Thursday, May 28, 2015


Stick is Daredevil's mentor. Like Daredevil, he's blind. His eponymous walking stick doubles as his weapon of choice. His teaching style? Let's just say he's not exactly the go-easy-on-the kid type.

Frank Miller cut his teeth on Daredevil, and invented the mysterious Stick back in 1981. The panels shown here are from Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, a sort of "year one" for Daredevil which appeared in 1993. You can still hear some notes from The Dark Knight Returns, if you listen closely.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Batman V. Superman - Dawn of Justice Teaser Trailer

The teaser trailer for the Batman V. Superman movie has been leaked released and is the topic of current discussion. My analysis follows... if you're worried about spoiler speculation, please read no further.

Frank Miller is a creative partner in this movie, and his influence is palpable. Batman V. Superman will include many thematic elements of The Dark Knight Returns, but will not tell the same story. This will instead be like an Elseworlds version of The Dark Knight Returns.

- Instead of Batman, it will be Superman who is a controversial figure and subject of public debate
- Instead of Batman being on the defensive, Superman will be
- Batman and Superman will likely fight the first time they meet, and for the rest of the movie

Overall, the trailer hits all the right marks, with a darkness and intensity that actually feels like The Dark Knight Returns, updated slightly for the 21st century moviegoing audience. I have high hopes, based on this trailer, that the movie will do for a much larger audience what The Dark Knight Returns has already done for many of us. And for those of us who love The Dark Knight Returns, it will tell that story in a new and refreshing way.

     A few minor observations:

- "This is how it starts - the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness, that turns good men cruel." This mysterious quote (in an English accent) is voiceover for scenes showing Bruce Wayne staring at the Batsuit. Oddly, though, the reference is more suitable for Superman, who can be rendered feverish and powerless with green kryptonite. Red kryptonite could also be used to turn Superman 'cruel'.

- In true Dark Knight Returns style, the opening voiceovers are a series of 'debate points', including one that sounds a lot like Neil deGrasse Tyson. "We're talking about an alien whose very existence challenges our own sense of priority in the universe." Yep... that's Neil.

- The title of the movie is Dawn of Justice, a clear reference to the Justice League. This suggests an ending in which Batman and Superman resolve their differences and team up to found the Justice League. The major theme of the movie appears to be the question of how society should deal with superhumans. This may result in formation of the Justice League as a superhuman police force, similar to its re-formation in Kingdom Come.

- Wonder Woman will be in the movie as well, although we do not see her in the trailer. One possibility is that she will play a role similar to Green Arrow in The Dark Knight Returns. Batman may need her help to bring down Superman.

- Batman's heavy-duty armored Batsuit isn't directly plugged into a lamp post, but we do see one in the background.
Do you bleed?

- The 'fake death' thing has been done recently in The Dark Knight Rises, so it probably won't be Batman who disappears at the end of this one. However, we don't know how the new Justice League will operate. It's not inconceivable that Clark might decide to go underground, or simply work for the government as a secret agent as he does throughout The Dark Knight Returns.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birth of the Demon

Ra's al Ghul - Head of the Demon - has always been a complex character. In Batman: Birth of the Demon, Denny O'Neil and Norm Breyfogle trace the origins of Ra's al Ghul. It's a complex psychoanalysis of a villain with whom Batman has much in common, and a cautionary tale about the darkness in each and every one of us.
Ra's starts off as a well-intentioned physician-scientist in Arabia in the middle ages. He is an ambitious and intelligent young scholar who dreams of curing the ultimate disease.
Ras hypothesizes that earthly energies can be concentrated to bring the dead back to life. He has the opportunity to test his theories on a patient, and is soon celebrating his first scientific success.

But success comes with a price. The patient, driven mad from the pit, kills Ra's' young wife, an act which catapults Ra's on a spree of revenge, madness, and murder.
The story unfolds as part of a conversation between Batman and Ra's' daughter Talia, who sees Batman as a possible successor. Sand and fire dance and swirl as these two spar orally over the moral differences between Bruce Wayne and Ra's al Ghul.
As Talia looks on, the tale concludes with a raw and brutal duel-to-the-death between a weakened Batman and the Demon, who he has been tracking for years.

I'll leave it to the reader to learn exactly how this one ends. Birth of the Demon is filled with beautiful paintings by Norm Breyfogle (get better soon, Norm!), which are best viewed in print. Like Dream and Hob Gadling in Sandman, the story raises questions about the possible price of immortality. It's a sober, carefully paced, historical Batman tale, which will stay with you long after you turn the beautiful last page.