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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Miller’

My journey into Batman folklore continues. The third consecutive Batman book that I read was ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘. Frank Miller’s reimagining of the Batman myth created a lot of waves when it first came out in 1986 and is regarded as an iconic book now.

In the story told in the book, Batman has retired and is fifty years old now. Harvey Dent and the Joker are in an asylum now. Selina Kyle is running an escort service. Jim Gordon is nearing retirement from the police service. A new wave of crime hits Gotham City. A new gang of people are doing bad things. Batman comes back from retirement and tries to protect the city. But the public is divided – some people feel that Batman is good for the city while others feel that he is a criminal himself for taking the law into his own hands. Jim Gordon is on Batman’s side. But the incoming Police Commissioner Ellen Yindel wants to arrest Batman. Before long, Harvey Dent and the Joker are out of the asylum and back to their nasty tricks. There is also some tension between the two superpowers of the Cold War era. And things start going bad for everyone.

I found ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘ quite interesting. It is an iconic book because it took a superhero comic and made it into a comic for grownups. It is sometimes dark, it is more violent than classic Batman comics, it offers commentary on the society and the politics and international affairs, which were all new at that time. There is even a nuclear bomb exploding, a 9/11 type plane crashing into a skyscraper, a nuclear winter, an imagination of the scenario in which the Cuban Missile Crisis situation is not defused but explodes. These are fascinating things. It is almost epic in scope. The other superhero Superman makes an appearance at one point in the story and there are some interesting scenes between the two gentlemen. In one scene, Bruce Wayne even takes a dig at Clark Kent. There are some stylish scenes and cool dialogues in the book. (I am sharing a few below.) The underlying theme – Bruce Wayne coming back from retirement and becoming Batman again to fight crime – reminds one of the Roman general Cincinnatus, who came back from his life as a farmer and took charge of the army and defeated the enemies and then handed over authority and went back to his farm. Or it is probably more closer to Michael Kohlhaas taking on the establishment and fighting for the common man in Heinrich von Kleist’s eponymous novella. It is inspiring and we can’t stop backing the aging Batman. These were all good things in the book. I liked the book for these things. But I didn’t really love the book and I am not able to rave about it, because there were too many things stuffed into it and I really hated Superman being part of the story. Batman and Superman are two very different people and they don’t belong in the same story, in my opinion. But I enjoyed the stylish scenes and would love to explore more of Frank Miller’s work, especially, his noir series, ‘Sin City‘, because his cool style will really work there. The ending of the story is very fascinating and must have been very unusual for its time.

After reading three consecutive Batmans I am getting Batman fatigue now. I have one more book left and once I get through that, I will go back to reading books that no one else reads and normal service will resume in these parts.

Have you read ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘? What do you think about it?

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What do you read after reading one Batman book? You read another Batman book 😁

Year One‘ is a 1986 graphic novel which describes how Bruce Wayne became Batman and what happened when Jim Gordon joined the Gotham City police. As the editor Denny O’Neill explains in his introduction, this is not a new version of the Batman myth, but it takes the original story by Bob Kane and fleshes it out and adds more details and makes it realistic to a contemporary audience. The story is told through the voices of Jim Gordon, who has newly moved into Gotham City with his pregnant wife, to work in the police department, and Bruce Wayne who comes back to Gotham City after living many years abroad and who wants to do something about the promise he made to his parents. What these two do to tackle the evil forces in the city, how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, and how Jim Gordon survives the challenges of a corrupt police department form the rest of the story. Selina Kyle plays a small but important part in the story, and Harvey Dent comes in a few scenes.

Year One‘ is an interesting story because it describes how it all started. When I discovered that David Mazzucchelli has done the illustrations, I was quite surprised. I read David Mazzucchelli’s graphic novel ‘Asterios Polyp‘ when it first came out and at that time I thought that he had sprung out of nowhere as a fully formed artist. So I was quite surprised when I saw his name here – it looks like he has been around for ages and his art has evolved in beautiful and interesting ways. The second thing I noticed about the book is that Selina Kyle is black. That is not the case in ‘The Long Halloween‘ or any of the film or TV adaptations of the Batman stories, as far as I know. I don’t know how it was in Bob Kane’s original version. It is interesting that in the ’80s, when no one was talking about diverse characters, Frank Miller did his bit to improve the presence of diverse characters in his story.

Selina Kyle

The third interesting thing in the book is that David Mazzucchelli says towards the end of the book that he used Gregory Peck’s image to sketch Bruce Wayne’s face. Isn’t that so cool! I was wondering how Bruce Wayne was so handsome ☺️ Now I know why. Gregory Peck would have made a great Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Gregory Peck morphing into Bruce Wayne

I loved ‘Year One‘. I must be the last person to read it. But if you are a Batman fan and have not read it yet, please do. You will like it. It is a must read for Batman fans. I have shared some of the pages from the book above and below to give you a flavour of the story and the artwork. Of particular interest to you might be the page which shows how Gregory Peck becomes Bruce Wayne.

First pages of the story

Sarah Essen

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