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On the next Major Spoilers Podcast, we’re diving deep into the comic that, in 1986, made me sit up and go Hellz Yeah! That collected trade would be none other than Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

If any comic has a claim to have truly reinvigorated the genre, then The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller–known also for his excellent Sin City series and his superb rendering of the blind superhero Daredevil–is probably the top contender. Batman represented all that was wrong in comics and Miller set himself a tough task taking on the camp crusader and turning this laughable, innocuous children’s cartoon character into a hero for our times. The great Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, the arguably peerless Watchmen) argued that only someone of Miller’s stature could have done this. Batman is a character known well beyond the confines of the comic world (as are his retinue) and so reinventing him, while keeping his limiting core essentials intact, was a huge task.Miller went far beyond the call of duty. The Dark Knight is a success on every level. Firstly it does keep the core elements of the Batman myth intact, with Robin, Alfred the butler, Commissioner Gordon, and the old roster of villains, present yet brilliantly subverted. Secondly the artwork is fantastic–detailed, sometimes claustrophobic, psychotic. Lastly it’s a great story: Gotham City is a hell on earth, street gangs roam but there are no heroes. Decay is ubiquitous. Where is a hero to save Gotham? It is 10 years since the last recorded sighting of the Batman. And things have got worse than ever. Bruce Wayne is close to being a broken man but something is keeping him sane: the need to see change and the belief that he can orchestrate some of that change. Batman is back. The Dark Knight has returned. Awesome.

We have really enjoyed reading your comments on the show, and I know there are thousands of you out there who have read this series. In the comment section below, share your thoughts. Then listen to the next Major Spoilers Podcast and see if we share your thoughts with the thousands of Major Spoilers Podcast listeners.

It’s sure to be a good time, but probably not two hours long like the last one.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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9 Comments

  1. Maximus Rift
    June 6, 2008 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    Not 2 hours long? Dang. I really liked that last show lasted 2 hours.

    As for the topic, I would say that this book also started a small Batman/Superman fan feud because Batman beats him in the book.I remember telling a friend, and not believing me. When explained how it happened, he insisted that it didn’t count as Batman’s victory.

  2. Lifeisaglitch
    June 6, 2008 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    Batman + prep time > All

    Common fact and one of the universal constants that we have based our knowledge of psychics and mathematics’s on. You should know this buy now children.

  3. hermit
    June 6, 2008 at 6:31 pm — Reply

    when i started seriously reading comics in 2000, Dark Knight Return was one of the first. i discovered modern comics through Sin City and Frank Miller and move naturally toward that book. it made me love Batman even more than before. i always liked the character, mostly because of the Tim Burton movies, but that book sealed the deal. now i own it in floppys (2nd or 3rd printing) trade paperback and Absolute Edition and read it almost once a year. i always love Miller’s art, and in this book it simply shine, if we can use this term in this case. the dirty and original style of Miller just go so well with the character.

    and from what i understand this book save the Batman Franchise from cancellation, am i right?

  4. Lifeisaglitch
    June 7, 2008 at 6:54 am — Reply

    by*

  5. mosdef
    June 7, 2008 at 7:11 pm — Reply

    Yo, Im a Marvel to the fullest and Batman and Green Lantern are the only two books that i seriously read or like from DC. When i was in 8th grade my english teacher Mr. Paradise told us to pick a comic book out of a list he had and do a report on it. I didn see any books that i really liked but this was around the time when Batman was on Kids WB so i chose The Dark Knight Returns. I didnt like the art at first because it was from 1986 or 87 and it was around 2000 when i read it. I quickly got over that. I read the whole collection in 1-2 days and i loved it. When i read this all the underlying subtexts like refrences to the Cold War, Govt Involvement among other things flew over my head. I just really enjoyed the personification of batman, it made him a bat bad ass. One thing i noticed while re reading it, the scene where batman returns is borrowed from heavily when spiderman demasks himself. The series for me made batman more believable, hes a superhero working alone now, with no super power. You have to do what you have to do to win and stay alive. Shooting the gun at the Mutant, and damn near killing Joker(i woulda killed him) make batman seem more real and human and desperate. Now Clark as usual the complete opposite of Batman is a huge sell out, but in the end he regained some of his bravado. all in all i loved batman the dark knight even though i stopped reading batman a short while later.

  6. hermit
    June 8, 2008 at 12:36 am — Reply

    hey, batman kicking superman’s ass, i’ll take it any day of the week. i hate superman with a passion, seeing that was pure joy to me.

  7. mosdef
    June 8, 2008 at 3:14 am — Reply

    that was also a plus, superman sucks accoring to me

  8. June 8, 2008 at 8:08 am — Reply

    The dark knight returns is an excelent read. It’s one of those few books that pulls of some very disturbing scenes that are relevant for the plot and not just for the sake of being disturbing. The art is very nice altough some easter eggs hidden in the news broadcasts (something copied by spiderman reign recently) are very eighties minded so maybe lost on some younger readers.

    The whole way of superman being presented when he is first time shown in the book, hanging out with the president on a sunny day, is just fantastic. It just showed how different superman and batman where in the way they looked at the world and the task at hand.

    Excellent book and a very good choice for the podcast.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. June 10, 2008 at 2:43 am — Reply

    TDKR seemed to be one of the most groundbreaking non-continuity reads in all of comic history. Whilst pioneering many inventive aspects of the superhero comic format, I see it rather as the perfect combination of already existing forms within the medium. On a visual level, Miller seems to construct these huge angular caricatures of the dcu characters we know so well, charge them with a kind of epileptic-brush-stroke vibrancy and then leave them to soak in a pool of rain and excrement for effect. This isn’t your Romita curvaliciousness or your Perez perfection, instead Frank Miller stains the page with his characters as they smear, jitter and seize over the pages. Whilst the shadow-work is not nearly as inventive as Miller’s use of it in Sin City, the dark spaces and gaps between and behind the action seem to take on a liquidity that steeps every frame in a gloomy buddle of awesome.

    I still remember TDKR as the first ever comic to make me take notice of the coloring, as I realized Lyn Varley’s contribution to this opus was far more significant than just painting swatches between the lines. I don’t think I ever considered any of the people other than writer and artist, involved the creation of a comic, before TDKR, which is an illuminating feat in itself.

    Waaaay beyond the visual assault of it all, the dialogue of this comic is significant in that it deified the pulp-noir style of monologue, not seen in graphic novels since their pulp origins. Batman’s thoughts are for the first time recognisable as his own, and not just meta-dialogue from some rushing writer, saving frames by describing as much of the atmosphere as possible. Batman wheezes, growls and hisses and the reader feels every word of it. Never before this has I received so much of a character from a few boxes of monologue.

    To reiterate my first paragraph, what we see in TDKR is not necessarily a trailblazing work; as the art is a continuation of Miller’s marvel work as well as full of tips of the hat to Jim Steranko, Howard Chaykin, Jack Kirby et al; and the dialogue and maturity of scenes within the book are quite similar to stuff found in old pulp comics of the 20s+ like Hammer and EC. Miller is like a Graphic Novel Tarantino; seamlessly weaving the best of his influences into a masterful and unparalleled work that stands the test of time even today.

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