Batman (The Dark Knight Returns)
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Cover of All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy
Wonder #1 (Oct. 2005). Art by Jim Lee
|Publisher||DC Comics (All-Star imprint)|
|First appearance||The Dark Knight Returns #1|
|Created by||Frank Miller (concept)|
(Based on the original character, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
|Alter ego||Bruce Wayne|
|Team affiliations||Batman Family|
Justice League of America
Gotham City Police Department
Batman (Bruce Wayne) is a fictional superhero and an alternative version of the DC Comics character of the same name. This version of Batman was created by Frank Miller and first appeared in The Dark Knight Returns #1 (February 1986). He is regarded as an older, darker interpretation of the character who, after years of retirement, resumes his role as a vigilante and, eventually, a revolutionary freedom fighter.
In his introduction to The Dark Knight Returns #1, Frank Miller says that he got the idea for the character while going through a midlife crisis, while on the verge of turning 30. He later said that while he could tolerate the fact that his little brother was older than Spider-Man, the fact that he himself was getting older than Batman "was something that needed to be stopped."
Although All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is printed under the All Star DC Comics imprint, it takes place in its own continuity outside of Grant Morrison's All Star Superman canon. According to Miller, All Star Batman is the same version of his character set in the continuity of The Dark Knight Returns (DKR), Year One (YO), The Dark Knight Strikes Again (DKSA), and The Dark Knight III: The Master Race and Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade. The series has an abstract depiction of its historical setting, as the satirical nature of the books often requires the aesthetic setting to shift with modern times with each new title; The Dark Knight Returns retained its 1980s themes due to its commentary on Reagan-era politics, while the sequel more closely resembled G. W. Bush-era America and All Star Batman and The Master Race both resemble the nature of the contemporary "digital age". Out of all of the stories, Year One was the only one that also existed in the core DC continuity, until it was replaced by Batman: Zero Year.
At the end of the maxiseries 52, it is revealed that a new DC Multiverse of 52 different Earths now exists. The Dark Knight Universe (DKU) was formerly designated as "Earth-31", but it is not included amongst the current New 52 DC Multiverse and another alternate Earth has taken its place. It is unclear whether the Dark Knight Universe still occurs within the canonical New 52 DC multiverse, although the profiles of seven DC alternate Earths are still currently unknown according to the Multiversity handbook.
This version of Batman's character has varied throughout the course of his publication history. In Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, he is basically still the brooding, bitter vigilante from the mainstream comics, while in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, he has evolved into something of an antihero. In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, his actions could at least be justified since he is fighting a high-stakes war against Lex Luthor and Brainiac's police-state regime, in which attempting to preserve life could be seen as a weakness. In All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, however, he appears to brutalize criminals for the fun of it, and even goes as far as to berate and abuse the young Dick Grayson after kidnapping him after his parents died (though in this case, interior monologues show that he is in conflict with himself for these actions). At the end of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, after Luthor and Brainiac have been defeated and the world now in the safe hands of Superman, Batman encounters Dick as the new "Joker" and kills him rather than try to rehabilitate him.
Fictional character biography
Much like the mainstream New Earth/Post-Crisis Batman, Miller's Batman begins his journey after his parents are murdered by Joe Chill. (However, in Dark Knight Returns, it is hinted that he never found out who murdered his parents.) He travels the world in search of a means to fight crime, which include various forms of martial arts and forensic skills. After returning to Gotham City in his early twenties, Bruce takes up the mantle of the Batman. In his first few months, he exposes police corruption in the Gotham City Police Department, unsettles the empire of crime lord Carmine Falcone, and gains an ally in Lieutenant James Gordon. At some unspecified point, shortly after the events of Year One, he stops The Joker from poisoning Gotham's water supply. Also around this time, he uses the Gotham sewers as his first Batcave to prove to himself that he doesn't need his wealth, and learns Catwoman's identity.
In the second year of his career, Batman takes on a protégé in young acrobat Dick Grayson, whose parents are killed by a hitman upon The Joker's orders. Batman accepts Dick into his inner circle, and he debuts as Robin. It is during this time that he meets Justice League of America (JLA) members Superman and Hal Jordan, to whom he shows complete disrespect. During this time, Bruce Wayne grows to love being Batman and constantly refers to himself as the Goddamn Batman. His own inexperience makes him reckless and ruthless towards criminals, however, and he treats Dick with nothing short of abuse and contempt, forcing him to live uncomfortably in the Batcave and chastising Alfred Pennyworth for showing him kindness.
