Monday, August 15, 2011

Blogathon 24: Put on Your Tights and Give Them Hell Part Three

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

While there are some obvious points of compare/contrast with The Dark Knight Returns, I've always felt the more natural comic to look to was Kingdom Come. I don't know if Frank Miller ever read it; I don't care. Both are books that take place in the DCU's future and offer a big battle ground for heroes, particularly ones with a Silver Age feel. Where Kingdom Come put the emphasis on Superman and Wonder Woman with Batman a secondary player of sorts, DKSA puts Batman front and centre with Superman and Wonder Woman as secondary players. That simple inversion presents an entirely different sort of story, especially when you consider the radically different take on Batman Miller has from... well, pretty much everyone. His Batman is a guy who loves being Batman. That's what the Goddamn Batman really is. That's why I like Miller's take so much. He gets how much fun it would be to be Batman and how Batman would go for bigger and bigger thrills, especially as he got older. Superman is almost reluctant to come back in Kingdom Come. And his return is a limited sort, one focused mostly on making heroes 'respectable.' Batman wants to tear shit up.

It's their approach to nostalgia that I find particularly illuminating. Kingdom Come was about the '90s and the types of heroes that had become popular, about emphasising a more traditional heroism. "Back in my day, superheroes wore tights and fought bad guys and drank milk and never swore and..." It's a 'I wish things were like they used to be' nostalgia. DKSA is the sort of nostalgia that makes a guy take all of the characters he loved as a kid and tosses them into an insane situation where they get to rile up young people and attack the status quo. It's the nostalgia of being young, of wanting that feeling back instead of wanting things to be like they were. Hell, I get that nostalgia and I'm only 28. It's applying the idea of taking on the world to old men. Of giving those characters another chance to shine, albeit in a different way.

It's easy to see why Kingdom Come is more revered. It's notalgia is the popular one with the comics set. It's iconic nostalgia. These characters are icons and must be treated seriously and with respect and never mocked even though they're pretty fucking silly. Miller gets that they're silly and loves them all the more. He doesn't take them seriously. Why would he?

What's especially telling: in Kingdom Come, the 'villain' is the future. The new kids are brats and they must be taught respect. Eventually, better villains emerge; still, it's not traditional. Miller is much more traditional. His bad guys are bad guys and the kids are alright. Miller's mockering is gentle, while Kingdom Come seems to look around and declare everything shit.

I used to like Kingdom Come, but, man, it's hard to sometimes. There are moments of beauty and poetry in it. Some moments that really sing for me. Not like The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is only, what, five years later and feels like it comes from an entirely different generation.

I just get the impression that Kingdom Come is for kids and men in their thirties, while The Dark Knight Strikes Again is for teens and people in their twenties.

In 30 minutes, we reach the halfway mark of the Blogathon and I continue my ramblings on The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

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