Comics Daily – Dark Knight: A True Batman Story – I’m mostly a Marvel Comics comic book fan. Not in any way that I believe they’re superior. Just that when I started getting into comics Marvel were the comics that caught my attention. They drew me into the world of heros, mutants, and cosmic beings. DC was there. I was already familiar with Christopher Reeves Superman and Adam West Batman. And I very much enjoyed both. However I only had so many dollars to put into comics and Marvel is what I went with.
In 1992 I was eleven years old when Batman: The Animated Series comes to Fox Kids television. It drew me in. It told superhero stories in a different way than Amazing Spider-Man and New Warriors did. I was dark and mature but still very accessible to the kid I was. On Leather Wings was as much a horror story as a superhero one. The Cat and the Claw a spy thriller. Heart of Steel a sci-fi body snatchers story. Heart of Ice a Shakespearean drama. That last one introduced me to Paul Dini who since then has become my favorite Batman writer.
Around the time that Paul Dini was writing for Batman, (specifically when the script for Mask of the Phantasm) was being written, he was mugged and pretty brutally beaten. So badly hurt that it caused a spiral of fear, anger, and self pity that almost lead him away from writing Batman. Though his bones were reset and his scars healed (eventually) the mental attack this event put him through diminished his spirit.
Having a broken spirit sounds pretty sappy. Something that ends up being the plot of a Halmark movie where the main character rises above hard times through the power of love or hope or God or whatever. Reality doesn’t work like that. Depression or anxiety can break a person. Sometimes there isn’t a third act climax that makes everything alright. Reality requires a decision to not surrender. Then agonizing strength of will to not succumb how easy it is to give up. Because it is one thousand percent easier to come up with excuses. This comic is the story how Paul Dini made that third act happen for him.
It starts off at the beginning of Batman: The Animate Series’ debut. He rises on the success of being part of that show. Making money, achieving success in the eyes of his parents, dating attractive actresses. and doing the thing he loves. Even before the event of the mugging at the center this story we see he fights with internal demons of self doubt, self delusion, and self hate. Then one night while walking home from an unsatisfying date with a very pretty lady Paul Dini is brutally beaten to within an inch of his life. After which writing superhero power fantasies doesn’t have a lot of meaning. He stops going into the office. He starts drinking heavily and passes time with video games. He feels sorry for himself with the women he pursued in the past don’t come around to express their love and sympathy.
His imagination manifests Batman characters as a means to process of the trauma he is going through. Two-Face tells him he is his own worst enemy. The Penguin encourages him to drink deep to escape. Scarecrow points out what a coward he is. The Joker is the maestro at the center of this symphony. Leading Dini down a path of self destruction that is the punchline of the joke of a life he has made for himself. Batman shows up to coach him, but the Dark Knight can’t punch away these villains. At times he berate Dini for allowing himself to be weak. However this time Batman doesn’t inspire hope. He almost seems powerless. Dini shrugs him off as such unrealistic notion. It is a guy in a record story that offers Dini the perspective he needs to turn things around.
This is one of those journey not destination stories. Even before you open the front cover you know how it ends. Paul Dini doesn’t quit Batman. He has been writing the character for the twenty plus years since this event. This is about how Dini got to those next twenty years. How he worked and fought against the beating life hits everyone with to come back and have his happy ending.