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Why did superheroes become “dark” in the 1980s?

Comics became dark in the 1980s for numerous reasons. One of the main reasons was the atmosphere created by the Cold War. The fears brought about by the Cold War were still present in the eighties. It was a very grey period where people did not know what to expect. Fear was a central notion in the United States, which influenced the way comic books were written. The fear of a nuclear war was still present in the minds of Americans, even though not as prominent as it had been in the sixties. The comic book that demonstrated how superheroes transformed in the eighties and became darker was The Dark Knight Returns. This version of Batman was darker and had more mature content. Bruce Wayne was older and came out of retirement. Violence also became a more prominent factor in the Batman stories. Gotham City became a city where crime and violence constantly existed. Therefore Batman had a more difficult job at an older age. Although violence was more prominent, neither blood nor gore was shown throughout the Batman comics, it was implied. In addition to violence, drugs were seen in comics because of the change in the political atmosphere in the U.S.

Drug content was seen more in comics in the eighties than in any previous decade. They became a constant problem for Bruce Wayne. The eighties was the time when Reagan came into power. It was an era where Reagan promoted Reagonomics and his race against drugs. The drug and crime problem during the eighties influenced the dark mentality of the comics, especially Batman. The comics of Batman no longer were campy and had a childish feeling to it. Comics were not aimed at children anymore, therefore, comics with more mature content could be created. This started the creation of graphic models. Frank Miller's Dark Knight was an example of this change in graphics, where the pictures resembled this new dark essence. It was something new that had never been attempted by comics before. It was the start of new "dark" superheroes. The political climate of the United States and the continuation of the Cold War influenced writers to create darker superheroes with more mature content.


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