In the early 1980s comic book companies tentatively expanded into the mature reader market with varying success. While other companies such as Skywald and Warren had successfully published titles for years aimed at the adult market the Big 2 of Marvel and DC were hesitant to tread the same ground. The defunct Skywald and on-going though faltering Warren publishers, while ably catering to the older fans who craved nudity and sexual situations in their comics, mostly offered fare of varying quality.
With Epic Magazine and their Graphic Novel line Marvel was the first real mainstream comic company to venture into what for them was a new market by offering a product that was similar to, though a degree more high-brow, than their contemporaries at Warren. One of their first big forays into adult themed subject matter was with the Void Indigo graphic novel by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.
Void Indigo (1984) was adult science fiction that featured graphic violence and extreme situations involving sex and torture. The series featured an alien warrior seeking redress of ancient wrongs against his enemies who were reincarnated in human beings. The series spotlighted depravity and depicted human beings in their most reprehensible and corrupt manner. All the cultural stereotypes of the early 80s were featured in their worst possible way. Transvestites, homosexuals and prostitutes were in the main cast, brutal murder and rape were the primary themes. In the shocking graphic novel a street thug had the flesh burned off his foot by an eye-zap from the mystic warrior. That was a nasty enough image in itself except Gerber and Mayerik went further. The thug then took a step on the remaining charred bones and snapped off the skeletal remains of his limb. Pretty gruesome for the era. The series itself continued the trend with a transsexual being graphically hacked to death by a razor-wielding villain.
It was a bold experiment that the comic book readers of 1984 just were not ready for. It was perhaps too much, too soon. After a torrent of complaints by consumers and (surprisingly enough) retailers combined with declining sales, the Void Indigo series that spun off from the graphic novel was canceled with the second issue. I suspect that the retailers refusing to order the book and not any lack of interest by the readers was primarily responsible for the demise of the title.
Ironically, the extreme situations in Void Indigo would seem tame by comparison just a few years later as not only DC's Vertigo imprint took off running, but Marvel also in their Max line of titles. The scenes that so disgusted readers and retailers in Gerber's 1984 series would not be out of place in the current Punisher series published by Marvel.
Tags: Final Panels from Canceled Comic Books