Comics Beat wrote a gushy article about the Tom King’s dismaying influence on comic book storytelling. it was typically rife with contradictions:
Tom King caught the eyes of comic book editors with his debut novel, 2013’s This Crowded Sky, telling a story about superheroes stripped of their powers. Not long after its publication, he sells Sheriff of Babylon to Vertigo. Before Sheriff is even published, King is invited to co-write the new DC series Grayson, which began its run in 2014. Just two years later the author takes over Batman, the most important title in comics.
Sounds like somebody’s saying Batman’s inherently more important than Superman. Explains perfectly what’s gone wrong with the medium, when dark is regarded as better than light. Also fascinating how a writer of his stature can acquire certain mainstream gigs so quickly, whether the stars of the show in questions are 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier characters. That his debut spotlighted heroes sans powers is saying quite a bit about his vision too. Vaguely reminiscent of Brian Bendis’ early works like Powers.
That’s a remarkable career trajectory, but readers can easily identify why King was met with such immediate success. He offers a unique perspective and pacing to his stories that, while familiar to longtime comic book fans, are largely absent from mainstream comics.
The reason he was such a “success” is because he subscribes to a politically correct vision that’s destroyed both independent and mainstream, one that is dark, depressing, pessimistic, and violent. Nothing unique about this perspective, but they’re too full of themselves to admit it.
The response to Tom King’s comics has been overwhelming, even encouraging the revival of a certain publishing model. In that sense, his influence is already apparent. In other ways, his impact on the industry and art form may not show itself for years to come. Read a few ways the work of Tom King’s is significant not just on its own merits but to the present and future of comics.
Considering he was taken off of Batman proper before getting around to a storyline he was allegedly planning, you can’t say his influence has lasted all that long. Now about those “significant” examples: there’s King’s supposed influence from Alan Moore:
Even though DC’s Doomsday Clock lifts characters and concepts directly from Watchmen, Alan Moore’s influence has seen a more impactful resurgence in comics written by Tom King.
The majority creators in the ’80s and ’90s took the wrong lessons from Watchmen, believing that the way to follow in its footsteps was to bring the violence and moral turpitude in Watchmen to mainstream superhero comics. Their misguided efforts resulted in a wave of “dark” and “edgy” comics rather than ones inspired by Moore’s actual approach to comic book storytelling.
30 years later, Tom King proves himself to be a far more attentive student of Alan Moore’s work. The spirit of Moore is imbued in every comic King writes. So, ironically, one of the biggest influences Kind has had on mainstream comics is the inspiration he takes from another creator.
Other modern writers have learned from Alan Moore, of course, but King has a particularly deep understanding of his work and borrows more of his sensibilities. Most notably, King is inspired by Moore’s methodic pacing in an era of comics that’s embraced cinematic storytelling. Alan Moore comics are anything but cinematic, an oft-forgotten reason why the Watchmen movie didn’t work and why no direct adaption ever could.
By digging beneath the surface and recognizing the magic of Alan Moore’s contribution to the medium, King writes thoughtful, deliberately paced stories that speak as much to the human condition as they do about the superhero whose logo is plastered on the cover.
King trades comic book storytelling inspired by another medium for a kind of pacing that’s completely unique to comics, the details of which will be discussed in the next section.
Yep, this is as hilarious as you can get, for all the wrong reasons. King’s already gained notoriety for killing a number of superheroes and other characters in the now reviled Heroes in Crisis, and setting Wally West up to be the culprit. All because Wally’s miserable that his family’s been de facto erased from existence, so he even tries to hide the blame and rubs more salt in. King also put Batman’s butler in the tomb recently. If the disgrace who wrote this pathetic apologia is saying King’s taking influence from Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, it’s interesting to note Moore himself, for all his faults, later said he regretted such tales, even if he showed much more competence and humanity in his writings than hacks like King did in theirs, and the difference is that Barbara Gordon survived the Joker’s attack, for better or worse.
