The original Dark Knight Returns saga by Frank Miller was a defining moment for The Batman, Miller’s alternate take on the much loved Superhero cast the character in an even more extreme grim, gritty and violent setting, with the caped crusader himself a dour and sullen character whose inner demons continually haunt him as the weight of age and a life of brutal violence takes its toll. We follow an ageing Bruce Wayne as he struggles with these psychological demons, and attempts to hold back his rage and inefficacy through alcohol addiction and suicidal abandon of his life through varying extreme motor sports.
Miller’s classic 80’s series, alongside classics – Watchmen and V For Vendetta, shook up an atrophying comic book industry and presented a much more adult and psychologically emotional depth to Superhero comics, defining the future of the industry in a monumental way.
Miller returned to his raison d’etre in the 2001 follow up mini series The Dark Knight Strikes Again, yet, unlike its groundbreaking predecessor, this was not favourably received by fans or critics alike (myself included) the book was little more than a parody of previous events, and Miller’s artwork had taken a severe downturn in quality.
Jump forward 14 years and Dark Knight III: The Master Race debuted, the newest chapter in the alternative Batverse, and it’s been… mostly OK, I guess, unfortunately the original series was such a phenomenon that any subsequent take has fared rather badly, unable to match the originals magnificence.
That said, there have been some defining moments (mainly visual) in this ongoing series that have certainly taken the breath away from this particular Batfan, and the gorgeous Bill Sienkiewicz variant cover is one of those marvellous moments. It evokes so beautifully a man haunted by his past, a broken figure who has ultimately accepted his failing to protect the city and people he loves, yet will fight on even though it will probably mean his own demise… this image, to me, defines The Batman irrevocably, and contains more emotional substance than both the second and third chapters of the Dark Knight trilogy put together.
In just two short weeks the greatest cinematic Superhero event ever will take place, when the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel square up for a royal rumble that will shake the very foundations of the DC Universe. Comic’s two most iconic characters will go head to head in a grudge match that, even though this will be their first live action brawl, has been enacted throughout the decades in both comic book and animated forms.
Though, usually touted as friends and allies, no other comic book duo has fought as many times as Bats and Supes over the decades. They are literally opposite ends of the Superhero spectrum; one is a vengeance driven manhunter, bringing his own brand of justice to a corrupt and dystopian city. dark and brooding, driven on by the tragic deaths of his parents, Batman has given his life over to his mission.
The other is a virtual god, a being from another planet who arrived on Earth as a child after his home was catastrophically destroyed. Brought up in the farm belt of the USA, Kal El uses his almost limitless power to help his adopted kin, fundamentally a force of good and a symbol of hope amongst his many supporters. Batman and Superman literally are Night and Day, completely antithetical and divergent in both motivation and execution of their chosen lifestyles.
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice director – Zack Snyder has drawn heavily from these past confrontations for his upcoming blockbuster movie, but the one story that has had the most influence on the film (and the character of Batman himself) is Frank Miller’s classic, genre defying eighties series ‘The Dark Knight Returns’
Dark Knight is Frank Miller‘s opus, and almost single handedly responsible for a dramatic and significant change in the way Superheroes are portrayed. Taking the well loved character and plunging him even deeper into his own psychosis and despair, allowing him to really embrace the darkness that was brought on by the devastating loss of his parents, and use it to deliver a whirlwind of brutal justice on the many corrupting forces that prey on Gothamites on a daily basis. Miller’s Batman is a schizophrenic and driven crime-fighter, an unequivocal force of nature that does not suffer fools gladly, and will allow absolutely nothing and no-one to stand in the way of his war on crime.
The Dark Knight Returns shows us a future Gotham City where crime runs rampant, and its one true protector who used to hold back the tide of criminality and lawlessness has long since retired as age and injuries slowly caught up with him. Bruce Wayne now holds back his raging inner demons through the use of alcohol and death defying stunts (when we first see the aged Bruce, he is crashing his race car over a finish line with suicidal abandon.) Unable to cope without his alter ego, and feeling powerless in the face of an encroaching enemy that is seeping into his beloved city and gradually altering its substructure into that of complete anarchy and transgression.
