Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Graveyard Shift

 Yes, the Knight Watchman is an homage to Batman, and yes, “Graveyard Shift” is something of an homage to Frank Miller's classic “Dark Knight Returns”. No, I don't consider either to be merely a rip-off. There are two or three definite and obvious nods to “Dark Knight Returns”, but it was no secret as to what we were doing. We were telling a story combining Frank Miller's style from Dark Knight with what he was then doing on Sin City.

Big Bang Comics began in 1992 when Chris Ecker told me that he was tired of comic book publishers and art directors telling him that he drew like an “old guy” and that he was going to sit down and draw an old style comic book story and that I was going to write it. Chris and I both broke into the comic book industry with my “Megaton” independent comic in the 1980s. The idea behind Megaton was of presenting a new generation of super heroes.

We had included a few members of the previous generation: Ultraman and the Crusader. They were
somewhat generic archetypes who existed mainly to set up the new heroes. Now we decided to tell the back stories of these characters. Except that the Crusader was a little too generic and bland.

We turned him first into the Night Watchman and at the last minute added a K and he became the KNIGHT WATCHMAN. It occurred to us that this way we could develop a mythology for the character and tell stories in the style of classic Batman creators like Dick Sprang and Shelly Moldoff. With a nod to Bob Kane's signature, we added a serrated box that looked like a crown with a caption in it that said “Created by Tom King”.

That first story, “The Time Crimes of Grandfather Clock” appeared as the backup story in Berzerker #1, a book of mine published by Caliber Press featuring another old character from the Megaton days. Berzerker #2 featured the rechristened Ultiman and #3's backup featured another Megaton alum, Doctor Weird, who had been created by Howard Keltner. The fourth Berzerker backup was Brother Hood, a modern urban version of Robin Hood written by Chris and myself with art by Ben Torres.

We christened the batch of stories “Big Bang Comics” and right from the start, fan reaction to the characters, especially Knight Watchman was amazing. Fans thought they really were forgotten Golden Age characters! This led to a three part mini-series. Issue one would introduce Golden Age versions of a batch of characters, number two would feature Silver Age incarnations of the same characters and the third issue would be a modern version, taking place roughly 30 years after the events in issue two. (It didn't work out exactly that way. The 64 page Golden Age issue was eventually split into three separate issues by Caliber Press.

Right from the start, it was obvious that the Knight Watchman was our most popular character. As we started work on the Big Bang mini-series, we also started on Graveyard Shift with Ben Torres, plugging the Watchman into the world of Brother Hood (who only appears in a few pages in the story).
This is where we fleshed out the history of the Knight Watchman. Galahad and the Pink Flamingo appeared in Graveyard Shift before they debuted in Big Bang.

I can't help it. I keep picking up my copy of Pulp 2.0's trade paperback collection of “Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift” and thumb through it, impressed over and over again by Ben Torres' beautiful black and white art and storytelling. I'm impressed at how fully formed the characters and mythology are. Yeah, I co-wrote it and yeah, I originally published it about twenty years ago but I am still amazed by how well it has held up and how proud I remain of it.

Check it out at Amazon. Type in “Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift” and click on the cover for a preview of the first chapter. The book itself is only $8.99 and I heartily recommend it. It's a stand alone graphic novel and you don't need to know anything about the characters to read it.

There are two more volumes of Knight Watchman adventures on the way from Pulp 2.0, featuring stories “from” the 1930s through the 1990s, another 300 or so pages of material. If I were you, I'd start reading now.

Big Bang Comics, Knight Watchman, all art & characters are copyright & trademark 2013 by Gary Carlson & Chris Ecker. “Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift” tpb cover is copyright Pulp 2.0. All art shown is by Ben Torres.


  1. Can't wait to re-read these in the format...and am really looking forward to the reprints of other Knight Watchman adventures. And, I hope to someday contribute to his mythology!

    Bravo all around, Gary.

    Take a bow, hoss, you'e earned it.


  2. Here is the link directly to Amazon. I am so glad they're putting it on sale to boost the profile of the book. Like Gary, I am real proud of what we've been able to do in re-presenting this to a new audience.


  3. It's a good - nay, GREAT story, and all of you should be proud of it. I'm glad this stuff is becoming available again for people who missed it the first time.

  4. Great insight into a great retro comic line. Can't wait to read more!!!