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Comic Book / The Darkness

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And this is when he's NOT pissed off.

Jenny: What's this Darkness you keep going on about?
Sonatine: I'll try and put it in idiot's terms. Have you seen Star Wars?
Jenny: Well... yes.
Sonatine: The Darkness is the Force on crack.

What do you get when you cross a well-dressed Mafia hitman with an ancient demonic power that gives him the ability to summon tiny foul-mouthed gremlin thingies to do his bidding?

A whole lot of badass, that's what.

The Darkness was one of Top Cow Productions's crown jewels of the 1990s' Darker and Edgier trend, created by Marc Silvestri, along with some assistance from Garth Ennis (who wrote the first comic arc) and David Wohl. The hitman in question is known as Jackie Estacado, adopted son of don Frankie Franchetti, and from the first few panels of the first issue, was obviously not disturbed by the lifestyle into which he had been brought, and actually relished it. However, as soon as his 21st birthday came to fruition, he inherited the evil known as the Darkness, which granted him abilities beyond his wildest blood-spattered dreams, the most infamous being the Darklings, the aforementioned little gremlin bastards that act somewhat as his multiple tiny alter-egos that are mostly interested in spouting off politically incorrect commentary and humor, but can disembowel an enemy at a moment's notice if Jackie commands it.

Jackie's enemies consisted of not only rival families, but other supernatural beings in the Top Cow Universe that had axes to grind with the Darkness itself, or just happened to cross paths with him at some point or another. Among them were Lara Croft, Witchblade and the Magdalena. His main foe was the Angelus, basically the antithesis of the Darkness, being a female entity and born of light, it wants to eradicate Jackie at any turn, and innocent casualties are of no concern to it.

The series itself has a pair of Video Games, as well as an upcoming Live-Action Adaptation that is on the fast track, which is being directed by The Pang Brothers, and rumored to be starring Channing Tatum as Jackie himself.

Not to be confused with The Darkness, the zany British hard rock band of the same name.

