Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Dark Knight Returns

It's all downhill from here...

This is probably my favorite piece of art in my collection, a page from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. (click for larger image.) This half splash is page three from book one and it really sets up the whole premise of the book; Batman has been in retirement for ten years and he hates himself for it. He’s a man who is at war within; “…While in my gut, the creature writhes and snarls and tells me what I need...”

There’s an interesting bit of subtext that is going on in this page as well. I don’t know if it was Miller’s intent or just my interpretation, but it seems he's portraying Gordon as a manipulator of sorts. Gordon has sensed that Bruce wants to resume the role of Batman and, in a very underhanded way, tries to keep him in check by subtly reminding him of the tragic fate of Jason (the last Robin), and of his estrangement with Dick (original Robin). When Gordon asks “Spoken to Dick lately?” Bruce replies “Not for seven years, Jim. You know that. (emphasis mine).

From an artistic perspective, this page struck a nerve with me the first time I read it and long before I knew anything about owning original art. I recall being a young artist back in 1986, and marveling at the delicacy of the two hands in the first panel, and also being intrigued by the lighting of the faces in the next three. Klaus Janson’s inks on this page are him at his finest and that really matters to me. Rumor has it that Janson fell behind on the inking chores and, by book three, had recruited assistants to help him (surprisingly, Todd McFarlane has reported that he was one of those assistants). Any cursory analysis of the art clearly shows a change in style after book two. I’m of the opinion that books one and two have far superior inks and have a strong preference for those pages, which is why it was such a thrill for me to be able to obtain this one (Frank Miller pencils, Klaus Janson inks.)

Found this French video on youtube which discusses Miller's Dark Knight. Pay attention and you will see this page (either 53 seconds into it or 2:08 left to go - depending how your counter is set).


6 comments:

Beach Local said...

Wow, I'm learning a lot about comic art. I used to think it was for zit-faced teens, but you have taught me it's also for blogger dads. Keep it up!

Tony Marine said...

Comics are cool, fool! :)

Dark Knight said...

You're so lucky to have it !
I wish i could find one: i'm fan of everything about Batman!

Richard said...

The panel breakdowns, the drawing, the inking, and the writing ... I love everything about this page. What a rush!

Anonymous said...

In regard to your analysis of Klaus Janson's ink performance: as a friend and colleague of Klaus' I've heard a few 'Frank' stories, that is, stories about his and Miller's interaction on the Dark Knight Returns. As it happens, Klaus did employ assistants while working on DKR from page one until the final (if McFarlane was one of them, that's interesting. I'll have to ask), but the inconsistencies in inking by issues 3 and 4 were not from Klaus' end, but Frank's--by issue two, Frank became increasingly distant from both Klaus and his editor, and as pressure mounted Frank began missing deadlines left and right. As a result, Frank looked for someone to blame, so at the end of issue two Frank made an unauthorized deal with friend and inker Bill Sinkeivitcz (sin-kev-itch) to finish DKR 3 and 4 WITHOUT klaus. He tried to get Klaus fired, the editor wouldn't have it, so he asked Klaus to quit. Klaus refused, and their longtime friendship was ostensibly over. As Klaus handed-in inked pages, Frank would re-do them to finishes, sometimes completely, other times just a panel or two. The inconsistencies are not based on Klaus' studio system of the day, but rather on the differences in Janson's inks to Miller's inks. Look closely as Frank's next work inked entirely by himself, Elektra Lives Again--the linework, the textures, all the same in the latter half of DKR. Janson and Miller haven't spoken a word of friendship since 1987, all as a result of miscommunication and, perhaps, a sprinkling of ego.

Tony Marine said...

Thanks for the insight. Contact me - I'd love to talk some more about it.