Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Dark Knight Returned - Epilogue

Doug: Here's a little bonus for you. At the back of the 10th anniversary edition of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller's original script for yesterday's review ("The Dark Knight Falls") is included. It's quite a bit different from what saw print. However, with the Batman v Superman film on our doorstep, we thought it would be interesting to look at the battle scene between our heroes. We published that big fight in its entirety just so you could compare it to Miller's outline today. Enjoy!


JJ said...

I've never read this, as I only have the original issues. What a tremendous bit of creativity, certainly superior to what appeared in the comic. The entire fourth issue should've been dedicated to this treatment alone. My main criticism is Batman using a pistol and firing twice on Superman-in Crime Alley no less! That's just wildly out of character. Inexcusable. The confrontation works just as well without it. It's really quite powerful, all told. TDKR could've been so much better than what we saw published, both in regards to the writing and the art (The exception being Varley's colors). Much got lost along the way, I think. Thanks for the epilogue, Doug and Karen. I've enjoyed the entire review immensely.

Garett said...

When asked about his inspiration for Dark Knight, Miller says:
"I got mugged. I'd always wanted to visit Batman and see what I could bring to him. But living in Manhattan and getting mugged once or twice gave me a much better view of the character. It made me, at least for a little while, as angry as he was."
“I never stopped loving the city,” he says in another interview. “But having a knife in your face can really change your day. The experience filled me with anger, and that translated right into my comics.”

I looked up my favorite Batman writers, Denny O'Neil and Bob Haney, and it's interesting that both served in the Navy (O'Neil participated in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Haney in WW2 at the Battle of Okinawa), then both earned university degrees and went on to writing careers (O'Neil wrote a newspaper column, and Haney wrote novels), before finally getting into comics.

It seems to me that O'Neil and Haney had proven their manhood in real life, and so could go on to write comics with an easygoing or playful confidence. Miller felt like a victim in real life, and tried to get revenge on the comic page by making his characters tougher and more extreme than had been done before.

Thanks for the reviews, Karen and Doug! Great in-depth look at the series.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, those are some interesting insights; I never knew some of those biographical details about the various writers previously (I only knew that Haney was a WW2 vet).

Thanks for posting this addendum, Doug. It is quite interesting - I agree with JJ that some aspects of this treatment are superior to what was put in the finished product. Others, not so much (I agree about Batman using a gun in Crime Alley).
By the way, since JJ also mentioned the art, I realized I hadn't mentioned it in any of my comments in previous installments. For the most part, I really liked it, and thought it really suited the story being told (however, it doesn't change my mind that Miller's best artwork was done in his first run on Daredevil).

Anyway, Karen and Doug, I once more have to commend you both on a thoroughly enjoyable series of thought-provoking reviews.

Anonymous said...

Karen and Doug, thanks for the great series of reviews. I don't have much to add to all the well thought out insights imparted along the way except that the proverbial "a liberal is a conservative that hasn't been mugged" was definitely at play for Miller here.

I actually read DKR some 20 or so years ago and just remember thinking it was...interesting...but not my Batman. I grew up on POW!ZAP!BAM!OOOOOF!EEEYOW!!!

But...I've never been mugged.


Doug said...

Thanks again for the kind words, friends. Karen and I really enjoyed discussing this story. And, we're glad you're enjoying this peek inside Miller's mind as he originally conceived the big battle at the end. The entire script is much longer, but I chose just to post the elements that dealt with the superhero slugfest.


Anonymous said...

@Garett: It seems like muggings have inspired a few comics over the years. I read somewhere that Michael Fleisher's rather intense Spectre stories (in Adventure Comics) were inspired by editor Joe Orlando getting mugged.

Mike Wilson

William said...

Hmm, very interesting stuff. Especially some of the comments.

Hey Garrett, I never knew that about Frank Miller (or O'Neil and Haney), but your personal insight actually supports a comment I made in yesterday's post.

