Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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For the animated adaptation, see Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (film).

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a Batman comic book miniseries written and drawn by Frank Miller and published by DC Comics from February to June 1986. It reintroduced Batman to the general public as the psychologically dark character of his original 1930s conception and helped to usher in an era of "grim and gritty" superheroes from the -1980s-1990s.


  • [his inner voice, the true Batman, taunting him] The time has come. You know it. In your mind. In your heart. In your soul. You tried to hold me back. But you can't, Bruce. You're weak. You're a shell. A rusty trap that cannot hold me. Let it go. Let me OUT.
  • You don't get it, son. This isn't a mudhole... It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon.
  • Pull that trigger... and I'll be back for you.
  • There's just the sun, and the sky, and him, like he's the only reason it's all here. Then, he ruins everything by talking.
  • It's a .45 Caliber Bullet. Hollow point. It explodes in his chest. I feel the shock through his fingers. For the thousandth time... My father dies.
  • Clark, you bastard. You let them do it. I always knew you would. Maybe during breaks between police actions, one of your military friends told you what an electromagnetic pulse is. And maybe you listened, Clark. All you need to generate the pulse is the detonation of a few dozen nuclear warheads. That, or a special kind of nuke that both sides have been trying to develop... Yes, Clark. Both sides. The American name for it is Coldbringer. It is designed to cause maximum damage to the environment -- all the while sparing the industrial sites your friends regard so highly. Since my own atoms aren't bouncing around the stratosphere -- since Gotham City squats like a great black graveyard -- since Wayne Manor's emergency generator hasn't kicked in -- and Robin's watch has stopped -- I'll assume Russia has taken the lead in the arms race. I keep track of these things, Clark. One of us had to.
  • The dump. It's a breeding ground for insects and rodents. Some rodents fly.
  • Tonight, if you are indeed with me, if you all mean it, then together, we restore law & order to Gotham City. And we won't do it-- (holds up rifle) --using this. This loud, clumsy, stupid thing-- This is the weapon of the enemy. We do not need it. We will not use it. (snaps the gun's butt off where it connects to the chamber, and draws three batarangs nested between his fingers) But my weapons? They are quiet -- precise. In time, If you prove yourselves to me, demonstrate if you're deserving, worthy to stand by my side, I'll see fit to teach them to you. But not tonight. Tonight, you'll rely on your fists-- and your brains. Tonight, we are the law. Tonight, I am the law. Let's ride.
  • You gotten far too used to being a god, Clark. It's way past time you learned what it means to be a man. It's time you remember what it is to bleed.
  • It wasn't easy to make. Took years and cost a fortune. Luckily, I had both.
  • Want to know something, Clark? You were right. What you said earlier. We didn't have to do this. We should have been changing the world... inspiring people to be better than what they are... we were heroes... When we were young. When it counted. When people knew what was good for them. When people appreciated the efforts of the selfless. And look at us now...I've become a political liability, an overcapable embarrassment to a self-serving, malicious, incompetent system, themselves an embarrassment ...and're their've become a joke... a gullible ignorant instrument of that system... You preach to me about letting the past go, and yet you yourself won't. Because the mighty Superman is just so perfect he thinks he knows what's best. If that were true,'d be at my side, as we were before. When we were young. We were friends once upon a time, but that ship sailed when you put your judgement in these weak, conceited wretches. In the greedy. When you threw your lot in with the perpetuators of disorder and ill intent. And you had the gall to lecture me, trying to intimidate me, simply because they asked you to. They've made you weak. But you didn't have to be. Lois, Jimmy, Perry, your parents? They'd all be ashamed of what you are now. But, I didn't have to go easy on you...a different binding agent...a potent I wanted you to stay out of my way...I wanted you to remember, Clark...In all the years to come... in your most private moments... I want you to remember what it means to be human... I want you to remember my hand at your throat... I want you to remember the one man who beat you.
  • My timing wasn't quite precise enough. Clark heard. That was the first thing Robin told me when she dug me up. Not that it mattered. He'd have guessed sooner or later. He knows how good I am with chemicals. I was counting on what Oliver said, and with a wink, Clark proved Oliver right. He'll leave me alone now. In return, I'll stay quiet. So will Robin and the rest... we have as many years as we need... years - to study, to train, to plan... here, in the endless cave, far past the burnt remains of a crimefighter whose time has long passed - it begins here, an army - to bring sense to a world plagued by worse than thieves and murderers... this will be a good life. Good enough.


