Comic Book Legends Revealed #297
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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COMIC LEGEND: The phrase “grim and gritty” first appeared in connection with Batman…on the 1960s Batman TV series!!
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!