A paste-up stencil graffito, which pokes fun at Batman by depicting the grim comic book character in fishnet stockings and high heels, has appeared on the east side of the abandoned storefront at 555 West Broadway.
The amusing and irreverent juxtaposition—by East Vancouver artist M. W. Bowen—is a parody of a well-known (by Batman fans at least) splash panel from Frank Miller’s1986 graphic novel: The Dark Knight Returns Book Two: The Dark Knight Triumphant.
Why so serious?
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a creative high water mark in the then-47-year history of the Batman franchise. Set in a violent, media-saturated, near-future, the graphic novel portrayed Batman as an aging warrior, driven out of retirement to fight one last battle against a tide of criminal chaos.
Miller gave fresh creative vigour and relevance to the character by restoring the early 1940s dynamic of Batman as a ruthless gun-toting, vigilante who was himself hunted like a criminal by the forces of law and order. Miller’s climactic depiction of Batman’s battle with Superman—the ultimate symbol of law and order—was nothing short of jaw-dropping in 1986.
The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel has been something of a creative wellspring, leading directly to the resurgence of the Batman character in popular culture—helping to inspire Tim Burton’s film Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012).
And some 30 years later, the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns returned again in Zack Snyder’s 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That film’s pivotal fight scene between Batman and Superman was lifted in every major detail from…you guessed it.
Unfortunately, in his big screen recreation of the battle between “Bats” and the “Big Blue Boy Scout”, director Snyder was able to cram in the CGI effects but not the page-turning, emotional intensity of Miller’s original.
But Snyder did go Miller (not to mention Marvel Comics’ vigilante Punisher character) several steps better in the Unremittingly Grimness department, by having his Batman actually brand a bat symbol into the skin of alleged criminals. (Aiee!)
So ya, I think the pendulum has swung as far as it needs to in that direction. I’m with the stencil graffiti artist 100 percent—the Batman character really needs to lighten up a bit.