Batman fans freaking out over which way he faces on Dark Knight Returns cover

Christopher Baggett
Batman Dark Knight Returns #1 cover artDC Comics

The cover of The Dark Knight Returns might be Batman’s most influential image ever, but some fans are realizing they’ve been misinterpreting which way he faces on it for nearly 40 years.

To describe The Dark Knight Returns as influential feels like an understatement. The 1986 mini-series by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson was not only one of the most important Batman stories of its time, but it left an impression still being felt today. 

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In the immediate, The Dark Knight Returns inspired the tone of Tim Burton’s classic Batman in 1989. More recently, the look and demeanor of TDKR’s Batman directly influenced Ben Affleck’s portrayal and costume in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

Fans love The Dark Knight Returns, whether it’s in movies, action figures, or even cosplays. Those fans are now having their own existential crisis, though, as their perception of the book’s first cover is called into question. 

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Which direction Batman faces on The Dark Knight Returns cover is confusing fans

The madness started in a November 26 tweet by comics_jeff, who shared an image of the classic cover of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1. For comics_jeff, it’s called everything he knows into question, as he thought Batman was leaping away from the reader for his whole life. 

“I just had my mind blown cuz what do you mean Batman is not with his back faced to the readers,” Jeff tweets, “Please tell me I’m not the only one.” The tweet features the original cover and a line art mock-up of how Batman is positioned under the shadow on the cover. 

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“I always thought it was like this.” Jeff shared in a follow-up tweet where he outlined the silhouette to show what he thought was correct: Batman with his back to the reader, leaping into the night. 

It seems odd that the image is such a source of contention. The cover is iconic in all the best ways: Batman, cloaked in shadow, leaping through the air. One hand outstretched, one raised into a fist, a lightning bolt cracks behind him. It is the definitive image of a series made of definitive images. 

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But comics Twitter had a similar reaction. Many users are now coming out of the woodwork, both to agree with and clown on Jeff’s observations. 

“This is this year’s ‘is the dress black and gold’ then.” Matt Ferguson tweeted, referencing the dress controversy from 2015

“I mean, whatever, it’s fine — no, it’s GREAT — either way. A perfect, all-time classic cover,” Batman: Confidential writer Andy Diggle tweeted, “But jumping TOWARDS you is always more grabby and dynamic than jumping away from you. Especially when it’s FUCKING BATMAN.” 

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Batman is facing forward in the Dark Knight Returns comic

The controversy does seem to be settled for now, at the very least, and by the man who started it, no less. In a later follow-up tweet, Jeff shared an image of the original Miller draft art, which clearly indicates a front-facing Batman. 

Still, it’s easy to see where the confusion starts. Not only does the original art leave this somewhat up to interpretation thanks to its effective use of silhouettes, but film adaptations that came later have gotten it wrong. 

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“Dude, the movies thought it was from the back.” user SilverKreates shared, with an image of Affleck’s Batman recreating the pose in Batman v Superman and the animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. 

Both feature their own take on the classic cover, but in both instances, Batman is depicted from behind. Whether this is an intentional stylistic change or an honest mistake, we may never know. 

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About The Author

Christopher Baggett started writing about comics on the Internet when he was 14 years old. Since then, he's written professionally for a host of sites, including ComicsBeat, Comic Book Resources, and The HomeWorld. He's most knowledgable about the legacy heroes of the '80s and '90s that he grew up with and believes Wally West is the best Flash - and he'll fight anyone over it. For tips, news, press and more, contact Christopher at christopher.baggett@dexerto.com