In 1986 Frank Miller released the Dark Knight Returns, this futuristic depiction of Gotham showed a Bruce Wayne who had given up the cowl while the city, still far from idyllic, fought its own crime. After super criminals and mutants rise to the surface Batman has to return, and here we are presented with an older, embittered emotionally tortured man who it appears despite all his efforts never found the redemption he wanted. Two years later Alan Moore wrote a tale in which Batman’s infamous nemesis the Joker returns to cause havoc in his life. Causing chaos and paralyzing Barbara Gordon in the process (in an unforgettably frightening scene) this version of Batman is forced to break his own rules in order to stop the madness that ensues. Both of these comics came out to critical acclaim, and their portrayal of the once comedic hero were put in concrete when Tim Burton released his shadowy adult film in 1989. This new version of Batman brought the violent, scary world of Gotham to viewers everywhere and changed the perception of the hero. Despite these efforts later incarnations of the money-making franchise clearly regressed back to the silly ‘family friendly’ nature that once was, which once again urged writers to turn up the darkness again.
After a much loved and more accurately toned cartoon series and some other great titles, Batman once again hit the big screen in 2005. With master Director Christopher Nolan behind the camera, his versions lined up closer not just with the comics but with reality. This made Batman grittier, his trials and tribulations amplified by the fact that audience could imagine it more in the real world. His trilogy of films continued this legacy, most notably depicting the Joker as a real-life psychopath and making his face paint more ghoulish.
Back on the comic pages, the need to outperform the screen was back, as people turned to the books to get more of what they enjoyed. This called for drastic measures and once again the writers and artists didn’t let people down. Joker, though alarming on screen became terrifying on the pages of DC books when he decided to get his face cut off by a fellow Arkham Asylum patient named Dollmaker. This led to the horrific new look whereby he wore his own face like a mask, its skin pulled over his face muscles like a ragged cloth while his lidless glare stared through the holes where his eyes were. This iconic sadistic version of the clown prince of crime stuck a around for a little while, reminding those in passing that the books can compete with the films no matter who they get to direct, or how much makeup they put on the actors. This constant back and forth may seem odd from the same brand, many people would assume that it is competing with itself, which wouldn’t be far from the truth. Eager to make sure that they don’t lose the Batman that was made popular DC changed up it’s team to make sure Batman was in good hands.