After losing market share and street buzz to Marvel for more than a
decade, DC struck back in the late '80s, out-marveling Marvel with
new characters even farther from the traditional mold of the hero.
Mike Voiles singles out three titles among many that revolutionized
the genre and still shape the comics produced today:
Frank Miller's reinterpretation of Batman as a grim, sometimes
vengeful and morally ambiguous character in The Dark Knight series,
which set the tone for the hit movies starring Michael Keaton and
Alan Moore's The Watchmen, featuring characters such as Hooded
Justice, Rorschach, and the existential antihero Dr. Manhattan.
"For [Dr. Manhattan], all time is simultaneous; all things happen
at once," according to an Alan Moore fan site. "Therefore, he knows
what will happen in the future, but is incapable of doing anything
about it." Not exactly the job description of a traditional
The real game-changer came with The Sandman, which Voiles calls
"the greatest comics work ever." In 75 monthly issues, the British
writer Neil Gaiman took the comics genre into moral and
psychological territory hitherto unknown.
"The Sandman is more like a novel, a piece of literature, than pop
culture," raves Voiles. Gaiman's lead character Morpheus, King of
Dreams, looks like a frizz-haired Bob Dylan and possesses the
godlike power to make entire worlds vanish like crumbling sand
castles, but his post-postmodern sense of justice would leave Green
Lantern gasping in disbelief. In one early episode, a homicidal
maniac commandeers Morpheus' magic ruby. He then captures a group
of citizens in a diner and sadistically humiliates and tortures
them for hours. But when Morpheus arrives to regain the ruby, he's
so grateful to get it back that he returns the villain, unpunished,
to the asylum.