"The Dark Knight Will Yet Rise From the Ashes of Defeat"
- Batman: The Cult book 4: Combat
there's been a lot of discussion and lazy articles posted around the internet lately about what comic stories influenced the Dark Knight Trilogy. they all cite Year One, The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Knightfall, The Dark Knight Returns and No Man's Land, obviously enough. unfortunately the one consistency i've noticed is that every one ignores possibly the most influential Batman story arc of all time after Dark Knight Returns - Batman: The Cult.
it's everywhere now, too many damn so-called comic book readers faking the funk, not bothering to really know their shit, and it's a shame. any serious long time reader of Batman comics will tell you that The Cult is easily one of the most controversial and influential stories of all time. In addition to it's classic status in the comic mythology, The Cult has some obvious influences on The Dark Knight Rises, as well as the other two films. It's well known that Jonathon and Chris Nolan read a ton of Batman literature when writing each film, so it's highly doubtful that they didn't read this story.
The Cult is the original Knightfall - the first time the Bat was broken, the Bane characterization from TDKR definitely had elements of Deacon Blackfire, the religious cult leader that takes over Gotham in The Cult. Maybe it's because The Cult is really that influential that it's too easy to just point to the stories it has influenced as the source material for the Dark Knight Trilogy - in reality No Man's Land is just a drawn out, watered down version of The Cult and The Killing Joke lifted it's theme of breaking a person's psyche and turning a good citizen insane from The Cult as a way to give The Joker his long overdue frightening, dark edge.
when this story was first released in 1988, written by Jim Starlin and pencilled by Bernie Wrightson, it was the most violent, disturbing and horrific mainstream comic ever published. The vast majority of these panels aren't found online and i wouldn't want to post them here anyway to spoil anyone. After reading Batman for more than 25 years though, i still can't think of a more horrific tale than The Cult - this was truly controversial for it's time, and highly influential in blazing a path for mature reading infused with the GOAT mainstream hero.
(this ain't shit, but only thing i could find to give you an idea)
the Tumbler was not the first time Batman was depicted using a vehicle more closely resembling heavy armor than a Batmobile. when i first saw the Tumbler in Batman Begins, i thought of this:
you're likely to not have any reason to care about Jason Todd, or his death and return, without reading this story. This was Jason's finest hour.
In the story a seemingly immortal and highly charasmatic cult leader builds an army out of the homeless, druggies and criminals of the city in the sewers, capturing them and brainwashing them one at a time. he emerges into the mainstream diguised as a priest and gains support of about half of the city's media and population through his supposed efforts to eliminate crime, since basically overnight all the pimps, druggies, homeless and criminals turn up missing. before anybody knows what's really going on he blows up the bridges and siezes control of the city establishing himself as automous ruler of Gotham, although his secret wish is just to destroy the city forever. sound familiar yet? in the meantime Batman is captured undergound and completely starved, broken and brainwashed. he must escape Gotham in complete dispair before rebuilding himself and then must storm the city to single handidly take down Blackfire's army.
i think that if there is one story that has the single most influence on the Dark Knight Trilogy it's The Cult - and so i encourage this to be read by fans of the films as essential reading. in Batman Begins the theme of fear and overcoming fear as the true origin of Batman has roots in The Cult. here's a quote:
"I've been fooling myself all these years.. always claimed I became the Batman to avenge the death of my parents .. to fight crime. That was a lie. I really did it to overcome the fear."
i won't give anything else away, and i've hardly given away anything at all - unfortunately i can't find any of the best scenes online - but you will see the influence of this story on all 3 films when you read it. and if you've read this classic story, well good for you, Batman fan - you're on your shit. let's discuss....