Dark Shadow: The Life and Death of Bruiser Brody

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bruiser-brody-02This past week marked the anniversary of the passing of Frank Goodish, better known to the wrestling community as Bruiser Brody. Born in Detroit in 1946, Goodish was a standout athlete at Warren High, where he lettered in basketball and football. Goodish was a beast, loud and abrasive at times, with a reputation for being a bit of a jerk. Upon graduation, he stood 6’6” tall and tipped the scales at over 250 pounds. He attended Iowa State and then West Texas State, playing defensive end. Then he moved on to the NFL and the Washington Redskins for a year. When he was released, he went to the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and some semipro teams in Texas. Eventually though, Frank came to the harsh realization that his football career was over, and did some sports writing to pay the bills.

bruiser-brody-03In 1973, Goodish met the legendary Ivan Putski, who, impressed by Frank’s size, suggested he try wrestling. Putski introduced Frank to Ed Farhat (better known as The Sheik) to train him. He soon made his debut in Leroy McGuirk’s Championship Wrestling promotion in Oklahoma and Arkansas as Frank “The Hammer” Goodish. Short stints followed in World Class Championship Wrestling before going to work for Eddie Graham in the Florida territory. On December 31st, 1975, Goodish defeated Rocky Johnson (The Rock’s father) for the Florida State Championship belt. A few months later, he was headed to the WWWF where Vincent J. McMahon, Sr. named him Bruiser Frank Brody. Brody was pushed immediately, and received 2 title opportunities against Bruno Sammartino in late 1976. But just as quickly as he rose within the company, his difficult personality in the locker room seemed to slide him down from the main event to barely working at all. Around this time, Bruiser toured the Australia and New Zealand, where he met his second wife, Barbara.

Bruiser returned to the WCCW in 1977 where he was put into a program with promoter Fritz Von Erich. Their feud was wildly successful and it likely saved his young career. In the territory days, the only thing that could get you past a bad reputation as a troublemaker was the ability to draw money, and Brody was fast proving he was a guy who could do that very well. He bounced back and forth between WCCW and the 2 Missouri territories for the next 2 years. He even did a very short run in the AWA as the Masked Marauder. While Fritz may have loved Bruiser, other promoters like Bob Geigel and Sam Mushnick were finding out what the McMahon’s already knew, he was hard to do business with. Stories abound of him walking out right before showtime if he didn’t like the potential payout, storyline, or finish. Some of these are likely exaggerations, but there must be some shreds of truth in there somewhere. With work drying up for Frank in the US, Fritz Von Erich started getting him bookings in Japan.

bruiser-brody-04Bruiser Brody and his good friend Stan Hansen became instant superstars in Japan. The pair set many attendance records and established new standards for the financial demands for a “gaijin”. Hansen wasn’t known as being any more easy-going than Brody, and with them both there drawing big money, they two became even more difficult. They would refuse to put other wrestlers “over”, and since the promoters were worried they would leave, they would cave in to Brody and Hansen. This created a vicious cycle back in the States as Bruiser would leverage his ability to draw in Japan against any American promoter for not only money, but creative control as well. Like he did in Japan, he refused to do “jobs” (lose matches). Brody had a reputation of altering the finishes of matches while inside the ring with his opponents, and if his opponent disagreed? Then Bruiser would simply “shoot” on his opponent during a match to send a message the promoter and guys in the locker room. He left territories without honoring the tradition of putting over the local star on your way out the door. With an argumentative demeanor backed up by a 6’8”, 283 pound body, he also got into a lot of fights in the backstage area, and apparently won often. Stories say he liked to get in the first punch and end things early.

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His difficult nature aside, the guy could flat-out bring it in the ring. When he wasn’t in Japan, you could find him on WCCW television in the early to mid-1980s, usually wrestling Kamala the Ugandan Giant, a star like Ric Flair, or longtime adversary Abdullah the Butcher. He kicked Terry Gordy in the face so often that ‘Bam Bam” likely had a permanent heel print in it. On more than one occasion he beat Kabuki so bad I thought he might not make it to next week’s show. He had it all, great look, athleticism, raw strength, and no fear in the ring. And if all that weren’t enough, his mic skills were fantastic, and he cut some truly fearsome promos. Along with Harley Race, he was one of the truly tough men ever in the business.

