Growing the Beard/Comic Books

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  • X-Men could be seen as an example of this trope. The first 66 issues were seen as a low-rate Fantastic Four knockoff which eventually got relegated to reprints after that... However, replacing most of the entire team and getting Chris Claremont to write on it led to the X-Men becoming the media franchise that we know and love.
  • The Goon was the first ever comic series by writer and artist Eric Powell, and it shows. Less than a year and a couple of publisher switches later, he is producing one of the best ongoing series' around.
  • The first two arcs of Y: The Last Man were a bit light on the drama, which was a tad jarring considering how much could've been done with the premise. Things got interesting in the astronaut arc, which skyrocketed the intensity in a refreshingly unexpected way.
    • Yorick, like Riker and Blackadder before him, has literally grown a beard by the start of that arc, although he shaves it off halfway through. Given how many other sci-fi references that series had, this may have been intentional.
  • Literal example: Green Arrow was just a cheap Batman knockoff with an arrow gimmick until he started sporting a goatee and became a "socially conscious" modern-day Robin Hood.
  • The US Transformers comic was okay, occasionally outstanding, for the first several years of its existence, until writer Bob Budiansky tired of it and started writing such gripping tales such as the human-sized Transformers who joined the pro-wrestling circuit or had romances with giant Amazon women in space. UK Transformers writer Simon Furman took over for the last two years of its run and the stories saw an immediate and significant upswing into epic, mythology-driven and long-running arc plots involving both new and old characters. Many old fans who'd gotten bored during Budiansky's reign returned to the fold and sales saw a significant upswing (passing 100,000 a month), but unfortunately that still wasn't enough to keep it afloat, and the comic was cancelled.
    • The last issue did acknowledge that they had still beat their original expectations. The original plan in 1984 was for a four-issue one shot, whose ending in issue 4 was rewritten when sales of the earlier issues proved popular enough to proceed with an ongoing series. By the time of the cancellation, there was such a thing as a "UK version", a syndicated animated cartoon that spawned a generation of quotations, an animated movie... and the cover of the last issue proudly proclaimed "Issue 80 of a four issue limited series!" Not too shabby for a comic based on an imported toy line.
  • It took a while for The Incredible Hulk to settle down on how they would go about their portrayal. Hulk ranged from good, to downright evil, from Banner's intelligence to being completely incapable of abstract thought. They were even unsettled in color, and how he transformed. It wasn't until the first Hulk Annual that they settled down in, green child-like Berserker, who speaks in Hulk Speak, and is powered by Unstoppable Rage.
  • The first story arc of classic graphic epic The Sandman, lasting for seven issues, seems to set the title up as just another horror title. With issue 8, "The Sound of Her Wings", the comic introduces Death (one of its most popular characters) and led to the series becoming an ensemble series, with other characters existing alongside Dream, having adventures that Dream finds himself drawn into.
  • The first year's worth of the Marvel G.I. Joe comic are largely self-contained stories (with one 2-issue story), many similar to the type shown in the later cartoon series, and it doesn't appear that anything really important is happening. It wasn't until issue #14, with its introduction of Destro into the comic book, that the series really took off. Much like Marcia Cross in Melrose Place, Destro stirred shit up with his first appearance, taking Baroness's loyalty from Cobra Commander as well as rekindling their former off-camera love affair. And unlike the cartoon, where Destro was 100% loyal to Cobra Commander, Destro's relationship with Cobra Commander hit the bricks almost immediately when Cobra Commander tried to kill Destro to keep him from (potentially) usurping his leadership, culminating in a botched attempt on his life that nearly killed the Baroness and led to a massive multi-year war between the two men over the course of the Marvel series.
    • It should be noted that Larry Hama would draw upon supporting characters and concepts introduced in several of the early issues later on, starting with reintroducing Kwinn in the Sierra Gordo arc that begins in issue #12. Issues 3, 5, and 8 are very much like cartoon episodes, while issues 4 and 9 are self-contained stories similar to the later Special Missions series.
    • Others consider the "beard growing" moment to be issue #21, which not only introduced Storm Shadow (who became so popular with fans that Hasbro agreed to turn him into a good guy), but was Larry Hama's ambitious "Silent Interlude" issue, an experiment in doing an entire comic with no dialogue or sound effects whatsoever. The issue garnered much critical acclaim, helping GI Joe go from lame toy tie-in comic to an actual well put together comic book in the eyes of many comic fans.
      • There's a rather silly rumor that this issue was supposed to have text, but was mistakenly sent to press without it. If the prominent "SILENT INTERLUDE" title on the front page wasn't enough, the author has debunked it as well.
      • May have been partially motivated by Hama's annoyance with the lengthy captions common in late 70s Marvel titles.
  • TMNT Adventures started out with adaptations of the cartoon, then followed it up with a couple of short humorous story-lines. By issue 10 it had shifted to an ongoing story, but it truly hit its stride around issue 29 when Ninjara was introduced.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, although based on the darker SatAM, started out as light comedy in the vein of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. It slowly grew more serious as it went on, adding more serious elements and having more of a continuing plot. The beard began it's stubbly growth in issue 17--not so much the story itself, but the Princess Sally story that would be resolved several issues and a special later. Issue 19 featured the first full-issue epic with some real major stakes behind it. By issue 21, the overall tone had taken a rather sudden turn to the darker, and the beard was fully grown by the Metal Madness arc.
    • Similarly, Sonic the Comic grew its beard with issue 8 when a time-travel plot shifted the setting to one of Mobius ruled by Robotnik and Sonic leading freedom fighters against him.
  • The entire company of Image has arguably undergone this. Image was founded by several artists from Marvel Comics, all of which were known for Darker and Edgier series, and the original titles such as Youngblood and Spawn reflect this. After the departure of founding member Rob Liefeld in 1996, things began to look up, with several lighter titles such as Bone and less Dark Age grit (which means that the early comics haven't aged well).
    • Speaking of Spawn it grew a beard once it became a dark horror comic.
  • Tintin began as a series of rather childish wish-fulfilment adventure yarns with a cliffhanger, followed by a ridiculously improbable escape, on every other page. The Growing the Beard moment came with The Blue Lotus, when the creator started getting serious about his research and realistic portrayal of distant locations. (Cigars of the Pharaoh feels like it belongs with the post-beard works if you read the colour edition, but that came later.)
  • Even some of Rob Liefeld's characters had this happen, specifically Supreme and Youngblood. This was mainly because after Liefeld left Image and went to Awesome Comics, he handed over all the writing duties to Alan Moore. Moore promptly deconstructed all the Dark Age stuff and reconstructed everything fun and silly about the Silver Age.
  • The British Anthology Comic The Beano started in the 1930s but didnt really grow the beard until the 1950s when its most popular characters/comic strips began appearing such as Dennis the Menace, The Bash Street Kids, Minnie The Minx and Roger The Dodger. Although the comic did have it's highest readership before these characters were introduced but none of the characters from before the aforementioned four remain in the comic or are as popular (or long running) as these four.
  • Mortadelo Y Filemon was an entertaining weekly strip with the traditional few-panels-and-punchline formula, but it wasn't until their first full book, Valor y al toro, that the now standard supporting cast appeared, allowing for deeper storylines and better interactions for the protagonist duo. Ibáñez's drawing style also evolved notably, imitating that of Hergé's Tintin.