Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 8

"Elektra Lives Again," page 37 (detail) (1990). Art by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

Already in this set of posts we’ve looked at Frank Miller’s career before The Dark Knight Returns (Parts 1 and 2), and performed close readings of that series’ respective four chapters (Parts 3, 4, 5, and 6). And the last time around, in Part 7, we examined the character of Batman both before and after Frank Miller had his distinctive way with him. And we could probably stop there, but I think there’s value in surveying Frank Miller’s own career after TDKR, with a special focus on his more recent—and much more controversial—work on Batman.

Continue reading

Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 7

Batman #404 (“Year One, Part 1”) (February 1987), page 23 (detail). Written by Frank Miller, art by David Mazzucchelli.

Seventeen years have passed since my last installment in this series, so let’s at last sit down and write some kind of conclusion. But first, a recap:

  • Part 1 and Part 2 provided background for Frank Miller’s groundbreaking four-issue comics miniseries—namely, I described what he’d been up to prior to that, as well as what North American comics were like at that time;
  • Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 offered close readings of the respective four books in the series;
  • Part 8 (now up) examines the impact TDKR had on Miller’s subsequent career.

Now, in these final entries, I’ll outline what became of Batman, Frank Miller, and comics themselves after the Dark Knight returned…

Continue reading

Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

Continue reading

Seventeen Ways of Criticizing Inception (AKA, All Knowledge Isn’t Equal)

Let’s consider the truth behind advertising.

[This can be considered a response to this post, and its comments thread.]

1.

You’ve just become the fiction editor of a small journal. You open your email and see that you’ve received 1,000 unsolicited submissions. The first ten were sent by:

  • Carlos Shirley
  • Jeanne Goss
  • Jack Livingston
  • Christine Stribling
  • Melissa Mathieu
  • Benjamin Tatro
  • Tao Lin
  • Ryan Monk
  • Naomi Foltz
  • Matthew Orosco

Which one do you open and read first?

Continue reading

Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 6

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 7 | Part 8

Greetings again after much too long a while. Since the last installment in this series, the new pornographers at Vivid have announced, written, shot, and released Batman XXX: A Porn Parody, so it’s well past time to look at the fourth and final book of The Dark Knight Returns, “The Dark Knight Falls”!

Unlike Books Two and Three, which each start a little while after their respective preceding chapters, Book Four picks up right where Book Three left off. The Joker has just died, his final act having been to frame Batman for his own death. Police Commissioner Yindel cordons her forces outside the Tunnel of Love, readying an assault. Meanwhile, Superman continues fighting in the “police action” in Corto Maltese…

Book Four, page 177 (detail).

Continue reading

Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 5

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Monday was David Letterman‘s birthday, making this an okey-dokey time to talk about Book Three of The Dark Knight Returns, “Hunt the Dark Knight”…

Book Three, page 125 (detail).

Let’s plunge right into it!

Continue reading

Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 4

TDKR page 78.

This post is in memory of Dick Giordano (20 July 1932–27 March 2010), original editor of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Time now to talk about Book Two (of four): “The Dark Knight Triumphant.” Having prevented Two-Face from destroying Gotham’s Twin Towers, Batman turns his attention to the Mutant gang that’s been terrorizing the city. We learn more about Commissioner Gordon’s impending mandatory retirement, and meet his successor: Captain Ellen Yindel, whose appointment (and hostility toward the Dark Knight) will motivate much of Book Three’s plot. Miller also introduces a new Robin, the young teenager Carrie Kelley, who will become a central character. And Superman is given subtle orders (by President Reagan) to help ensure that the newly-returned Batman stays in line.

Continue reading