Torture Porn and Splatter in Comics

This was the second of two blogs I intended to write on the appearance of the Dollmaker and his assistants Orifice and Matilda in the most recent issue of Detective Comics.   This more or less occurred to me recently when we were discussing here what age of comics we are heading into if the golden age was up until the late 1950s or 1960s and the silver age was since then.   Really in my mind what defines the different ages is the presence of new dominant themes into comics.   The golden age started as a hodgepodge mixture of whatever worked, but with the focus on science fiction the silver age became a lot more defined by the scientific achievements of its characters (impossible as some of them are) as characters were blasted into space for their adventures as often as staying on Earth.   What I would consider to be the modern age started after Crisis on Infinite Earths (or even earlier in terms of Marvel) in what could be seen as an attempt to make heroes more realistic and more human.   In terms of general trends though these are only the most obvious, and really comics are always quick to jump on the bandwagon of what is popular in modern culture.   For instance, the threat of nuclear weapons found itself into many golden age comics, while the silver age had separate instances of the popularity of martial arts characters and bionics characters after they found success elsewhere.

So with the introduction of torture porn like characters in Batman, does this mean that whatever comic book age we are based in will be defined by this type of grittier type of violence (or in terms of Matilda a sort of mixture of sexuality and horror violence)?   Most likely not.   The thing is that although comics do try to jump on the bandwagon of what looks good in other genres, that they rarely translate well to the pages of comic books.   Martial arts based characters were popular for a while, but comic book choreography can not compare to that in movies.   The same goes for bionics, whereas they look impressive on film where they make characters look better than those around them, in comics bionics characters don’t seem even very powerful by comparison.   The same will likely hold true with any infusion of torture porn into comics.   While the general sense of spookiness and gore might translate a little, it will never be as effective as in a movie with the sense of dread displayed by the characters and even such subtle things as the music used to create atmosphere (though in terms of the design of a Rude Goldberg machine for torture, comics might have the advantage here.)   It should be noted that I am not much of a fan of torture porn or splatter movies, and I think in this sense that I am lucky because any attempt to inject them into the comic book medium will invariably end in failure.   

27 Comments
27 Comments
Posted by fodigg

Gore is no substitute for suspense.

Posted by Daveyo520

I don't think that issue was on the level of torture porn really, it is still tamer then Hostal and Saw. Maybe the new age started with Watchmen and TDKR, and everyone trying to be darker after that?

Posted by Jake Fury

The new DC as a whole seems to be leaning towards grittier and generally unhappy characters. Even Superman has been depicted as being a little rough around the edges. I'm not sure if I really like it or not.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@Daveyo520: I think in terms of what they can legitimately put in a comic book this is pretty close to as graphic as they can get
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Posted by Daveyo520

@Jake Fury: Batman however should be unhappy and dark.

Posted by Daveyo520

@RazzaTazz: I guess to me then it would never get to actual torture porn then. Unless it is on the level of those movies it isn't really the same. Maybe in a MAX or some other type adult only comic could do it. Those movies make me cringe and actually gross me out while this comic does not. I do not want to read a comic that goes that far however.

Posted by SC

I still really, really want you to read Echoes... also that being said, I think comics can carve out nice versions of other such.. genres. Just depends on the creativity involved or.. well - so like there is Garth Ennis. So anyway, its just about knowing your medium well and being creative (or just wrong, really wrong and shocking) 

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Posted by ComicMan24

@Jake Fury said:

The new DC as a whole seems to be leaning towards grittier and generally unhappy characters. Even Superman has been depicted as being a little rough around the edges. I'm not sure if I really like it or not.

Yeah, me neither yet.

Posted by Icarusflies

…..Orifice? That is quite possibly THE worst name for a character EVER. And I'm including Paste-Pot-Pete in that analysis.

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Posted by thehummingbird

I would definitely not call such torture porn by any means this is more what I would call a more so dark plot line? Out of the above listed things you said were not as impressive in comics I think this gorier violence could easily stay, in manga many of the books involve very rigid scenes such as this and it is quite popular. They way I see it comic writers are just catching up to modern times in this sense that its japanese counter part caught on to long ago. (in fact I did not like comics as much as a kid because I thought it was lacking in this department...versus anime and such)

Posted by weaponxxx

@Icarusflies said:

…..Orifice? That is quite possibly THE worst name for a character EVER. And I'm including Paste-Pot-Pete in that analysis.

