The Dark Knight Returns (DC) (Comics Title)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is set 20 years in the future. In the absence of superheroes, criminals run amok, and a gang called the Mutants terrorize Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has been retired from crime fighting for ten years following the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Despite Wayne's funding of the rehabilitation of Harvey Dent (Two-Face), Dent returns to crime. Bruce, overcome with the grief of what Gotham has become, as well as being unable to resist his true identity as Batman, dons the costume again and apprehends Dent, and the populace debates whether Batman is a savior or a threat to society.

Issue Information

Main Issue Title: The Dark Knight Returns
Series Name: The Dark Knight Returns
Publication Date: March 20, 1986
Cover Artists: Frank Miller
Next Issue: The Dark Knight Triumphant
Publisher: DC Comics

The Dark Knight Returns

Writers: Frank Miller
Pencilers: Frank Miller
Inkers: Klaus Janson
Colourists: Lynn Varley
Letterers: John Costanza
Universe: Earth-31

Appearing in "The Dark Knight Returns"

Featured Characters

  • Batman

Supporting Characters

  • Alfred Pennyworth
  • Carrie Kelley
  • Commissioner Gordon


  • Joker
    • Abner
  • Mutants
    • Mutant Leader 
  • Two-Face

Other Characters

  • Bartholomew Wolper
  • Dick Grayson
  • Gotham City Police Department
    • Stan Merkel 
  • Herbert Willing
  • Jason Todd
  • Joe Chill
  • Lana Lang
  • Martha Wayne
  • Michelle
  • Reporters
    • Doc, Bill, Lola Chong, Dave 
  • Thomas Wayne (Flashback only)
  • Bats


  • Earth-31
    • Gotham City
      • Arkham Asylum
      • Batcave
      • Crime Alley
      • Wayne Manor 


  • Utility Belt
  • Batarangs
  • Batrope
  • Bat-Signal
  • Two-Face's Coin


Synopsis for "The Dark Knight Returns"

It is a dark, depressing world where criminals run amok in the absence of superheroes. Gotham City is terrorized by a gang of vicious and aimless teenage murderers, the Mutants. A now 55-year-old Bruce Wayne has been retired for ten years following the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. Attempting to bury his guilt over Jason's death, Wayne has turned to alcoholism, near-suicidal recreational activities, and has funded the rehabilitation of Two-Face in an attempt to prove to the world - and to himself - that a man's demons can be truly exorcised. On the eve of Commissioner Gordon's forced retirement, however, two events push Wayne to reestablish the presence of his alter ego: a major crime wave hits the city, and Two-Face's rehabilitation goes awry. An enormous bat crashes through the windows of Wayne Manor, symbolizing the psychological return.
Re-donning the cape and cowl, Batman must deal with a world where even the petty criminals are homicidal maniacs who kill for thrills. He no longer has the absolute support of the police, public, or government. Reporters and psychologists see the Joker as a victim and Batman as the madman.
Batman has changed since he last put on the cape: though still quite strong and up to the physical task of apprehending ordinary criminals, Wayne is forced to acknowledge to himself that his advanced age and long period of inactivity have diminished both his skills and his ability to withstand and recover from injury. And, unknown to anyone, the Joker has likewise emerged from retirement. Catatonic and without his trademark evil grin in Arkham Asylum for the ten years of Batman's absence, the Clown Prince of Crime reawakens to his twisted, hateful obsession of the Dark Knight, upon hearing a television report about Batman's return.
Upon Batman's return, journalists, experts, politicians and the public debate the rights and wrongs of Batman's methods and influence: some like Lana Lang praise him for reclaiming the streets from the criminals, while others criticize him for not observing the civil rights of these same criminals.
Finally, an out-of-control, nearly suicidal Two-Face threatens to blow up Gotham's Twin Towers; however Batman is able to deduce and foil the scheme. In their struggle, Batman removes the bandages that have been covering Dent's face, expecting to find Two-Face's visage split in its classic dichotomy. Instead, he sees Dent whole and handsome on the outside, but fully lost within his own mind. In Dent, Batman sees a "reflection": just as the restoration of Harvey's face led to the final destruction of his sanity, the Batman persona has become all the stronger for having lain hidden under Bruce Wayne for a decade. 


  • This book was first published on February 25, 1986.
  • This series takes place in an alternate continuity from that of the mainstream DC Universe. It has been retroactively classified as an Elseworlds story. In the Post-52 Multiverse, this reality has been allocated as Earth-31. It shares continuity with Frank Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin, which is set many years in the past.
  • This issue was reprinted in the softcover and hardcover version of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
  • It was also reprinted in Millennium Edition: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Book One and Batman Essentials: The Dark Knight Returns Special Edition #1. 


  • This issue establishes Batman's origin in which he falls to a dark cave filled with bats as a child.