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Bruiser was on a tour of Japan with David Von Erich and Ric Flair in 1984 when David was found dead. Flair contends that David overdosed and that Bruiser quietly removed the evidence to both save the Von Erichs from ridicule and also to reduce the chance of an investigation into other wrestlers on the tour (Brody was a notorious steroid user). Since the truth of what happened that day in February will likely never be clear, one can only speculate and make up your own opinion. In 1985 he was again in Japan, wrestling a series of matches against the legendary Antonio Inoki for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Brody received a salary of some $14,000 a week, which made him the highest paid wrestler in the world at that time.

bruiser-brody-07He returned to the US after that stint and then began working primarily in Puerto Rico for Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council. He had a regular series of matches against Colon and Abdullah, which were, not surprisingly, bloodbaths. In 1987, he made a legendary appearance against Lex Luger at NWA Florida. His legendary stubborn streak appeared when he stopped working in the ring. Bruiser just stood there, leaning in the corner and refusing to lock-up, while a confused Lex Luger and referee Bill Alfonso tried to coax him into engaging. Lex and Alfonso quickly changed the match finish by having Luger punch Brody repeatedly in the corner until Alfonso disqualified Lex. Backstage after the match, a bewildered Luger confronted Brody and asked had he done something to upset him, to which Bruiser responded simply, “no”. He did however tell Bill Alfonso, that, “the match simply wasn’t working”. Alfonso said later that there was some disagreement between the pair about who should call the match, but never any ill will. More than likely, Bruiser was having pay disagreements with the promoter. I have included a very poor video this match below, things get a little weird about 5:28 in.

Brody returned to Japan in 1987, where he and tag partner Jimmy Snuka no-showed the New Japan Tag Team Title Tournament for an undisclosed reason, and were blacklisted for a year. Brody would return for his final appearance 1 year later however, defeating Jumbo Tsurata for a 3rd NWA International Championship before making a fateful return to Puerto Rico.

On July 16, 1988, Brody was in the locker room before his match with Dan Spivey in Bayamón (near San Juan, Puerto Rico), when Invader 1 (José González), invited him into the shower area to discuss business. Brody entered the shower stall and a few minutes later a scuffle ensued, followed by two groans, loud enough for the entire locker room to hear. Tony Atlas ran to the shower and saw Brody bent over and holding his stomach. He rushed to his side and then looked up, seeing González holding a knife. When the paramedics arrived, Atlas had to carry his body downstairs to the waiting ambulance, as, due to Brody’s enormous stature, paramedics were unable to lift him. According to Atlas, Brody told him, “Tell my little son I love him, and tell my wife I love her, too.” González, who always maintained his innocence, was initially charged with first-degree murder but was later reduced and tried for involuntary homicide. Dutch Mantell was subpoenaed, but not until after the trial was over. Tony Atlas, who had been first on the scene, gave a statement, but was never called to give his version in court. Without this testimony the District Attorney had no case. Some wrestlers (the Youngbloods) were scared to death and made no declaration to the police at the time of the events. However, Tony Atlas who declared what he saw to the police came back to Puerto Rico several years later to work with the promotion. In January 1989, González was acquitted on all counts, citing self-defense. Carlos Colón testified against Brody during the trial.

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What happened in that shower stall in Puerto Rico? No one really knows, but neither Dutch Mantell nor Tony Atlas ever mentioned any dispute before the two went in that area. But regardless, the wrestling world lost a great performer that day. And while he is largely considered one of the toughest men in the ring ever, he is also regarded as one of the toughest to do business with. Many promoters call him the most unprofessional guy they ever worked with, but Bruiser saw it differently when he said, “The truth is that all wrestlers are sheep. Wrestlers don’t have guts; they’re all at the end of a cliff and will jump off as a group. They’ll stand up and make a lot of noise beforehand then when the promoter comes in they all go yes sir. Yes sir. I hate that.” Mick Foley regards him as one of his favorite performers of all time, and blatantly states his Cactus Jack was based on Bruiser Brody. Like anything else, the truth about Bruiser Brody’s life and death, is speculation and opinion. I’d love to hear yours, keep your shoulders off the mat.