So true

Posted by SC
@Icarusflies said:

…..Orifice? That is quite possibly THE worst name for a character EVER. And I'm including Paste-Pot-Pete in that analysis.

 
*jumps out from behind sofa and screams*
 
Neonomicon!!!!!! 
 
*runs away giggling at prank*
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Posted by Icarusflies

@SC: O_O

>is overcome with traumatic memories and cries in the corner<

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Posted by SC
@Icarusflies:  Awwh you must have known that coming into a thread titled "Torture Porn and Splatter in Comics" would eventually mean the Ghost of Alan Moore would run in randomly to disturb your serenity with fish monster tentacles or something out of his weird, creepy scary place. At least your trauma can serve as warning for more naive minds and eyes. *smile* 
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Posted by Icarusflies

@SC: WHY ALAN MOORE! WHY MUST YOU TORMENT ME!

>launches into rant about the Ghost of Christmas Past<

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Posted by White Mage

@Icarusflies said:

…..Orifice? That is quite possibly THE worst name for a character EVER. And I'm including Paste-Pot-Pete in that analysis.

HAHAHAHA

Posted by higher_evolutionary

the new 52 is getting disgusting at the extreme level of violence and gore

Posted by higher_evolutionary
@SC said:
I still really, really want you to read Echoes... also that being said, I think comics can carve out nice versions of other such.. genres. Just depends on the creativity involved or.. well - so like there is Garth Ennis. So anyway, its just about knowing your medium well and being creative (or just wrong, really wrong and shocking) 
what is it about, torture porn ?
Posted by JediXMan

Batman has been dark for years. Really, it's only people who only see Batman as being for kids that are surprised when they actually read the comics. That scene in the OP is not all that bad compared to others. To name a few: (if you are easily disturbed, don't read)


 
And there are others. Those are just off the top of my head.
 
It's just that they aren't pretending anymore. See the Dark Knight and Arkham Asylum/Arkham City. They prove my point. Batman is finally being shown for what he actually is: one of the darkest if not the darkest mainstream comic.
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Posted by Daveyo520

@JediXMan: And that is the way he should be. Sure you can get away with campy Batman here and there, with the old show and Brave and the Bold, but that is not who Batman really is.

Posted by RainEffect
@Daveyo520 said:

@Jake Fury: Batman however should be unhappy and dark.

That would freak the Joker out, wouldn't it? If Batman came up to him with this big freaking grin on his face, laughing maniacally.
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

I prefer the dark story lines because these are the kind of characters I like, Batman, The Crow, Daredevil, The Punisher, old Moon Knight.

Posted by JediXMan
@higher_evolutionary said:
the new 52 is getting disgusting at the extreme level of violence and gore
I think they're just trying to say "we're not kid friendly, and we aren't afraid to say it." They're just establishing it early on.
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Posted by gangly

Razz, I think all you're really trying to say is that you don't like gory horror. That's fine, but saying that "any attempt to inject [it] into the comic book medium will invariably end in failure" is baseless and wrong.

Contrary to what you tried to argue, I can't think of a genre that DOESN'T work in comics. If you think that Martial Arts don't work in comics, I guess the entire history of Manga was some kind of fluke. And I'm not really sure what you mean by "bionics", but for instance Cyborg has been a popular character for over 30 years and has of course now even risen to the ranks of the Justice League itself.

One of my favorite things about comics is this exact kind of diversity. There are books that suit every taste, and if you personally don't like some of them than by all means don't read them.

In the new 52 we have a 4 separate titles starring Batman, and I think it's refreshing to see one of those going for a pure, gory horror take.

Also, it's really important to note that gore and comics have (successfully) gone hand-in-hand for a very long time. You make the case that the gore we're seeing now in Detective is the writer trying to cash in on a fad, but that's just not so. Here's a panel that I thought of when I read about the Dollmaker character in Detective Comics:

Pretty wonderfully grisly stuff, and not at all Saw or Hostel influenced. This one, in fact, is from The Vault of Horror #25, from 1952!!!!!

Posted by RazzaTazz
@gangly: You make valid points, but I dont think anyone comes to comics looking for martial arts, or bionics based characters, or torture porn
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Posted by Hawkeye446

Nice blog.. Interesting...

Posted by daredevil21134

@spiderbat87 said:

I prefer the dark story lines because these are the kind of characters I like, Batman, The Crow, Daredevil, The Punisher, old Moon Knight.

Good taste