Abracadabra! (We just destroyed capitalism)

Skip to content

Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Eric Gimlin
    September 25, 2015 @ 5:49 am

    Super small detail that’s slightly poking at my brain: I’m not sure “the comic was published in what DC called their “prestige format,””, but rather that the comic was published in what DC later came to call their “prestige format”. I vaguely recall some promotional material on The Longbow Hunters using the “prestige format” name and explaining that it was the same format Dark Knight had been published in.

    I could be way off base here, but I was just getting back into comics around this time after about 2 1/2 years not bothering (a friend introduced me to the concept of a comic book store) and I do remember us not having a name for the format at least to start.

    Lots of memories about Dark Knight Returns as it was coming out, although the only issue I wound up getting the week of release was #4; and I never did get to read #1 until the collection (with the Alan Moore intro) came out.


    • Timber-Munki
      September 25, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

      Wasn’t the ‘Prestige Format’ originally refered to as the Dark Knight Format by DC in various solicitations thanks to the story’s early success in that format leading to DC marketing to realise they could make big profits from milking it for as much as they possiby could.


      • Eric Gimlin
        September 25, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

        They probably did, Timber-Munki. That matches what I recall of the hype for Longbow Hunters; either than or Blackhawk could have been the switch-over in names. Then again, this was a point where DC had multiple formats and less than spectacular naming trends. It’s one thing to temporarily label something “New Format”, it’s quite another to put it on the cover of dozens of books for over two years.


  2. Matt M
    September 25, 2015 @ 6:34 am

    Oh man, Frank Miller.

    I suppose this gets into the question of ‘death of the author’. I think it’s less a case of ‘just’ Islamaphobia (I’m not sure I got that feeling from him, more a general ‘right wing’ and ‘terrorism is bad mmmkay’ though I can’t say I’ve read much of his later stuff) and more a general case of “my goodness, it turns out he wasn’t being satirical, he literally believes all this right-wing stuff” that has caused a lot of people to look back and reassess his previous work in that light. Much like “All Star Batman and Robin” works if you think it’s written as satire and fails miserably if it’s not.

    Does it matter though? Should it matter? Nothing in the actual text has changed given subsequent revelations about the writer, just the context of the work. Was everyone who praised Dark Knight Returns wrong because it was seemingly written more straightforwardly as believed?


    • John
      September 25, 2015 @ 9:16 am

      I read it for the first time recently. not really knowing what to expect. I was familiar with Miller’s recent shitty politics, but had the vague sense that his 80s work is mostly free of that. My take on finishing was that it’s really fucking fascist.

      And I don’t think this is just my knowledge of Miller’s current politics infecting my understanding of Dark Knight. I read Year One and Miller’s first Daredevil run after Dark Knight, and I didn’t find them nearly as objectionable, even though at that point I was inclined to look for the fascism.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      September 25, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

      I read Holy Terror for this section, just to make sure I was characterizing it fairly. (I almost used an illustration from it, but decided the horse parallel was better. Hat tip to Lance Parkin, incidentally, who was the first person I saw make that connection.) Based on it, I think Islamophobia is actually the key ideology for Miller, and the fascism is just sort of an incidental (and given his earlier work inevitable) consequence.


      • Eric Gimlin
        September 25, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

        I find it interesting just how revolting I find that horse parallel now that you’ve pointed it out. Makes me glad I had already told my local shop that I don’t want DK3 under any circumstances, and please don’t pull a copy for me “just in case”. Which is fine, as the owner was already considering ordering just enough to meet pull requests and none for the shop.

        But… I think this reaction would have been completely different in 1986. To the very limited extent my 15 year old self would have been aware of The Birth of a Nation at all, it would have been “Primarily a Classic Film that is, unfortunately, also racist.”, not “A racist piece of garbage that is, unfortunately, also a classic film.” Song of the South had its last theatrical release in 1986 as well, for example.

        Then again, the more I look back at it, the more it seems that Dark Knight was more mindblowing, shocking, amazing, inspiring, and other words of that type… than actually fun. I so loved how it did what it did that I missed the fact for years that I didn’t really care for what it did.


        • John G Wood
          September 27, 2015 @ 4:23 am

          “Then again, the more I look back at it, the more it seems that Dark Knight was more mindblowing, shocking, amazing, inspiring, and other words of that type… than actually fun.”

          Yeah, this was my reaction. I’ve never been a particularly big Batman fan, but picked it up because I’d enjoyed most of Miller’s Daredevil run (plus the hype, of course). At the time I found it gripping… but never felt in the mood to reread it, so eventually sold it or gave it to a charity shop. I preferred Batman: Year One, but even so I haven’t felt the urge to buy any of his work since then (or see the movies).

          Hearing about his politics here kind of confirms the impressions I’ve received since, although at the time I assumed DK was satirical.


      • Aylwin
        September 25, 2015 @ 3:01 pm

        It may be a parallel, but isn’t it a bit of a stretch to call it a “lift” or “homage”? I mean, “man on rearing horse” was already a stock image centuries before D. W. Griffith was born, and beyond its basic man-on-rearing-horseness there’s nothing very similar about the composition.


