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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 90

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at a great take on the death of Batman’s parents, courtesy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.


It’s hard to believe now, in 2009, that there ever was a time when Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace being broken during the scuffle that led to the murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne was NOT a major part of the Batman mythos.

But before The Dark Knight Returns, that was the case.

It was Miller who added the breaking of the necklace in the following brilliant re-imagining of the murder of Bruce’s parents (this is also the scene that leads directly to Bruce deciding to become Batman once again).

Simply stunning work by Miller and inker Klaus Janson.

It’s a bit difficult to pick just ONE moment from the preceding scene, as the whole concept of Miller’s piece here is to demonstrate how quickly Bruce’s life is changed/ruined/whatever – all in the time it takes for the pearls to hit the ground. So I guess just pick any of the pearl panels for “the” moment.


I like how the windows on page 25 are the same shape and size as the panels. It keeps the pacing consistent, even when he does a big panel.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 1, 2009 at 3:12 am

Another favourite “moment” of TDKR is the sequence leading up to the final battle with Two-face in where Batman explains why he has to “save” Two-face and where he admits seeing Two-face as his reflection.

Furious George

April 1, 2009 at 6:24 am

For me, the cool moment is Bruce changing the channels, each one delievering more bad and horrifying news. He stops on Lola, announcing some good news: A break in the heat wave (A break in the necklace). You can hear Bruce’s psychie snapping on that line. Bruce Wayne is gone; only Batman remains.

Damn, Miller was good back then!

another rmoment why dark knight returns is my favorite story for miller uses martha’s pearls as another reason Bruce took up the bat mantle that and the bat crashing through the big windows is scary and serves the story well

To me, that may be the greatest sequence of panels in comic book history.

Miller manages to show the reader how things look from inside Bruce Wayne’s mind. The view from in there is pretty terrifying. Miller focuses the flash-back to the murders on small details: the aforementioned pearls, the father’s protective hand and the shell casing being expelled. Paradoxically, by showing less the reader a sense of the enormity if the crime.

If you follow this emotions, then you notice Bruce Wayne moving through the stage of the Kubler-Ross model. First, is denial (“…just a movie, that’s all it is”), followed by anger (the grinding teeth as he watches the news), followed by bargaining (“You cannot stop me with wine or vows or weight of age …”), then depression (the answering machine panels) and finally acceptance (the Bat crashing through the window). That juxtaposition takes the reader directly to core idea of Batman: that grief takes human beings to extreme places.

No other medium could have achieved the same effect as easily. The montage effect was borrowed from the movies, but I don’t think an actor could’ve played Bruce Wayne the Miller has him acting here. A novel couldn’t have given you the same impact as the visual. It is still an amazing, shocking and unmatched piece of, I guess, cartooning. You can’t read it and snicker about Batman ever again.

Ah yes, the pearls.

Possibly the most important contribution Miller made to the Batman mythos (the image from Batman: Year One, of young Bruce kneeling in the spotlight between his parents would be the other one)

Frank Miller is the man

Although All Star Batman and Robin is just terrible. So was The Spirit movie

ASB&RtBW is great – but not up there with TDKR

Ahhh, one of the more acceptable uses of “decompression”…


That was fantastic. I love how Eastwood-esque he draws Batman.

Ah, back when Miller was comprised of nothing short of sheer awesomeness. Where did that man go?

Was DRK the first time Zorro was specified as the movie the Waynes went to see?

The bit with the pearls has always stuck with me because of that second panel on page 24. The gun is actually TOUCHING MARTHA WAYNE’S THROAT in that panel.
And then the necklace breaks.
We don’t see the shot. We don’t see the horrific image that was probably burned into Bruce’s memory. But we see the string break and we KNOW, we can’t NOT know, what happened there.

Dean , well said. I can’t help to think that some of the current crop of writers would have shown the murders in gruesome detail, making it a spectacle rather than the perceptions of a little boy going through the most important moments of his life.

Also, I love Superman’s message. It effortlessly tells us the relationship between the two.

It is amazing to me that this is the same guy who writes “the God Damn Batman” dialogue.

It is also interesting to me that one begins to see the styles of Miller and Janson are moving in different directions. Janson’s inks are less careful, less controlled here, than on their Daredevil run. While Miller may have left a lot of room for interpretation on the DD run, here his penciling is very controlled, and Janson can just barely reign himself in. The coloring by Lynn Varley should also be mentioned, as with the strong use of positive and negative spaces a lesser colorist might have felt the need to fill in the blanks. Varley instead is more restrained, giving us a palette similar to watercolors, instead of bold acrylics.

Still, the story telling is phenomenal, which may be what makes Miller’s later Batman works so disappointing. He goes from having such a strong understanding of the character and moves almost into self parody. His Spawn / Batman story just felt wrong, character wise, and All Star B & R moved even further into a caricature of the Dark Knight persona.

He may always have been the GD Batman- but he never would have said it, instead showing it through his deed and action.

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years.

The moments in this scene that hit me are (1) the coloring of the stormy sky. The surrounding scenes have a noir feel, almost in black and white, with muted reds and blues. But that sky! Storm’s a’comin!

(2) Third to last panel, after Bruce has lowered his eyes. When he looks up into the light, with the X across his face, you know that Batman is looking up, not Bruce.

And the answering machine messages from Harvey, Clark and Selina are just great story development squeezed into the corners of the scene…

Decompression through heavy use of moment-to-moment transitions isn’t so bad when there are 16 panels per page!

The first anchorman we see looks like the black guy from The IT Crowd.

Nah – The boy in Runaways looks like the one from The IT Crowd

The last panel in the second row on the last page – bat eyebrow!

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