“When Were Superheroes Grim and Gritty?” is a great essay by Jackson Ayres available at the LA Review of Books about the influences and reactions to Frank Miller and Alan Moore’s “grim and gritty” comics. It’s long, but it’s great. Essentially, Ayres posits that the “grim and gritty” style of comics pioneered in The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen isn’t just a reflection of modern society, but rather the culmination of several veins of reaction to the camp of Silver Age comics and, especially, the Batman TV show. Ayres also calls into question the neat “packaging” of the “grim and gritty” era, pointing out that even within the time that this style was prevalent in comic books, there were already several notable reactions/backlashes to it. Ultimately, Ayres concludes that camp and grim/gritty are really reflections of each other. It’s a fascinating article, and worth the read.
Ah, but before you get started on the article, watch this video for some background on the different comic book ages. It’s highly informative.
Also, the Grantland review of The Muppets TV show referenced in Ayres essay can be found here. It’s that last paragraph where the reference to Frank Miller is made. And it’s great.