Bruiser Brody’s mic skills on display in 1977

Bruiser vs Abdullah 7/13/88 – his last recorded match

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Bigfoot: The Legend of Sasquatch

It’s time to discuss another one of my all-time favorite Bigfoot movies as the summer of Sasquatch continues! “The complete and only true story of Bigfoot ever filmed!” So says the movie poster anyway…

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Bigfoot researcher Chuck Evans and team journey to the fabled forbidden lands north of the Peckatoe River in Northwest British Columbia Canada to hunt the legendary Bigfoot! Will they find their quarry? Will they make it out alive? Just watch and find out!

The film was released in the spring of 1977 as the nation was still fully enthralled with Bigfoot Mania! We find that Chuck Evans has put together a crack team of Bigfoot researchers. Anthropologist Dr. Paul Markham, Idaho rancher Hank Parshall, Mountain Man/curmudgeon Joshua Alowishus Bigsby, Techka Blackhawk, who comes from one of the largest Native American tribes in Northern Canada, Whacky camp cook and crack-shot Barney Snipe, and sour-puss reporter Bob Vernon round out the team.

The movie treats us to some lovely country and some spectacular scenery, even though the film is supposed to take place in Canada, in reality it was filmed in the Three Sisters Wilderness area near Bend Oregon. Think Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, but with scary Sasquatches running around. We witness a bear fight, a cougar attack, and a rather lengthy pack-horse caravan across the mountains as they approach the valley of the Sasquatch. We are also treated to nicely reenacted, and legendary recounts of Bigfoot encounters from days gone which sets a tone for the continuation of the movie. Some of you might wonder if we get to see the creature(s) a lot in this film? Well, not really. Fleeting silhouettes, spooky nighttime shots, and a monster’s eye view of tromping through the forest are pretty much what you get. Frankly I think they blew the budget on a helicopter rental for a few days and had to go with Grandma’s fur coat for the creature shots. But what it lacks, it makes up for in spirit and tone…in my opinion. The human element is what brings me back to this movie…okay maybe not, but our cast of characters don’t disappoint in making the film interesting and fun to watch. Which is good, because we pretty much stick with the group and don’t see any crazy Sasquatch action until toward the end of the film when all hell breaks loose!

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I won’t ruin it for you but I want you to listen for a few funny things as far as foley goes (fo·ley — relating to or concerned with the addition of recorded sound effects after the shooting of a film.)

1)      A wolf and badger bump heads early into the expedition- listen closely to the badger. It’s a guy making badger hisses and growls. I’m not sure if the sounds are completely accurate as I’ve never actually heard an angry badger but hey, what do I know. The wolf barks in this scene I would assume were supplied by a regular dog.

2)      Listen closely during the scene where two grizzly bears fight each other halfway through the movie. The growling bear sounds are that of ONE growling dog.

3)      And finally, the final sequence (and throughout the movie) listen for the creepy Bigfoot scream sound effect which happens to be the same one recycled over and over. Sometimes sped up, sometimes slowed down.

Speaking of sounds, the soundtrack is a great one! If you like folksy, adventurey soundtracks that is.  It reminds me of the accompanying music played during slide show presentations at Wallowa Lake campground amphitheater on summer nights while camping there as a kid. If you have any idea what I’m talking about, consider yourself fortunate to have experienced such a memorable event…but I digress. Al Capps provides a soundtrack that captures the feel of the movie quite nicely. From its serene (often repeated) main theme, to its creepy “Bigfoot is close” theme, it’s a soundtrack that fits the bill. I enjoyed it so much, I was lucky to score me a copy of the now ridiculously rare soundtrack album. How’s that for being a Bigfoot nerd?

In closing the film is low-budget yes, but as I’ve mentioned it has a lot of heart. Give it a try; I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! I would have loved to see a continuation of this adventure as the narrator hints at a possible sequel before the film’s end. Sadly, that never happened.

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It’s time to Fireback!

