Frank Miller's New Batman and the Grotesque
By Geoff Klock
Along with Alan Moore, Frank Miller is the most important comic book creator in the last quarter century. In 1986, he wrote and drew Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which revolutionized the comic book industry–it created a radical and definitive version of Batman for the new adult demographic and proved once and for all that superhero comic books, though originally created for children, could tell stories rich and complex enough to rival any novel. Frank Miller followed his success soon after with Batman: Year One, illustrated by Dave Mazzucchelli–a book that was similarly mature, and tightly plotted and drawn. These works created a new canonical center for Batman, around which Batman history organized itself. Pre-Miller or post-Miller, every story for the character before and after lived in the shadow of Miller’s bat.
Nearly twenty years later, Miller returned to writing Batman stories and chose to write sequels to his earlier projects: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was followed by The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002), like its predecessor written and drawn by Miller. Batman: Year One was followed by All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (2006), like its predecessor illustrated by another artist, here Jim Lee. Neither of Miller’s ’80s Batman projects cried out for a sequel, however–Dark Knight Returns imagined what a “last” Batman story would look like, and Year One, a retelling and expansion of Batman’s origin story, ended with an allusion to the first appearance of Batman’s major nemesis, the Joker, a story …