Comics Features

6 of The Dark Knight Returns’ Most Iconic Moments

Written by Kevin Harkins

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. This seminal work by Frank Miller and Klaus Johnson reimagined Batman and his world into the dark and gritty world we now know today and relate to the character. Not only did it change Batman it ushered in a new era of dark and adult comics that dealt with more mature and political themes. Director Zack Snyder also took inspiration from the Graphic Novel for this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice while Christopher Nolan took inspiration from it for The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight Returns is one of the greatest graphic novels of all time and we are still feeling the effects of its release to this day. Here are some of the most iconic moments from one of the best Batman stories and greatest graphic novels of all time.

6. Batman Returns

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When the novel starts Batman has been retired for ten years and he is looking for a good death while a lot of people in Gotham think he is a myth. With crime in Gotham worse than ever however the fire inside Bruce awakens and causes him to return to protect his city. This leads to an amazing montage as Batman races across Gotham stopping crime as news reporters start to report the startling news that Batman could have returned back. 

It concludes with the iconic moment where a veteran cop sees Batman during a chase and slows down telling his rookie partner that he is in for a show and we get a great one page splash of Batman, our first real look at him, gliding through the city and talking about how alive he feels in spite of the pain he feels that comes with advanced age.

5. A New Robin

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One of the main threats Batman has to face is a group of violent young men and kids called the mutants. Batman raids them using his Batmobile that is now a big tank. Eventually the leader challenges Batman to a personal fight and while he knows he shouldn’t Batman decides to take him on and see if he can take him. Quickly the leader gets the upper hand on him and it looks like Batman is done for. Luckily he is saved by Carrie Kelly, a 13-year-old girl who has been inspired by his actions. It is a great moment that shows why Batman needs Robin as she also drags him to the Batmobile and helps patch up his wounds. The reader is introduced to a new Robin who works her way into reader’s hearts despite the little time we spend with her.

4. Batman triumphant

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Learning his lesson Batman decides to challenge the Mutant Leader to a rematch, but now realizes he has to fight smart since the Mutant Leader is stronger and faster than him. He gets Gordon’s help to get the Leader to a mud pit and begins to take him apart surgically blinding him and numbing his arm to keep him from using it. Finally he wrestles him down and takes him apart. It ends with a great panel of a triumphant Batman over the Leader in the mud pit looking at the gang and then a quick small panel of a mutant now with a Batman symbol painted on his face giving his loyalty to the Dark Knight. This moment shows what makes Batman such a great fighter as he can use his brain to prepare and outmaneuver whoever he fights.

3. Joker Gets The Last Laugh

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At the start of the novel the Joker is in a catatonic state, but once he sees Batman on the news he comes out of it. Joker is brought back by the love of his nemesis and escapes from the institute he is at and goes on a killing spree.  Batman decides enough is enough and he is going to kill Joker to stop him from killing others. In the end though he can’t do it and instead paralyzes the clown. While Joker mentions he is disappointed that Batman couldn’t do it he gets delight out of the fact people will think Batman is a killer and kill him and with that finishes twisting his spine to kill himself, laughing as he does. 

This is a great punctuation to the end of the relationship between the rivals. The whole subplot in the novel is about Joker’s love for Batman and how much he needs him so the fact that he dies knowing he has gotten Batman to at least almost get to the point of killing and that now he will be hunted down and killed is enough to allow him to die happy and know that in a way he got the better of Batman in the end.

2. Caught in a Nuclear Explosion

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Superman’s role in the graphic novel is an interesting one. Where most of the superheroes have gone into hiding by the time the novel starts but Superman still works for the government although he has to do it in secret he lives with it since he gets to still save people. Of course Miller makes it obvious that he is anti-Regan and he depicts Superman as nothing more than a tool for a government that has no idea what it is doing. 

At one point a conflict with the Soviet Union escalates to the point the Russia launches a nuclear missile and Superman has to lift it into the atmosphere where it explodes. It leaves to an amazing visual of Superman in a red sky with lightning and being so weakened by it he looks like a skeleton with skin. We are so used to seeing Superman as a symbol of strength that to see him so weak and vulnerable is a shocking moment and a reminder that for all his power he is not a god and can fall.

1. I Want You to Remember

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The novel climaxes with Batman taking on Superman in a street fight. It is the most iconic of all the fights between the two characters, and Snyder drew major inspiration here for the film giving Ben Affleck‘s Batman the same armour that Miller’s Batman wears in this scene from the comic. Batman, with some help from Green Arrow, is able to use his gadgets and smarts to get the better of the Man of Steel and gets his hand around Superman’s throat thinking how he wants Clark to remember that there was one man who was able to beat him.  This is the moment that for many Batman fans crystallises why Batman will always win in a fight. 

Even going against the most powerful being in the world he finds a way to defeat that being and humble him.  When Batman v Superman was coming out people at my work would wonder how Batman could even take on Superman in a fight. I would always tell them about this moment to show that even without any superpowers, Batman is more than capable of taking on Superman in a fight.

The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most important and beloved graphic novels of all time. These moments and more are a big reason for this as well as the political and social commentary that can be found throughout its story. It has affected comics for the last 30 years and will continue to affect them well into the future. Here’s to the next 30 years.

What do you think of our list?  Is there any moments we are missing? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Kevin Harkins