Superheroes have long since been outlawed, and the only one still active is the Government sponsored Superman, who covertly works for the President and keeps the peace with as little media exposure as possible. Brought back from his almost catatonic state, after the demons raging inside him can no longer be contained, Bruce Wayne gives himself over to the one true personality that has always been dominant in his life since that one fateful night… The Batman. Waging a war on crime like never before with unstinting and remorseless abandon, yet his age and a decade of inactivity might make this last heroic struggle, his final denouement.
With Batman rampaging his way through the underbelly of Gotham City and dividing opinion amongst the Police and citizens, Superman is despatched by the President to put a stop to his vigilante actions… and thus ensues the paradigmatic battle between the two titans, that is reflected heavily in the many trailers for the forthcoming movie.
Director Zack Snyder is a huge comic book fan, especially of the darker and more mature style of story-telling, just witness his previous movie incarnations – the utterly astounding recreation of Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’ (still our fave comic to film adaptation) and Frank Miller’s ‘300’. The influence of Miller’s Dark Knight is tangible, and there really could be no better material for him to draw upon for this colossal showdown.
Of course lest we forget, there will be one tempering influence in the film who has also acted as a mediator to the feuding heroes in comics and animation over the years. She is also the character who has soundly beaten both Bats and Supes in one on one combat on several occassions. So before either hero gets too overconfident and supercilious in their own powers and skills, they should really factor in that comic-book’s first lady, Wonder Woman can kick both their arses without even breaking a sweat… just saying!
The titanic twosome will be knocking heads when ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ hits the cinemas on March 25. Best prepare your utility belts and red capes in readiness for what will incontestably be the ‘Greatest Comic Book Movie Ever!’
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to “The Week In Geek,” where we list our favourite comic book, video game and cult movie news from the past 7 days for your perusal and pleasure.
Megan Gale as Wonder Woman;
Unbeknownst to most, Mad Max director George Miller was originally approached by Warner Bros and DC Comics to write and direct a Justice League movie in 2007. Though the project was scrapped, it did actually get as far as casting and costume fitting. Megan Gale (Mad Max: Fury Road) was originally cast as the amazing Amazon, and thanks to Australian photographer, Mark Rogers, we finally get to see the actress in full Amazon regalia, and all we can say is.. damn, she looks awesome.
Wonder Woman’s Solo Feature Begins Production;
And more news concerning our favourite female Superhero surfaced over the weekend when Warner Bros began filming in the UK, Wonder Woman‘s solo feature, and actress Gal Gadot tweeted a picture of herself in costume on set. In 1941, psychologist William Moulton Marston introduced the world to the first ever female Superhero. Hot on the heels of her trinity companions, Batman and Superman, it has taken almost 75 years to bring Themyscira’s favourite daughter to the cinema, and in 2017 she will finally grace the silver screen in her own solo movie (and we can’t wait!)
Lara Croft Rises Again;
This week also saw the return of another fictional female favourite, as reliquary spelunking Lara Croft made her latest comeback in Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Archetypal English archaeologist-adventuress Lara has been raiding tombs since 1996 when the character first appeared on Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation in the classic Tomb Raider. Designed by Toby Gard and created by British software developer Core Design, Lara has become one of the most recognised and beloved video-game characters on the planet.
In 2013 current Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics rebooted the character, retelling her origin story to great effect, and continue that success with Rise, with a less naive and more capable Lara seeking the key to eternal life. With an average Metacritic score of 86, this is another must have for fans of Ms Croft… Highly recommended (if you can tear yourself away from Fallout 4 of course)
The Dark Knight Returns;
And finally, veteran comic book creator Frank Miller returns to the scene of his greatest ever opus, The Dark Knight, with Dark Knight 3: The Master Race. Originally seen as the conclusion to Miller’s Dark Knight saga that began with “The Dark Knight Returns” in 1986 as a four issue limited series, and continuing through the 3 issue sequel “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” in 2001.
Frank Miller has recently reported though, that once this new 8 issue maxi-series comes to a close he would like to continue the series through a fourth chapter, charting an increasingly ageing Batman as he confronts ever more prescient threats intent on destroying the city he loves. Releasing on November 25, DKIII ships with an astonishing 53 variant covers, each by a fan favourite artist, including Miller’s own rendition of the Caped Crusader.
