Kevin Smith has been connected to the world of comic books all the way back to when he sold part of his large collection to help finance 1994’s “Clerks,” his breakout film. Smith’s next two films were even more explicitly connected to comic books, with 1995’s “Mallrats” featuring Stan Lee in a prominent sequence and 1997’s “Chasing Amy” being about comic book creators.
Smith had already done some independent comic books featuring the “Clerks” characters for Oni Press before he was given the chance to re-launch “Daredevil” with artists Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, as the centerpiece of Quesada and Palmiotti’s Event Comics getting a chance to have their own line of Marvel Comics called “Marvel Knights.” The comic was such a success that Quesada ended up becoming the new Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. Thus, Smith was part of one of the most important comics in Marvel history. He later went on to write a number of other best-selling books, but along with sales, Smith drew heaps of controversy. Here are 15 of the most controversial moments in Kevin Smith’s comics.
15. STANLEY THE MONSTER
“Stanley and His Monster” began as a back-up story by Arnold Drake and artist Winslow Mortimer in the pages of DC’s long-running funny animal title, “The Fox and the Crow.” It became popular enough that it ultimately took over the series entirely, with the book renamed to “Stanley and His Monster” for its final few issues. The twist on this concept is that the monster, who Stanley dubbed Spot, was just as scared of the world as people are of monsters. So, Stanley took the giant monster in as a pet and hilarious hijinx ensued. Phil Foglio brought the characters back for a 1990 miniseries that made fun of DC’s more serious horror comics of the era, like “Hellblazer” and “Swamp Thing.”
In Kevin Smith’s best-selling “Green Arrow” arc, “Quiver” (with artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks), he brought Green Arrow back to life, but in the process, also turned the story of Stanley and his Monster into a tale of a devil-worshiping old man (also named Stanley) who accidentally bonded a demon to his grandson instead of himself. The demon would only come out at certain times, so he would torment and abuse his grandson in the attempt to get the demon to return. In the end, Stanley’s monster ate Stanley Sr. It was one of your prototypical “take a kid’s comic and make it grim and gritty” stories.
14. BLACK WIDOW FALLS FLAT
Over the years, there has been a consistent depiction of Natasha Romanova, the operative known as Black Widow, as an extremely efficient fighter. There’s a famous issue of “Marvel Two-in-One” where she teamed up with the Thing to stop some bad guys, and they are besieged by a hundred operatives. The Thing needs time to stop the bad guy’s plot, but it involves pulling tons of cable, so he can’t fight off the bad guys at the same time. She then proceeds, over a series of hours, to defeat all hundred operatives by herself. In another Black Widow story, she awakes in the middle of surgery and manages to ignore the intense pain and keep herself perfectly still so that the surgery could be completed. This is a woman who has fought Elektra to a stalemate!
And yet, in “Daredevil” #4 (by Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti), when she had to protect a baby from a deranged Daredevil, he catches her one kick and then twists her leg until she passes out from pain. We’re not saying that Daredevil would not win a fight with Black Widow, but to defeat her in such a dismissive fashion was… surprising, at best.
13. EXTREME TRUST ISSUES
Outside of Catwoman, Batman’s most notable girlfriend in the comics is clearly socialite Silver St. Cloud, who was introduced during Steve Englehart’s short but historic run on “Detective Comics” in the 1970s. She began to date Bruce Wayne but along the way, figured out Bruce’s secret identity as Batman. Ultimately, they split because she could not live being with someone who was constantly in danger. Englehart later had her pursue a relationship with Bruce again.
Kevin Smith’s “Batman: The Widening Gyre” (drawn by Walter Flanagan and Art Thibert) was a miniseries that dealt greatly with Batman reconnecting with Silver St. Cloud. They date throughout the series and ultimately get engaged in the final issue. Batman is thinking about how happy he was over the situation when he abruptly stopped and chased down Silver. He realized that he was too happy, so that it must be a trick! She must be a robot! He assaults her, pulling on her hair until he checks one of her hairs to prove that she is not a robot. Even if you excuse Batman for being paranoid, he still pulls her over, assaults her, tells her to shut up when she questions him and then breaks down when he realizes she’s human. It’s strange how easily his actions were glossed over here.