The comic series contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Butcher Joyce. He and Jackie have friendly chats while disposing of bodies.
    • Mister Vespasian the Torture Technician that takes breaks to offer his victims tea.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Subverted in the third series' first arc where the Darkness says that Jackie's ambitions with his enhanced power are incredibly banal, amounting to being a petty dictator when he could have saved or conquered the world. It doubles as a "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • And I Must Scream: Jackie threatens to seal an immortal murderer/meth-head in a septic tank for all eternity.
  • And Show It to You: Jackie once ripped out some dude's skeleton and showed it to him. Pop.
  • Anti-Hero: Jackie goes back and forth between this and Villain Protagonist. He's a horrible murderer who gets people killed via collateral damage but in the first Witchblade Crossover is genuinely horrified at the prospect of having killed an innocent man. In the Batman crossover, he actively refuses to kill Batman despite their power discrepancy, since it was completely different killing a good man rather than the mafia scum he normally works with.
  • Appropriated Appellation: After knocking over a country, the citizens refer to Jackie as "Ocaso," Spanish for "sunset" or "decline."
  • Badass Longcoat: Jackie is frequently seeing wearing a long black trenchcoat that almost touches the ground.
  • Big Bad: Frankie, Paulie, Sonatine, The Sovereign, The Darkness, The Doppelgänger.
  • Big "NO!": When Jackie learns about the whole celibacy clause. Called into question somewhat when it turns out he can make his own fun.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality or Evil Versus Evil: Jackie is a merciless bastard whose only redeeming feature is love for his adoptive sister and a vague preference for being a stylized mobster; Drugs? Fun and profitable. Mass slaughter of rival families and/or cops? Fun and profitable. Killing someone outside of the business? No thanks.
    • Jackie bounces back and forth between being a comically psychopathic mass murderer versus a nuanced killer who is weary of all the killing.
  • Black Comedy: More prominent in the first few story arcs which featured jokes at expense of over-the-top deaths and violence.
  • Bloody Hilarious: The Darklings are psychopathic CloudCuckooLanders.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Deconstructed. Jackie finds out that one of his random hits was the fiance of an FBI agent. When he discovers this, the murder suddenly deeply bothers him.
    • When Dr. Kim Fang was in medical school, and deeply in debt, she agreed to have sex with Jackie in return for settling it. Jackie does not remember the encounter, but it badly scared her, later resulting in her becoming a sex addict and needing therapy. When Jackie finds out he is disturbed by his actions and tries to make amends.
  • The Can Kicked Him
    random security mook: You may dump in peace.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: It is stated that if Jackie ever sires a child, he will die, making each and every one of his sexual encounters after he becomes the Darkness a game of Russian Roulette; even non-vaginal sex is an incredible risk as it's repeatedly stated that the Darkness is carried in his sperm meaning if one errant spurt could still kill him, a vasectomy would be quickly nullified by his enhanced healing, it's entirely possible that his blasted demon sperm could regenerate a woman with tubal ligation...
    ...You know of a form of contraception that is one hundred percent effective?
    • However, he's told that he can eventually create Artificial Humans as good as any woman - given enough time to practice his powers. This turns out to be a bad idea. Later it changed so that he will not die until the baby is born - evidenced in that his grandfather tried to kill his grandmother to prevent his own death.
  • Cartwright Curse
  • Characterization Marches On: Jackie in the first volume is almost unrecognizable from the second and neither resembles the third. Arguably, this is Character Development since Jackie went to hell between the second and third volumes.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: The Darkness vs. Dracula! This version of the Count is so badass that it dismisses Jackie and The Darkness as something below him and gets the better of Jackie in their brawl.
  • Creepy Child: "Miss Happy" from the crossover with Darkchydle, and the Legion of Cherub Hostile for a more malevolent version.
  • Crossover: Many. Witchblade, Magdalena, and Lara Croft (same universe), Wolverine (same writer), Ghost Rider, The Hulk, Doctor Strange, Batman...
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Too many to count, though one that deserves mention is when Jackie rips out a guy's skeleton through his nose.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Played with a lot in the first comic story. After using the Darkness to take revenge on a rival mob boss, Jackie is cheerful about his awesome new powers. Then he learns about the celibacy clause, and immediately lapses into suicidal depression.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Or rather, 21st birthday, because it's on that day that The Darkness manifested from Jackie.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Jackie Estacado was born to a good-for-nothing psychotic hitman and a prostitute who died in childbirth, he was given up to a orphanage where he turned into a problematic child and was adopted by a ruthless mobs boss who molded him into his enforcer.
  • Dating Catwoman: To the Witchblade; she is a police officer, he is a hitman that works for the mob. You do the math. He ends up fathering her child later on.
  • Defector from Decadence
    "We used to have honor in this Family. Codes!"
  • Demonic Possession: Jack is the current host of The Darkness, the manifestation of darkness. Now that he has it, it's not going anywhere until he dies.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: A very literal and disturbing example with Don Franchetti kissing his daughter, Appolonia while she's comatose.
  • Enemy Within: The Darkness, the same entity that provides Jackie with his powers, is a malevolent being in its own right that subtly plots to get rid of its users by exploiting their carnal desires.
  • Enfant Terrible: Jackie and Elle's "son."
    • The Legion of Cherub Hostile is an entire army of them. Granted of the Really 700 Years Old variety. One of Jackie's contracts for The Sovereign was also a child warlord.
  • Enforced Cold War: Paulie keeps Jackie under his control for a while with the threat that he would off the only family (Jenny) ever had.
