This is an ongoing series reflecting upon books that have influenced one fantasy author.
The Dark Knight Returns
by Frank Miller
In 1986 I was 16 years old. I had not read comics books in several years at that point because I thought comic books were kid stuff and I was no longer a kid. Still, every once in a while my eye would be drawn to one of the two comic book shops in the town where I lived then. One shop was fairly plain looking from the outside and could have been thought to be a book store or something else by casual lookers passing by. The other comic shop was down by the university campus, and there was no way you couldn’t tell it was a comic book store because of all the big posters in the window.
That was where I saw my first poster for the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by Frank Miller with some art and inking done by Klaus Janson.
I knew as soon as I saw that poster that I would be buying comic books yet again. The poster was of an aged, angry-looking, bruised and battered Batman with clenched first staring right at you. But it was beyond that. This Batman looked more than angry. He looked downright pissed, and just a little insane.
As soon as the collected graphic novel was available, I snagged up a copy. And I’ve never been the same since.
Up to that point, I had not read much in the hardboiled genres. I had seen a few old TV shows and movies, but they were nothing compared to what I discovered when I opened up The Dark Knight Returns.
It was a different world, a darker world, than anything I had seen before in comic books. Batman was still there, but he had been in retirement for 10 years. The Joker was in a mental asylum, and Robin … well, Robin wasn’t around. Something had apparently happened to Robin. Something bad.
I don’t want to give any of the plot away. If you haven’t read The Dark Knight Returns, you must. It is a has-to-be-read piece of modern (or post-modern) literature. You don’t have to like it, necessarily, but if you don’t see the genius behind it, then you’re too stupid to be reading in the first place.
Sorry, just getting carried away there. But honestly, give it a try, especially if you like hardboiled fiction and/or action/adventure genres.
But don’t expect the Batman from the television shows. Even the movies haven’t gotten it right. Yet.
Up next: The Sandman: Season of Mists