12. DAREDEVIL THROWS A BABY OFF A ROOF
It is an interesting statement about how far our reactions have come as a society that the basic concept of Kevin Smith’s historic “Daredevil” arc wasn’t even seen as controversial back in 1998. The arc, dubbed “Guardian Devil,” deals with Daredevil coming into contact with a baby who allegedly was born of a virgin teenage mother. Daredevil’s Catholic upbringing causes him to take the situation seriously, but over time, after being visited from a demon from Hell, he has to question whether the demon is the reborn Messiah or the Antichrist in disguise!
Daredevil ultimately decides that it is the latter and actually throws it off a roof! Luckily, Black Widow was there to save the baby. Later on, after his aforementioned beat down of Black Widow, he jumps off the roof with the baby, intending to kill them both. In the end, though, he snaps out of it and saves them at the last minute. The whole thing turns out to be a ruse concocted by the villainous Mysterio to mess around with Daredevil’s beliefs.
11. CANDY CANE LANE
This moment would undoubtedly be higher on the list had it not come in such a lesser known Kevin Smith comic book. Released in late 1998, “Clerks: The Holiday Special” was written by Smith and drawn by Jim Mahfood. In the original film, “Clerks,” one of the two main clerks in the film, Dante, has an ex-girlfriend named Caitlin Bree who visited him at the convenience store. Despite Dante having a girlfriend, the two arrange a date and he goes home to change. However, she thinks he is still in the store and visits the bathroom of the convenience store and thinks that Dante is in there. She has sex with him, but then learns that it was a dead customer who had gone into the bathroom earlier to masturbate and died of a heart attack. This causes her to become catatonic.
In “The Holiday Special,” Dante’s friend, Randall, convinces him to try to wake Caitlin out of her catatonic state by pleasuring her with a candy cane. She does wake up and (understandably) freaks out, screaming at Dante. He runs away and then a piece of the candy cane falls out of her. It’s sexual assault played for laughs.
10. DAREDEVIL: THE 1990 AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL
“Guardian Devil” opened with Matt Murdock in a bad place in his life, in part because his longtime girlfriend, Karen Page, had left him after a number of years together. As noted earlier, Matt found himself unsure if the baby that he had discovered was supposed to be the Messiah or the Antichrist. Karen Page shows up again and she tends to believe that it is the latter, as well. She is distraught, and when Matt inquires why, she dramatically shouts, “I have AIDS!” It is reminiscent of the infamous issue of “Alpha Flight” where Northstar came out via him dramatically shouting during a superhero fight, “I am gay!!”
Karen Page was a drug user who surely shared needles, but the notion that she would just years later discover that she did not just have HIV, but rather passed by HIV and was all the way to AIDS, was problematic in and of itself. Regardless, the whole way that AIDS was used as this just “End of the issue” zinger was iffy. In the end, she turned out not to be sick after all.
9. TIME AFTER TIME
This one is a bit tricky, as it is not necessarily a controversial moment within the comic, but rather the release of the comics themselves. However, when it comes to Kevin Smith, comic books and controversy, you pretty much can’t discuss all three of those things without mentioning Smith’s habitual tardiness. It is not even that his lateness is inexplicable or anything like that, as the prolific Smith is clearly a very busy guy. At the end of the day, though, we are still talking about some extremely delayed comic books, some to the point of literal no return.
“Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do” #1 came out in June 2002. The final issue of the six-issue miniseries came out in November… of 2005. “Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target” #1 came out in September 2002. The second issue of the six-issue miniseries has never been released. “Batman: The Widening Gyre” took a year to come out with six issues between 2009 and 2010. The sequel to that series has never come out. Smith himself described his tardiness as making him “persona non grata” in the comic community before his “Batman” miniseries.