  • Bruce, you bastard. You'll ruin everything. For all of us. I always knew you would... The rest of us learned to cope. The rest of us recognized the danger--of the endless envy of those not like us. The normal people. The weak. Diana went back to her people. Hal went to the stars. And I have walked the razor's edge for so long... But you, Bruce--you, with your wild obsession. You never learned to let it all go. They'll kill us if they can, Bruce. Every year they grow smaller. Every year they hate us more. We must not remind them that giants walk the earth. You were the one they used against us, Bruce. The one who played it rough. When the noise started from the parents' groups and the subcommittee called us in for questioning... You were the one who laughed that scary laugh of yours... "Sure, we're criminals," you said. "We've always been criminals. We have to be criminals." We almost threw a party when you retired. By then, the PBI was in it and things were getting out of hand. And then there was that trouble with Oliver. Do you remember why you retired, Bruce? No -- Just look at you -- You'd do it again -- And like a murderer, you'd cover it up again. Nothing matters to you except your holy war. They were considering their options and you were probably still laughing when we came to terms. I gave them my obedience and my invisibility. They gave me a license and let us live. No, I don't like it. But I get to save lives -- and the media stays quiet. But now the storm is growing again -- They'll hunt us down -- Because of you.
  • Twenty million die by nuclear fire if I am weak.
  • "Harmlessly.." The woman... on television... She said the bomb would detonateharmlessly... You cannot touch my planet without destroying something precious. Even her deserts are abundant.
  • Our people, Bruce. You laugh at them. They can do this... And you laugh...
  • You have every reason to be outraged, Mother Earth. You have given them everything. They are tiny and stupid and vicious but please, listen to them.
  • I have always loved you. Though I was born a galaxy away, I have always served you. The same power, the sun's power, fuels us both. You hold it here, you store it... I beg you. For a suffering world, release it...
  • You are... So generous... You give me... Your beautiful jungle. I swear... your adopted son will honor you.
  • Bruce, why can't you understand? This is idiotic. This whole thing is a waste of time! This is exactly what I didn't want to do. This is why they're afraid of us! This is why we are where we are now.

The Joker[edit]

  • Batman. Darling.
  • I should sleep. I'll be fresh tomorrow. Because tomorrow I go free, and then it's time for my final show.
  • No more? Oh, but there will be more, Batsy. There will always be more. I could never have enough. They could put me in a helicopter and fly me up into the air and line up the bodies head to toe on the ground in delightful geometric patterns like an endless June Taylor dance routine — Even then, Bats, it wouldn't be enough. It never will be. Not until we finish it. Not until you break or I do. And it's finally come. The moment we've both dreamed about.
[He slashes at Batman's abs, making a deep slice, causing him to keel over into the water. Joker's immediately on top of him, kept from driving the knife in his eye by Batman's arms desperately blocking it]
Oh come on, don't tell me you're gonna fall asleep at the moment of truth. My my, Bruce, you have gotten old, haven't you?
  • No, I don't keep count. But you do. And I love you for it.
  • You're in trouble now. Go ahead, Batman. Say you've never wanted this to happen. Say you wish there'd been another way. We both know it'd be bullshit though, right? No, you've dreamt of this moment. Been waiting for the right time, the right excuse. The perfect opportunity. The best part about it is, I still won. Because I finally made you lose control. Made you break your one rule. And now, the civilized people you've struggled to protect? They're going to hunt you for this. Hunt you like a dog. They're gonna kill you, Brucie. And when they have, I'll be waiting with open arms....out the gates of Gotham and plunging into the gates of Hell!
[cackles loudly as he twisted his neck further, completely snapping his neck and killing himself, his mouth hanging open in a macabre rictus grin, seemingly mocking Batman in death]


