Speaking at MCM London Comic Con (via Bleeding Cool), Miller and inker Klaus Janson looked back on their seminal collaboration. Janson recalled having to constantly shift panels around to compensate for Miller’s changing vision of how the story should end.
Miller revealed that his original plan was to actually have Batman die, cut down by gunfire from police. The ending would have been dark, but a perfectly poetic end for Miller’s Batman, who had a distinct anti-authority streak.
Miller ultimately went a different route. Instead of being shot to death by police, Batman went toe-to-toe with Superman. Batman faked his own death in the battle and reemerged to lead an underground army of mutant vigilantes.
Keeping Batman alive made it a lot easy for Miller to follow the story up with sequels. The Dark Knight Strikes Again arrived in 2001 and Dark Knight III: Master Race followed in 2015.
Miller’s depiction of Superman as a government lackey in opposition to Batman as a heroic outlaw has often been misinterpreted as Miller showing disdain for the Man of Steel. In a 2015 interview with ComicBook.com, Miller clarified that is not the case.
"I've been particularly brutal to Superman, but that's not because I don't like the character; it's because the point-of-view has always been Batman's," Miller said. "If I did a story where Superman was the lead character, Batman would be the antagonist. I adore Superman, it's just that Batman does not, so when I'm writing Batman, I do not. It's very much a writer's job to take on a character's point of view."
“I've got a new Superman project that’s getting started, telling his origins. It’s like my book, Batman: Year One, it’s going to be Superman: Year One,” Miller said of the project. “It’s going to be telling origins from when Pa Kent discovers him in the cornfield. And the little boy grows to youth and then to manhood….I’ve never really had my meaningful crack at Superman. In the cast of DC Comics, which has far and away the strongest and richest mythology, there are those three pillars they have of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.”
What do you think of Frank Miller’s original ending for The Dark Knight Returns? Let us know in the comments!