Fifteen years prior to the events of DKR, Batman fires Dick (the reason is unknown, though Batman states it was for "cowardice and incompetence") and replaces him with Jason Todd. Some time later, Bruce is involved in riots, during which he modifies the Batmobile to its tank-like structure. Batman later becomes a member of the JLA and seems to develops a strong friendship with Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), similar to his friendship with Superman in the Mainstream DC Universe, twelve years before DKR.
Batman apprehends Two-Face one last time before his retirement. Two-Face's last crime is the kidnapping of Siamese twins, and the JLA is pressured into disbanding by political correctness groups. While most members of the JLA retire, Superman goes to work for the government, and Batman continues to fight crime in Gotham. Batman's best friend in the superhero community, Hal Jordan, retires to space, though Batman begs him to stay.
Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane becomes Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled, due to the wave of political correctness. Batman and Robin investigate a strange blackmail case involving Poison Ivy, during which Bruce becomes injured and Jason becomes increasingly violent and unpredictable. The Joker escapes Arkham soon after. Jason, upset that Batman is not pursuing the Joker after he escaped, goes to where the Joker is staying and tries to break in. He is killed by the Joker's henchmen, who were waiting outside the door before he entered. Ten years before DKR, Batman retires over the burden of Jason's death. According to Superman, the other superheroes "almost threw a party." The Joker enters a catatonic state for about ten years due to Batman's disappearance.
Seven years before DKR, Bruce crosses paths with Dick again, but it ends badly and they part ways on bad terms. Over the next decade, Bruce takes to drinking heavily and engaging in near-suicidal risk-taking. Despite maintaining his image as a playboy, he invests a considerable amount in the rehabilitation of Harvey Dent, the former Two-Face. Following an "anniversary" of Batman's last crusade with Jim Gordon, a 55-year-old Bruce is almost mugged by a group of street hoods. He defends himself, realizing that he cannot ignore the rising wave of crime.
A new teenage gang called "The Mutants" begins to terrorize the police and citizens of Gotham. Bruce begins suffering night terrors and sleepwalking which ends in his waking in the Batcave. After watching The Mark of Zorro and reliving the murders of his parents (who had taken him to see the film on the night they were killed), he dons the cape and cowl once more. He manages to save Gotham from Two-Face and the Mutant gang, and takes on a new sidekick — Carrie Kelley, the new Robin. When the Joker reappears and kills hundreds of people, Batman fights him one last time, but the Joker kills himself and Batman is framed for his murder. Superman is sent by the government to stop Batman's increasingly violent style of vigilantism. Batman confronts the Man of Steel with a variety of weapons, including several missiles and a sonic gun. Batman fights Superman to what appears to be his own death, but not before beating Superman. It is later revealed that he was induced to catatonia but revived to lead an underground subversive movement alongside Carrie, Green Arrow and the Mutants (renamed as the Sons of Batman).
In the years after going underground, Bruce Wayne and Carrie (now known as Catgirl) train an army of "Batboys" to save the world from a "police-state" dictatorship led by Lex Luthor. In a series of raids on government facilities, Batman's soldiers release from captivity other superheroes including: the Atom (trapped for years in a petri dish), Flash (forced to run on a treadmill to provide America with free power), and Plastic Man (now insane and trapped in Arkham Asylum). Elongated Man is recruited from his job as a commercial spokesman and Green Arrow is working with Batman. Luthor responds by sending a genetically-superpowered man who resembles the Joker to kill as many superheroes as possible. Batman, with help from his allies, manages to take Luthor down, and Luthor is killed by the son of Hawkman, who had been killed earlier on by Luthor.
As he returns home, Batman receives a communication from Carrie, who is being attacked by the new Joker. Batman rushes to her aid and recognises the man as Dick, who has been genetically manipulated to possess a powerful healing factor, but has been driven insane. Batman shows nothing but contempt for his former sidekick and plans his death the moment they face each other. Batman hurls himself and Dick into a miles-deep crevasse filled with lava and blows up the entire cave, igniting an underground volcano and destroying everything. Dick falls into the lava and is killed, but Batman is saved by Superman at the last moment and brought to Carrie in the Batmobile.
- The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
- Batman: Year One (1987)
- Spawn/Batman (1994)
- The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001-02)
- All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder (2005-08)
- The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015-17)
- The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade (2016)
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1, February 1986
- Frank Miller (II) - Biography
- Geoff Johns on All Star Batgirl Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Comics in Context #119: All Star Bats on IGN
- Batman: Year One
- All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
- The Dark Knight Returns
- The Dark Knight Strikes Again