Dodano: 29 June 2016
What happens to us comes from the outside
Paul Dini is considered by Batman fans to be one of the major “evangelists” of the Dark Knight mythos. This smart, emotionally sensitive writer created some of the most memorable episodes of a TV show that is not only a cult classic with bat-fandom but also a milestone in the history of animation in general: Batman: The Animated Series. In one of them, the now legendary „Heart of Ice”, he humanized Mr. Freeze, in another he introduced the character of an antihero named Harley Quinn. This makes even more surprising the fact that in his most recent Batman comic book… the hero is barely in it. Moreover, it is intended for mature readers only.
“Dark Night” is the first graphic novel with the Caped Crusader that is publishedby Vertigo. What is interesting, the protector of Gotham, his allies and adversaries are not actual characters but rather… different aspects of the author’s psyche. It is in fact the acclaimed writer Paul Dini who is the focus of the story, as he uses the superhero formula and a comic book medium for self-therapeutic purposes. The author, inspired by the artistic success of Dean Trippe’s “Something Terrible“ and Steven T. Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen’s “It’s a bird…“, talks about his childhood, working for Warner Bros. and a late night stroll which he would remember for the rest of his life as his worst nightmare.
Dini’s comic book autobiography is a real page-turner. Every Batman: TAS fan will be delighted to know the story of life of their favorite co-creator of that cartoon. Even if the author looks at rather uncomfortable parts of his psyche – unpleasant experiences, unrealized dreams, the feeling of existential loneliness mixed with helplessness. The real breaking point, however, was a night in 1993, when Dini and his friends from WB were working on a plot for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Filled with resentment after a failed relationship with a prudish woman, he comes across two muggers. They viciously beat him and humiliate him. The mugging is so brutal that the writer is certain that it will end tragically. After he miraculously survives, he still has to face other problems, such as people’s indifference, crushing alienation, police incompetence and uncompromising deadlines for handing in the scripts. But most of all, he has to cope with the loss of faith in himself and in writing Batman stories, which seems now even more pointless and immature than ever before.
The Dark Knight mythos do play a part here (it is, after all, a “Batman therapy”), but they are not the most important element. Also, Dini does not idolize Batman like a crazed fanboy. He is not afraid, in a sudden fit of anger and frustration, to point out the absurdities in his fantastic stories. This makes the story feel more realistic, grounded and intriguing. Each of the writer’s inner demons manifests itself as one of the major antagonists of the World’s Greatest Detective – the Joker encourages hedonism and not caring about work or other people, since he himselfis unfazed by the victim’s suffering. Poison Ivy represents failed relationships and unhealthy attitude towards love. The Penguin serves him whisky in order to escape problems. Only Batman tries to force Dini towork on himself and to devote himself to a calling that will help him reveal his hidden potential.
As the story progresses we see the writer changing from an introverted, eccentric, misanthropic observer into a compassionate, warm and friendly man, aware of both his strengths and his weaknesses. As a result, we get a moving, inspiring, motivating tale, honestly depicting the writer’s life in Hollywood. The way Los Angeles is depicted serves as a warning– the people one encounters there may not be interested in friendship, but rather in using others in orderto get closer to a celebrity like Nolan, Fincher or Spielberg, hoping to elevate their own careers. No wonder than that in such an environment sensitive people can often feel disappointed by people with whom they had plans for the future.
The art for the book is handled masterfully by Eduardo Risso. The artist behind 100 Bullets and Batman: Broken City shows off his artistic and narrative skills, although without his trademark approach of depicting events from a distance. The plot runs very smoothly from the visual point of view, as we watch devastated Dini being visitedby the voices in his head, taking the forms of animated characters. Each of them, known from their appearances in comic books taking place in Gotham City, are portrayed by Risso in his own way (while still trying to honor the animated series), giving them his own, unique personality. The dream sequences, feverish hallucinations and exchanges between Dini and the imagined characters are very impressive and one can see in them the animator showing his claws.This alludes to the fact that at the beginning of the story the author working on his self-therapy draws a storyboard that is meant to help him cope with difficult experiences. For this reason, aside from more traditional lines, Risso uses ordinary sketches and plays with colors and panels in order to better illustrate the author’s emotional dissonance. Even if we cringe at the sight of pixels on the cover and under the dustjacket, it can be interpreted as intentional – showing Dini’s blurry, depressing, gray perspective on his life two decades ago, when he almost gave up on his professional and social life.
Dark Night is the best Batman comic book published so far this year and it does not look like any animation, film or video game could beat it. After all, what we are dealing with is a unique and moving true story. The story of overcoming hopelessness and moving towards self-acceptance, forgiving the world and yourself shows the pop culture’s potential to heal, as well as the power of hope for the unknown days to come. Dini reveals the wisdom hidden in these explosive, sometimes violent stories about Batman. Although they teach us that we all have a dark, hidden nature that needs to be controlled, in the end we can overcome our weaknesses by taking action. Victor E. Frankl – the founder of logotherapy and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning – would be moved to tears reading this comic book.
The author of this review is Michał Chudoliński. You can find out more about him here.
Proofreading and translation: Jakub Michalik.
Dark Night: A True Batman Story
Written by: Paul Dini
Pencils: Eduardo Risso
Inks: Eduardo Risso
Colors: Eduardo Risso
Letters: Todd Klein
Published by: Vertigo Comics (June 21, 2016)
Cover: hardcover with dust jacket
Format: 17 cm x 26 cm