Comics of the Decade: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again

This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

By Thomas Thorhauge

“Striking terror. Best part of the job”, says Batman somewhere in the first chapter of Frank Miller’s long-awaited sequel to The Dark Knight Returns (1986). The line makes sense coming from Miller, because “striking terror” is kind of what DK2/The Dark Knight Strikes Again has done with comic readers (if we keep the scare quotes, naturally).

The New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks has described Frank Miller as an “internal writer”, i.e. a writer who composes from his gut, or perhaps more accurately his subconscious. By describing him thus, Horrocks wishes to emphasise that one never quite knows what to make of Miller’s stories. His “internal” approach results in ambiguous stories, in which the point is never really, well, the point. Actually, Miller does not seem really to have one most of the time. This, of course, is a characteristic shared by many artists, but it’s rare to see in comics the kind of creative rage Miller summons.

At TCJ: What Is Finland Doing Right?

Over at The Comics Journal, I now have a report from last weekend’s Helsinki Book Fair online, in which I do some half-baked theorising about the artistic successes of Finland’s comics scene. Hop to it!

More photos from the fair and around Helsinki, including the show of contemporary Sotuh African art (featuring Bitterkomix) currently running at the Tennis Palace downtown, to be found among the Bunker’s photosets.

Picks of the Week


The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Transatlantica on comics. The latest issue of this online academic journal features a selection of articles on comics, many of them of high quality.
  • Fabrice Neaud at the Beaux-Arts in Lyon, 2009. Great video in which the emperor of autobiographical cartooning talks about his work.
  • Fine comics reviews. Shaenon Garrity on Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac and Ken Parille on Charles Burns’ X’ed Out (to which he adds some notes here).
  • On Charles Hatfield’s Alternative Comics

    This week and next, we have a roundtable discussion on Charles Hatfield’s 2005 book Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature going over at Hooded Utilitarian. My post just went up and is the fifth in the series, following Noah Berlatsky, Robert Stanley Martin, Caroline Small, and Derik Badman (plus an interlude by Ng Suat Tong). Charles himself has participated in the lively debate — which has touched upon the work of Gilbert Hernandez, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and comics autobiography, amongst other things — and will be posting a series of responses next week.

    Image: from Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb’s “The Harvey Pekar Name Story” (1977).

    Images from the Copenhagen debate on transgressive cartooning

    As mentioned earlier on this blog, the Danish Comics Council organised a panel discussion on transgressive cartooning at the University of Copenhagen this past Tuesday, focusing in equal measures on the recent debate about legislation against drawn and animated child pornography and the Mohammad cartoons.

    It was a lively and well-attended event, despite the regrettable last-minute cancellation by the Social Democrat member of parliament Karen Hækkerup, who is the instigator of the proposal to ban drawn child pornography. The Council invited a number of other politicians who have supported the proposal, but without luck. The debate was streamed live on the internet and is archived in its entirety here.

    Several photographers were there, including my buddy Frederik Høyer-Christensen, who took the above photo of literary critic Klaus Rothstein and commentator/lawyer Jacob Mchangama and has more in his Flickr- and Facebook sets. More images, from photographer Niels Larsen and cartoonists Erik Petri and Annette Carlsen can be seen at the Danish Comics Council website.

    Comics of the Decade: Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde

    This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

    Between April and May 1993 the UN Security Council decided to establish a number of so-called “Safe Areas” in war-torn Bosnia. These were placed around the Bosnian enclaves of Bihać, Tuzla, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Žepa, and Goražde. In return for disarmament, they were put under the protection of the UN. Threatened by reprisal by the UN, the Bosnian Serbs halted their bombardment of Sarajevo in February of 1994 and turned their attention instead to the East Bosnian enclave of Goražde. Apart from a few airborne missions in April, the UN did not intervene against this Serbian aggression, which only gained in force as time passed. It soon became obvious to everyone that a humanitarian crisis was imminent, if not already occurring.

    I aften: Grænseoverskridende tegninger

    Så er det i aften at den store paneldebat om grænseoverskridende tegninger, arrangeret af Dansk Tegneserieråd, finder sted på Københavns Universitet. Tag derud eller følg det pr. livestream her. Det starter kl. 19.00.

    Derudover snakker Dansk Tegneserieråds formand, og ordstyrer ved debatten, Thomas Thorhauge, om emnet på P1 her til morgen kl. 6.40.

    Tegning af Erik Petri. Copyright Gyldendal, Blæksprutten 2010.

    Nordic Comics in the Expanded Field

    Tomorrow, I’m off to Finland for the Helsinki Book Fair, where there will be a substantial comics presence. Making up for missing the recent Helsinki Comics Festival, I’m looking forward to meeting the Finnish cartoonists present, as well as to see the apparently substantial contingent of international authors, primarily Scandinavian, who will be converging there, smack in the midst of one of the most interesting comics scenes right now.

    I wrote the following piece for the book fair comics paper, published by the Finnish Comics Society. More when I get back.

    Comics right now are in a heightened state of evolutionary flux, headily promising great things as they go off in a multitude of previously unexplored directions. A century-and-a-half as a popular, patently lowbrow mass medium saw them define and refine a pictorial language by now built in to our visual culture, but it also restricted their expressive field to a handful of genres and circumscribed rather narrowly their visual vocabulary. Although this pattern has been challenged consistently since at least the sixties, it is only in the last decade-and-a-half or so that a kind of critical mass has been reached. An expanded field is opening for the art form.