The Dark K(Night): On Hope and Tragedy

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By Brian DeLuca

Batman The Dark Knight Returns cover 175Seventy years ago, in an American city not much different from our own, a young family of three walked down the wrong street known as Crime Alley, and history was changed forever. Minutes after seeing “Zorro” at their local cinema, a vibrant husband and wife, pillars of their community, lay dead, and their young son was an orphan with lasting emotional scars. We know how a boy left alone in the world and wanting vengeance instead turned his thoughts to justice.

We know how this boy, the heir to a vast fortune, donated his money to help his blighted city. A product of his times, he devoted endless hours to forensics and other sciences in hopes that they would aid in his future crusade. He traveled to the exotic Far East, like many of the well-heeled of his generation, not as a tourist, but as a student, learning all he could of the fighting styles of many cultures. A permanently scarred victim of gun violence, he would forever swear off guns, knowing that it would put him at a grave disadvantage to his foes.

Returning home to America, he adopted a guise that would strike fear into those he stalked, men like those who had killed his parents. In time, his name would become synonymous with justice and for the darkness that waited for those who would prey on the weak. Forced to live a double life, he embraced the night but fought to bring about a new day. His story has been told in every medium possible: film, comics, books, television, and cartoons. He has become an icon in the United States and all over the world. Millions of us lined up to see the final chapter in the latest film version of his life.

When we awoke the next morning, we were all horrified by the events in Colorado that stood in such stark contrast to the story of hope that is the core of the Batman legend. It is a story that resonates from generation to generation; I learned the tale at the feet of my mother, whose generation was the first to know it. It was a tragedy that filled me with fear for my best friend who lived a dozen miles from that theater in Aurora. I feared there would be a backlash against something that is important in my life.

The difference between fiction and legend is those who believe. The difference between legend and myth is longevity. Two weeks ago, we saw the beginning of a myth. The thing about myths is that mad men will try to rewrite them or write themselves into them, but the best of them stand above all that as beacons. In this case, it might be the words of Christopher Nolan that ring the truest right now: “Why do we fall down? To learn to pick ourselves up again”.

For more stories, check out the Bat Canon in the Pratt Library catalog:

  • Batman, the Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Prior to Heath Ledger, this was the graphic novel that showed the Joker to be a true psycho as he assaults and paralyzes Barbara Gordon, Batgirl.
  • Batman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. In this tale of a future an old Bruce Wayne re-dons the mantle of the Batman to take on Superman and a city out of control. This is really where the grim Batman stories started.
  • Batman, Year One by Frank Miller. A young Bruce Wayne has spent years training his mind and body and now returns to Gotham just as a young police officer named James Gordon starts his career. Often said to be the source material for the movie Batman Begins.
  • Batman: No Man’s Land by Greg Rucka. Years before Hurricane Katrina, Rucka wrote this story about a massive Earthquake that devastates Gotham and forces the US government to abandon the city. Only Batman, his allies, and a few members of the Gotham City Police Dept. stay behind to take the city back one block at a time.
  • Under the Red Hood by Judd Winick. No like the second Robin Jason Todd, and when DC Comics let fans vote, they decided to kill him. He returns as the vigilante the Red Hood, with all of Batman’s training and none of his restraint.

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