  • Evil Matriarch: Jackie's grandmother, Adrienne Estacado, is revealed to be the mastermind behind the multiple assassination attempts he experienced in Issue #20. She wants to kill him to steal the power of the Darkness from his body.
  • Evil Overlord: The Empire arc.
    • Also, in a possible post-apocalyptic far future, Jackie rules over a dying Crapsack World and is holding back something far worse.
    • Previous Darkness users that were actually competent enough and didn't turn self-destructive like Danny Estacado had the potential to become this trope such as Lord Cardinale from Medieval Spawn / Witchblade that terrorized the Iberian peninsula during Medieval Times with his armies of Darklings.
  • Face Heel Door Slam: Jackie gets this one after a long redemption arc. He turns states evidence in on his Uncle Frankie only to need to run away from Witness Protection to save a stewardess' son from his mobster father. As a result, his Uncle gets out and promptly kills Jenny. Jackie KILLS HIMSELF in a suicide attack on Frankie only for the Darkness to raise him from the dead with the help of Lucifer. He also spent two days in hell, which felt like a million years.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: It is most definitely not for kids.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: The human host of The Darkness is always male, and the human host of The Angelus is always female. Also, even though angels are predominantly female and demons are predominantly male, a few exceptions are occasionally shown, like the male cherub angels.
  • From a Single Cell: Jackie was once blown apart by a time bomb, reduced to ashes except for a single tooth... and recovered.
  • Genre Shift: Garth Ennis wrote the first story arc, which is why it's more of a comedy action book than a horror action one. The characters were far more violent and the dialogue was laced with Seinfeldian Conversation's and frequent references to pop culture. Furthermore the stories were more eccentric and quirky, standing in stark contract to the realism of later issues.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Jackie gets this, after a fashion, when he's sucked back into the mob after escaping it.
  • Heroic Host: The Darkness is the personification of all evil, and wants to spread chaos. Jackie is certainly capable of such chaos, but tries to keep his casualties to a minimum out of respect for mob code.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Jackie intentionally avoids killing innocent people, both because of Pragmatic Villainy and because the code he follows won't let him. Also, Jackie looks out for an adopted daughter for a time.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: From a regular human's point of view, the Angelus can be just as cruel and alien as the Darkness.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Jackie's Sexaholics Anonymous meeting proves counterproductive as he gets hit on by all the girls there.
    • Amusingly, all of them are blindingly beautiful sexpots while the lone male member is a huge fat guy.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: A bit of a subversion in the Empire arc, where he tries to assure the girl with him that he isn't like the last dictator their country had and that "the rape-closets are closed" and that for various reasons he couldn't even if he wanted to. Doesn't really help her, since she's killed when the rebels attack.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: From the Empire arc:
    Darkling: It's been so long since I've had decent Italian.
  • Kill You Last
    Jackie: You know what? I'm starting to like you.
    Kirchner: But you're still going to kill me.
    Jackie: Oh, yeah.
  • Light Is Not Good: While the Darkness is just... the Darkness, its counterpart The Angelus is far, far worse. In one alternate future, it nukes the Earth with light to get rid of the Darkness.
  • Lonely at the Top: For all of his money, wealth and power, Jackie feels alone without Jenny there by his side.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Darkness allows Jackie to manifest long spiked tentacles, and spawn eldritch horrors to combat his enemies.
  • The Mafia: Jackie's one of the old school mobsters who believes in following a code. Some of his enemies are just mobsters that are even worse than he is.
  • Mind Rape: Sonatine on some poor helpful bouncer. "I rewrote his memory. Tremendous fun."
    • Sonatine also made Franchetti's bodyguards think they raped their mothers. They took it badly.
    • Jackie also encounters a Monster of the Week witch / Eldritch Abomination who does this for a living, psychically feeding off people's desires and memories... this, uh... backfires when she tries to do this on Jackie.
    • Frankie did a mundane version of this trope by tying down his wife to a chair and forcing her to watch him blowtorch her lover to death. The trauma rendered her completely catatonic for many years.
  • Morality Chain: Jenny. Not that Jackie shows much restraint in the first place, but the series' flashbacks and flash-forwards go out of their way to demonstrate how excessively much worse a Darkness user could be. And then she's killed. Predictable things happen next.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: A mafia hitman with demonic powers, making him one of the most extreme examples.
  • Noble Demon: Jackie may be a cold-blooded mobster, but he's not without his ethics. He won't kill innocent people though mobsters are fair game), and is shown to have a softer side with those he cares about.
  • Oh, Crap!: Probably too many to list individually:
    • A rival mob boss in The Can Kicked Him scene.
    • Paulie and his goons when Jackie comes for them.
    • The army guys when he smashes head-on into their helicopter.
    • ...and just about anyone about to be splattered all over the walls - which happens quite frequently...
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Jenny, Jenny's sister, the Magdalena, Marisol...
    • Jackie (seemingly out of nowhere) often does something noble.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The Darklings are foul-mouthed imps with a talent for evisceration. Until his return from Hell. Then they stop being so funny.
  • Powers Do the Fighting: The Darkness can frequently use his powers to produce shadowy masses of tentacles, in order to drag, mutilate, or capture his foes.
  • Psycho Lesbian: The Angelus. It seems to be something within the Angelus itself since the second Angelus hints at creating female sexual partners.
  • Public Domain Character: Compare the Darkness with the Haunter of the Dark of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Putting on the Reich: Sonatine's Mooks look like golden Klan members.