8. JOKER’S DILEMMA
Kevin Smith’s first Batman miniseries, “Batman: Cacophony” (art by Walter Flanagan and Sandra Hope) was mostly about the relationship between Batman and Joker, as Joker is broken out of prison by the villain Onomatopoeia, who Smith had introduced in his “Green Arrow” run. Onomatopoeia was a clever modern take on a Silver Age style villain, who would speak only in (get this…) onomatopoeia. So, as you might expect, he said a lot of things like “blam” and other sound effects.
The Joker’s release is all about baiting a trap for Batman, who is the ultimate prize for Onomatopoeia, whose whole thing is hunting down non-superpowered superheroes. However, when the Joker is freed from prison and Onomatopoeia gives him a bunch of money, Joker presumes that it is an offer for sex, so he undresses and bends over. It was a fairly juvenile gay joke that gave readers an idea of what to expect from Smith’s “Batman” trilogy.
7. DEE DEE
As noted before, one of the main plots of “Batman: The Widening Gyre” was Batman reconnecting with Silver St. Cloud. By “reconnecting,” we mostly mean that they had lots and lots of sex throughout the comic book. That in itself is fair enough, but at the same time, Silver keeps calling Batman “Dee dee” throughout the series. Other characters noted the nickname, but Batman doesn’t want to talk about.
Finally, in the last issue of the series, after Batman has proposed to Silver, she finally reveals the truth to an inquiring Alfred Pennyworth. “Dee dee” stands for “Double digits,” because Batman gave her 11 orgasms the first time that they had sex together. Yes, the payoff for a six-issue long set-up was that she nicknamed Batman “Dee dee” because of how many orgasms he gave her. We’ll just let that sit with you while we move on to the next moment on the list.
6. TURNING THE PAGE
When it comes to comic book twists, the easiest one in the world is to simply kill off a major character. That’s always good for a little bit of a shock factor. However, because it is so easy, it can also be seen as a bit cheap if you overuse the effect. For a writer who has not written all that many comic book series, Kevin Smith uses it contextually a lot.
Karen Page was one of the original supporting cast members in “Daredevil,” and after being brought back into the series by Frank Miller during “Born Again,” she became an exceptionally well-used cast member. Her current success as a character on the “Daredevil” TV series bears that out, as well. That is why it was a shame at the time and even more of a shame in retrospect that she was killed off in the middle of “Guardian Devil,” taking a fatal shot from Daredevil’s own billy club from Bullseye that was meant for Daredevil.
5. BOGARTING BULLSEYE
As noted earlier, after releasing just a single issue of “Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target” (by Kevin Smith and Glenn Fabry), a second issue was never released. Perhaps an even bigger issue is why the miniseries even existed in the first place. Clearly, to a certain extent, it came out as a tie-in to the then-upcoming “Daredevil” movie, where Bullseye was a prominent villain. Thus, the miniseries showed the villain rocking a similar look as he did in that film, where he doesn’t wear a costume outside of a bullseye scar on his forehead.
The more complicated reason is that Kevin Smith wanted to be the first writer to write Bullseye following Bullseye’s murder of Karen Page. He just never got around to coming back to actually write it, so then-“Daredevil” writer, Brian Michael Bendis, wanted to finally use Bullseye during his run on the series. Joe Quesada used this to lure Smith back to write this series. When Smith agreed, Bendis was then disallowed the use of Bullseye. Of course, Smith was not actually ready to write the series, as he was driven simply by a desire to write Bullseye before Bendis. So, in the end, Bendis was eventually allowed to use Bullseye after it became clear that this series was never finishing (Bendis still had to work in a reference to the never-released issues of this series).
4. KAREN, MEET SILVER
Throughout “Batman: The Widening Gyre,” there is a recurring message for Batman that he has to trust people more. That was shown earlier when he presumed that things were going so well between he and Silver that she must be a robot. When he realized how crazy he was being, he became more and more determined to trust more people. One of those people that he chose to trust was a new Gotham City vigilante called Baphomet.
