Monday, August 15, 2011

Blogathon 23: Put on Your Tights and Give Them Hell Part Two

[Continuing my discussion of The Dark Knight Strikes Again.]

The most immediate difference between The Dark Knight Strikes Again and The Dark Knight Returns is the art. In DKR, Miller based his page layouts on a 16-panel grid, four by four. While he didn't always (or often) draw all 16 panels, that was the basis. It's a dense layout and made for a dense, slow read. Here, there's no set layout. This is completely freestyle all over the place. The first page seems like a statement of intent when it comes to page layouts with eight small panels just tossed onto the lower half of the page over a full page shot of Batman's silhouette. There will be no neat order, no grids, just whatever the hell Miller feels like doing. There's no even a tier structure like he used in Sin City books. He literally seems to approach each page with the idea of doing what feels right and what he feels like drawing. Putting the two books next to one another is jarring in a way. You can see similarities, but they're so different visually that it's hard to believe that one is meant to follow the other. Three years have passed in the books' time, but 15 have passed in the real world.

The darker paints of DKR compared to the bright computer colours of DKSA are another big difference. What they add to tone is so obvious. If you ever want to see what colours can do to change a book's tone, take a look at these two books. I wonder if we would have taken DKR as seriously if it was coloured like DKSA... Then again, I'm not sure how DKR would even look that way. I'm surprised we haven't seen someone try to replicate that -- or the other way around. Would DKSA be taken more seriously if it had the painted colours of DKR? The colours add so much to the feel of the books. The paints of DKR capture the depressing doomsday feeling of the mid-'80s, while the bright and shiny bubblegum pop nature of DKSA is splashed across every page with weird computer effects and bright colours.

My favourite DKR callback in DKSA is the end of the first issue where Miller delivers his biggest insult to Superman: the beatdown that Batman and company lay down on him is basically the exact same one that Batman laid down in DKR. He bombs him, attacks his equilibrium, nails him with a version of Kryptonite, and lays a giant beatdown with his fists. Some other bits are thrown in, but it's almost exactly what happened the first time they fought. Superman is so dumb that the same tricks worked twice on him.

DKR was a Batman story, while DKSA is more of a DCU story. Batman is the central figure that the story pivots around, but so much of the book is spent examining other characters, showing us what this future has done to these characters. Last time, we saw some Bat-villains, Superman, and Green Arrow. This time, it's everyone pretty much. In that way, this one seems less like a statement about a character like DKR was and more like a wacky fan letter to a whole host of characters and comics that Miller loved. He ignores everything that happened since he read comics as a young man it seems. Everything calls back to the Silver Age, maybe the beginnings of the Bronze/Dark Age.

He was sentamental back when he was old...

In 30 minutes, I may talk a bit more about the two books, but I'll also throw in some Kingdom Come.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative! (Details in this post.) After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]