In 1986, Frank Miller released the illustrated book, “The Dark Knight Returns. ” Frank Miller’s eyes for dramatic lines, Klaus Janson’s inking and Lynn Varley’s coloring lift this literature up to the top of mainstream comics. In “The Dark Knight Returns,” the pictures successfully symbolize the underlying meanings and create intensive atmosphere. Minds and ideas are imbedded in the graph in such a way that graph becomes the continuum for the meaning. On page twenty-six, Frank Miller focuses on the ideological struggle between Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Bruce Wayne tries hard to keep Batman from free despite his relentless struggles to break the chains. Frank Miller uses dramatic lines and shadows to evoke the imagery of captivity and innermost entanglements deep inside Bruce Wayne. The windows are represented by the cell bars, which metaphorically emphasize the point that Bruce Wayne is struggling to repress Batman’s escape. The prison view is painted with limited color, rendering bleak and harsh image and depicting drastic and furious floundering. Besides, the use of shadows creates a nightmarish atmosphere.
In the eighth and eleventh panel, the window frames are cast on the face of Bruce Wayne, which generates an illusion that these shadows resemble scars. It is this misconception that escalates the tension of innermost struggling of Bruce Wayne. Furthermore, the comparison of color is surprisingly strong in this page. From the fifth panel to the twelfth panel, there exists a pattern in which similar images are expressed in both bright and dark tinges. Throughout these panels, Bruce Wayne, who are devoid of color, and Batman, who are lurking in the dark, engage in a drastic combat.
In the final panel of the page, an enormous flying bat with flaming jaws crashes through the window symbolized by cell bars. The deliberate extension of this panel and the element of flame give us the impression that after enduring all the endlessly raging innermost conflicts and fights, finally the Batman breaks through all the barriers and chains. In page fifteen, the first few panels describe workers at Arkham Asylum walking down the halls and discussing the weather and other trivial things while passing the room of Joker.
This seven panel doesn’t stand out so much but ordinary chatting is a process of drawing the attention to Two-Face’s room. The augmenting intention explodes in the last several panels, in which Frank Miller lets his intention flows out of the page by the symmetric structure of panels, deliberately and metaphorically. A plastic surgeon and a physiatrist are trying to convince Two-Face has been cured and about to unveil his new face. It is the transition point from the previous single image form to two symmetric halves.
This physical mirror structure regarding the character of Two-Face seamlessly corresponds to his split personality. This deliberate parallelism setting is such a brilliant combination of meaning and picture that the border between graphics and meanings exquisitely blur. In twelfth panel, Two-Face’s split personalities are stressed again. The dramatic effect reaches its peak by the hands of Miller: “Thank you, Dr. Wolper. And now, Harvey Dent meet Harvey Dent. ” The line is separated into two halves, which again suggests the sheer comparison between his conflicting personalities – the bright side and the scary side.
In panel thirteen, finally, Harvey Dent sees himself in the mirror, shockingly finding himself that his face is again unified. It is the point that the panel changes back to the single structure, which further reinforces Two-Face new identity–unified face. This transition from single to symmetric structure and back to single panel keeps its pace with the underlying meaning that Miller tries to convey and the dramatic effects that Miller intends to intensify. The interaction behind this parallelism marks the monumental point at which picture and meaning are mingled seamlessly.
Frank Miller consummately manages to convey the internal ideas externally. The pictures are imprinted into the process of developing characteristics of figures, together with the use of monologue, highlighting the protagonist’s loneliness, burden and innermost conflicts. The interplay between graphs and meanings, the exquisite visual expression and effective use of such devices as imagery, symbolism and metaphor enable The Dark Knight Returns to transcend the conventions of superhero comics and become Literature, with a capital “L. “