An anniversary look back — featuring Dick Giordano’s Meanwhile column…

Whether you’re a fan (like me) or a critic, there is zero question that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — the first issue of which was released 36 years ago on March 20, 1986 — marked a seismic shift in the comics industry. To quote an overused term, nothing would ever be the same.

I remember being both mystified by and excited for the four-part 1986 series by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, when I found about it. I can’t place precisely when that was but it could well have been while reading Batman #395 in January 1986.

As I recently rediscovered, that’s the issue of Batman where DC Comics announced to the world that this supremely unconventional look at an older, future Batman was storming our way.

The news may have already been in the comics press by this point, and it might have been mentioned in a lettercol or whatnot, but as far as I can tell, this is the first time DC gave full details on the project to its readers.

The ad above appeared on a right-hand page. It looks cool but you don’t glean much from it. When you turn the page, however, Dick Giordano’s newest Meanwhile… column is behind it, on the left side.

Dig this:

A rad little signpost on the road to something magnificent and bombastic, wouldn’t you say?


— What Happened the Day DC Learned DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Was a Smash. Click here.

— DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: A Storytelling Landmark — Whose Cracks Show Decades Later. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. This is very cool. I’m glad I didn’t seen that column before I read the series. The Joker’s appearance in TDK couldn’t really have been considered a spoiler—the Clown Prince of Crime would have to play a part in any epic bat-tale—but expecting him to show up and KNOWING he would are different things. The Joker’s first appearance in The Dark Knight—peering catatonically from his Arkham cell and breaking into a grin as he learns Batman is back—was thrilling. (I especially love the way Joker’s dawning awareness was underscored by Varley’s subtle intensification of the green in his hair.) I don’t love Miller’s handling of every character (Catwoman got a bum deal, IMHO), but his treatment of Joker was great, even if it did lead to the character’s gross overexposure in the years that followed.

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  2. I remember planning out the purchase with one of the DC flyers they sent around to comic shops. DC Direct? If I recall correctly it was on blue paper.

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