Essay from Z.I. Mahmud

Image of Batman's helmeted face and the Joker's painted faces next to each other.
Critically examine Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as a graphic narrative.

The monstrous Penguin-like infant’s accession to the hospital maternity nursery and the emblematic destruction of the feline foreshadows the gothic macabre infested upon Gotham
locale in the midst of holiday seasons. “There is a sense of decay everywhere [...] darkness, danger, toxicity and tragedy.” Like the prejudicial denizens of Gotham, these parents exonerate
their plight by forsaking their bestial offspring in the dump of the disposables to be awashed by the frozen icy stream. 

Penguin’s messianic and visionary apparition thirty three years later
uplifts humanity of that society that erstwhile alienated the castaway Moses. Then Penguin’s politicization in the grotesquery of Madonna and child when he soars on the hydraulic platform of the sewer saving and rescuing Richard Doyle’s/Mayor’s offspring. Dickensian scene re-enactment and re[visioning] in Penguin as the fur collared and a beatific expression while holding the Christmas gift of the baby who is dressed in red and white mini Santa suit. 

Penguin despises the fathers of Gotham, especially Max Shreck for unfolding inhumanity through the unwitting catalyst of the destruction and dooming disposable dumpsters. Saviours in temporality spatially transpose the politicization acts as indictment of the commercialization of religiosity as well as of the sheep-like mentality of the populace. 

Corris writes of the evil clothed in colour and light persuasive of genteelness of the spirit: “Black is good—-Batman, of course—---red or bright is bad[...]The Penguin’s sever level lair; Arctic world is garishly a colourful place; charterhouse toxic bile and a giant yellow ducky serving as Penguin’s Stygian barge.”

“How can you be so mean to someone so meaningless?” remonstrates the house broken and unruly pet symbolized by the dramatis personae of Selina with epitaphic and metonymical
associations to convenience, coffee pourer, and a drudge”[...] “Life’s a bitch, now so am I” self effacing transformation of the feline herdess responds after being lambasted and chastised by
her employer and boss Max Shreck. 

Catwoman Selina correspondingly declaims “Hello there!”
as inverted version “Hell here!” while defying wasters, poisoners and recyclers and abdicates two letters from the neon sign of the billboard of the apartment. Selina’s slickers attires herself as Catwoman to empower the secretariat drudgeries and Shreck’s havoc; nonetheless while doing so, Selina is trapped within her victimization. Selina finds her nails in the sewing basket
after dismantlement of the phone and answering machine and she cuts the rain slicker to stitch with her Catwoman attire. 

Selina is a victim of herself in a state of commodification destined to
be recycled nine times somewhat mystical but not immortal. Max Shreck is a twisted and inverted and maladjusted Scrooge, as Selina maligns “Anti-Claus” through annihilating former using electrically shock device that she had gotten from the members of the Red Triangle Gang.

This behaviour is counterfoiling as self-reflexive and self-effacing with personal imperative. The later also relinquishes her eighth life, as she kills her former boss with an electrically charged kiss. Scriptwriter Water states, “Selina isn’t a villain and she isn’t Wonder Woman for the greater good of society”; she will not gather up that by which she is not valued by bearing her lives.

Penguin possesses animal or freakish monstrosity and wretchedness as well as anthropogenic traits as dualistic dichotomized identities like Selina Penguin waves shredded pieces of incriminate documents in Shreck’s face to blackmail Max Shreck into making him well respected monster. Oswald Cobblepot deconstructs the abandoned child of the overwhelming parents. Batman empowers surplus names in the same sense by which Max Shreck manipulates energy
surplus to sustain a futuristic existence. Both of these decadent cynical personalities whose recycled public selves become dangerous constructs that succeeded in impressing the
gothamites they address. “I’ll take care of the squealing, wretched, pinhead puppets from Gotham [...] You gotta admit, I’ll play this stinking city like a harp from hell.” 

Batman takes up the mode of reusing that which was cast off without a thought—----here language to bring down Penguin’s plot to lead the city. The dichotomized hero’s methods become the same one the
villain adopts for they are both ⁴sick. Catwoman’s shopping expedition at Shreck's gives the viewer her face behind the large happy cat that is at the store’s logo. This new version of
shopping becomes both playful and destructive as she whips the head off the mannequins, threatens the security guards by pointing out that they confuse their pistols with their privates and rigs a microwave oven and gasoline to demolish the place.

