Saturday, August 8, 2015

True or False: The Dark Knight Returns Has Affected Superman As Much As It Has Batman


Doug: I've been thinking about this since we discussed upcoming superhero movies several days ago. We'd all agree that Batman became grittier after Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. But what about Superman? Prior to "Dark Knight", wasn't it a good thing that Superman was the "big blue Boy Scout"? Since, and certainly in regard to his depiction on film in Man of Steel and apparently upcoming in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC seems to want to tear him away from his classic interpretation. So, today...

True or False: The Dark Knight Returns has affected Superman as much as it has Batman.


12 comments:

Dougie said...

I think it's true although I don't think that thinking is discernible immediately. Byrne's Superman draws very heavily upon the classic approach and gives it a contemporary feel. Until the Supergirl three-parter where he executes the Phantom Zoners. That's the tipping point, I'd say.

After his Perez/barbarian period, Superman is then contrasted with more "visceral" late 80s-90s characters like Gangbuster or the blade-wielding Agent Liberty and of course fractured versions of himself, like the Cyborg or the Eradicator. He rarely feels like a moral answer or alternative to the grim and gritty brigade of trenchcoat wearers- the most extreme collision of approaches being with Manchester Black and the Elite, I suppose. And, in the early Noughties, there is an abundance of Fleisher-inspired images- a squinting, bulky Retro Superman, blasting his heat vision, like Cyclops.

Meanwhile, in tv's Smallville, the darkening of Clark is comically literal ( grey shirt and Goth teen coat) and he's juxtaposed with a charismatic, if murderous, young Zod. Of course Man of Steel (the movie) with its steroidal Superman killing the faux-terrorist Zod is an awful, pompous retelling of Byrne's story.

MattComix said...

Absolutely true. Miller and DKR have cast a completely undeserved shadow on Superman for far, far too damn long. ..and I don't think it's effects on Batman and superheroes in general are all that positive either unless you're very invested in the idea of Batman as the psycho godninja who can and should beat up even fellow superheroes because darkness and "badass". Superman fans have had to endure the same tired BS perceptions almost since the day the last issue of DKR came out. Not to say that there wasn't some negativity towards Superman before Miller but DKR injected it with steroids.

IMO these hero vs. hero my dad can beat up your dad debates should have stayed on the playground and never been allowed to infect the fiction outside something like those classic Marvel misunderstandings that quickly lead to the heroes teaming up against the real threat. O'Neil and Adams successfully moved Batman away from camp while retaining both his heroic qualities and his respect and friendship with Superman. I don't say these things as someone who's mad that Batman won, I say it as someone who was disgusted that they had to fight at all and that fight became gospel for the fandom and the genre.

Ozone said...

Yes, TDKR has affected Superman as much as Batman and in the most negative way. It saddens me that we're about to see the ultimate manifestation of this in a massive, hundred-plus million dollar movie wherein these two characters will square off in an obscene, mutated version of the fight featured in the comic. Superman will be even further tainted by this as most people who will see the film don't read comic books and likely have never read TDKR. This is the version of Batman and Superman's relationship they'll take home. Part of me feels utter derision toward Frank Miller, a creator I used to admire so much. Then I think, all he really did was craft a story, an unofficial "Elseworlds" story at that. If only it was left like that. But it wasn't. It became a phenomenon. It became the default version. So my derision is truly reserved for the industry and how it internalized and exploited TDKR and made everything so damned cynical and dark. What a shame. And it appears as if there is no end in sight. -JJ

Martinex1 said...

I say false. He was not affected as much as Batman. I think the gradual "darkening" of Superman is somewhat a result of this story but also a part of the overall superhero movement of the era. Obviously the current movie(s) draw on this more directly, but didn't most heroes get some kind of edge around that time following Watchmen, TDKR, the popularity of Wolverine, Punisher , Lobo, and Ghost Rider?

Overall though I think Batman's change was more immediate and noticeable and impactful.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer either way, just because I don't think I've read enough Superman or Batman post-TDKR. However, much of the Superman material I have read (and I'll readily admit that much of that consisted of Elseworlds stories) would seem to indicate that the answer is false.
Whatever the matter, though, I just really hate the idea of them being some kind of yin-and-yang adversaries as portrayed in Dark Knight Returns. I agree with JJ in that regard: it should have simply been an Elseworlds-type story, just one interpretation of the Superman/Batman relationship among many, and certainly not the predominant one.

William said...

To the actual question "Has Dark Knight Returns has affected Superman AS MUCH as Batman?" I'd have to say False. While I think DKR did have an affect on Superman, it didn't have as much of an effect as it did on Batman himself.

The thing I think that most affected Superman as a result of DKR was the dynamic of the relationship between he and Batman. Prior to DKR Superman and Batman were big time BFFs. But post DKR their relationship was portrayed as much more adversarial, and has remained that way to this day.

