Posted by: Doc Comics | February 19, 2010

Miller’s DARK KNIGHT

An aged and more brutal Batman returns from retirement to an apocalyptic dystopia, and has a face-off with Superman.

In a dystopian future, an aging and haunted Bruce Wayne is compelled to don the cape and cowl for one final crusade, to cope with mutant gutter-punks and psychotic rampages by old enemies like Two-Face and Joker. But when Superman is dispatched to shut down Batman’s unwelcome comeback, Bruce decides it’s time to fight dirty to the finish.  The Dark Knight series by Frank Miller is innovative because of both its graphic storytelling and sequential art, heralding the birth of the “graphic novel” format aimed at older audiences and direct market comic shop sales. Now recognized as a modern classic, it was also controversial and revolutionary.

Seen through Miller’s distinctive detective noir lens, this superhero saga explores the uglier nature and pathos of vigilantism. “My Batman is essentially a terrorist, he just fights the right enemy,” Miller admitted in a 1996 Wizard article marking the 10th anniversary of the graphic novel.  This book was not only a re-imagining of a character satirized by 1960s camp, but a revelation, single-handedly changing the way superheroes were widely seen and portrayed. It also ushered in decades of grim-and-gritty superantiheroes who eclipsed interest in The Big Blue BoyScout.  Hitting comics shops in 1986, you can still trace its lasting impact upon most mainstream comics and movies. When asked directly about the sociopolitical tone in 1985, Miller told The Comics Journal:

“As far as fascistic implications of a character like Batman, that’s one of the things I’m really having fun with in the series. I think that in order for the character to work, he has to be a force that is beyond good and evil. It can’t be judged by the terms we would use to describe something a man would do because we can’t think of him as a man. I do this series at a very good time for me, because it’s very clear to me that our society is committing suicide by lack of a force like that. A lack of being unable to deal with the problems that are making everything we’ve got crumble to pieces. As far as being fascist, my feeling is…only if he assumed office. [Laughter.] If there were a bunch of these guys running around and beating up criminals, we’d have a serious problem.” (34)

Of course, some scholars worry that pretty much *is* a serious problem these days (and thanks in part to Miller himself) with a post-9/11 Superhero Zeitgeist that flirts with crypto-fascism. What say ye, superscholars?

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Responses

  1. When Batman leads his mutant-converts on horseback through Gotham, its unnerving to contemplate eerie similarities with this superhero vigilante and the Ku Klux Klan. Then again, Superman may have played a very real role in defeating the American KKK fad (seriously).


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