Five years ago this week, I awoke at about one in the afternoon to images on the television of a building under siege. Figuring it to be just another in the long line of such images emanating from Kosovo at the time, I dragged my carcass out of bed and idled from my fourth floor room in Funelle Hall to the dining hall downstairs. It wasn't until I was sitting down, scarfing down cardboard and tomato sauce masquerading as actual food, that I got the full story--the building under siege was an American high school.
My first thought was of Batman: Seduction of the Gun by Alan Grant and Jim Aparo. The piece, which has taken attacks from parents' groups for being "too mature" for a superhero audience and from Second Amendment groups as "anti-gun propaganda." Still, the project described by longtime Batman comics writer Chuck Dixon as "biased and loathsome" was actually one of the best pieces of mainstream superhero comic art in the 1990s.
The comic had a lot more to do with Bruce Wayne than it did with Batman; it centered largely around a kid who had got his hands on a gun, with the intent of taking it to school and wreaking Columbinesque havoc. Batman's gun-related trauma is explored in great length as Grant uses the story as a way to analyze the impact that the shooting of Thomas and Martha Wayne had on their only son. There are also full pages dedicated to an intimate description of what the bullets did to the Waynes' bodies.
Dennis O'Neill, who at the time of Seduction's publication was the editor of DC Comics' "Batman Family" of books, has a long history of addressing "serious" issues in his comics. He edited the 1997 novel and graphic novel Batman: The...