Snapshots of Jimmy Olsen #42: James Olsen of Earth-31

Source: 1st in The Dark Knight Returns #2 (1986)
Type: Alternate future/Earth
No matter what Frank Miller has done since then, future Jimmy's speech here stands in stark opposition to the lesson comics creators (and face it, many fans as well) thought they learned from The Dark Knight Returns. It tells me that TDKR's portrayal of Batman and his relationship to Superman weren't meant to be taken as positives. TDKR was ironic fiction. The contrast to mainstream comics of its day wasn't meant as a much needed revision, but as a "world gone wrong".

And yet, people instead embraced the grimdark approach as "cool", and over the coming decade, proceeded to push (or encourage, if we're talking about readers and their money) mainstream superhero universes into a format that would sometimes make TDKR seem tame in comparison. When Mark Waid rewrote TDKR as Kingdom Come (if you'll allow the lineage), the same approach was now a critique of what mainstream comics had become, as opposed to an original contrast. But the same thing happened. It merely reinforced the readers' love of grimdark. What's wrong with us? Similarly, Frank Miller's All-Star Batman & Robin, in many ways the ultimate example of grimdarkery - and referenced because it features a Jimmy Olsen working at the Gotham Gazette who may well be a younger Olsen-31 - could and probably should be read as a critique of the subgenre/style, or at least a hyperbolic spoof of it (which is a form of criticism). It's all right there in that speech.

James Olsen-31's Greatest Hits:
*As a cub reporter, taking in an eyeful of Vicki Vale-31 and giving her files on Batman and friends (All-Star Batman & Robin #6)
*The article "Truth to Power", which evokes the speech above (TDKR #2)
*Reveals the President is a hologram (The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1)
*Killed by Luthor and BrainIAC when Metropolis is destroyed (TDKSA #3)


Erich said...

Very good point about TDKR and its effects. I've always felt that subsequent creators were mis-inspired by Miller's version of the Joker. Now, I may be wrong about this, not knowing EVERY Joker story before TDKR, but it occurred to me that while the Joker was murderous from the start, he didn't become a MASS murderer until he killed the entire studio audience in Miller's story. Before that, he only killed specific targets for specific reasons, even if they were absurd reasons that only made sense to him (as in "The Laughing Fish"). I thought the Joker's massacre in TDKR was meant to show just how much worse he'd become (a way of saying "We all knew he was a killer, but he'd never done anything like THIS before")...unfortunately, later writers took this as a starting point rather than an endpoint.


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