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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

Influential Graphic Novel by writer-artist Frank Miller, starring an aged, cynical and disillusioned Batman, who begrudgingly returns from a ten-year retirement amidst a Near-Future Dystopia that has overrun his beloved Gotham City with gang violence. Published in four volumes in 1986 by DC Comics and collected in one volume later that year, the dark and satirical tale was credited (along with Watchmen, scripted by Alan Moore) with inspiring a period of "grim and gritty" stories in the Comic-book field.

In an America where all superheroes have been forced to retire by the government – notable exceptions being Superman, who continues to work unquestioningly for the authorities, and the now one-armed Green Arrow, who has become an underground leftist terrorist – Batman returns to fight the gang known as the Mutants; train a new, female Robin; and finally vanquish his old foes Two-Face and the Joker. With his body old and weakened (but not informidable), Batman updates his arsenal, replacing the Batmobile with a tank and military helicopter. After defeating the leader of the Mutants, Batman inspires the people of Gotham, converts former gang members to his cause, and restores safety to the city, all of which results in the government labelling him a criminal and murderer. Superman is sent to stop his old friend, and Batman humiliates him in battle before apparently dying of a heart attack. But his death was just a ruse, and, after his "funeral", Batman enlists the remnants the city's gangs to join him in a new crime-fighting strategy headquartered in the extensive caves under a now-destroyed Wayne Manor.

The graphic novel was nominated for a Hugo in 1987 in the inappropriate Best Nonfiction Book category. It won the Jack Kirby Award (see Jack Kirby) for Best Graphic Album in 1987. [JP]

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