Comics are not just for kids! The age of the Graphic Novel began with this comic, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1.
1985 was an important year for comics. I had just started college and was re-introduced to comics. One week at the local comic book store close to my college, a unique new comic came out called The Dark Knight Returns #1 from DC Comics. This comic was different for a number of reasons. One, the comic itself was square bound as opposed to the regular staple comics of the day, and also was printed on very nice glossy paper. In addition, the coloring on the book was incredible. It wasn’t the regular four color newsprint dot printing process, this comic had incredible subtle gradients and the colors were so vivid like an airbrush painting. The cover itself was printed on stiff cardboard stock. Of course, this comic package didn’t come cheap, and the cover price was $2.95 compared to the then regular monthly comics being 75 cents. The price of comic was well worth it! The term Graphic Novel was introduced to describe this book. Not a comic book, a novel done with sequential pictures, a Graphic Novel. This groundbreaking comic changed the face of comic books forever!
I started reading the comic, and was immediately hooked by the story and artwork by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson with colors by Lynn Varley. This was not your typical kiddie comic book. The story had mature adult themes. The story takes place in the future, where crime has run rampant in Gotham City, and it has been ten years since the last Batman sighting. A large gang of thug punks called Mutants are causing chaos around the city. A much older Bruce Wayne, in his fifties, still tormented by nightmares of his parents murders, is drawn out of retirement by the violent rising crimes of the Mutants gang and a recently escaped Harvey Dent/Two-Face!
Writer/Artist Frank Miller makes use of a lot of small panels with television sets and talking heads, that packs a lot of commentary and story. This conveys a very distinct novel way of telling a brand new kind of Batman story, one that we have never seen before. Adults noticed, and could read a Batman story without being embarrassed that it was a kiddie book. It helped make comic books legitimate, and adults that loved comics as children rediscovered whole new comics on a whole new level.
This comic ushered in the dark and gritty era for Batman, brought the Dark to the Dark Knight character, and paved the way for more adult comics such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and the reinterpretation in film for Batman in the Tim Burton’s Batman and Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy of movies.
This classic comic is celebrating thirty years since it came out! Hard to believe that I have been collecting comics for this long now! The trade-paper back has remain in constant print for the entire 30 years and is one of the best selling graphic novels of all time! DC Comics is celebrating this event, by releasing a brand new Dark Knight sequel this week called The Dark Knight III: The Master Race!
Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #45 (2015) has the NearMint of this comic at $100.00. The value has increased 11% since the year before, and an overall increase of $78.00 (455%) since 1999. With the new release of the Dark Knight sequel, The Master Race, along with the historical importance of this original comic book, this comic will always be in demand and will continue to rise. Be advised, that this comic went to four printings, make sure you check the indicia inside the comic to make sure you get a first printing!
Here are the other classic Frank Miller Batman comics to hunt for:
Batman #404-407 (Frank Miller’s origin story for Batman: Year One)
DC Special Series #21 (1st Frank Miller Batman story)