3. Frank Miller Strikes Again, and Again

frank miller

The rise and fall of Frank Miller is an interesting thing all by itself. The writer/artist was once one of the most original, creative minds in comic books -- at least during the 80s, when all you needed to do to break with comic book tradition was to be dark. Even so, it's tough to call Miller's The Dark Knight Returns anything but one of the most influential DC Comics ever written.

It's how influential that series, and a couple of other mid-to-late-80s books became that's the problem. After the successes of The Dark Knight Returns -- as well as Alan Moore creations like Watchmen, and The Killing Joke -- DC went dark. Very dark. For three whole decades.


Following that grim, gritty period DC took pretty much entirely the wrong idea. Rather than realize that people wanted new, fresh takes on tired concepts, the publisher assumed that what everyone wanted was for comics to be completely joyless at all times. It was from there that we got pitiless events like Identity Crisis, Cry for Justice, Final Crisis, Amazons Attack!, and pretty much any crossover event produced during The New 52.

Some writers and artists have realized just how closed-in this logic forced DC to become. In one of the same interviews where he discussed his distaste for The Killing Joke, Moore lamented that Watchmen basically became the template for every DC book that followed -- despite his intentions. Babs Tarr, Brendon Fletcher, and Cameron Stewart have done their work to untangle Batgirl from her tragic past, and Scott Snyder -- who's written Batman since the start of the New 52 -- is taking the Caped Crusader in a lighter direction as well. That direction does include chainsaws, but they're the fun kind of chainsaws.


Frank Miller is a very different example. While other writers, and even the publisher, have begun to adapt, he very much did not. Nowhere is that more evident than the train wreck that is The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Besides garish, seemingly rushed artwork DK2 features strikingly bad writing -- in part because it paints Bruce Wayne, and his cohorts as nothing short of violent psychopaths.


It doesn't stop there, though. Miller has returned to that universe multiple times, most recently in yet another Dark Knight book, but also All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. Here Batman kills his foes, tortures a young Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin), and at one point forces him to hunt for "food" in the Batcave. This is also the series that presented the gloriously awful line that has since become Internet Famous.


The sentence perfectly summarizes 30 years of DC Comics. Hopefully, with the company's newfound success, we've seen the last of it.

4. Batwoman Can't Get Married


DC's company-wide reboot, The New 52, wasn't just a shot in the arm for one company. It was a call-to-arms for people to care about comic books again. In that way, it was a huge success. In others, not so much. Many of the 52 titles started out strong, but petered out over time. Others were misguided from the start, but hey! Those are bound to crop up with any change as sweeping as DC's boldest move.

Batwoman wasn't like either of those categories of comic. Under the direction of artists/authors W. Haden Blackman, and J.H. William III, Batwoman was an absolute powerhouse of creativity.

The premise went: while Batman dealt blows to the criminal underworld in Gotham, his cousin and counterpart Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, protected the city from supernatural dangers. All the while, Kate had to manage her secret identity, a rocky relationship with her father, and a much smoother one with her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer -- who just happened to be a police detective.


Yeesh. That's a lot a plates to spin, especially given that Batwoman was a rather dark series. The things that went bump in the night in Kate's corner of Gotham were of the vicious, apocalyptic, oh-god-call-in-Wonder-Woman sort. Perhaps that was why Kate wanted a bit of a bright spot in her life. Namely, to be able to marry Maggie, and let her in on the whole "vigilante by night" secret.

We say "perhaps," because we never got to see the storyline follow through as it was originally intended. Batwoman #17 ended with a glorious shot of Kate proposing to Maggie...


...while Blackman and Williams promptly announced that they were leaving not just the book, but DC Comics as well. Why? Apparently, despite fan adoration, DC didn't like a number of things the pair were doing. The authors were repeatedly told to tear up what they'd done, and do it again -- always at the last minute, and only after more than a year of work planning the scripts.

Most notably, these changes included Batwoman not getting married. That ruffled more than a few feathers, even as the publisher denied that it had anything to do with Kate and Maggie being lesbians. Besides being rather ridiculous, DC's explanation didn't account for the good ol' trope of gay people in doomed relationships. It didn't help matters that the slipshod, DC-approved conclusion to the storyline wasn't revealed until Batwoman Annual #1, more than six months after Blackman and Williams' last issue. That's a long time to wait to be disappointed.