Frank Miller’s 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns' created waves and changed the comic art book industry’s entire face during the eighties.

But how did Miller achieve the nearly impossible feat of putting Batman in the forefront of the comics culture? Read along to find out.

The Struggle of Batman Comic during the Eighties

While the Batman franchise is top-rated today, it wasn’t always the case. During the 1980s, the comic had reached a saturation point and was losing readers rapidly; two reasons were particularly relevant to this.

Firstly, the comic books Golden Ages were over by 1970. The entire industry saw a steady decline in the first half of the eighties. Comic book narratives were dismissed as childish, and people were shifting more towards other media like television.

And secondly, Batman was no outlier in the medium; its narrative had also taken a toll. Its plot was getting repetitive, and readers complained that Batman lacked depth in its artwork. So, people had stopped taking the comic’s artwork seriously. 

'The Dark Knight' Introduced a Uniquely Dark Narrative

'The Dark Knight,' when published in 1986, went against all norms of the comic book industry. It influenced the industry of comic books by signaling a new wave of darker characters—.it had a much deeper character, and the story wasn’t only about getting justice anymore.

Miller created a tough, gritty Batman; it showcased a new form of more adult-oriented storytelling for comics fans and comic book artists to widely agree that the book was completely unique.

“It looked different. It felt different. It read differently. It was a completely different experience than everything we had out there,” Dan Didio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment, said.

Frank Miller’s Batman Artwork on ‘The Dark Knight’ was Dark and Realistic

The Dark Knight’s Batman artwork was much more dark and realistic in nature. It questioned the traditional narrative of an all-powerful superhero and focused more on political and economic struggle scenes.

Miller used realistic art to depict clear scenes of gore and violent action. This made the comic book stand out from the rabble and make its place in the industry.

The Dark Knight’s impact Spanned the Entire Comic Industry

The Dark Knight’s magic plot didn’t just save the franchise; it invited more audience to the entire comic industry too. It can be attributed to pioneering the “Dark Ages” of the comic book industry where the superhero plot started becoming darker and more realistic—it no longer focused on the stereotypical narrative that depended on a superhuman to solve each issue with his supernatural powers. 

Not just that, ' The Dark Knight' inspired several comic book artists to enter the medium, one of them being the DC co-publisher Jim Lee, who considers 'The Dark Knight' his biggest inspiration in joining the industry.

“I had kind of given up on comic books… kind of thought I had outgrown them. And that book came out, and completely opened my eyes to the potential of the medium, and inspired me…,” DC co-publisher Jim Lee said.

Had Frank Miller not taken the bold step to revamp the Batman, who knows where the comic book industry would’ve headed. 'The Dark Knight' revitalized the dying comic industry on top of saving the Batman franchise and pioneered a new style of writing superhero comics itself.