Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm Batman

I just finished re-reading the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, written by Frank Miller.  Just because.

I had read originally in 1986.  Every Batman movie that came out since then owes it's existence to Miller's rehabilitating the Adam West version (a version that is good in its own right, in it's own way.)

He also took Superman down a peg.

If you younger readers of mine don't remember the 1980s, this comic book will evoke the mood for you.  New Wave and punk stylings, fear of an explosion in crime, anxiety over the Soviets and nuclear Armageddon.  Reagan is depicted as a slightly doddering president and westerner ex-actor.  People smoke.  Indoors.  The Political Correctness cult is only in its infancy. [If you want to know what the 70s felt like, try this movie.]

Gun content.  Cops used revolvers back then.  Revolvers weren't ubiquitous, but they were nearly so.  The book makes it feel like a workingman's tool.  Semi-autos were... not exotic... but as though they still need seasoning?  No that's not it.  And this after 75 years of 1911s and everything else semi-auto.  I guess when every cop has a revolver, and people take their cue off of the cops, semi's feel... other.  Something soldier used or people with a special purpose, like a young police commissioner that need something more compact.  Or by a villain that doesn't hold to convention.  Of course the OLD police commissioner used a revolver.

Back to the story.  Batman has been retired since Robin (Jason) died a dozen years prior and political pressure cause costumed heroes to hand up their cloaks.  Except Superman who works for the DoD.  Jason had replaced Dick Grayson who is estranged from Bruce Wayne.  Rampant crime depredations brings Batman out of retirement just as Commissioner Gordon is being eased out.  Gordon is 70, Bruce is maybe 55.  A new Robin, Carrie, emerges.  It's hard fighting crime as a 55 year old.

There are four 'chapters' originally stand alone comic books, assembled into one cover.  The villains/antagonists thus four in number: a 'healed' Harvey Dent (plastic surgery and psychiatric rehabilitation by a Liberal psychiatrist), a leader of an immense street gang reminiscent of the Lord Humongous, the Joker, who emerged from catatonia when Batman re-emerged, and, finally, Superman.

In a fight between Batman and Superman, who do you think would win?


Bubblehead Les. said...

Heck, I used to help a Friend run a Comic Book Shop back in the '80s, and I remember when Frank Miller hit the Big-Time. I bought that Series at 40% OFF Cover Price (Employee Discount). And I KNOW how the Supes vs Wayne Fight ended. Too Bad the ExGF decided to throw all my stuff away a few years later....

Bogie said...

To this day, my favorite graphic novel of all time. Miller's genius in the reinvention of the Joker alone will nothing short of terrifyingly brilliant, especially when compared to the "goofy" Joker of decades past. Now I have to go find my copy and read it for the 6,972nd time.

Jay G said...

I received a copy of the "Dark Knight Returns" from a close friend a few years back. Lost track of how many times I've read it.

THAT is Batman.

Not the campy Adam West. Not the slightly-less-campy Mr. Batmom as played by Michael Keaton under Tim Burton.

The newest revision is closer to the true Batman, but focuses too much on the kung fu fighting.

Miller's Batman is just about perfect.

John Stephens said...

Batman wins, because he's got a chunk of Green Kryptonite stashed away. Just in case. Because he's BATMAN.

Chris said...

Miller's version of The Batman is, IMHO, the best for a variety of reasons. It pounded home the concept of holding oneself to an objective standard (of good) while remaining open to different tactics to achieving the strategic goal. (No spoilers here - go get a copy and read it.) It also shows the adjustments a true warrior (how I hate hearing that word as abused as it has become lately) makes when he is outclassed in some way, by finding another way to attack.

In other words, old age (experience) and treachery will usually defeat youth and enthusiasm. Feeling all-powerful, as is so common in young people, is both an advantage and disadvantage. (The examples of each are left as an exercise to the reader.)

Tam said...

The picture of him decking Supe is still the single greatest comic book frame of all time. ALL. TIME.