June 10, 2014 by timbuckler
I don’t hate the Dark Knight Returns. That harsh title was to grab the attention of comic book people. You see saying you hate Frank Miller’s 1986 four issue mini series to a geek is a lot like pissing on a Bible in church. You just don’t do it.
I don’t hate this comic. I agree it was groundbreaking and helped shape comic book history. What I hate is all the different perceptions that people seem to have taken from it. I hate the fact it is seen as the be all and end all in Batman comics (or comics in general) and I fucking HATE the Batmobile design.
If they called it the “BAT-ALL-TERRAIN-ARMOURED-TRANSPORT” (or BATAT for short) then I would have been all over it.
The Dark Knight Returns is tale about a Bruce Wayne returning as the Dark Knight (believe it or not) ten years after retirement. It is a great story, but by Christ is it overhyped and that’s a term I don’t like to use. It reminds me of this pretentious screamo/hipster hybrid I once met in a bar who told me Led Zeppelin was overhyped. I told him to get the fuck out.
And I expect this piece is going to make a lot of you tell me the very same thing. That’s why I have been putting it off for a while.
However after time to reflect I still feel my arguments are valid. So here are some mis-conceptions you geeks seem to have that I hope to put right.
1.) It didn’t bring Batman back to his “dark and gritty” roots
Every time this comic is mentioned it seems to be followed by a sentence like “It’s responsible for the Batman we know and love today!” or it “returned Batman to his dark, gritty roots!”
Everyone seems to think that because of The Dark Knight Returns Batman went from this
overnight. This is not the case. There was a transitional period and if you want to thank anyone specific for the change it’s Denis O’Neal and Neal Adams.
They are the two responsible for taking the DC universe out of space and time and forced them to battle more grounded, “dark and gritty” real world problems like drug abuse. I think we all know what the next image is going to be.
Well his name is “Speedy” dude. He might as well have been called “Skin Popper” or “Track Mark” and you still would have been none the wiser.
Basically everything we know and love about Batman stemmed from these two. The look with the longer ears and flowing cape, the cooler looking gadgets and vehicles and maybe most importantly of all, they are the ones who made the Joker a homicidal maniac again.
Batman #251 featured the story “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” where the clown prince of crime went on a killing spree offing his former gang members and he hasn’t stopped stabbing, shooting or blowing people up since. That story was published September 1973. A full 13 years before Dark Knight Returns.
What DKR did do that made comics feel more real world was probably in the language. That is what changed comic history. People speaking in a less theatrical tone and more of a naturalistic dialect between characters and inner monologues. Things like……pauses and one word sentences. Nice.
So yes, I think it did shape the way Batman tales are told, but the darkness, look, tone and history was already there over a decade before.
2. It isn’t part of the main continuity!
Ok non-geeks who got this far, if something is in cannon it means it is a part of a story’s history. So the Star Trek reboot is in cannon to the rest of the series as Spock from the original time line went back in history and changed the past, where as the Halloween/Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm street remakes are not cannon because they are total reimaginings.
This is where it gets complicated because there are so many different universes, movies and Elseworlds series based on Batman that its hard to explain exactly what is and isn’t cannon. For example “Batman Beyond” is in cannon to “Batman: The Animated Series” but “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” isn’t. “Batman Returns” is in Cannon to “Batman 89” but “Batman Begins” isn’t. You get me?
So for some reason when geeks think of the “real” Batman it’s what is most prestigious, and that is the comic book history (even then you have lots of offshoots like “Earth one” and “Earth Two”and different eras such as “The Silver Age”but now we are REALLY getting in over our heads). Many people think of the Dark Knight Returns as the final chapter of the Batman story and it really isn’t. Here are some key event’s from the “main” Batman story arc.