Join us again next week friends, for more Week In Geek.
On the 25th of November this year the Dark Knight will rise again to face down the impending peril of the master race. That’s right Batfans, superstar writer/artist Frank Miller returns to his opus The Dark Knight Returns saga this November with a third chapter; The Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Dark Knight 3 is being released as an eight issue mini series beginning in November, and each 32 page issue will also include a 16 page “Dark Knight Universe” comic attached within the centre.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the release of the pioneering original series, Miller will not only be joined once again by original collaborator Klaus Janson, but also legendary writer Brian Azzarello and exceedingly talented artist Andy Kubert.
To celebrate the first issue of Miller’s heralded return, DC will be releasing an astonishing thirty variant covers for the first issue. Each of these variants will be produced by some of the comic industry’s most talented and lauded artists including; Klaus Janson, Stanley Lau, Lee Bermejo, Jae Lee, and Kenneth Rocafort, plus Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons will be producing an even more exclusive 1:50 variant.
All of these amazing alternate covers will be made available at launch, though they will be in scant supply, check ahead with your local comic book emporium to make sure they are carrying your preferred cover, and remember to place your pre-order as these will be shifting faster than you can say “Batman rocks, and if you don’t accept my pre-order pronto then I shall be forced to dye my hair green, don a purple suit and smilex gas everyone in the room!.”
Precinct1313 Anticipation Rating: Batman-tastic!
It has been ten years since the last appearance of the Batman, and Gotham City has devolved even further into lawlessness and anarchy without its former custodian’s presence. An ageing Bruce Wayne struggles with his inner demons, and attempts to hold back his rage and inefficacy at protecting the city that he loves, with a mixture of alcohol dependency and a reckless, almost suicidal endangerment of his life through varying extreme motor sports events. With a new threat emerging in Gotham with the crazed Mutant gang attempting a coup of the city, the Batman returns in a proverbial blaze of glory, but has age and a growing feeling of doubt in his own prowess left the former masked crime-fighter incapable of dealing with this deadly menace.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is the groundbreaking saga penned and illustrated by the extraordinary Frank Miller (300, Sin City). Released initially in 1986, this 4 issue mini-series is almost wholly responsible for the direction the former ‘Caped Crusader’ of earlier incarnations took, becoming darker, grittier and a hell of a lot more intense!
This fantastic collection of the 80’s masterpiece contains the full 4 issue mini-series for the first time in black and white. This stunning tour de force of a Batman story is even more brooding and bleak in this form, accentuating Batman’s feeling of guilt over his forced abandonment of Gotham, and his eventual return as its most famed guardian.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns will be available from June 16, in hardcover format weighing in at 208 pages. It could not come more highly recommended, it’s not only one of the greatest Batman stories ever told, but one of the most exceptional Superhero stories ever put to paper, standing effortlessly alongside other sublime comic tales such as Watchmen and V For Vendetta.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 Brooding Bats Out Of 5.
Greek general Themistocles rallies his meagre Athenian forces to stem the tide of the encroaching Persian army, led by God-King Xerxes and the vengeful Artemisia, commander of the Persian navy.
Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell. Director: Noam Murro. Writers: Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Frank Miller (Graphic Novel “Xerxes”)
300: Rise Of An Empire, the sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2006 film “300” is an interesting beast, the events in this notable follow up take place before, during and after the events of the original film. In fact the storyline is so dramatically and cleverly interwoven, that it almost feels like it’s a chapter of the original film that was removed for time constraints. What helps propel this image is its amazing visual presence that mirrors its forebear in both, gloriously vivid comic-book inspired violence and overtly stylised graphic continuity, and also echoes masterfully, writer/artist Frank Miller’s original graphic novel “Xerxes”.
The film opens at the legendary Battle of Marathon, which in continuity of the film franchise takes place ten years before the events of the original film. This battle is the catalyst of the upcoming war between the varying Greek city-states and the combined forces of the Persian army, with the heavily outnumbered Athenian shock troops taking the fight directly to the newly disembarked Persian soldiers, catching them off guard and securing an early victory for the Greeks.
