Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

By  Phil Perich for Before the Bat: The Gotham Podcast

’m sure all you real Batman fans saw the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice teaser trailer recently.  You may be saying “Why are Batman and Superman fighting?”  or “Why is Batman (or Batfleck) wearing that armor?”  Many of us recognize that at least some inspiration for this movie must come from the 1986 Frank Miller story Batman the Dark Knight Returns.   

The 4 issue miniseries was set in a possible future (In the pre-New 52 continuity, this story was set on Earth 31).  The story begins with a now 55 year old Bruce Wayne, now retired from crime fighting for 10 years.  While Bruce thinks he is over being Batman, he still seeks danger in his life, such as racing cars and other dangerous hobbies.  Eventually Bruce almost becomes Batman again against his will, like Batman was inside him struggling to get out.  One of the returned Batman’s first acts is to save 13 year old Carrie Kelly from a street gang called the Mutants.  This act inspires Carrie to make a version of the Robin costume and go out on the streets to help.  Eventually she becomes the Batman’s new partner.   

Batman’s mission seems more overwhelming then usual until he brutally defeats the Mutant’s leader.  The gang disbands but several members reform a new group called the Sons of Batman who go after criminals using excessive violence.  When Batman was retired, The Joker stayed in Arkham Asylum, with almost no will to live without his world (Batman).  With Batman’s return, the Joker is reenergized and goes on a live talk show, killing the whole studio audience with a poison gas attack.  Batman eventually tracks him down and brutally beats him.  Wanting to frame Batman for murder, the Joker snaps his own neck.

While most of the world’s superheroes in the world are retired, Superman is revealed to be working for the United States government, receiving orders directly from (then) president Ronald Regan.  Superman attempts to stop a Russian nuclear missile, which detonates and causes an electromagnetic pulse that causes a nation-wide blackout.  While the rest of the country is in complete chaos, Batman, Robin, and the Sons of Batman maintain order in Gotham, making it the safest city in America.  The US government sees this as a slap in the face to them, and Superman is ordered to bring Batman in.  Superman tries to reason with Batman and fails, which escalates into a hand to hand battle, thanks to Baman’s armor (like in the movie trailer) and a kryptonite arrow fired by a one armed Oliver Queen.

During the fight Batman seemingly   has a heart attack and dies.  Alfred dies of a stroke as he destroys the Batcave.  At Bruce Wayne’s funeral, Clark Kent gives a wink to Carrie Kelly to show that he knows Bruce faked his own death.  Clark is willing to keep quiet, so long as the government thinks his old friend is dead.  The story ends with a scene of Bruce Wayne underground somewhere with Carrie, Oliver, and the Sons of Batman planning to raise an army to save the world.  The story was Frank MIller’s views on politcs and world events.  What pieces of this story do you think will make it into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Let me know: or or

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Until next time be good, remember Justice never dies!