  • Commissioner Gordon: All I have to do is think about Sarah. It makes the rest of it easy. She's made it worth it. Her and our girl. Barbara.
  • Robin: It only happened once. Just once in the whole night that it showed. He'd given the orders and all the Mutants and the Sons and everybody is gone for a minute. And during it, I caught it. He just sagged in his saddle like an old man. I could see it for just that one moment. The weight of it all on him. The fatigue. Maybe even a smidge of doubt? Hell, fear? Then he straightened up and grinned at me, like it was a joke. He can't die...or he just won't. I don't think he ever learned how to. But why would he? A man like him? So sure and passionate about what he does? He'll live forever. That I know for sure.
  • Commissioner Yindel: No. No. He's too big. God, he's SO big.
  • Alfred (final thoughts, just before dying of a stroke after destroying Wayne Manor) Of course. How utterly proper.


Mutant Leader: You got any kids, officer?
Officer: Shut up.
Mutant Leader: Just asking, officer. I love kids.

Batman: Boosters. Boosters. What...
Robin: Peel.

Superman: Bruce -- we have to talk.
Batman: I'm busy tonight. You've just cost me hours. Tomorrow morning. My place. Stay out of my way until then.

Clark Kent: You're not a young man anymore, Bruce. Maybe if you'd learned to slow down... Find your niche... But times have changed, and you-- Well, it's just not healthy. You'll burn yourself up.
[Bruce offers him a smug smile.]
Clark Kent: I know, I know, you look better than you have in years, but... You're going to make me come right out and say it, aren't you?
Bruce Wayne: Nobody can make you do anything you don't want to, Clark.
Clark Kent: These aren't the old days, Bruce. The world's got no room for... It's like this Bruce -- Sooner or later, somebody's going to order me to bring you in. Someone with authority. When that happens...
Bruce Wayne: When that happens, Clark -- May the best man win.
Clark Kent: Now that's just-- Hold on a second--
[Clark catches a speech from the President.]
Clark Kent: I have to go. We'll talk later.
Bruce Wayne: No hurry.

Alfred Pennyworth: Your accountants wait in the West Wing, sir.
Bruce Wayne: Tell them I'm sick.
Alfred Pennyworth: Shan't have to lie. hat refugee charity called...
Bruce Wayne: Write them a check.
Alfred Pennyworth: And the Committee For the Prevention of Obsessive Behavior in Middle-Aged Men?
Bruce Wayne: Write them a check.
Alfred Pennyworth: Very good, sir. Your sense of humor is as keen as ever, sir.

Bruce Wayne: Her last class is about to end. Go get Robin, Alfred.
Alfred Pennyworth: And should Miss Kelly have better things to do with her evening?
Bruce Wayne: There's nothing better.

Kid: You're the Joker, right? Well, Batman's gonna kick your ass, like always!
Joker: That right? Well, here's a secret for you, brat. He's gonna go through you first!
Batman: No, I won't. I never would. Now put the boy down, Joker.

Batman: You sold us out Clark. You gave them power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson... lying on this street... shaking in deep shock... dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.

Alfred: ...I shall come right out with it. Have you forgotten what happened to Master Todd?
Batman: I will never forget Jason. He was a good soldier. He honored me. But the war goes on.

Thug: No! Stay back--I got RIGHTS-- [Batman seizes him and slams him through a window, with him falling onto the fire escape, cuts all over him and is bleeding profusely]
Batman: Yes, you've got rights. Sometimes at night I count them just to make myself crazy. And right now, you've got a huge shard of glass stuck in a major artery in your arm. Right now, you're bleeding to death. And right now? I'm the only one around to get you to a hospital in time. So however long you take to tell me what I want to know? That's up to you. Right now, would be preferable.

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