I may be mistaken, but believe the first instance of this new dynamic that appeared in regular DC continuity occurred in John Byrne's "Man of Steel" mini-series. In which Byrne retells the first meeting between Superman and Batman, and right from the beginning they are at odds. Neither one completely trusting the other.

This status quo was carried through into the Bruce Timm Batman and Superman Animated Universe as well, where when Batman and Superman first meet they start their "team-up" with Batman judo flipping Superman across a room, and then Supes knocking Bats into a wall.The fight ends with Batman whipping out some Kryptonite and cooly telling the Man of Steel that the Joker has 20 more pounds of the stuff.

This shaky alliance is obviously going to be carried on into the DC Cinematic Universe as well. And it all started with Dark Knight Returns. But I think that in his own comics and animated series, Superman was pretty much unaffected by his portrayal in DKR. In that mini-series he was portrayed as a government stooge who was little more than a thug and a puppet being used as a weapon of war. And as far as I know, he's never been shown in that light in any regular DCU books.

Ewan said...

A bit before Dark Knight they were already exploring a strain between Batman and Superman in the latter days of World's Finest. Obviously Miller did it in a bigger way and much less flattering to Superman, but times were already kind of changing heading into the post-DKR/Watchmen/Crisis period.

I agree with what was said about Byrne's run not initially taking too dark of a turn in the aftermath of Dark Knight. But the boy scout did fade away...modern comics have struggled with allowing Supes to just be a really good guy and hero in the traditional sense. I miss pre-Crisis Superman probably more than any other character...escaping into the tales of a character who DOESN'T reflect modern problems and mixed morality is pure joy, I don't always want an anti-hero and a reflection of the muck we see every day in the real world.

I was just watching the silver age inspired Brave and Bold cartoon from recent years this morning, and in particular an episode which teamed up Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. And there's this scene where the 3 of them go to a diner to eat and Superman has a burger and a milkshake in his hands and says, "when I'm talking about the American way, this is what I really mean." Obviously a light-hearted take, but you know, I miss that guy.

J.A. Morris said...

Yes it's true and the upcoming movie is more proof. I believe I've said here before that B:TDKR is very good. But it's influence has been a net negative at best, in comics and other media. Without DKR, I don't think we would've ever seen the "darker" Kal-El that we see in the movie franchise.

I wish DC could've found a balance between the Silver Age Batman/Superman relationship and the current "we can never be friends" version.

Edo Bosnar said...

Ewan, slightly off-topic, but man, I just absolutely love the Brave & Bold cartoon. So much fun (and so funny). It's really outstanding all-ages fare.

The Prowler said...

Green! No, yellow!

I do know that I am definitely not qualified to answer the question.


Heck, I got nothing.............

And now for something completely different:

I'm back to scanning my comics collection. On piece of my collection is an Avengers 32, September 1966. Sticker on the bag says $3.00 American. Not in any condition to write home about. As I was scanning it, the cover just completely pulled away from the pages. No great shakes really, but I guess something about the youngest starting college next week, me being particularly hormonal right now, the FF movie coming out, gosh darn it all..........it was just a touch, a tough too much.........


(Old black water, keep on rollin'
Mississippi moon, won't you keep on shinin' on me
Old black water, keep on rollin'
Mississippi moon, won't you keep on shinin' on me
Yeah, keep on shinin' your light
Gonna make everything, pretty mama
Gonna make everything all right
And I ain't got no worries
'Cause I ain't in no hurry at all)

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say false if the question is if Supes has been affected as much as Batman, to echo William and Martinex1. While Superman has definitely been affected by the events of DKR, it's Batman who has undergone the most radical change to a darker, grittier version. Superman has become darker, but more gradually. Personally, I'll wait to see how the movie pans out before I give my opinion on it.

On an unrelated note, the new FF movie looks to be as bad as some people have claimed it to be, judging from the lackluster reiews. I haven't seen it, but I'm disappointed that no studio has gotten Marvel's first family of superheroes right as yet.


- Mike 'gadzooks hope we don't see a darker grittier Flash too' from Trinidad & Tobago.

R. Lloyd said...

True, Everything has gotten darker since Frank Miller's 1986 graphic novel, "The Dark Knight Returns. His mistake was that he waited too long to follow up on this with a sequel that was worthy of his first effort. The Dark Knight Strikes Back was awful. DC should have gotten Klaus Janson to be the artist. The sequel was so incoherent that I gave it to another comic fan who was a Miller fan.


But I digress. Everything in the DC Universe goes for the Dark Knight look. Look at the new Superman movie by Zack Snider. Everything about it was in that Frank Miller stark, contrasted, evil and dark look. Superman has to kill Zod to save the day. That's something that would be out of a Frank Miller Superman comic. The new DC is so dark that I don't recognize the characters anymore. They have become something that I never grew up with in the 70's and 80's growing up as a kid.

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