Ricky Church begins his countdown to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns…
In the 75+ years the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have existed, there has been a wealth of stories involving two of the world’s greatest heroes. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice arriving in a few short weeks, Flickering Myth will be recommending some of the most influential and iconic stories that have examined the friendship (and sometimes rivalry) between both characters.
First up is the most obvious one, The Dark Knight Returns. Considered to be one of the most influential graphic novels of all time, the famous story sees Bruce Wayne in his late sixties after having retired as Batman for 10 years. Fed up with the increasing amount of crime in his absence Bruce once again dons the cape and cowl, setting off a chain of events in a world where unsanctioned vigilantism is illegal. Batman goes on a crusade against the criminal elements, old enemies and even comes into conflict with Superman himself.
The Dark Knight Returns was a game changer for what used to be a dwindling comic book industry. In the early 80s sales were way down for both DC and Marvel, comics were considered childish and, though he had been returned to his dark and serious roots, Batman was still thought of as the goofy, campy hero popularized by the 60s television series. Writer and artist Frank Miller wanted to cement Batman’s status as a dark figure of justice and delivered an epic tale examining who he was as a character and what he could mean to society as a whole. Along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns re-energized the comic book industry and opened up the discussion of the literary value comics and graphic novels can have. It also heavily influenced Tim Burton as he took the director’s chair for 1989’s Batman.
Miller’s story is famous for one particular scene in the climax. Superman is one of the few superheroes who decided to work for the government rather than face forced retirement and is tasked with bringing Batman in after Batman’s way of law and order embarrasses the government. An all out brawl ensues in the streets of Gotham City as Batman, donned with a heavily fortified armoured suit, fights Superman. On top of the fight, it’s an intense emotional conflict for these former friends as Batman’s resentment towards Superman for ‘selling out’ is brought to the forefront. It also demonstrates how Batman can think 10 steps ahead of everybody as he uses tool after tool against Superman (though Superman fans have a problem with how Miller presented the Man of Steel as a willing blunt instrument for the government to use and abuse).
The Dark Knight Returns’ fingerprints can be seen all over Batman v Superman as Batman’s regular and armoured costume seem ripped right from the book’s pages and placed into the film. One need only look at a side-by-side comparison of the comic and film’s armoured suit to see how this iconic fight has influenced the upcoming film. Not only that, but rumours suggest Bruce Wayne has been out of action as Batman for a while, again referencing his state of mind at the start of Returns (a plot point also referenced in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises). If you want to get pumped for Zack Snyder’s film, The Dark Knight Returns is a great place to start.
The Dark Knight Returns was also adapted as a two-part animated film by Warner Bros. Animation in 2012 and 2013, later being bundled together as one big movie. In the film the fight between Batman and Superman is a little more blockbuster worthy than it was in the comic as they take their fight through buildings and a construction yard.