Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns Originally Killed Off Batman


Despite every bonkers thing that Frank Miller has said over the last decade or so, despite the iffy sequels and despite realizing that it’s essentially a fascist power fantasy, The Dark Knight Returns is still a damn good comic (and was decently adapted by DC Animation a few years ago). The 1986 miniseries by Miller and Klaus Janson almost immediately redefined what Batman was, and its influences can still be seen all over contemporary portrayals of the hero, most notably in Ben Affleck’s aged and paranoid take in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The comic itself has spawned two sequels, with The Dark Knight Strikes Again being slightly unfairly maligned and 2017’s The Dark Knight III: The Master Race considered a bizarre but enjoyable read. But all that might not’ve happened if Miller had gone with his original instincts when it came to the ending. Those familiar with the story will remember that Batman/Bruce Wayne succumbs to a heart attack just as he’s defeated Superman in hand-to-hand combat. That ends up being a fake-out, though, with Wayne faking his own death in order to train a new generation of vigilantes.

But on the Batman panel at the London Comic-Con, Miller revealed that it could’ve gone down very differently. His original plan for the ending would’ve seen Batman’s lawlessness and disregard for authority come back to bite him, going down in a hail of bullets while fighting police who’ve arrived to arrest him.

I’ve got to say, while The Dark Knight Returns is a pretty nihilistic read at times, this might’ve been a step too far. I like that there’s a glimmer of hope at the end of the comic and the hint that Wayne may have finally conquered his demons and found some contentment: “This will be a good life. Good enough,” he says.

That’s just my opinion, though. What do you think? Would you have preferred to see this darker ending? Let us know by dropping a comment down below.

About the author

David James

David James

London-based writer about everything and anything. Willing to crawl over rusty nails to write about Metal Gear Solid or Resident Evil.