Why Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is still the most influential comic

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In 1986, writer and artist Frank Miller was only 29 years old when he tackled the comic that cemented his place among the icons: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Along with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley, Miller told the tale of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to restore order in a Gotham City that had long ago moved past Batman. Along the way, the series introduced Carrie Kelley as the first female Robin, gave viewers a horrific final showdown between Batman and the Joker, and featured a legendary battle with Superman.

The Dark Knight Returns reinvigorated Batman as a much darker hero than before. It also inspired decades of comics that came after it, as well as an animated film adaptation. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also seized upon the confrontation between DC’s top superheroes. But according to Miller, the Man of Steel wasn’t in the original outline for the story!

“When I first put together The Dark Knight Returns, my initial version of it didn’t even have Superman,” said Miller. “It was just Batman against criminals and cops. Then, I realized that inevitably, Bruce was heading towards a conflict with Superman.”

For better or worse, The Dark Knight Returns changed the industry. According to Janson, “Dark Knight gets the credit and the blame [for the comics that came after]. I’ll share with you that [editor] Dick Giordano, many years after Dark Knight Returns, said to me [that] he regretted that.”

For more details about The Dark Knight Returns‘ incredibly vast legacy, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE’s original series, Behind the Panel!



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