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Cape and Cowl
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

Cape and Cowl

With The Dark Knight Rises being confirmed to be the last of the Batman movie series directed by Christopher Nolan, we have to acknowledge that an entire generation of moviegoers will now have only one association with the Masked Vigilante of Gotham—Christian Bale’s character driving a hulk of a Batmobile, Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Commissioner Gordon, and best of all Heath Ledger’s unforgettable role as that agent of chaos, the Joker.

Helter Skelter: Batman
Batman: Year One
Helter Skelter: Batman
Batman: The Killing Joke
Helter Skelter: Batman
The Man Who Falls
Helter Skelter: Batman
Batman: The Long Halloween
Helter Skelter: Batman
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Without a doubt, Nolan’s series is a masterpiece, but the mention of character portrayals is especially noteworthy because, after all, the characters are derived from various comic book and graphic novel series. In the run-up reports prior to the release of all three films, development of the plot and characters was said to have been carried out by adapting elements from the comic book series. If you ever wanted to know the real source of gripping story lines, character dialogues, and even action sequences (to a certain extent), the three graphic novels by the leading writers of the genre that served as “primary texts” for Nolan’s Batman series must be read.

Frank Miller’s Year One and Dennis O’Neil’s The Man Who Falls were used by Nolan as primary texts for Batman Begins, which was released in 2005. Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke are considered essential influences for 2008’s The Dark Knight. Of course, if we were to pick out the most influential of these, it would be Year One, for helping in developing the characters of Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent over the course of the two movies. The Killing Joke probably comes a close second due to its explicatory nature in providing an origin story for the Joker, as well as providing the best traits that actor Heath Ledger incorporated in his role as the lead antagonist of The Dark Knight.

Though Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween includes almost all of the famous arch-enemies of Batman and a main plot line involving the persona of Holiday, who murders members of Gotham’s mafia as well as government officials being chased, the main ideas Nolan seems to have picked up include Batman’s rivalry with the Mafia of Gotham City and Harvey Dent’s tenure as District Attorney to keep the mafia in check, which later leads to his disfiguringly morphing into Two-Face. Indeed, it looks like Dent’s character traits as the fearless “white knight” in The Dark Knight have their inspiration in Loeb’s graphic novel.

O’Neil’s 1989 comic book story The Man Who Falls has been cited by numerous sources as being the structural basis for Batman Begins. This is probably because Nolan wished to put in place an origin story for Batman, and the scene wherein a younger Bruce Wayne falls into a hole and becomes surrounded by bats is translated onto the screen brilliantly by Nolan, and Hans Zimmer’s backing score to that particular scene too, is remarkable. The structure of Wayne Manor and Bruce’s expedition to learn the martial arts are also known to have their definite influence in the film. In fact, the design for Wayne Manor is suggested to be archetypal for all Batman story-lines subsequent to The Man Who Falls.

Alan Moore is typically known for employing not only the greatest story lines, but also literary conventions and excellent dialog in his graphic novels. The Killing Joke was no exception to this, as the origin story of Batman’s arch enemy the Joker was told by Moore in this 1988 graphic novel. Drawn by Brian Bolland, the depiction of the character is nothing short of menacing. Moore provided The Joker with epic lines which were definitely an inspiration for the quotable quotes Heath Ledger’s Joker is attributed to in The Dark Knight. For example, “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy” is telling of the Joker’s intentions in The Dark Knight, to simply drive people like Harvey Dent to the brink of insanity.

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Lastly, Frank Miller has been known for his continual contribution to the Batman franchise, and his graphic novels such as Year One and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are proof of his ability to mould the character of Batman into a shade of grey. Year One, like all ‘Year One’ series of comic books tells the origin story of Batman. The parallel simultaneous character stories of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon converge at various points in this 1987 graphic novel. And as reports for the story line of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, it is certain to draw influence from Year One in the aspect that Lieutenant Gordon is portrayed in constant pursuit of the masked vigilante. Everything from Christian Bale’s street attire as Bruce Wayne to the famous bat-swarming scene in Batman Begins is reflected in the graphic novel as well.

Reading these graphic novels is definitely recommended, since they provide a good insight into what Christopher Nolan has excluded or omitted in his Batman series. And that, of course, can perhaps mean that Nolan may want to look to include those omissions and go all the way to create one of the greatest comic book-movie adaptations with The Dark Knight Rises.

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