Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Writer: Frank Miller
Art Work: Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley
Publisher: DC Comics
The world of Batman for me captures everything I love about fictional novels.  A good novel has to be able to take you away from the real world and transport you to the world of the pages in the novel.  It must be exciting, believable, have continuity, and most of all it must be original for it to capture my attention.  I hate it when I read about characters I can’t relate to, or a story that is predictable and banal.  For me it’s all about respect.  When I decide to choose a novel to read, I am assuming that the writer or artist has put their soul into a piece they want to share with the world.  So I show them respect by becoming a sort of hermit to the outside world, which allows me to focus my full attention into the story they have created.  I usually wear a hat or a hoody because it physically allows me to concentrate on the words with my foveal vision, while ignoring everything else that’s in my peripheral vision such as who’s sitting next to me on the subway.  If it’s a long novel I also like to get a note pad and write down notes as I’m reading in order to understand the story better.  Being this engaged with a novel I can then dissect and consume the story at my own pace since I have never been an academic person.
The beauty of the world of Batman is that its characters have been well established and yet still allow for various types of interpretations from writer to writer.  One man can see Batman as an honest and righteous do-gooder, while another can picture him as a tormented vigilante.  The latter is how Frank Miller decided to interpret his vision of Batman in his epic graphic novel, the Dark Knight Returns.  Written in the mid 80’s when the Cold War was still going on with the threat of nuclear war and the presence of the growing pessimistic media, you can tell Miller was definitely influenced by his time.  For him, the old boy scout super hero was no longer believable because the world had changed.  I like to interpret this as going from good and bad or white and black, to a world that was grey where good and bad were mixed together.  This grey world needed a hero that would scare off the worst villains, who were capable of murder and rape.  This world demanded a giant rambunctious and dangerous Batman that would risk his life in order to defeat his enemies.  This is the hero that Miller unleashed onto Gotham City to fight its new evils.
The first thing I noticed that was unique about this graphic novel was how the art and drawings were presented.  Each panel was narrow and crammed full of writing, while the illustrations were plain and simple.  This was difficult to get used to at first because most graphic novels have so many intricate illustrations that the words barely need to get read to know what is happening.  As I read on though, I found that I started to rely less on the drawings and more on the story that was written, making the narrative much more smooth and rich.  I became really impressed by the flow of continuity that Frank Miller had created.  Another thing I enjoyed about this novel was the multiple stories that were involved from the mutant gang, the Joker, Commissioner Yindel, and even Superman.  What also surprised me about this novel was Bruce Wayne’s age; he’s an old man.  Not that it took away from the story having a much more physically vulnerable Batman, instead I viewed it as Miller trying to demonstrate the heart of Bruce Wayne.  His ‘never give up’ attitude was really inspiring and made me love Batman even more.  By the time I was done reading this graphic novel I came to appreciate what Frank Miller has done for the world of comic book superheroes; allow them to be interpreted in different ways from different people, thus allowing and endless amount of stories to flourish.
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