Which is basically I think it's really kind of a selfish move for a writer to take beloved, and established characters (that really belong to all of us) and use them as a means to express their own political beliefs, or their general disdain for humanity, etc. It's just not fair to the readers, or the characters, IMO.

Hey Frank Miller! OK, so you got mugged and you're angry at the world. Go see a therapist or something. But don't take it out on Batman by turning him into an angry jerk too!

I'd like to hear what his excuse was for "All Star Batman". Someone must have really peed in his cornflakes to make him write such scintillating stuff as, "I'm the GD Batman!!" Uhhhhg.

Karen said...

"I'd like to hear what his excuse was for "All Star Batman". Someone must have really peed in his cornflakes to make him write such scintillating stuff as, "I'm the GD Batman!!" Uhhhhg." - Ha, yup William, you got that right.

It's been fun kicking this one around with all of you. Certainly it provokes both ideas and strong feelings. batman and Superman are our most iconic superheroes -there's no way you can look at this vastly different (for 1986) depiction of them and not come away with some opinion on the subject. And I've enjoyed thinking about how my younger and current selves looked at the story. It's made me reflect a lot about how I've changed -not just how Batman has.

Regarding Miller's script, I agree that Batman shouldn't be using guns. Even the idea of picking one up should repulse him. I liked how the animated Batman Beyond handled this (a great show BTW) - as the older Batman is slowing down, he has an encounter with some bad guys and gets in trouble, and winds up picking up a dropped gun to hold on the thugs. He looks at himself and realizes it's time to hang up the tights.

One thing I liked much better in the script was Batman having the kryptonite gas in his suit. It never made any sense to me at all that he was relying on a one-armed, half-cocked Oliver to shoot that arrow at Superman! It makes me think that green Arrow was a late addition to the story, probably to make Superman look even worse.

Anonymous said...

William - another yup on the GD Batman.

But back to the original question - was he Batman? To veer away from personal/political aspects of all this, there have been many interpretations of Batman. I think it's a tribute to his iconic status that he be re-invented or re-interpreted. Like, say... Tarzan. While Superman may have been the first and most powerful superhero, Batman may be the Biggest.

Imagine a panel of other Batman creators/writers/producers debating this question - Kane/Haney/O'Neill/Engelhardt/Dozier-Horowitz-Semple...etc. I wonder what some of them might think of Miller's interpretation???

So my answer to the question - was he Batman? He wasn't THE Batman. He was A Batman.

With a Capital A.


JJ said...

Hi, Edo. I feel the same way about Miller and Janson's art in Daredevil. Just spectacular, especially up to #184. I've seen some original pages online and Miller was really turning in some tight pencils back then. Janson's inks complemented his work beautifully. Now, although TDKR has some fantastic pages, overall it doesn't rise to the level of the DD art, especially once you get to issues 3 and 4. There are parts where it seems to me to be too loose, sketchy, even cartoonish. This is one of the main reasons I don't revisit TDKR very often. Then again, I'm probably a picky ol' idjit.

Anonymous said...

Is Frank Miller's best art from his Daredevil run? Maybe. My favorite Miller art comes from Elektra Lives Again. There's some of the ultra-exaggerated cartooniness of his later work, but it's tighter and Lynn Varley's coloring is fantastic. I actually like the art in Sin City. Miller's experiments with black & white were thrilling and unique. Eventually, his tendency toward "ugly cartooning" overwhelmed his art, but Sin City was visually stunning for its first few years.

Doug & Karen, thanks for sharing the original treatment! It made for fascinating reading. Batman is one of the most versatile characters in comics. You can fit him into a traditional super-hero story, a detective story, sci-if, horror, comedy, weird romance... I think any interpretation is valid as long as he doesn't intentionally kill. It's unfortunate that most modern writers and editors (and readers) have trouble getting beyond the "dark" in Dark Knight.

- Mike Loughlin

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