Re-boots seems to be all the craze nowadays in movies. Batman was brought back to audiences four years ago and showed what the character and his universe was really made of (Heath Ledger would have something to do with that in the sequel). I also recently saw Star Trek, which refreshed a franchise in dire need of new direction and yet still honored the spirit of the franchise.
It’s only fitting then that I start off my blog series about relevant comic books with a re-boot that brought the Batman of the comic books out of the campy terrain:
Before this book hit the stands, Batman was all about Adam West and the Bat-Tusi in the 60′s. The campy nature of the show became a hit, but at the same time, it made the character one not to be taken too seriously in the books. Rotating writers in the 70′s and early 80′s made efforts to bring the character back to his dark roots, but it was 1986 that saw Frank Miller put Batman back on top of the food chain.
Comic book enthusiasts know Miller well from bringing a similar darker edge back to Daredevil and Wolverine around the same time frame. His independent work on Sin City and 300 would become feature films as well. This dark, edgy style was the kind of boost Batman needed and would help remind us who he is and why he is the way he is.
Dark Knight Returns gives us a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne long retired from the crime-fighting business, but seeing his city still crumbling under the might of old and new villains. Not one able to enjoy retirement for too long, he dons the cowl once more and revamps his tactics to take on this new, violent society. The book is renowned for helping to bring more adult-oriented storytelling to the books and put characters in new lights (a female Robin, a government puppet in Superman, Joker just an unfunny psycho, etc.). It also (like Watchmen) spoke of a society in the Cold War going to actual war and what its characters’ values spoke of those events.
I also take personal satisfaction in the last issue when Batman must confront a Superman that has to bring him in. Say what you want about all the help he needed; the sight of Batman kicking the Man of Steel to the floor is a sight that won’t leave me.
What’s interesting about this book is that it speaks volumes as to what Mike and I spoke about in our last podcast regarding Neil Gaiman’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?‘. Batman is a character that is relentless in his quest to put fear into the criminal element. The only way he can ever see himself out of the game is if he was dead. No amount of golf or emptying the family wine coolers would bring satisfaction. It’s a sad story to see, but it brings the kind of depth to a character that can be difficult to replicate at times.
This darker edge has resulted in many superb stories from The Killing Joke to Knightfall. It transferred over into the animated and movie realms and the rest is history. Read Dark Knight Returns and tell us what you think.