Holy Terror, Batman! Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and the Superhero as Hardboiled Terrorist




Parole chiave:

Frank Miller, Batman, graphic novel, comics, hardboiled, terrorism


Conceived in the late thirties as “bold humanist response to Depression-era fears of runaway scientific advance and soulless industrialism” (Morrison 2012, 6), the superhero has flourished as one of the most resilient archetypes of American popular culture. This essay analyses the literary and cultural contaminations that have engendered an unprecedented revision of the paradigm since the 1980s. In particular, it will take into account three graphic novels by American cartoonist Frank Miller (1957 - ), one of leading figures of the mainstream comics renaissance, whose ideas have indelibly influenced the artistic development of both medium and genre. The Dark Knight Returns (1986), The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002) and Holy Terror (2011) constitute an ideal Batman trilogy that charts the character’s evolution as political counterpoint to the perceived crisis of American identity. In this regard, Reaganism and 9/11 are polarized as historical discontinuities triggering the need for a new kind of a criminal (super)hero. It will be in fact demonstrated how the novels hybridise the latent generic links to hardboiled pulp novels (R. Chandler, D. Hammet) with narrative and aesthetics elements appropriated from the culturally-received concepts of terrorism and terrorists. This fruitful contamination on the one hand “play[s] with reader assumptions about genre” (Baetens and Frey 2015, 46), while on the other hand deconstructs the ideological underpinnings of the archetype, as the moral dichotomy and the alienation of justice from the law.  


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Biografia autore

Daniele Croci, Università degli Studi di Milano

Daniele Croci (1988) is a Ph.D. student in Linguistic, Literary and Intercultural Studies
in European and Extra-european Perspectives at the University of Milan. His main
interests include postmodernism in British and American graphic novels, with a
particular focus on literary canons and appropriations; the relationship between
power and ideologies; utopian and dystopian narratives. He is a member of the
editorial board of Altre Modernità, the Cultural Studies journal of UNIMI, where he
published an essay on the tragic motifs of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. He also coedited
the eleventh issue of the journal, entitled “Spionaggi”.




Come citare

Croci, Daniele. 2016. «Holy Terror, Batman! Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and the Superhero As Hardboiled Terrorist». Altre Modernità, n. 15 (maggio):163-85. https://doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/7183.