.

See, if it was an abandoned Gerber storyline I would say that it would have ended with Bloodstone getting shot by the Elf with a Gun.

At the end of the grim and gritty myth were you thanking the band Blink 182 whose members are Tom, Mark and Travis? Ha!

Great, now you’ve totally blown the next Cover Theme Game. Back to the old drawing board.

T— All Warners are good looking.

Brian from Canada

January 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

It’s not fair to call the 66 TV series “the campy Batman.” The book Batman Unmasked has it right in saying it was the closest live action to comics pre-present. (In fact, when DC saw the Tim Burton Batman, they hated it and wanted to do something evil to the character).

Quick question to those who read Green Arrow: how did Arrow propose in the comics? Was it as dramatic as the —AWESOME— short?

This is amazing timing, as I JUST finished watching that Green Arrow short on the DC Showcase DVD. It was extremely good and I found the ending very pleasant and very charming. I wish DC had done something like that with the two characters long ago before it decided to make Ollie a serial cheater (looking at you Judd Winick) and the whole engagement left a bad taste in people’s mouths…

Oh, and I wish DC would collect that Captain Atom series. The first 50 issues are one long storyline and it is definitely one of the hidden gems of the 80’s…

Quick question to those who read Green Arrow: how did Arrow propose in the comics? Was it as dramatic as the —AWESOME— short?

No. It was pretty good, though!

I think people never got the dark undertones of Adam West’s performance.:)

“Next Week, The Joker kidnaps Aunt Harriet and tortures her.” That wasn’t an episode was it?

I think people kind of like the old Batman show more than they used to. I just get that vibe from it.

I’m sure you know this, as you have all comics knowledge downloaded directly into your brain, but the latest issue of Back Issue has a long article about Weisman’s plans for Black Canary. That’s some uncanny timing, Dread Lord and Master!

Speaking, still of odd coincidences:

This weeks BACK ISSUE magazine had a bit about the same unpublished Green Arrow/Black Canary story that was featured here.

what was the “something” that was awfully good and that happened awfully fast to save the dynamic duo?

Legend # 1: I call shenanigans too; like you didn’t expect the fans to jump to the wrong conclusion from reading the title. But it’s a nice bit of trivia.

Legend #2: Now this is much better. They should let Weisman write the comics as well (now THOSE are truly grim and gritty these days.)

Legend #3: Nice trivia, but nothing major.

@ adebisi – staying calm, treading quicksand and the previously untested bat-boot rockets.

Yeah, how was that first one shenanigans? The legend is that the term was first used in connection with Batman…on the 60s TV show, and Brian quotes FROM THE EPISODE the term “grim and gritty”! Jeez, you guys, I finally get Brian to use a suggestion of mine, and you guys get all uppity about it :( ;)

That IS odd that the 3 names coincide with Blink 182.

Actually, what I thought about later, is I’m wondering now who DID first use the term “grim and gritty” in the sense we usually think of it in. I’m curious, given that Mark Waid was an editor at Amazing Heroes at the time the phrase would have first been used in connection to DKR, etc, if maybe HE first used it, in a tongue in cheek way, knowing that the phrase was used on the TV show. I’m also curious how you found out the connection with Tom Peyer — did you contact Mark Waid about this story?

So hey, maybe someone out there has an early use of the phrase “grim and gritty” that they can point out, and maybe we can pinpoint around when it first got used, and maybe even by whom.

One thing about the Weisman/GA thing — you say Mike Sekowsky was drawing this. Did he pass away not long after that? I’m not sure when he died, but 1985 sounds like it would have been around when he did.

I’m sure you know this, as you have all comics knowledge downloaded directly into your brain, but the latest issue of Back Issue has a long article about Weisman’s plans for Black Canary. That’s some uncanny timing, Dread Lord and Master!

Yeah, I actually saw that earlier today and I was like, “Wow, that is weird timing.”

I know that wikipedia is not the end all of information bu they do have an article concerning John Warner which includes the interesting fact that he was the one who hired Ralph Macchio. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Warner_(comics).

It’s odd to note this, but that panel of the Black Canary’s caboose?

Animators did her no favors, there.

Any else reckon John Warner is dead ringer for Paul Rudd (actor)??

One question: if, as the Warren bio says, his name was John Dell Warner, why was he so often credited as John David Warner? Was Marvel leery of plugging a competitor?

I believe for a short time, John Warner was in charge of some of Marvel’s black and white magazine line… such as THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. Late 70s. I think his name was in the Claremont/Byrne STARLORD magazine (Marvel Preview) at the time, as well.

Ta for another enjoyable column, Brian. I remember John Warner’s byline from early Seventies Marvel mags, they were decent reads.

@Sijo, re: your rating the column – it’s free, it’s fun.

@Andrew, I agree, Captain Atom was a splendid book, really showing what Cary Bates could do away from the strictures of (admittedly fun) Superman storytelling.

@Travis The ‘grim and gritty’ phrase was certainly in widespread use by 1983, when Alan Moore used it in his wonderful Marvel UK parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil. But where was the first printed usage? I remember we were tossing it around UK lettercols and fanzines before that, and I imagine US fans were too.

And if anyone hasn’t read that wonderful Moore/Mike Collins/Mark Farmer humour short, it’s at the great X-Ray Spex blog, among other places:

http://xrayspex.blogspot.com/2008/03/alan-moore-spoofs-frank-miller.html

<>

That’s the first thing I thought too.

Paul Rudd look-a-like, that is…

Martin brings an interesting perspective about the use of “grim and gritty”. (That’s what I get for being 4 in 1983.) If Moore used it in a Frank Miller/Daredevil parody in 1983, presumably the phrase was kicking around for a bit, and possibly started being in use re: Miller on DD. (I’m trying to think, what other series from around then might have warranted that phrase?) If we go back far enough, perhaps we’ll find that whoever first used the phrase WAS getting it from the TV show…

And thanks for the link to the DD parody. I know T linked to it somewhere on CSBG before, but from what I saw of it, it should be linked as much as possible.

Awesome post. I would sure love to shake John Warner’s hand if he’s still around.

@Alex: “I think people kind of like the old Batman show more than they used to.” You weren’t around in ’66. I was in first grade at the time. The Batman TV show was BIG. Bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and Lost put together. True, it annoyed the longtime comic book fans, but for three years, Batman was EVERYWHERE you looked.

Also, as for “‘Next Week, The Joker kidnaps Aunt Harriet and tortures her.’ That wasn’t an episode was it?” Not the Joker, but Zelda the Great (based on a comic book villain named Carnado) kidnapped Aunt Harriet and suspended her, bound and blindfolded, over a vat of boiling oil.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD6bq6en6ao at 04:30.

The more telling proof that John Warner wasn’t Steve Englehart is the claim Warner was better than someone else. Englehart was the worst writer in the history of comics, by far.

Actually, Green Arrow proposed to Black Canary in Mike Grell’s amazing “The Longbow Hunters”, but she shot him down because she felt that they needed to have some individual privacy. So that’s why Grell didn’t want Weissman to go on with the story.

In the Bullpen Bulletins page for Marvel comics dated September 1982, the Wolverine mini-series by Claremont, Miller and Rubinstein is promoted as being “grimly, grittily dramatic”. That’s the earliest one I can find.

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