Last Saturday would have been legendary rock star David Bowie’s 75th birthday. Throughout the weekend, artists and musicians paid tribute to the icon known for his theatrical personas, his experimentation with multiple musical styles, and his contribution to shaping the pop culture landscape as we know it today. today. However, what few people know is Bowie’s influence on the comic book industry and geek culture at large.
One need only look at many of Bowie’s iconic characters such as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke to see how he could have inspired many artists and writers to base their characters around one of the most enigmatic figures in life. music. Here are some examples of scary monsters and super creeps inspired by legend.
Two versions of Batman’s Nemesis, The Joker
When Frank Miller decided to write his defining Batman story Return of the Dark Knight by 1986, it was apparent he was going to reinvent the Clown Prince of Crime to fit his dark, gritty reimagining of a former Dark Knight. It was around the same time that Bowie was at a commercial peak, having already inspired a variety of musical genres. One of them was the New Romanticism, a style that Miller’s Joker exudes in his flamboyance, crisp white suit, perfectly groomed hair, and prominent, suggestive red lips.
The style of this rendition of the Joker bears a striking resemblance to Bowie’s clown character on the album cover. Scary Monsters and (Super Creeps), with the Clown Prince also featuring many of Bowie’s mannerisms such as occasional smoking and use of the word “honey”. Many, including Neil Gaiman, have linked the legendary singer to Miller’s Joker, with Gaiman saying the only way a screen adaptation of Return of the Dark Knight would work if Bowie himself was cast in the role.
It wouldn’t be the last time a comic book writer created a Bowie-inspired Joker, because Grant Morrison borrowed a lot of the rock star’s aesthetic and personality when creating the iconic villain in his highly respected style Batman Course. Expanding on the concept of “super sanity” to explain the Joker’s madness he introduced into Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Land (by Morrison and Dave McKean) this version of the Clown Prince invented various “characters” for himself (much like Bowie did with his many iconic characters). One of them, “The Thin White Duke of Death”, showed up with the Joker’s face bandaged and his eyes mismatched after being shot by a fake Batman. The eyes, slicked back hair, suspenders and nickname of this version of the Joker were obviously influenced by Bowie’s “Thin White Duke” stage persona.
Interestingly, Bowie was reportedly up for the role of The Joker back in the ’80s, alongside Bill Murray as Batman. Decades later, Jared Leto has explicitly stated that his take on the Joker in the DC Extended Universe was inspired by Bowie as well, showing that the two Thin White Dukes were often tied to each other over the years.
Lucifer Morningstar from The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Similar to how Alan Moore had John Constantine’s look to be unmistakably based on Sting, Neil Gaiman had his version of the Prince of Darkness based on another rock icon.
While manifestly displaying the personality traits of Milton’s Lucifer in lost paradise, the Vertigo Comics version of the evil character was clearly modeled to look like Bowie, with Gaiman adamantly asking artist Sam Keith to make Lucifer look like the rock icon.
Lucifer of the wicked + the divine
The wicked + the divine (by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie) is, interestingly enough, a series revolving around Gods coming to Earth and becoming pop stars. It’s no surprise that one of the characters included in the series was influenced by one of rock’s most mythological figures.
The series’ Lucifer (who goes by the name “Luci”) is another character visually inspired by Bowie’s Thin White Duke character, which also pays homage to his various androgynous personas. Additionally, Gillen confirmed that the other main characters in the series were also inspired by Bowie. In an interview for Vox, Gillen thought pop stars and musicians were the closest the world had to real-life superheroes and gods, and much of the show plays out like a letter d. love to the pop fandom and the rock icon in particular.
The Obvious DC Superhero Starman
“Starman” is one of David Bowie’s best known songs and it is his rendition of the song on top pops which catapulted him into stardom. Starman was also the name of a DC comic book superhero that had been around since 1941.
The song’s iconic nature didn’t escape writer James Robinson when he rebooted the character from his acclaimed ’90s series, having an iteration of Starman, Mikhaal Tomas (who also has a very glam rock-inspired look. ), being influenced by the singer in the comic itself. While there were a lot of Starmen in the show, Mikhaal says in star man #28 (by Robinson and Craig Hamilton) that he took the nickname because of how it relates to the song, which is about an alien descending to Earth to help save humanity from its own destruction.
Nov-Var (Marvel Boy) from Marvel’s Young Avengers
While he was writing Young AvengersKieron Gillen also managed to inject his Bowie fandom into his version of Marvel Boy by making the alien Kree a fanboy of Earth culture and making him obsessed with pop music. Nov-Var’s liberal sexuality and alien rock star aesthetic are reminiscent of Bowie’s character in Nicolas Roeg’s film The man who fell to earth, and let it be obvious that this was another attempt by Gillen to model a hero after his idol.
These are just a small example of fictional characters inspired by Bowie (the long-running “David Bowie is every video game character” meme is one example). He was recently the star of his own comic book, and the Arrowverse literally had a fictionalized version of David Bowie in a recurring role. Needless to say, his impact on comics and other mediums will undoubtedly remain intact and will be part of his long-standing legacy.
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