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Comic Influences on The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Posted on
Sun, 29th Jul 2012
Kevin Smith Fatman on Batman podcast Holy High-Praise Batman!
Film-maker, podcaster, retailer and huge Batman fan Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) gave this feature special mention on his "Fatman on Batman" podcast calling it "an excellent piece"!
Thanks Kevin - we are big fans on this site!

INTRODUCTION

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises (2012) features many references to the Batman comics. In some cases these are elements adapted directly from the source material. In other instances they're elements subverted to manipulate audience expectations. What follows is an overview of the references we spotted in the movie.

As with our previous comic references features, our objective is not only to recognize the filmmakers' research in the source material, but also to credit the many significant comic book writers and creators whose work was adapted in the movie.  Without them, these films would not have been possible.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES AND THE COMICS

The first major character we meet in The Dark Knight Rises is Bane. The look of the character was completely redesigned from his comic counterpart and bears more of a resemblance to Ubu, Ra's al Ghul's loyal henchman from the comics. Ubu first appeared in Dennis O'Neil's 'Daughter of the Demon' (Batman #232, June 1971), but in later stories, he was depicted wearing a mask to cover his facial disfigurements. In Chuck Dixon's Bane of Demon (1999), Bane fights and defeats this masked version of Ubu and takes his place at Ra's' side.

After Bane kidnaps Dr. Pavel, the film transitions to Harvey Dent Day at Wayne Manor. Here we meet several new characters, starting with Mathew Modine's Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley. Foley was likely inspired by Hugh Foley, a GCPD officer who was featured prominently in the No Man's Land story arc. The character was tragically shot dead in the comics. His onscreen namesake meets a similar demise towards the end of the film.

Later at the party, Foley mentions that Commissioner Gordon's wife took his kids and moved away from Gotham. Gordon's career has often interfered with his marriage iIn the comics. The most notable example is Jeph Loeb's Dark Victory, in which it was revealed that Barbara Gordon had separated from her husband and moved away, taking their son, James Jr., with her.

The next major character introduced at the party is Talia al Ghul, posing as executive 'Miranda Tate,' who hopes to team with Bruce Wayne in a quest to use nuclear fusion for clean energy. She later becomes a high-ranking member of the board of Wayne Enterprises.

The comic book Talia has also served as a corporate exec. Lex Luthor appointed her, under the name of Talia Head, as the CEO of LexCorp when he became the President of the United States. But like Miranda's intentions towards Bruce in the film, Talia secretly planned to undermine Luthor.

The other executive villain, John Daggett, may have been inspired by Roland Daggett from Batman: The Animated Series, who first appeared in the episode 'Feat of Clay' by Marv Wolfman and Michael Reaves. Both characters are corrupt businessmen who try to take control of Wayne Enterprises.

The Daggett from the film also bears similarities to Max Shreck, one of the villains in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992), created by screenwriter Daniel Waters. Shreck, Roland Daggett and John Daggett are all outwardly legitimate businessmen who are secretly engaged in criminal activities. All three men come into conflict with both Catwoman and Bruce Wayne. Shreck and John Daggett also both enter into covert alliances with other villains and are ultimately betrayed by their co-conspirator.

All of the aforementioned characters discuss the fact that their host, Bruce Wayne, has become reclusive over the years, not even showing up to his own party. This is strongly reminiscent of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1986). Aside from bearing a similar sounding title to The Dark Knight Rises, Miller's work also has the premise of Bruce Wayne hanging up the cowl and becoming a reclusive loner with a death wish.

In the comic he's been in retirement for ten years, in the movie it's eight. But in both cases we see Bruce as a man who has lost all purpose in life, whiling away his time reliving painful memories in the shadowy halls of Wayne Manor.

Bruce in The Dark Knight Returns hung up the cowl due to the loss of the second Robin, Jason Todd, as well as the government's banning on superheroes.  

Similarly, Bruce in The Dark Knight Rises has stopped being Batman due to the Harvey Dent Act cleaning up the streets and has become a recluse in Wayne Manor because of the loss of his childhood love, Rachel Dawes.

Bruce Wayne also has facial hair in the beginning of both stories, but shaves it off later when it's time for him to return to his old life.  

His first appearance in the film sees him confronting a maid who has trespassed into his private chambers. The maid is in fact Selina Kyle, a professional thief who's attempting to acquire samples of Bruce Wayne's fingerprints, using the theft of Martha Wayne's pearl necklace as a pretext to cover her true agenda. Bruce sees through her disguise and attempts to stop her her, but Selina escapes. He isn't able to retrieve his mother's necklace until later, when he next reunites with Selina at Miranda Tate's costumed ball.

This very much stays true to Selina Kyle's first historical appearance in Bill Finger's 'The Cat' (Batman #1, 1940). Instead of a cat-like costume, the character originally disguised herself as an old lady named Miss Peggs in order to steal the Travers diamond necklace during a yacht party. Batman was able to see through her disguise and recover the necklace, though the Cat herself escaped.

It's worth noting that Selina Kyle is never referred to as 'Catwoman' in The Dark Knight Rises,although we do see newspaper headlines referring to her by her early comic book name, 'the Cat'. 

After the Wayne Manor sequence, the film transitions to the GCPD rooftop, where we meet Nolan's version of Robin, Officer John Blake. As noted by fans at the time of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's casting, the name "Johnny Blake" showed up in Jack Schiff's 'A Comedy of Tears' (Batman #13, 1942) as a child who gets his report card stolen by the Joker. The scene was later recreated in the 256 Pages Super Heroes Coloring Book. 

Since young Blake and the film's Blake have nothing else in common, it's likely the shared name is a coincidence.

The name 'John Blake' does however have connections to Robin and several other characters in the comics. For one thing, 'John' is the middle name of Dick Grayson. 'John' is also a homophone of 'Jean', which could be construed as a reference to Jean-Paul Valley, the man who succeeded Bruce Wayne as Batman during the Knightfall story arc. Lastly, 'Blake' rhymes with 'Drake', the surname of the third Post-Crisis Robin Tim Drake. 

On the surface Blake would appear to be a completely original take on the concept of Batman's sidekick. But he does have some parallels with Dick Grayson from the comics. First of all, both characters are orphans.

Secondly, Blake grew up in a Catholic orphanage, St. Swithin's. Prior to being taken in by Bruce Wayne, the Post-Crisis Dick Grayson also lived in a Catholic orphanage. The character of Father Reilly in the film can be seen as a parallel to Sister Mary Elizabeth, the kindly nun who took care of Dick in Marv Wolfman's Batman: Year Three (1989).

Thirdly, Blake is a cop, as was Dick Grayson during Chuck Dixon's run on Nightwing. He began training to become a policeman in 'Bad Night in Bludhaven' (Nightwing #31, May 1999) and was accepted onto the force in 'The Sylph, Part One: Slender Thread' (Nightwing #48, October 2000). He continued to serve with the Bludhaven Police Department throughout the early 00s.

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Feature written by
BatmAngelus
Ben Yip is a writer in Los Angeles whose obsession with all things Batman have lead him to contribute interviews and articles to Batman Online.
Silver Nemesis
Silver Nemesis is a writer and a lifelong fan of Batman comics, movies and TV shows.
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