Knight Watchman: The Golden Age
Writers: Chris Ecker, Gary Carlson
Artists: Chris Ecker, John Thompson, Dan Preece, Jeff Austin, Mike Worley
Inkers: Jim Brozman, Terry Beatty, Paul Fricke, Mike Matthew, D. Hands, P.D. Angel Gabriele
Publisher: Pulp 2.0 Press
Review by Stacy Dooks
As much as I love superhero comics today, there’s something to be said about a tale that looks back at the roots of the genre: when stories were self-contained instead of written for the trade paperback collection, when motivations were simpler, and when all of the world’s problems could be solved with the judicious application of a good right hook. I love books that look back to the Gold and Silver age of comics, when stories lacked the moral ambiguity of our increasingly complex world. There were clearly delineated lines between the good guys and the bad guys. Add to that an appreciation of the superhero genre’s history and you’ve got a recipe guaranteed to get my attention. So it was with Knight Watchman: The Golden Age. It’s an interesting experiment in homage: one that looks at things both on the printed page and in the behind the scenes of the ‘real’ comics company behind its title character.
The Knight Watchman is a champion of the oppressed by night and fashion mogul Reid Randall by day. From his secret headquarters of the Watchtower, our hero protects the people of Midway City with his youthful ward and sidekick Kid Galahad, bringing justice to the mean streets. It’s a tall order, especially with villains like the Pink Flamingo, Mr. Mask, the Quizmaster, and Grandfather Clock to contend with, to say nothing of that other-dimensional pest the Knight-Sprite!
Of course the experienced comics reader will know that Knight Watchman was created by Tom King and Joe Kong (though his contributions would be downplayed for years) for Big Bang Comics and made his debut in Detective Comics #25. He was a counterpoint to the nigh-omnipotent Ultiman, who had become a sensation in 1938. The character has been a mainstay of comics for decades, being everything from beloved hero, to professional wrestling sensation, to even a motion picture phenomenon–thanks to director Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. 1969’s Knight Watchman Year One set box office records and stands as one of the single greatest pieces of superhero cinema of all time.
Of course, all of the above paragraph is complete malarkey, but really that’s half the fun of a book like this. Created by Chris Ecker and Gary Carlson, Knight Watchman is very obviously a riff on Batman. But unlike other comics which are either deconstructions or parodies, the Big Bang stable of comics was different in that they legitimately wanted to tell old school superhero stories in the style of the Golden and Silver ages of comics. The end result is a series of comics (and later collected editions like this one) that are a loving homage to that style of superhero tale. I liken it to a spiritual predecessor to Batman: The Brave and The Bold: telling fun stories set in a universe that operates on classic superhero tropes. Another fun concept is that in the Big Bang universe, there’s no such thing as ‘comic book time’ that keeps the heroes eternally youthful. Reid Randall starts as a young man in the late 1930s and then eventually has to retire due to old age, with his nephew Jerry eventually eschewing the ‘Kid’ in Kid Galahad and becoming a full-fledged superhero in his own right. The material here mainly covers the early days of the Watchman, but a second volume is in the works that should collect his more modern adventures.
The Verdict: Buy It.
If you’re of a mind to appreciate modern creators doing takes on classic superhero stories, Knight Watchman: The Golden Age is just what you need. It’s fun, it’s bold, and heroic, and it tells fun stories where the bad guys are taken down and everything works out all right in the end. Recommended.