The Best and Worst Batman

Peter Suderman explains how Frank Miller created the best version of Batman and also the worst.

The influence of Miller’s Dark Knight, however, extends far beyond this one movie. The four-issue comic permanently redefined the character of Batman, and is arguably responsible for making him the pop culture sensation he is today. Today’s Batman, from Christopher Nolan’s austere Dark Knight to the gothic hero of Scott Snyder’s contemporary Batman comics, is inseparable from Miller’s vision of Batman and, in some sense, from Miller himself.

But in the years since Dark Knight, Miller has continued to work with both the character and the brooding sensibility, with increasingly unpleasant results. And in the process, he has squandered much of what made the original so great. Miller gave us the best Batman — and the worst one, too.

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Critic Steven Greydanus says on Twitter this article aptly describes what he calls the Frank Miller worldview, “a nightmare world of antiheroes, brutal villains, whores, femmes fatales, sickening violence—lots of visual impact, no human interest.”

“Miller’s rather pathetic Superman was a logical extension of Miller’s Dark Knight universe—the right Superman for that Batman’s story.”

As Suderman says it, “Miller positions Superman as Batman’s true rival, a polite water carrier for ineffectual elites and authority figures, a symbol of weakness and civil decline to which Batman provides the antidote.” An antidote that feels as bad as the sickness.

I hope we see a new, hope-filled Superman, a Captain America-style Superman, by the end of this decade. Maybe we’ll see that in Wonder Woman.

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