Please forgive my being unclear regarding the CCA: most of the best work from Miller, Moore, Gaiman was specifically *not* under CCA rule, Miller having kicked off a large part of this with "The Dark Knight Returns", for which DC invented a new format called "the Graphic Novel" in order to market it through direct channels, avoiding the bailiwick of the CCA, which was actually the news outlets that used to be the only place to buy comics. And even in this, it was the presence of the CCA that forced creators and the braver publishers to seek out alternate ways of doing things.
You are absolutely right to point out the body of great work that preceded the CCA that Wertham and company completely destroyed, but the modern day form that comic books have taken is (still) in direct rebellion against everything that the CCA and the moral majority heaped upon the comic book pop culture mainstream.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm no fan of the CCA, but I recognize and celebrate the sweet lemonade we got out of that era of lemons. All that plus the goofy Batman comics of the 60's that make Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" that much more pithy in its execution.
Great thoughts generated here. Thanks for all the great input!!
Just a small nitpick but DC did not start the graphic novel with 'The Dark Knight Returns.' The term was first used by Marvel in branding a series of high end one-shot with higher quality binding and heavy paper, starting with 'The Death of Captain Marvel' and soon moving on to entirely original works. Before 'Dark Knight' DC and Miller got into this outreach to more mature readers with 'Ronin.' both companies were reacting to their talent being more and more attracted to doing work with small independents or self-publishing. It wasn't a big money maker for the creators but it was far more satisfying to not be bound to any existing backstory at Marvel or DC.
The big publishers didn't like the idea of characters who received new material when the creator felt he had something genuinely worth doing rather than on a set schedule. A publishing schedule of 'when I feel like it' doesn't go over well with big companies.
The CCA did have a tremendous influence on the work of writers like Moore but mainly in that it inspired deconstruction of those bizarre universes in which normal human motivations were grossly distorted or missing. One of the many subtexts of Watchmen was comparing the world of Golden Age comics to the harsh realities of a more believable world. At first, the era of the original Minutemen seems idyllic but is revealed to have been rather gruesome with many casualties and regrets.
This legacy carries on. It was only a few years ago that DC got a lot of shock value in revealing that Sue Dibny had been raped by Dr. Light years earlier. But in a universe abounding with amoral superhumans, shouldn't this be a very frequent threat to female superheroes and women close to male superheroes?
Even casual sex is still a rarity. The Ultimate Hulk Annual from last week is hilarious in breaking that barrier. After a massive battle, the Squadron Supreme's doppleganger for Wonder Woman takes the Hulk out for breakfast and at his suggestion they get a motel room for a one-night stand. In almost any other medium this would be amusing but in this setting it is far funnier thanks to the shock value of two version of iconic characters jumping into bed together purely for the experience and not some grand cosmos shattering passion.
If I thought I needed to get out in the sunshine I'd play Boktai.