Gothic horror has fascinated and frightened audiences for centuries with its dark and eerie themes, supernatural elements, and terrifying imagery. This article explores the origins of gothic horror in comic books and graphic novels and its evolution and cultural significance throughout history. We will also examine the impact of gothic horror on modern culture and entertainment.
In order to further understand this character and his relevance to our study, I would also like to introduce Spawn’s author and some aspects of its historical context. Todd McFarlane was born on March 16, 1961, in Calgary, Canada. He developed a solid career in the United States of America as a comic books (hero) artist for large publishing companies in the field such as DC Comics and Marvel Comics. His great talent in making drawings for Batman and Spiderman won him acclaim as one of the best comics artists of his generation.
Not all comics are art. Like film and photography, the medium can and often is used to make art, but it can also be used in non-artistic ways. Various examples of instructional comics plausibly fall outside the sphere of art. I would suggest that the same is true of some, but not all, pornographic comics (e.g. Tijuana Bibles). If you are not happy with those examples of non-art comics, I suspect that you will be able to generate your own cases.
Traditionally, comic books have been perceived as disposable, low-quality pulp fiction aimed at a child market. However, as the product of a publishing business, the medium is shaped by its production values, and these have significantly altered since the early days of comic books publishing. Early comic strips in newspapers and magazines were limited by thickset black line-work, due both to the letterpress method of printing (in which inked plates “stamp” an image onto paper) and the poor quality of the paper used. In the 1950s, this process gave way to offset printing, whereby comic books were first laid out in pencil, then inked, coloured, shot to film, and finally printed: allowing for more delicate lines. By the 1990s, publishers such as DC Comics had their own “in-house computer colouring department” and, as Steve White confirms, “computerisation [has] more or less brought everything in-house”.
Since the creation of the character in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, Batman has produced an incredibly vast franchise spanning animated and live-action TV series, cinematic films (there have been eleven films released since 1943), video games and merchandise products. Comic books such as Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and Grant Morrison’s ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ — which are some of the most celebrated graphic novels of the past decades — and the cinematic films by Timothy Walter Burton and Joel T. Schumacher have all contributed to the creation of an intense scholarly debate on what has been considered as “the most complex character ever to appear in comic books and graphic novels.” All of these disparate texts have often influenced each other, generating a series of borrowings, adaptations and a “web of cross-references” from which the “Caped Crusader” definitely emerges as an intertextual character.
In attempting to explain the inexplicable, in striving to control phenomena over which there is no control, in the search for means of expression, humankind has sublimated the mysteries of the world by turning them into metaphors. Art is a metaphor for life: to create art is a way to apply “one kind of thing, quality or action […] to another, in the form of an identity instead of comparison1.” In all forms of art, the receptive party is expected to ignore that one is looking at canvas, figured movement, or coloured light thrown on a screen without “purpose,” and to temporarily believe that what one appreciates is real, that it is life. Moreover, what is a more common trope for describing this than to say that “art reflects life?”