And try as the columnist might, his talk of dark/edgy tales is contradicted by letting King off the hook for his. Acting all the time as though darkness is a more effective direction in every way than light. By this logic, it would not be possible to create the Fantastic Four today without making it a most miserable affair. The writer goes on to discuss how the Mr. Miracle miniseries uses 9-panel grids, without explaining what makes it so great to see “Darkseid is” repeatedly plastered along in the process:
Most mainstream comics don’t have repeating panel grids, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change following the overwhelmingly positive reception to Tom King’s comics, Mister Miracle in particular. When I interviewed him at New York Comic-Con, I took the opportunity to tell him that his work inspired me to co-create a comic that uses the 9-panel grid. I hope his comics have a similar effect on professional writers. Grids are an often effective technique that’s largely missing from mainstream comics.
Oh, did he also feel “inspired” by the repeating use of “Darkseid is”? I vaguely recall seeing it on the 14th JLA cover in the late 90s at the time Grant Morrison first wrote the 1997-2006 volume, and honestly don’t see what’s so special about it. If King’s vision ends up influencing real pros, it’ll be an embarrassment.
One of King’s earliest works for DC is Omega Men with Barnaby Bagenda. Despite low sales, the book left the extraterrestrial heroes with a clearer identity than they’ve had since their inception. His sole project at Marvel is Vision with Gabriel Walta, a maxiseries so impressive that it served as the inspiration for upcoming Disney+ television series WandaVision. Most recently, King reteamed with Mitch Gerads to co-create a Mister Miracle, a series that received wide critical acclaim, winning the team Eisner Awards for Best Writer, Best Artist, and Best Limited Series.
Oh yeah, a clearer ID, I’m sure. King’s take on Omega Men was a story where the team was hunted by the Citadel for seemingly murdering Kyle Rayner, and even let other innocents wind up slain. It’s obvious the columnist never had much affection for the original Omega Men envisioned by Marv Wolfman and Roger Slifer. As for King’s Mr. Miracle mini? Those who “acclaimed” it are pretty much the establishment members, much like Comics Beat themselves, who’re far less likely to consider a right-winger’s contributions worthy of notice. With a track record like King’s, that’s reason enough for me to avoid the Disney Plus series reportedly drawing from his Vision work.
From the following, it sounds like King’s made sure padded storytelling that began with Brian Bendis continues with him in terms of miniseries, or at least how many issues an ongoing could have slated:
DC has clearly taken to stories told over 12 issues. In addition to his own Adam Strange maxiseries with Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner, the company is releasing Martian Manhunter and Inferior Five maxiseries that attempt to revitalize interest in the properties. Even new Superman Family titles Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are slated for 12 issues, a decision made by DC rather than the creators. 3 of the 4 Wonder Comics titles are as well.
If the publisher makes the decision, rather than the writers/artists, that’s all you need to know what could go wrong. Editorial mandates are one of the most destroying factors in corporate-owned medium these days, and under Bendis, led to quite a few padded-out tales that wound up being quite a bore.
It’s impossible to deny that Tom King has had a notable impact on comics publishing. His influences, his writing style, and even his preferred publishing format have captured the industry’s attention following their success in his work. In the coming years, I only expect his impact to grow and for his upcoming projects to inspire more changes. It’s pretty amazing to see how one man has played such an important role in comics over a few short years, but I guess that’s the Tom King effect.
If his bad influence does grow, that’ll only precipitate the industry’s downfall ever further. Notice if you will they say it’s the industry whose attention King drew, not the audience’s. He’s just another example of a “creator” whose work I for one won’t buy, due to his contempt for fans of Wally West, the Titans and Roy Harper. And what point was there by the end of Heroes in Crisis, his loathsome little miniseries? Whatever supposed focus on trauma King was allegedly doing, vanished well before the end. None of which matters to the Comics Beat columnist, who shamefully glosses it over. No wonder I’ve since come to recognize CB as one of the worst news sites on the web, to the point where I’d rather use an archive link to their items instead of a direct one.
Originally published here.