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If you’re in the mood to watch a really bad sub-B-movie action film featuring a villain with a golden hand, then you’re in the right place! Fireback, starring Richard Harrison, was released in 1978, and, if you believe the trailer below, was full of rugged realism and dynamic action. Oh, and more than a few Bond-esque gadgets!

The best line in this movie surely has to be this gem, uttered by the police chief when describing Harrison’s character Jack Kaplan:

“He can turn an ordinary soft drink straw into a weapon.”

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Mid-1980s Jersey Shore Seaside Heights Commercial with Bonus Footage

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Growing up in New Jersey, we had a selection of shore towns to visit during the summer. Where you went was largely based on where you parents had been taken as a kid. My parents were both Asbury Park people. As Asbury Park’s glory days faded though we moved to other boardwalks, chiefly Pt. Pleasant and Seaside Heights.

Those were exciting summer days and this commercial captures a lot of the magic I expected to find on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights. From the pizza to the rides to the video games, everything I liked about summer could be found on a boardwalk.

I hope you enjoy the commercial and that it gives you a taste of what the shore means to a lot of people who grew up within driving distance of it. Please stay after the commercial though, because the person who posted this video found the pre-edited footage shot for this commercial and included it. They have great shots of the beaches and boardwalk, Rainbow Rapids, Maruca’s Pizza, Razzles nightclub, Pac Man, Casino Pier, Sun-N-Fun signs, stands, The Carousel, Dotty’s, The Berkeley Sweet Shop, Sonny’s & Rickey’s, Midway Steaks, the rides The Barnegat Bay, crabbing, fishing, boardwalk wheels and much much more.

This is the Jersey Shore, before “The Jersey Shore”.

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Pixel Bead Joust Arcade Cabinet

I do not have much in the way of visual artistic talent, but I have always enjoyed working with brick toys. So I have been considering trying to make some video game pixel art from Pixel Beads. Because of this, I have been browsing all the amazing creations out there, while doing so I found this super cool Pixel Bead Joust Arcade Cabinet built by SunQueen1.

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This pretty much blew all my simple ideas out of the water, but it opened me up to the larger pixel bead world. Plus with its step by step photos, I might actually be able to approximate something like it. Wish me luck!

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Jurassic World Teaser Poster!

Image courtesy of Ain't It Cool News.

Image courtesy of Ain’t It Cool News.


This teaser poster that was debuted over at Ain’t It Cool News makes me all manner of happy, the destroyed Jurassic Park Range Rover becoming a nest for the Raptor, great evidence that Ian Malcom was quite right with his comment that ” life, uh… finds a way.” I also like what little we can see of the construction on the new park, is that a man-made mountain or some type of building? Of course the color scheme for that part of the poster for reminds me of early Disney posters for Tomorrow Land, the Skyway in particular.

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I was wondering about that makeshift nest for the Raptor…maybe it’s the same Rover that the T-Rex pushed over the edge of the wall in the first Jurassic Park film? On the post over at Ain’t It Cool it was mentioned “JURASSIC WORLD director Colin Trevorrow has Tweeted the San Diego Comic Con exclusive poster for his upcoming film, saying it’ll be “available at SDCC to a resourceful few.””

Who knows what that comment might mean…perhaps Comic-Con attendees should keep an eye out for vehicles or people who are dressed as Jurassic Park employees?

While we wait for any announcements this week about the upcoming film, why not take a moment and check out this awesome behind the scenes footage from the Stan Winston School of Character Art YouTube page.

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The Dark Knight Returns – The Greatest Batman Story Ever Told?

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2014 marks the 75th Anniversary of Batman. This is the second of a series of essays celebrating the Dark Knight.

It was 1986. I was on vacation with my family on Martha’s Vineyard. I remember going into a local convenience store, probably with my dad, when I saw it staring back at me from the magazine rack. It was a comic book, at least it looked like a comic book. It was built more like an actual book, though, with a squared spine.

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On the cover was an enormous and very pissed off-looking Batman who looked like he’d been through hell and was about to make somebody pay for it. I don’t remember opening the book—that would come in the future—I just remember that cover and being completely unnerved by it. That wasn’t the Batman I knew.

