Thursday, October 30, 2014


"Hey kids!"
Your Humble Editor usually takes pains to reach at least a couple of decades into the past to dig up a good truly Gone&Forgotten character, but the spooky synchronicity of timing this feature on the ay before Halloween lends itself to investigate the disappearance of “Gotham City’s OTHER protector,” the somewhat short-lived supernatural crimefighter Simon Dark.

Debuting and bowing in his own eponymous series between 2007 and 2009, Simon Dark was the creation of Steve Niles and artist Scott Hampton, known mostly for his dreamily painted, highly atmospheric artwork and who broke into comics with the underrated and unfortunately largely unacknowledged Silverheels, a book which could do with a reprinting.

A thematically-appropriate mishmash of horror-themed characteristics, Simon Dark was a fairy tale-like creature which haunted Gotham’s abandoned buildings and underground tunnels, invested with a child-like naivete and flat-out murdering dudes with his bare hands periodically. A bogeyman figure – not that anyone fights crime in Gotham without being dubbed ‘a bogeyman figure,’ I think you have to officially add that to your CV to even get in the door – Simon becomes the subject of the singsong nursery rhymes of the local kids, none of whom have apparently ever heard of Xbox and so they spend all day outside jumping ropes like idiots.

"We've been to paradise, but we've
never been to us."
The rhyme goes:

Lurks in Shadows. Hides in the park.
Simon. Simon. Simon Dark.
If you're good he'll stay away.
If you're bad he'll make you pay.
Lurks in Shadows. Hides in the park.
Wham bam thank you ma’am
Awwwwww Simon Dark!

Much of the series focused on understanding Simon’s origin, which was that he was the product of an infernal experiment by a power-seeking cult which imbues him with the souls of a couple dozen young innocents, the likenesses of which Simon can transform his scarred and totally messed up Gumby-lookin’ face. Along with that, Simon packs an arsenal of supernatural super-powers which cover the bases of pretty much whatever he needs to do at the moment, which is good Golden Age-style comic book thinkin’ there and I approve.

Simon also picks up a trio of familiars, all of whom are human beings transformed into weird Claymation-looking monsters by evil sorcerers, which is pretty much up this book’s alley. Atmospheric, weird, occult and agoraphobic, dark and shadowy and possessing a distinct look-and-feel only aided by the fact that a consistent creative team shepherded his book through the entirety of its incarnation, Simon Dark also felt suspiciously like no one had expected it to get past ohhhh eight or nine issues or so. It went to eighteen.

It’s almost definitely for the best that Simon Dark didn’t persist under other creator’s hands, since such a thing would have only led to streamlining the character, which these days mean a mandarin collar and a lot of seams on his new armor suit. Still, I bet he eventually shows up in Justice League Dark or, failing that, Justice League Milk Chocolate with Fruit and Nuts.

No comments:

Popular Posts