During this engagement, Greek hero Themistocles, looses an arrow that will not only set the stage for Prince Xerxes transformation into the tyrannical God-King, but also his eventual march to gain ascendancy over the varying city-states of Greece.
This opening battle sequence sets the precedence and tone for the rest of the film, but where Rise differs from its forebear is in its use of epic naval battles. With the heavily outnumbered but highly skilled and ingenious Athenian fleet, led by General Themistocles, meeting head on, the massive and overwhelming Persian armada controlled by the beautiful but malefic Artemisia, played wonderfully by actress Eva Green. Stunning and deadly, Artemisia takes centre stage as the protagonist of the film, and also the real power behind the throne held by Xerxes.
Themistocles is portrayed by Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton, and though he ultimately is not as memorable as Gerard Butler’s outstanding role as Leonidas in the original film, he still puts in an impassioned and engaging turn as the celebrated Athenian hero. Returning cast members include, Lena Headey, as Leonidas’ grieving widow Queen Gorgo, David Wenham as Spartan elite Dilios, and of course Rodrigo Santoro reprising his spectacular performance as the imposing God-King Xerxes.
Also returning to the franchise is original 300 director Zack Snyder, who shares credit with Kurt Johnstad for both the original screenplay, and as lead producer. Plus writer/artist, Frank Miller returns as executive producer and advisor.
Jam packed with amazing visuals, kinetic action sequences and ridiculously over the top, blood and gore, Rise of an Empire may not quite match its big brother in originality or acting splendour, what it does though is provide the viewer with a fantastically well produced sequel that is in equal measures, engaging, violent and epic in scale.
Special mention must go to the fantastic end credits, that mix the striking visual style of Frank Miller’s original graphic novel and a rousing end piece that is an almost perfect fusion of Black Sabbath’s War-Pig, and the films own main theme tune.
Though not critically lauded, the film has a strong and fervent fan base (myself included) that are vocal in their defence of the underrated movie. Its initial opening weekend was successful, with the film regaining almost half of its original budget, and has gone on to surpass this via dvd and blue-ray sales. If you’re a fan of the original 300 but have been hesitant in watching this for fear of it being a poor sequel, dive on in, the film is highly recommended. Sublime visuals, good acting and hyper stylised, gloriously bloody battle sequences make for a fun popcorn movie that is infinitely rewatchable.
Precinct1313 Rating: 4 Hoplite Soldiers Out Of 5
That’s right Bat-fans, Frank Miller, the celebrated writer and artist of the 80’s classic Dark Knight Returns, is himself returning, to the franchise that made him a legendary name in the comic book world. Frank Miller’s epic 80’s mini-series changed the way the world now perceives Batman, Miller’s Batman is the dark and broody character we have now, a Dark Knight as opposed to the 70’s and early 80’s Caped Crusader.
The original Dark Knight Returns is one of the most celebrated comic book stories of all time, sitting comfortably alongside other luminary greats like Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Its 2001 sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, isn’t as highly regarded but is still a fun ride, just nowhere near the revolutionary brilliance of the original. Dark Knight 3: The Master Race will be released in Autumn this year, marking the original series’ 30th anniversary.
New comics Wednesday is here again fellow comic fans, and with it comes another celebration of the Caped Crusader’s 75th anniversary with a re-release of issue #1 of the greatest Batman story ever written: The Dark Knight Returns. Originally released in 1986 as a four issue mini series, written and drawn by comic-book maestro – Frank Miller, the Dark Knight takes place years after Bruce Wayne has retired from his role as the Batman. As the years have progressed without Batman’s intervention Gotham has become even more of a cesspit of crime and corruption.
When former District Attorney Harvey Dent returns back to his life of crime and madness as Two Face, Bruce Wayne unable to contain the demons raging inside him, dons the cape and cowl once more, but after so many years of retirement and the fact that he isn’t a young man anymore…can even the Dark Knight bring justice back to the streets of Gotham?
This story is my personal favourite Batman tale of all time, Millers book is dark, gritty and at times just downright crazy! This was the story that paved the way for the character the Batman is today, a much darker and edgier character than he was portrayed previously. This also showcases the final confrontation between Batman and his nemesis the Joker, and the conclusion is absolutely unmissable to all fans…Highly recommended.