That was my introduction to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I didn’t really get into comic books until the next year, and I can’t remember when I finally did read Miller’s modern classic, but I did eventually buy it and it was awesome. I recall my usual comic book shop was participating in the mall’s “sidewalk sale,” where all the stores set up tables outside their entrances.

My original Dark Knight Returns book

My original Dark Knight Returns book

There on a table, in a cellophane bag, was a slightly dinged up copy of the collected Dark Knight Returns. That cover, with Batman silhouetted against a lone lightning bolt, was stunning. I think I bought the book for about twelve bucks. I had heard about the story and how ground-breaking it had been, but nothing could have prepared me for when I opened the book. The Dark Knight Returns was like nothing I’d ever seen before. This was a very adult Batman—completely different from the sixties live-action show and the various cartoons. Forget him not being my father’s Batman, The Dark Knight wasn’t even my Batman, but he would become him.

A legend reborn

A legend reborn

For those unfamiliar with the story, Miller’s tale takes place firmly in the 1980s—Reagan is still President and there are several pop culture cameos. Batman has been retired for ten years and in the void left by his absence, Gotham City is being consumed by crime and a new gang called the Mutants. However, Bruce Wayne still feels the pull of his alter ego and finally snaps, donning the cape and cowl again. He tangles with Two-Face, mentors a new female Robin in Carrie Kelley, has a final confrontation with The Joker, and collides with Superman in the explosive finale. It’s a hell of a story, but is it the greatest Batman story ever told?

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The answer, at least as far as comics are concerned, is yes. Not only was Miller’s story a dynamic reinterpretation of Batman for a single story, The Dark Knight Returns redefined Batman going forward. He became a much grittier and darker character, an interpretation that has stuck to this day. Without The Dark Knight Returns, today’s Batman would probably look much different. Many have tried to recreate Miller’s masterpiece in their own way—including Miller himself. Some have come close, but The Dark Knight Returns is on a level by itself. The story is suitably epic, but never gets unwieldy. Everything makes sense as the tale goes along and I always find new things to love about it every time I re-read it. Some of the elements are wonderfully bizarre—a precursor to Miller’s full-on noir work in Sin City—but they jell so well with the world Miller creates, they don’t seem all that weird as you read the book. Miller’s use of the television talking heads is a fantastic exposition delivery device, but it also helps give the reader a broader feel for the world Batman inhabits. Gotham is worse than ever and giving all these different perspectives shows that.

The other key perspective you get is Batman’s as his internal monologue powers much of the story, showing the reader how he thinks and takes apart problems. Monologues are also given to Jim Gordon, Robin, Joker, and Superman, but Batman’s is the most prevalent, as it should be. It wasn’t the first time a Batman story was told like this, but Miller’s Batman has such a distinctive voice, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable examples.

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Miller’s artwork on the book is a story of contrasts. It’s elegant and ugly, sharp and muddy. As was the case on the cover I’d seen on Martha’s Vineyard—which turned out to be issue #2 of the four-issue series—Miller’s Batman was massive. Gone was the lean, athletic Batman of the 70’s popularized by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. In his place was a Batman who could be more accurately described as a slab of beef. He was a bruiser who was more about brute force than gracefully disabling an enemy.

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Even the Batmobile reflected this new look as it was more a tank than a car, with armament to match—“Rubber bullets, honest.” Inker Klaus Janson is probably responsible for keeping Miller’s art as clear as possible, but this is just based on Miller’s art on post-Dark Knight projects. Lynn Varley also did a great job on the colors for the book. They are dynamic when they need to be and subtle when a certain mood needs to be created.

Just awful.

Just awful.

Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was the ultimate final adventure for Batman. That’s what made his 2001-2002 sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, so ill-advised. It was one of those instances of a story everyone wanted, but no one needed. It was all kinds of awful from the art to the downright character assassination of Dick Grayson, and actually managed to tarnish the original book.

Better art, wackier Batman

Better art, wackier Batman

Then, Miller teamed with artist Jim Lee for All-Star Batman and Robin. The All-Star line of books was DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s Ultimate imprint—out of continuity stories that allowed new readers to jump onboard with classic characters without being bogged down by decades of previous stories. Miller used the opportunity to weave a prequel to The Dark Knight Returns. Lee’s artwork was gorgeous, but Miller’s latest take on Batman was completely unrecognizable to readers. He appeared to be a completely unhinged character as he took an orphaned Dick Grayson under his wing. This Batman barely even resembled the Batman that appeared in The Dark Knight Returns. So, The Dark Knight is a classic that stands on its own. Miller’s Year One story is just as fantastic, but that’s more of a Jim Gordon story than a Batman one.