        • Matt M
          September 25, 2015 @ 4:42 pm

          And let’s be fair, that would be like claiming Star Wars is fascist because it uses imagery from Triumph of the Will

          (Or maybe it is, but I don’t think so?)


          • John
            September 26, 2015 @ 8:30 am

            Or, I guess, that every film that features cross-cutting between two different, but related, scenes to build tension, is a tribute to Birth of a Nation.

    • Daibhid C
      September 25, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

      “Much like “All Star Batman and Robin” works if you think it’s written as satire and fails miserably if it’s not.”

      It’s my opinion that ASBAR doesn’t work as satire, but this is based on flicking through it and putting it back on the shelf very quickly, so ICBW.


    • BenJ
      September 25, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

      He certainly seems to believe “all this right wing stuff” now. Whether he credited all of it back then is a different question. From reading interviews with him back within the decade after TDKR was released I remember that he used to have interesting, nuanced things to say about comics and their place in the world, before he started to pound the “fuck Muslims and hippies” note over and over.

      As an artist he still shows some skill and flair even as his writing deteriorates. The excerpts of Holy Terror that I’ve seen do have some sharp compositions, despite the depressingly limiting subject matter. His style as a writer suited this project but unfortunately the big two were too slavish in imitating it. Which is to say that while terse first person narration is good for a comic about Batman as a monomaniac, it soon became mandatory


  3. Sean Dillon
    September 25, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    I could be wrong about this (and this wouldn’t be the first tim I’ve been wrong about something like this), but I could have sworn the “Zap! Pow! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore!” quote is from Grant Morrison’s Flex Mentallo. If it’s not, I’m curious where Neil Gaiman said it.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      September 25, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

      You know, I’ll admit, I credited that one to him from memory, so I could be wrong. I’m 99% certain I saw the quote during my undergrad years, though, and I didn’t get into Grant Morrison until grad school (and didn’t read Flex Mentallo until I was in the earliest stages of prepping for this project). But I have fairly vivid memories, albeit possibly totally false ones, of reading some interview with Gaiman where he talked about being a journalist in the late 80s and trying to get people to cover comics only to have every article he wrote retitled that.


      • Daibhid C
        September 25, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

        It was a standard “thing” at the time; Moore has a variant in his intro to Lenny Henry and the Quest for the Big Woof (as “Bam! Sock! Pow! The Comic Grows Up”).

        Because the fact was, all newspaper articles about comics did have that headline.


  4. Timber-Munki
    September 25, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

    The hero worship of Rorshach has always left me simultaneously completely baffled on a personal level and not surprised at comic fandom not getting it at a heroic level.

    Dark Knight really is puzzling, The art is for me the redeeming factor – Interesting to see in the slew of variant covers for DK3 #1 David Gibbons has chosen that iconic page from Hunt the Dark Knight of Batman & Robin leaping across the skyline, which apparently was the first image the Miller came up with when initially developing the series. It is, also all one of the most straightforwardly innocently heroic images from the book.

    As to DKSB, my initial thoughts were that it was an incredibly ballsy move from Miller to get DC to pay for Lynn Varley to learn how to colour on computer and a canny decision to make it only 3 issues long, because it really does stretch fans patience. Looking back at it now again it’s the art, this time in a febrile-hot-mess-looseness-Captain-Beefheart-genius-but-I-couldn’t-have-all-my-art-like-it kind of way.

    I’m not even going to bother trying to get hold of DKMR illegally for all the bien pensant reasons – the title, the format, the man’s politics crossing the subjective line of giving it a pass for great art, the lack of Miller art, the banal trilogising of the story from Warner Bros marketing, the niggling sense that a fitting way to honour the man’s work would be to instigate wholesale changes in the way the big two treats creators rather than some kind of blatant cash grab to help one of the masters of the form (Pre 9/11 IMO) & one of your major revenue sources for nigh on 30 years (Why do you think the second Nolan film is called what it is, and you can’t deny that the Arkham video game’s aesthetic is indebted to his work) and who may be struggling with health issues currently.


    • Timber-Munki
      September 25, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

      (And also more specifically Miller indebted title of the 3rd Nolan film)


    • John
      September 26, 2015 @ 8:35 am

      Jeet Heer had an interesting series of posts on Twitter about why readers are not in fact wrong to see Rorschach as the hero of Watchmen. See here. I generally find this line of argument fairly convincing.


      • John
        September 26, 2015 @ 8:37 am

        Actually, this is the better storify.


  5. Daru
    September 28, 2015 @ 5:24 am

    Man, that parallel with the horse image from Birth of a Nation is shocking. One of the things, in fact the main thing that really brings vibrancy to The Dark Knight Rises is Lynn Varley’s absolutely exquisite colouring.


  6. Karl Thomasson
    October 2, 2015 @ 11:51 am

    “Ultimately, if nothing else, the idea that the company that wouldn’t even let Alan Moore kill the Peacemaker would allow one of their most popular characters to be undermined and subverted like that.”

    This sentence seems to be missing something…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.