The Death of the Waynes
Bruce Wayne’s training
Bat through Wayne manor window (I shall become a Bat)
Rise of the Villains
Death of the Flying Grayson’s (birth of Robin)
Birth of Batgirl
Acid in Harvey Dent’s face (birth of Two-Face)
Death of Jason Todd (the second Robin)
Shooting of Barbra Gordon (End of Bat-Girl)
Tim Drake discovers Batman’s identity (birth of the third Robin)
Knightfall (Bane breaks Batman)
No mans land (Destruction and reconstruction of Gotham City)
The Death of Bruce Wayne
The Return of Bruce Wayne (no one saw that one coming)
Court of Owls
and many many more. Sooooo much more. This is all off the top of my head.
Nothing from the death of Jason Todd onwards is mention in DKR. That’s because none of those story’s had been written yet. In fact Todd’s death was predicted a full two years before “Death in the Family” and even then it’s only implied (“Jason. He was a good solider”).
Even the fact that Bruce Wayne is in his 50’s during the eighties doesn’t seem to put people off the fact that this is not set in the main continuity, unless you think in the future big block like TV’s will come back and Reagan will be resurrected and re-elected as President.
If you want the REALLY geeky answer then TDKR is set in Earth-31 (yup, there are 51 alternate universes) alongside “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” and “All-Star Batman and Robin” So have that.
3. Superman is a dick
So Superman is a douchebag who walks around in pirate boots and open neck shirts and does whatever horrific things the Government asks of him (such as rip off Green Arrows arm) all because it’s the right thing to do for the American people? Fuck off.
4. The Artwork.
This one is purely personal preference but I cannot stand how the book looks. Everyone is all bulky and stupid looking.
The costume and Vehicle designs also piss me off. Already moaned about Pirate Clark and the BATAT but there is so much more, like Alfred’s turnip head
and this Nazi tit woman.
Again this is all preference. So feel free to tell me how the colours and design help tell the Miller noir style story telling. You are wrong. It’s ugly.
5. I’m just sick of the fucking story
This is the one where all you geeks really screwed us over with your constant Miller dick sucking. Because you idiots kept asking for the films to be more like DKR when you should have been asking for them to be more like the Batman comics in general, apparently now that’s all we are getting.
Don’t get me wrong. Love the animated films. In fact, dare I say, they are quite possibly my favourite Batman features.
I also loved the Dark Knight Rises. The only thing I disliked about that film were the constant shoehorning in of plot points from TDKR.
Plot points like Batman having been retired for nearly a decade? Why? Because his girlfriends dead? That would drive Batman on even more! Because all of crime in Gotham has been stopped by the Dent act? That’s just……… that’s just fucking stupid.
It would have made more sense if Batman was defeated by Bane because of the many years of crime fighting wearing him out like in Knightfall, rather than having him hang up the cape and cowl after only two adventures.
You know, Knightfall? The actual story where the main plot of the film comes from?
Also hate the whole “He’s dead…..or is he?” thing they ripped. Even at the end of the comic when you find out Bruce is alive, he is STILL Batman, training new soldiers in the war against crime. Not sipping a cool beer with Catwoman.
The only thing they took from the book which worked for me is when the old cop tells the rookie he is in for “One hell of a show”. It’s a nice nod that works in the narrative and not some desperate attempt to say “LOOK! ITS LIKE YOUR FAVOURITE FUNNY BOOK YOU GREASY FAT COMIC FUCKS!”
So at Comic-Con this year Zack Snyder announced Batman V Superman with an extract from…..yeah you guessed it The Dark Fucking Knight Fucking Returns. He tells us the tone of the film will be similar to that story. WHY!? DIDN’T YOU GUYS JUST GIVE A STORY IN THAT TONE!? Why not take inspiration from one of the many BETTER Superman/Batman story’s? (find my personal favs by clicking here)
Then they released the first image of the new Batsuit.
I will have to wait for a colour pic to make full judgement but so far to me that looks perfect. Well, I have two very slight niggles. I’m not too big a fan of the short ears and the “fat” bat logo. I wonder what made them go in that direction?
Oh for Christ’s sake.
So in summary what I am saying is this. Dark Knight Returns is a brilliant comic book. It did reshape the way comics are made and perceived to the mass public. But it ain’t THAT fucking good.
So stop it. I’m done with it. Lets move on.
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