The best evidence of The Dark Knight Returns’ greatness is in its lasting legacy. Yes, along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, it ushered in the “grim ‘n’ gritty trend in comics, which in truth, wasn’t all bad, depending on the characters, but it also left an indelible mark on Batman as an institution. Tim Burton’s Batman films were more gothic than The Dark Knight Returns, but the dark tone was still there.

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Christopher Nolan doesn’t call the best film in his trilogy The Dark Knightwithout Miller’s book and he also borrowed other elements from both Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. The tumbler was clearly inspired by Miller’s Batmobile and the whole “Batman retiring” set up from The Dark Knight Rises is straight from The Dark Knight Returns as well, some would argue to that film’s detriment. The Dark Knight Returns’ Batman even forced his way into the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Legends of the Dark Knight,” which was inspired by the classic comic story, “The Batman Nobody Knows,” from Batman #250. Beyond that, all writers strove for a darker Batman. Only fairly recently, with the work of writer Grant Morrison, have the Batman comics embraced some of the silliness of his 50’s and 60’s incarnations.

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However, word is that Zack Snyder’s Batman in the 2016 film Dawn of Justice—I will not type the whole, stupid, title—will fully embrace Miller’s Dark Knight Returns incarnation.

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Also, if reading’s not your thing, you can see The Dark Knight Returns in full-color motion by checking out the fantastic animated adaptation from Warner Brothers Animation. Though it excludes Batman’s ever-present monologue from the book, it’s a faithful and satisfying interpretation of the story, perfectly blending the Bruce Timm DC animation style with Frank Miller’s. The legacy lives on.

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The book demonstrates how even at his advanced age, the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents still not only resonates, but dominates his life. There are several scenes and moments in The Dark Knight Returns that are now iconic and although it was later classified as an Elseworlds title, it always feels like the dark future is just around the corner, like in the X-Men’s Days of Future Past. Who can ever forget Bruno or Superman as a government stooge—I’m not sure, but it’s possible Miller coined the phrase “Big Blue Boy Scout” to describe the Man of Steel. If not, he was certainly one of the first to call him that. The character of the Mutant Leader remains today—his influence is clear in the much smarter, but no less deadly, Bane.

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Echoes of this story continue to surge through Batman’s existence. It helped pave the way for other “greatest” Batman stories to be told. I would argue that the greatest Batman on film is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but if you open it up to animation as well, you have to consider Mask of the Phantasm. Regular readers already know how I feel about Batman: The Animated Series. Stemming from that stalwart pillar of Batman’s legacy comes a very close competitor for the title of Greatest Batman Story Ever Told status. However, the story I speak of can’t be found in a comic book, or a film, or even on TV.

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No, it is found in a video game: Paul Dini’s fantastic story that powers Arkham City. It’s a similarly epic tale to The Dark Knight Returns that provides a compelling mystery as well as logical reasons for the participation of Batman’s full rogues’ gallery, or at least the majority of them.

However, all these stories I mentioned don’t exist without The Dark Knight Returns. It stands the tallest of all Batman stories and sets the benchmark for all others to shoot for. It is, quite simply, The Greatest Batman Story Ever Told.

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If you want to know more about Batman as well as The Dark Knight Returns, check out Kevin Smith’s fantastic podcast, Fat Man on Batman. Also, check out Episode 32 of The Hodgepodge Podcast, which was devoted to Batman’s 75th Anniversary.

Doug Simpson is an author and blogger. As one half of The Hodgepodge Podcast, he talks movies, music, TV, and pop culture with his partner, Dirty A. He also writes a ton of movie reviews, which can be found at Doug’s Reviews and The Hodgepodge Podcast. His first Young Adult novel, Great Big World: The Trouble with Dr. Beamo, will be available in Summer 2014. Please follow him on Twitter

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