BB Chronological 37: Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift #1

Time for a detour.

The last episode of this blog was about Big Bang Comics #20, but instead of moving on to the next issue, it’s time to play a little “catch up”.

If you recall, Big Bang started out as a series of back-up stories in my Berzerker comic book, published by Gauntlet Comics/Caliber Press starting in 1993. (If you don’t recall, you can go back to earlier BANG blogs #s 4 through 15 and read all about the good old days).

The retro back-up stories proved so popular that we spun them off into their own book, Big Bang Comics, which celebrated and paid homage to the comic book artists and writers of the Golden and Silver Ages. When our deal at Caliber soured, Erik Larsen invited Chris Ecker and myself to move Big Bang to Image Comics, which we did in 1996.

The move to Image was a good deal for us and meant higher visibility for Big Bang, but it also messed up the schedules of our other titles, Dr. Weird and Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift.

Ed DeGeorge self published two more issues of Dr. Weird through his October Comics imprint. Two issues of Graveyard Shift had already been published by Caliber Press, but the final two were put on hold as we attempted to establish Big Bang at Image.

Now, two years and 20 issues later, the Knight Watchman’s time to shine had arrived again. The decision was made to publish Graveyard Shift as intended, a four issue mini-series, reprinting the first two issues with new covers and back-up stories.

Knight Watchman #1 was published by Image Comics in June of 1998. We dropped Graveyard Shift from the title to avoid confusion with the Caliber series. It featured a new front cover by series artist Ben Torres, a new 1938 styled back-up drawn by John Thompson, and a back cover by Mark Lewis.

The main story was the the same one from the Caliber issue. In it, the Mayor of Midway City was severely wounded in an assassination attempt, along with Midway’s guardian angel, Galahad. The newly appointed acting Mayor, John Princeton wants no vigilantes in his city and offers the injured hero the opportunity to join the police department as the head of the new Badge unit, one man swat teams of the department’s own costumed officers. Either accept the offer or retire, because vigilantes will no longer be tolerated in Midway City.

One catch – Galahad would have to reveal his civilian identity to the Mayor, but he doesn’t think his mentor the Knight Watchman would like that idea. And that is true, especially since the acting Mayor is in cahoots with the Watchman’s arch enemy, the Pink Flamingo.

With Galahad in the hospital, the crime rate is soaring in Midway City. The acting Mayor’s plan is to restore order with the Badge unit and get re-elected. Unknown to him, the Flamingo wants to ruin the Badge program and discover Galahad and his former partner’s true identities.

What none of them counts on is the Knight Watchman coming out of retirement after five years to take on the rampaging criminals. All over town he takes on one punk after another, leaving them tied up for the cops. Unfortunately, the end of the issue finds KW handing off a thug to an officer that is one of Mayor Princeton’s crooked cops, who proceeds to beat the crap out of the prisoner, saying “It looks like you picked the wrong night to mess with the Knight Watchman – – he didn’t realize how rough he was on you!” To be continued.

When Chris and I set out to create KW: Graveyard Shift, our inspiration was Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. We had been paying homage to Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Shelly Moldoff, Dick Sprang and others, but now it was time to reference a modern master. When we had received art samples from Ben Torres, we knew we had found the right artist.

Graveyard Shift grew out of one of the original back-up stories in Berzerker #4 from 1993 titled Brother ‘Hood. It was a sly modern take on the Robin Hood legend. Once we saw Ben Torres’ final art for the story, we decided to tie it into the Knight Watchman mythos and give it the Frank Miller treatment.

I don’t know about Chris, but I had not read Sin City in 1993 and was thinking Dark Knight Returns all the way. But Ben had, and he gave Graveyard Shift its “Batman in Sin City” look and edge, transforming it beyond a Dark Knight pastiche. Thanks Ben.

In addition to drawing comics, Ben Torres was also a designer for Hasbro Toy Group on such lines as Star Wars, GI Joe, Batman, Starting Line Up, Pokemon, Aliens, Predator, Monsters Inc, Planet of the Apes, and others. He also served as creative consultant on various TV series such as GI Joe, Vor-Tech and Transformers, and contributed concept designs and story content for various movies such as Star Wars, Men In Black and Jurassic Park. More recently he has worked on Daredevil and Kingpin for Marvel, and on numerous projects with Roger McKenzie and the Charlton Arrow.

The back-up story for this issue was brand new, a Knight Watchman adventure done in a 1938 Bob Kane style by John Thompson detailing the first meeting between the KW and Pinkerton Fleming, a.k.a. the Pink Flamingo. I have to admit that while I wrote the script, I stole the basic idea from a pulp story that Chris Ecker had started. Sorry Chris.

The back cover, of Deductive Comics #30, was penciled, inked and colored by Mark Lewis, and was purported to have been the cover of the issue that the back-up story originally appeared in.

All in all, one of my favorite Big Bang issues ever. Truthfully, all four issues of Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift have always been at the top of my list. Next time – – KW:GS #2.

Gary Carlson

9/3/2018

Big Bang Comics, Knight Watchman, and all related characters are © and TM Gary S. Carlson and Chris Ecker.

Back issues for most Big Bang’s are available for purchase for $3 at our back issue store:

http://bigbangcomics.com/products-page/comic-books/image-comics/

The Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift  trade paperback from Pulp 2.0 Press which collects all four issues is available on Amazon.com at:

https://www.amazon.com/Knight-Watchman-Graveyard-Chris-Ecker/dp/1481885340/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536016616&sr=8-1&keywords=knight+watchman

 

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