  • Pygmalion Plot: Besides creating living constructs to serve them, both the Darkness and the Angelus had the power to create concubines to satisfy their romantic and sexual desires. Angelus is shown surrounded with an all-female harem and several Darkness users made their own since having sex with normal females would lead to their deaths, as their powers would pass to their offspring at cost of their own lives. Jackie is pulled out of his Heroic BSoD after being told he Can't Have Sex, Ever when hearing about this ability, though its very hard to learn and takes practice: he tries creating female darklings, but botches the attempts several times and ultimately needs outside help to successfully create the perfect woman for himself. Its revealed that this was all part of the Darkness itself, who deliberately designed these women so their users could breed a pure Darkness being devoid of any humanity.
  • Reality Warper: Jackie, to a limited degree, since they can do anything they want in the complete absence of light.
  • Retcon: It was originally established that as soon as Darkness users had a woman impregnated with their seed, they would drop dead. Later issues changed this to their deaths only happening the moment their own children is born.
  • Revealing Hug: when Appolonia is introduced and is reunited with dear old dad.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Appolonia is introduced with one, it’s Lampshaded, and Defied
  • Screw Yourself: Elle has elements of this. Jackie made her from the Darkness using himself as a template.
  • Snarky Nonhuman Sidekick: The Darklings are a bunch of goblin-like creatures that serve Jackie and have "smartass" as default personality.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Jackie feels nothing at all when killing mobsters or members of the Brotherhood that are out to get him. He mentions this in the second video game, saying that he killed his first man and slept like a baby later that night.
  • Super Power Lottery: Jackie can manipulate shadows, summon beings of darkness, teleport, is extremely durable to damage and very strong and that is just in his inexperienced state. Previous Darkness users were capable of even more with enough practice.
  • Take That!:
    • In one scene, the Magdalena holds up an Elmo doll (from Sesame Street) and asks what kind of sick and twisted mind could create such a thing. Subverted with the fact she's biding for time by saying something insane in hopes of distracting Jackie long enough to shoot him.
    • Jackie finds a Star Wars toy (Darth Vader) that says, "You don't know the power of the Dark Side." Annoyed, Jackie says it knows nothing and smashes it.
  • Taking You with Me: "I don't suppose you'd let me have One Last Smoke... Say, do you smell gasoline?"
  • The Teetotaler: Jackie is somewhat unique amongst his mafioso brethren in that he doesn't drink alcohol at all.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: As of the third volume, Jackie has eliminated no less than four entire crime families.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness:
    • After coming Back from the Dead, Jackie begins to hallucinate seeing his associates as rotting corpses.
    • In the game, this happens often in flashes so brief they are nearly subliminal, putting the player in the position of feeling like they are hallucinating. The first couple times it happens can result in throwing-the-joystick-and-screaming moments depending on how immersed in the game you are at the time...
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: In Issue #71, Jackie was attacked by The Witch in the Walls who tried to feed on his memories. Jackie's memories, those that included actions by and against him, were so horrendously vile that they actually poisoned and killed The Witch.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Even before a certain traumatic Freudian Excuse-worthy event Appolonia is displaying sociopathic behavior with her dolls... It becomes Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror when you realize that her father was probably molesting her, kissing her on the lips when she's comatose.
  • The Tunguska Event: ...was caused by a fight between the Darkness and the Angelus.
  • The Underworld: According to Danny Estacado, a previous host of the Darkness Entity, and Nick (who is actually the true Devil that religious stories of Lucifer and The Devil are all based on) all souls - whether they were good or evil in life - eventually fall into Hell. A rather disheartening side note is that there actually is a Heaven in the series but no human soul has ever been seen to enter it due to the fact only "beings of light" are allowed entrance.
  • Villainous Lineage: Depressingly for Jackie's lineage, he descends from a black and twisted line of men that followed destructive paths. His father was a hitman just like him, albeit one completely devoid of sympathetic qualities that Jackie possess and even disturbed a mobster like Don Franchetti. He's damned by both nature and nurture;
    • His nature is a genetic talent for killing — and winning through killing — even before he received his Darkness powers;
    Frankie Franchetti: First guy you whacked for me, you was sixteen. Thing I saw about you early on was, you always knew just who to hit an' how hard to hit 'em. You got exactly the right result. Short time I had you with me, I went from a little guy to the toppa the heap. Just about boss of bosses, I guess, an' we didn't have to wipe out whole families, or act like savages, or make a damn mess... All we hadda do was kill all the right people.
    • His nurture was insane; specifically none — every Darkness host dies upon conceiving the next and the birth usually kills the woman who carried him, meaning Jackie is descended from an unbroken chain of orphans — which is not conductive to emotional stability.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Quite frequently...
  • Villains Want Mercy: Cousin Paulie sure did in the comics when Jackie unraveled his plans and cornered him. To say he didn't get it is an understatement.
  • Virgin Power: Much to Jackie's dismay, he can't have proper intercourse with a woman out of a guarantee that they'll get pregnant and produce a male heir.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Darkness' weakness is light.
    • In the comic, only daylight and its supernatural equivalent works, whereas in the video game, even a night light makes your powers fade. Justified, since 99% of the game takes place at night, and you'd be near unstoppable otherwise.
      • More recent comics have gone with the game's version, forcing Jackie to create special darkness-formed lights for his complex in Empire.
  • Weirdness Censor: "He's wearing some kind of (high tech) body armor" - the army guys when Jackie's manifesting the full demonic exoskeleton and Combat Tentacles.
    • Fridge Brilliance when you realize that this is the same universe as a bunch of cybernetic ninjas.