I’m just going to go ahead and apologize right here in the post title: I’m sorry.

§ February 6th, 2013 § Filed under batman, cartoons, movie reviews § 15 Comments

“Skinny little Hansi.”


“She grew up. She filled out.”

[There may be SPOILERS ahead for The Dark Knight Returns, both animated and comic-ated.]

Now I suspect it’s going to be hard to believe that one can forget a large, gun-totin’ woman named Bruno, topless save for some kind of adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts, and yet this is apparently what happened to me prior to popping in Part Two of DC’s direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If I had remembered, I’m sure it would have crossed my mind at least once to ponder “I wonder if they’re actually going to go through with that” or “I wonder if they’ll tone it down a bit.” Instead, it came as a complete surprise to me when Bruno showed up on screen. And it certainly is a different experience seeing Bruno in a four-minute fully-animated action sequence on a 50-inch screen as opposed to seeing a handful of panels in a comic book. And by “different” I mean “that’s going to come as a shock when Mom puts this on for Little Billy and then walks back into the room when Bruno’s onscreen fighting Batman.” Yeah, yeah, it’s PG-13 an’ all, but man, that felt like a bit much. So of course I got a screenshot and shared it with you on my site. You’re welcome.

As for the parts of this cartoon that aren’t about topless Neo-Nazis: what I was really looking forward to was Michael Emerson’s turn as The Joker. Emerson was probably the best part of that TV show Lost, playing an evil and slimy little jerk who was still at least somewhat sympathetic and certainly charismatic, and that performance comes though in this role as well. A bit of Emerson’s voice work on the Joker reminded me of, oddly enough, Paul Lynde, which I’m guessing was likely more coincidental than deliberate, and is certainly not a complaint. (And of course, when one thinks of Paul Lynde in relation to Batman, this comes to mind.) His Joker was definitely creepy and unsettling, and probably the high point of this whole endeavor.

And speaking of the whole endeavor…one of the most intrinsic parts of the original Dark Knight Returns comics was the constant internal dialogue running throughout, revealing each character’s hopes, fears, etc., as well as providing the most affecting and emotional points of the story. When Alfred dies as the Wayne Mansion burns, just seeing him drop onscreen doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of reading Alfred’s “Of course” when the same thing happens in the comic. And when they push the dialogue from the comic’s internal thoughts to the cartoon’s external voice…well, let’s just say having Commissioner Gordon outright say “I think of Sarah…the rest is easy” as part of a retirement speech to a roomful of people lacks the gravitas it has when he repeats it to himself in the comic.

And that whole business with Superman nearly being killed by the atomic explosion, and his subsequent revival. In the cartoon, it’s simply weird and grotesque. In the comic, with Superman’s inner pleading with Mother Earth, there’s that undercurrent of sadness and despair and desire to protect that’s left unspoken, nor even implied, in the adaptation. …I suspect some enterprising group of fans will someday make a reedit of these films, filling in the lost narration themselves, that the cartoons sorely lack.

Not to say that these films are entirely without merit…the big set pieces still work just fine: Batman’s battle with the Mutants leader, the last confrontation with the Joker, the climactic fight with Superman. And even the nearly last bit of business, with Carrie and Clark at Bruce’s grave site…that was pulled off nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t stray too far from the comic’s 1980s origins, keeping Reagan as President, and there’s even a brief shot somewhere near the end of the film, which of course I can’t locate now, showing a storefront for “VHS / BETA” or something like that. Or maybe I imagined it. You make the call.

Overall, the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation was an interesting experiment, if flawed, with some nice voice work. I understand the choices the filmmakers made…well, my jury’s still out on the Bruno thing, but I guess fans would have complained if she wasn’t there…but in my opinion the loss of the internal dialogues from the comic cut most of the heart out of the story.

Well anyway, if these Dark Knight cartoons do well, maybe we’ll get an animated version of the sequel Dark Knight Strikes Again. That I’d like to see.

If you’re wondering about that Hansi comic, here you go.

15 Responses to “I’m just going to go ahead and apologize right here in the post title: I’m sorry.”

  • Abberation, The says:

    I watched the final confrontation between Batman and the Joker on YouTube; it was more than enough to tell me I don’t ever want to see/hear another frame. It’s as though they sucked dry every ounce of good from Miller’s already-not-particularly-subtle “Batman Shrugged,” leaving only painful bad.


    I fibbed a little; I watched a few seconds of the Batman/Superman battle too. You are so right; internal monologue bellowed out loud…NOT an improvement.

  • De says:

    I decided to skip The Dark Knight Returns as I really didn’t want a repeat of Batman: Year One i.e., an exact panel-by-panel retelling with none of the depth.

  • Bob says:

    I reread ‘DKR’ about once a year. I know it pretty well by now. I know you haven’t read it lately but on the first page Bruce Wayne is racing in a…uh, a race. In the first panel someone by the name of Carol is talking to him via radio about how the car wasn’t designed to do what Bruce is making it do.
    I always wondered who Carol was.

    Later on the same page, the news announcer talks about the end of the Ferris 5000 race and how BW survived.

    I am certain everyone in the world knew this, but I’ve only been reading the book for 20 years. Carol is Carol Ferris.


  • Jack says:

    The VHS/Beta sign turns up as a background in both parts. In the first part, when Bruce Wayne is walking through the city after leaving Gordon, he walks past it. Then I think it turns up again in the background of a television report.

    I liked it well enough, but the lack of internal narration did have me saying the occasional first person caption (“Something tells me to stop with the leg. I don’t listen to it.”) and also saying the occasional line of dialog that was left out. Particularly in the scene with Bruno, where the shopkeeper was far more sarcastic to her, and the disguised Batman yells about how much cheaper the booze is at “Sebben Elebben.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve pretty well memorized Dark Knight Returns.

  • IT says:

    I think this is an issue with any media shift, though I usually see it from books to movies or television: in a book, you can have an internal running narration. If you’re sitting behind the eyes of a character, knowing their impressions of the world is pretty much crucial, because whatever they choose to describe is what you see. When you switch to a visual medium, it stops being about thinking and starts being about doing. If you had someone constantly narrating every single thing they did, you’d probably find it irritating, though there are some fairly obvious exceptions.

  • Chance says:

    I personally thought the Dark Knight Strikes Again was utterly brilliant and is one of the best parodies/commentaries on a society gone amok ever.

  • Mikester says:

    Chance – DKSA was a favorite of mine, too!

  • Tim O'Neil says:

    How has no one ever made that joke before?

  • philip says:

    Damn it. Paul Lynde as the Joker… oh, what might have been.

  • AJ says:

    After watching the Batman Year one animated movie, the internal monologue doesn’t work as well as it did on the printed page. For me, it was a good thing that they removed it for the Dark Knight returns adaptation as it gives it a somewhat different experience from what I remember reading it.

  • Xanadude says:

    Off topic (but I can’t see Sluggo without thinking of you), have you seen this week’s Nancy strips? They are showing the retconned origin of Sluggo. Seriously.


  • Old Bull Lee says:

    No need to apologize for an awesome joke. Your affectionate Frank Miller humor is always welcome.

    Joking aside you actually make a compelling case for the beauty of Miller’s caption writing and dramatic impact.

  • Looking at that screen capture, all I can say is… nasty! BALLS NASTY!

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts”

    huh. I always thought it was makeup!

    “Paul Lynde”

    He keeps popping up in 1960’s TV reruns lately! in a sitcom and a drama! Plus his reoccuring role in Bewtiched!

    “VHS / BETA”

    Maybe that means something else in Gotham! Something KINKY.