The Dark Knight Returns

Since Batman’s creation in the forties, writers have struggled finding the right tone for his stories. Batman’s first 12-15 issues had him use lethal force quite often, until editors mandated that he not kill. After Robin was introduced, the stories branched out in all sorts of genres like science fiction and adopted a campy tone. The 60s television show staring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin was comedy and lacked the darkness and angst of Bruce Wayne’s tragedy.  In the seventies, Readers wanted a darker Batman, but often the stories were still, well….kind of cheeky (see the post about Calendar Man).

In 1986, a young writer named Frank Miller penned a limited series called the Dark Knight Returns, a dystopian future where a 55 year old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to do his final mission as Batman.

At one point, Batman has to face the Police

The Four issue series permanently re-established the dark tone of Batman mythology. Batman’s final confrontations with the Joker and Two-Face show the three enemies psychology in a way that wasn’t showed before. It’s drawn quite well by Miller, with shadowy and murky gotham populated by larger than life figures. Unique in the story, is a new female Robin, Carrie Kelly.

In the late nineties, Bruce Timm,  the producer behind the Successful Batman The Animated Series, brought some of the pages of Miller’s masterpiece to life:

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