I’m Batman: What Reading “The Dark Knight Returns” Awakens

Growing older is a journey for every person aware that he is alive. In my case, I hit a stride, run like hell, and then wonder where all of my friends disappeared to.  This past week has been one of those “wonder” moments, even though I fully understand how I lost contact with those people who were at one time the world to me. Perhaps it was catalyzed by my brother’s visit, or the teaching of Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to my students, or a series of nightmares that left me awake for a few nights, or it might even have been the weather; all I know is that I have been wondering and reflecting on life…as usual

Which brings me to last night’s graphic novel read: Frank Miller’s Dark Knight collection. For those unaware of this series, it is a brilliant revision of the Batman mythology into a dystopian future world. Sadly, the world that Bruce Wayne lives in when Miller wrote the series is strikingly similar to our current day: world unrest due to corrupt leaders, the divide between rich and poor becoming a chasm, and a lack of compassion or willingness to understand each other’s faults and motivations. Batman is getting old. He has been retired for ten years. Unlike Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984, Batman sees the world going to pieces around and he understands why. The politics, the horrors and the big game are clear to his elderly mind. Much like V in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Batman knows what he is, what the world is, and how to take it to the ground.

I connected with Batman’s realization that he is truly alone. Time has shorn off both his friends and enemies until he is a shadow, a ghost in the halls. He is a hero forgotten and mythologized by a younger, tuned out generation. While I remember when these issues were first published [my best friend in those days played drums and collected comics], I never connected with the imagery and artwork. However, in this initial read-through, the abstraction became almost Cubist for me, and the revisions to the characters is iconoclastic in a mesmerizing way. Like the friends you went to high school with, their Facebook photos leave you wondering what the hell happened to them, and why were you not there to stop it…because you had work, you had to travel, you have new friends…you are Batman. If you are new to the graphic novel, then this should be the first stop on any foray into the genre.

In other news…two Ducati motorcycles have been stolen from the building’s parking garage in a week. How do you steal a bike with an immobilizer and disc locks? Get a few big guys to lift and toss it into a big, white van. Obviously, this is a little stressful as I am the last Ducatista in the building, which means I could be next. Alas, short of stalking the garage for a few weeks dressed as Batman, I can do little other than complain to building security and hope the Gods smile on me…what would Batman do?

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