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.
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…
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…
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.
Part one of this series surveyed Miller’s comics work prior to his landmark 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns; part two summarized the innovations in printing technology that Miller and his colorist Lynn Varley helped introduce into comics in the mid-1980s. Now, in this and the following three or four posts, I’ll take a closer look at the series’ four individual chapters, starting with Book One, “The Dark Knight Returns.”
For the eternal children of my generation (I was born in 1803), the most enduring image of Batman arguably hails from Tim Burton’s 1989 adaptation. (No doubt the children of today will forever regard Batman as looking like Christian Bale.) Since Mr. Burton has a brand-new film out, I thought it only fitting to begin with this section of TDKR:
Bruce Wayne proceeds to tumble down the rabbit bat hole. Let’s follow.
Frank Miller released the sixth and last issue of Ronin in August 1984. Not everyone was sure what to make of the limited series, but Miller and his colorist, Lynn Varley, emerged from the project emboldened. As Miller put it to the Comics Journal in 1985, “[W]e’re scaring the horses. They need scaring” (Thompson 37).
Their next opportunity to startle their editors, peers, and fans would be much higher profile: DC editor Dick Giordano offered Miller the chance to reinvent Batman, whose books at the time were suffering declining sales. (Indeed, by 1985 Batman’s sales had reached such a low point that some at DC had suggested killing off the character.) Could Miller pull with Batman the same trick he’d managed with Daredevil?