Amber Yates email@example.com Lit 438
February 13, 2015
Setting the Scene
In the final book of Frank Miller’s influential graphic novel
Batman: The Dark Knight
, “Russia has taken the lead in the arms race” (Miller, 168). After a nuclear weapon forces Gotham into a frenzy, planes descend from the sky and destroy buildings, fires are started and mobs begin destroying the once lawful city. Escaping from jail, the Mutant Gang take to the streets claiming the night as their own. “Like in a western” (Miller, 175), Batman arrives once again to save Gotham city from destroying itself. Unlike other instances where he rides in the
Batmobile, he gallantly arrives on horseback without all the technology that we have come to know of Batman. Together with his posse and lasso, the Dark Knight restores some law and order to the town of mayhem. At high noon, Batman faces Superman. During this epic battle,
Bruce Wayne renounces his other persona so that he can have life a “good life” (Miller, 199).
“The idea that a picture can evoke an emotional or sensual response in the view is vital to the arts of comics”. (Mccloud, Page 121)
For my essay, I will be analyzing at the symbolism of the Wild West used throughout this graphic novel, and I will also be talking about its relationship to masculinity. Westerns, in general, involve strong men overcoming and battling weaker men and even nature to prove their prowess. This can come in the form of breaking horses, killing indians, and bedding their women. Usually in an area of lawlessness, they kill murderers, drunks, robbers and those who are morally wrong. These overall themes are strikingly similar to those found in
Dark Knight Returns
. Batman and cowboys from the Wild West are able to not only use symbols
to provoke strong emotions and sensual responses, but they use their masculinity to interact with the chaotic world them.
Batman’s adventures are similar to the west in the 19th century. The new city is overrun with crime. Specifically, the city is being taken over by the Mutant Gang. We get our first sense of a city quickly going to hell. Not only is it extremely hot outside, but smoke also arises from broken buildings and the sun beats down on the citizens of Gotham. As this heat increases, the social tension seems to rise as well. It seems that there is no possible savior for Gotham. A decade before, the great cowboy of the suburban jungle would protect them. However, its been ten years after Batman’s retirement and the city has given up all traces of hope. We get this sense of doom while the zombies walk around holding signs “We are damned!” (Miller, 12)
Masculinity is explored on multiple levels in this graphic novel. However, before discussing how Batman’s masculinity is defined, we must look at the many factors that decide what is masculine within Miller’s
Batman: Dark Knight Returns.
To begin, I searched for an
example of someone who is not masculine within Gotham. After surveying the mayor, a man who is insecure and overweight appears to be running the city. For a man who supposedly has all the power, he appears to be emasculated by his inability to take responsibility and carry out orders. While trying to negotiate terms with the Mutant leader, who oozes masculinity, he gets destroyed. This is a striking difference to the masculinity that Batman possesses. Although masculinity and