Even after Baphomet tells him a weird story about wanting to murder criminals, Batman still decides that he has to let his new colleague and friend into his life, so he invites Baphomet to the Batcave, reveals his secret identity to him and introduces him to Silver St. Cloud. Baphomet then turns out to be the villain Onomatopoeia from “Cacophony” and slices open Silver’s throat in front of Batman. End scene. That’s the conclusion of “Widening Gyre” and the promised second volume has never come out.
3. PISSING ON YEAR ONE
As we just mentioned, one of the recurring themes throughout “Batman: The Widening Gyre” was that Batman had to be more trusting. Of course, we just saw that his willingness to trust directly led to his fiancee getting her throat opened in front of Batman’s eyes; but hey, with all emotional progress, there will be some roadblocks along the way! Being willing to trust someone else is what led to the most infamous scene in “The Widening Gyre.”
In the final issue, Batman decides he has to open up to his new colleague/friend, the vigilante known as Baphomet. So Bruce tells him of the famous sequence from Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s “Batman: Year One,” where Batman bursts into a party thrown by Gotham City’s Illuminati and tells them that their party is over: they won’t feed on Gotham City’s populace anymore. Batman now reveals that that sequence was so intense that he has an accidental “bladder spasm” and urinated on himself. Yup, Kevin Smith made Batman pee his pants.
2. THE TONAL SWITCH OF BLACK CAT
When Kevin Smith’s “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do,” picked up after three years between the third and fourth issues of the six-issue miniseries, the delay seemed to change the story of the comic book period. When you read all six issues together, it feels like you’re reading two distinct stories. The first three issues are a fun team-up series between Black Cat and Spider-Man. Then, issue #3 ends with Black Cat about to be raped. When the series returns, the final three issues are essentially a comic book essay about rape.
There isn’t anything wrong with a comic book that deftly addresses sexual assault, but this one does not handle it well. We learn that Felicia Hardy became the Black Cat because she was date raped back in college. The brother of the main villain of the piece (who had been raped by his brother for years), tells Black Cat of the time that he used his powers of persuasion to force a prostitute to have anal sex. He says, “It never felt like I was doing anything wrong. I wasn’t physically forcing her to do anything. I didn’t slap her around or hold a gun to her head. She did it all willingly. Physically willingly, at least.” Black Cat replies, “I know how she felt.” Having a newly established rape victim sympathize with that sentiment? That was just (unintentionally) tone deaf.
1. NOT SHARING WELL WITH OTHERS
The whole “Messiah vs. Antichrist” dilemma that Daredevil went through in “Guardian Devil” was a result of an elaborate plot against him by his old foe… Mysterio? Yes, the longtime Spider-Man foe had decided to stop being a Spider-Man villain due to the Clone Saga. So, when he learned he was dying, he wanted to force Daredevil (who he had fought recently in the previous Daredevil’s series) to kill him by putting him through a hell of mechanical demons and lots of mind-altering drugs. Again, he wanted to make Daredevil think that the baby was the Antichrist. When Daredevil figures out the plot (and knocks Mysterio for copying a lot of the elements of his plan from other villains), Mysterio responds by killing himself… which was also “stolen” from Kraven the Hunter.
While shocking, it was weird to see a major Spider-Man villain die in “Daredevil,” but even weirder to learn that the “Spider-Man” office had approved Mysterio’s appearance in “Daredevil” in the understanding that he would be back, as they had a storyline set to star Mysterio! Instead, he was dead and the then-upcoming Mysterio storyline had to suddenly be moved around in continuity. Eventually, after a few fill-in Mysterios (including one introduced by Smith himself in “Spider-Man/Black Cat”), the original returned.
What do you think was the most controversial Kevin Smith comic book moment? Let us know in the comments!
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