TOKYO CIGAR THOUGHTS: Frank Miller ( Batman “The Dark knight returns” and Daredevil “Born Again” )
The point of no return. Once past, nothing can fit the image/idea/sense of what it used to be any longer. At this point that I read this book. Batman was represented by Adam West, zany plotlines and BAM, POW and BANG!!! flashing on the on the screen during the fight scenes. Before that, It was the Super friends adventures and stuff like that. Batman was a “Good guy” in every sense of the word. I had seen the Tim Burton take on batman before but even the darkness there wasn’t enough to erase the image in my mind of who Batman was. When I turned 11 years old and I came across a copy of this in the local Giant store, I bought and read it. That was the moment I first experienced what a mind fuck was. Nah Nobody had even explained the concept to me at that point I just knew that something in my mind had been altered by this book, never to return to it’s original shape.
Frank Miller ( God bless him ) had deconstructed the Batman mythology so intensely in this book that over 20 years after it’s inception it still informs much of the versions of Batman seen today. ( Including the aforementioned Tim Burton movie ) This was the book that turned Batman into the grim, brooding hero he is today. Matter fact I would say that the wave of grimy superheroes from “Spawn” to the new volumes of “X force” owe their dark overtones to this book. Batman as a character has always been as crazy as the people he hunts. ( Picture CNN running a story about a real life millionaire that dresses up as a giant bat to beat up thugs. Seriously, picture what you would think of such a man if he was flesh and blood like you and me ) This book really showed how tragic, dark and ( most of all ) INSANE he really was. It also crowned the Joker as the Yin to Batman’s Yang. A relationship that showed that despite their Polar opposition of each other they were linked as one.
The artwork is stunning and the cinematic aspects of the drawings make you believe that you are watching a movie that you were not supposed to watch as a kid. The violence and sexual innuendos were intense but not gratuitous. Anything lighter would have lessened the impact of the book. But like I said it is INTENSE. Children get killed, eyes get stabbed, suicide and battered women all pop up in the story.
The plot itself is simple. Batman has a midlife crisis and after 10 years of retirement comes to show a new generation of scum that certain things don’t change. Simple right. Now add in the craziness of Batman’s world and what this turns into is a masterpiece of emotions. He faces off against Two Face, The Joker, The Mutants ( Gotham City’s newest generation of degenerates ) and crazily enough Superman. His gritty disposition is enhanced by the fact he is a much older man. Cranky, irritable but still a viciously skilled fighter and peerless strategist. Alfred is present but Robin is re imagined as a girl named Carrie. Which gives the story a cool twist. It doesn’t take away or enhance the plot as Robin has always been a sidekick but it’s just kinda cool that Frank took that turn.
I cant recommend this book enough. A must read for Batman fans. The line that a cop in the story says to his younger partner when Batman is about to be seen in full costume by the reader for the first time sums it all up “were in for a show kid”
I had a conversation earlier with my boy Danimal ( whut up Playboy ) about the DVD series that DC comics have been releasing. At the end of the convo I stated how despite my tremendous respect for DC comics ( Batman is that DUDE ) , I’m always gonna be a Marvel. I wrote about Frank Miller in my last post for his work on “The dark Knight returns” ( shame on you if you haven’t experienced it yet ) because that is, simply put, the greatest graphic novel of all time to me……..even though I’m still a Marvel. My second favorite is another Frank Miller masterpiece. One he did for the house that Stan Lee built.
Daredevil was never a favorite of mine growing up. The stories just seemed too adult to my still developing young mind. If you told me my second favorite graphic novel would be a Daredevil story when I was a kid I would have looked at you like you were stupid ( I probably would have looked at you that way even if you told me something else, I was a real asshole as a kid ) TDKR had already introduced me to the concept of comics being more than just kid stuff, but Daredevil still didn’t grab me. I owned like one Daredevil comic growing up and I didn’t bother to catch the movie in theaters. About a year and a half ago I was online reading up on Frank Millers work to see what I hadn’t read yet and people kept on bringing up “Born Again” So I grabbed a copy and sat back. As I read it I caught the exact same feeling I had when I heard “Method man” for the first time. Which was “What the FUCK?!? This is incredible”
Maturity is a cool thing because it brings a whole new level of appreciation for certain things you just wouldn’t give too much of a fuck about as a kid. Daredevil seems to have always been intended for more older readers ( the character spends as much time working as a lawyer as he does kicking ass ) but when you mature and read it, it makes you feel like a kid again. The plot for “Born Again” revolves around Daredevil ( Matt Murdock ) being sold out by his ex girl Karen Page. Karen is a drug addicted, adult film star who sells Matt’s identity to a drug dealer for a fix. The info gets back to New York City’s top crime lord The Kingpin who has had beef with Daredevil for a long time. The villain discovering the hero’s identity thing has been done before but it usually turns into the villain fighting the hero at home rather than on the streets. What hit me about this is HOW the Kingpin attacks Murdock. He gets him disbarred, cleans out his bank accounts, strategically drives him mad from paranoia, turns him against his closet friends, THEN blows up his apartment. I’ve seen Superman get beaten to death by Doomsday, I’ve seen the Joker viciously murder Robin and his mother, hell, I’ve seen Magneto rip the skeleton out of Wolverine. None of them compared to what Kingpin put Daredevil through. Reading the story, I was like “DAMN!!!”
The art by David Mazzucchelli is very well done. Serving the story perfectly. I don’t find the artwork as mind blowing as works by Todd McFarlane, Norm Breyfogle or the almighty Jim Lee but it compliments the story better than I think even their fantastic talent could. The same way that the sound of “36 chambers” was nowhere near as polished as “The Chronic” but it was the PERFECT medium for the WU to do their thing on.
The magic in this is in the writing. Frank Miller outdid himself with the dialogue, both internal and between characters. If there ever was a comic that played out like a compelling movie, this is it. In one scene a man is murdered while a reporter listen’s in over the phone and the way the scene is set up and written is THE most nerve wracking moment in my comic reading history. The story is so good that I didn’t even notice that Daredevil was barely in costume for the entire duration. This is not a traditional superhero story. Rather than being amazed at feats of superhuman strength the most amazing thing in this is the triumph of the human spirit in the face of crushing adversity.
I recommend this book to anyone going through a hard time in life as it will make you wanna face your tormentor head on a punch him dead in the teeth, even if you don’t have a costume for fighting crime.