No More Dark Phoenix, Please: 5 Famous Superhero Stories Hollywood Needs To Quit
5The Dark Knight Returns Is Past Retirement AgeThe Classic Comic: Batman is old and grumpy (well, grumpier) and comes back to action to beat up punks. Also, he drives a tank now!It Shows Up In ...Obviously, the Zack Snyderverse borrowed a lot from The Dark Knight Returns, from the "older Batman who gets off on […]

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The Dark Knight Returns Is Past Retirement Age

The Classic Comic:

Batman is old and grumpy (well, grumpier) and comes back to action to beat up punks. Also, he drives a tank now!

It Shows Up In ...

Obviously, the Zack Snyderverse borrowed a lot from The Dark Knight Returns, from the "older Batman who gets off on breaking bones" premise to the glowy-eyed armor Bruce Wayne apparently keeps in his closet in case Superman ever needs a whooping.

Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Comics

"Sorry if you're a random person and I just punched your head off, I can't see anything in here."

But TDKR is all over the Chris Nolan trilogy, too -- there's the Bat-tank in all three movies, the gun-toting Batman copycats in The Dark Knight, and the fact that The Dark Knight Rises features Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement after years of depression, only to fake his own death a while later. The movie even cribs some dialogue from the comic:

DC Comics

Warner Bros. Pictures

"... because I'm taking you to the circus." "You remembered my birthday!"

Tom Hardy's speech impediment-suffering version of Bane plays a similar role to The Dark Knight Returns' Mutant Leader: both are large fellas who totally crush Batman when he's kind of out of practice, then get crushed on the rematch in front of all their followers.

DC Comics, Warner Bros. Pictures

So THAT'S what they were going for with that freaking mask.

And you know the climatic talk show interview scene from Joker? That's also inspired in this comic, only this one is with a David Letterman lookalike instead of Robert De Niro and the kill count is somewhat higher.

DC Comics

DC Comics

If you didn't read the last line in Dave's voice, you're also dead (inside).

Over on the TV side, The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths event featured an older Batman who fought (and killed) Superman at some point and quotes directly from the comic. Batman: The Animated Series also had a whole The Dark Knight Returns segment, and even the kid-friendly Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon had a Superman vs. mecha-Batman battle ... which does deviate from the source material when it turns into a fight between Superman and his flying super-dog, though.

Warner Bros. Animation

"You're way more useful than a Robin, what's your rate?"

And that's without counting the two-part animated adaptation of the entire comic, plus other shout outs and references in Batman media here and there. At some point, all Batman adaptations feel like they have to pay dues to the idea of the hero becoming an ultra-violent geriatric vigilante in the future -- even Joel Schumacher wanted to do a TDKR movie in the '90s, which probably would have necessitated sculpting old man-style hairy nipples in latex.

The irony is that, for all its iconic visuals and all the reverence it has inspired in Hollywood, The Dark Knight Returns isn't actually a very cinematic comic. Its ultra-dense 16-panel grid and million caption boxes per page make it a great example of what comics can do, but these things don't really translate well to movie form, because they're not supposed to. Add that to the fact that Frank Miller's dialogue might look good on the page but should never, ever be said out loud.

DC Comics

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