October 15, 2007
Sitting in my apartment watching the Daily Show the other day, I noticed that a comic book was lying underneath some discarded miniature candy wrappers (my flat mates and me love the Halloween season) and a Wii remote. Upon further examination, the comic book turned out to be, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by acclaimed writer Frank Miller. The same Frank Miller that created such vivid realities and recent movie hits such as Sin City and 300.
Skeptical, I berated my roommate for buying a comic and being a geek. Laughing he responded that I should shut up and check it out as he judged it to be so intense and well done that it made him sweat while reading it. Intrigued, I decided to read it, even though I hadn’t picked up a comic since I was 10 years-old or so. So one afternoon in between classes I found that I had the apartment all to myself, a perfect time to nerd it out and read a comic book. Settling down in to a couch and munching on a sandwich I had made (toasted tuna with lettuce) I began to read a story.
Batman as we all know fights crime, always has and always will. However in Frank Millers rendition Batman has retired, 10 years have past since his disappearance and we are met with a gray haired and mustached man walking with a cane by the name of Bruce Wayne. Wayne, Batman’s alter-ego is bitter and indifferent to those suffering since his absence, stating that he had done his part and the world will continue as it always will. However, things are getting worse, a new mob of amoral delinquents ravage the city and kill simply for the joy of it. They eventually even attack Wayne, to the effect of awaking the old demons that drove Batman’s insatiable lust for justice and vengeance upon the criminal world. Needless to say, Wayne walks away from the encounter unscathed but not uninjured. Batman begs to be released again, even if it means the death of the old man that contains it.
The tale is an old one, one of an old dog getting a second chance to compete and possibly die in the glory of his profession and youth. Miller’s gritty illustration’s, biting wit and character development bring the story to life with sweating intensity. The comic plays out like a surreal film noir, we know these characters but never could imagined this reality. This is Miller’s gift and it translates surprisingly well to the average consumer.
After spending an afternoon and part of an evening reading Millers work, I now understand how people over the age of 10 can still enjoy comic books or why manga is growing in popularity. It’s the story that counts and sometimes illustrations are not only nice but necessary in order to tell it.
I don’t see myself becoming a “comic book nerd” anytime soon but I may have to check out the local shop every once in awhile and see what I’ve been missing for the past 10 years. At the very least, I’ll check out what else Miller‘s been up to in the cel-shaded world