In a sense, adopting comics characters to the screen does the same thing as the childrens’ comics become the adult film nightmare of a society controlled by the twisted products of neglect and abuse. Penguin goes much further than Catwoman, for he claims for himself the place of God, the avenger, the herod, the transgressor when plots to kill all of Gotham City’s first-born sons. The police chase Penguin over the same terrain his parents covered him the
night they disposed of him. Penguin even knocks over a couple who could have been stand-ins for his parents as he heads for the bridge and the icy water. 

In his own way, Penguin is a tragic figure, caused by his past doomed to repeat and recycle it. “My name is not Oswald, its
Penguin. I am not a human being. I am an animal. Crank the the-ac! Bring me my lists!” The battles in Batman Returns aren’t between the forces of light and dark so much as between competing neuroses.

We should not assess this graphic novel as disparaging through its legality, nor should we glamorize it by deference to its perpetrators. Frank Miller’s Bruce Wayne and Carrie Kelley embody Fixer and Burglar as “the self-made American ascendant, free, accountable to no authority—-yet haunted by guilt [...] a ruthless, monstrous vigilante breaking the foundations of our democracy [...] a symbolic resurgence of the common man’s will to resist [...] a rebirth of the
American fighting spirit.” 

Hyperreal fantasy of the demonical villains Joker/Michel Emerson, the Mutant Leader/ Gary Anthony Williams, and the Two Face demonstrate the biochemical warfare exposition through televised mediatising of the broadcasters obfuscating real life antecedents: “I
am atop Gotham twin towers with two bombs capable of making them rubble. You have twenty minutes to save them. The price is five million dollars. I would have made half, but I have bills to

Batman has been habitually adapted to salvage the rescue operations associated with laughing gases, fear dust, mind control lipsticks, artificial phobia pills and toxic aerosols to a considerable extent. Postmodernism blends the reality of the fictitious world into the reality of the real world [...] often suggests that the two are inextricable, that the boundaries are indecipherability muddy and
impossibly evasive. 

Miller’s Batman transmutates from the stereotypical old school hero to nihilistic anarchistic vigilante, duality of the characteristic traits of the goodness and evilry, blackness and whiteness. The Rise of the Postmodern Graphic Novel [...] the Golden era of stereotypes and symbolic personifications [...] There was no place for ambiguity. Nuclear fallout of the US Corto Maltese by Russian invasion causes the cowardly traitor superman [...] blotting out the source of all my powers [...] the hope for screaming millions. God-like steel ness
superheroism of superman is eradicated by the hubristic flesh and blood of the cold war contrasting revenge driven psychopath and ardent pursuer of divine justice. 

Julia Kristeva’s formation of subjectivity through blending of linguistics and psychoanalysis contextualizes Lacanian readings as a splitting subject that is in conflict who risks being shattered and is on the brink of heterogeneous contradiction. Batman’s disfiguration and maligned image throughout the signification process obdurates the vigilante saviour with the blame of alleged murdering of Joker “The Joker’s body found mutilated and burned [...] murder is added to the charges of the Batman [...] Batman’s breaking and entering, assault and battery, creating a public menace” furthermore creates a polarized dichotomy between the semiotic and symbolic. 

Language will speak the unspeakable as the consciousness will reveal through unravelling of itself. “[...]the spectacular career of Batman comes to a tragic conclusion [...] as the crime fighter suffered a heart attack while battling the government troops [...] his body has been identified as a fifty-five year old billionaire Bruce Wayne [...] and his death has proven as mysterious as his life.”
Further Reading and Works Consulted
Susan M. Bernardo’s [ Wagner College Staten Island NY] Recycling Victims and Villains in “Batman Returns”, Literature/ Film Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp: 16-20, Salisbury University

Politics and Society “Should we celebrate or lament the pop culture endurance of Batman, a violent vigilante?
The Return of the Vigilante: An Essay on the Possibility of Political Judgement, Bradon Little John Daniel Croci’s Holy Terror, Batman! 

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and the Superhero as Hardboiled
Terrorist Jan Axelsson’s New Times, New Heroes, Ambiguity, Sociopolitical Issues and Post-Modernism
in Frank miller’s Graphic Novel The Batman Returns

Ruzbeh Babaee’s [Porto University] Heroic Subjectivity in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Research Gate.

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