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Batman: “You let them do it. I always knew you would.”

A brief follow-up to my last post. Over in comments section of Todd Murray’s Four Color Hell post on Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, John Rowe says that John Byrne has criticized the inclusion of Cold War politics and the threat of nuclear war in DKR, since it “was uneccessary and really didn’t fit. He thinks Miller didn’t have this angle planned originally, but read Moore’s Watchmen… and was so influenced by it…” John Rowe, agreeing with John Byrne, points out that although the story apparently takes place in some unspecified future time, the inclusion of the Cold War stuff and especially of Ronald Reagan as President roots it firmly in the 1980s.

I object! The detonation of the nuclear warhead is central to the narrative of the socio-political world’s impotence against Batman! That world is so ineffectual that it actually (temporarily) destroys itself, the EMP from the Soviet missile causing a collapse of the social infrastructure (it even takes out Superman, super-symbol of politics), so that Batman can step in and dish out his own brand of apolitical super-justice, at least until Superman returns to try to punish him. It’s true that Frank Miller’s specific use of Cold War politics as a metaphor here ties the book forever to the 1980s. That the politics are now somewhat outdated only enhances the seeming ineffectiveness and worthlessness of politics in Batman’s world.



  1. LB says:

    This is somewhat off-topic, but similarly to DKR being grounded in the 80’s by the inclusion of Ronald Reagan, the first page (I believe) of Dark Knight Strikes Back includes an obviously middle-eastern character screaming “Jihad!”, only to be told dismissively to “Shut up”…the message seems to be “These guys are going to stay marginalized forever.” This places the story, for me at least, as very definitely pre-911.

    — 11 February 2004 at 11:02 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    That’s particularly interesting because DKR is so amazingly white. I noticed this my first time through and then on a reread had to try hard to find nonwhite characters even in crowd scenes. It’s still not clear to me whether the Mutants have white body paint or it’s some almost chthonic pallor or what, but even beyond their blinding whiteness, there’s not much else. So maybe Miller’s mindset in DK2 is acutally markedly post-9/11?

    — 11 February 2004 at 11:16 pm (Permalink)