One of Christopher Nolan’s inspirations for The Dark Knight Rises, a 25-year-old Frank Miller Batman tome titled The Dark Knight Returns that changed the face of comics in its day, contains a scene with eerie parallels to the Aurora, Colorado “Dark Knight Massacre,” causing some media outlets to speculate whether there’s a connection between the actions of James Holmes and one of the stories that inspired the film.
Though long-running, comic books are usually separated into “story arcs” spanning over several issues. Think of these as episodes. Every once in a while, an industry writer collaborates with an artist to put together a “one-off,” or a story that operates outside of regular continuity. Usually these one-shots are purely speculative, exploring the potential futures or alternate pasts of comic book heroes. Christopher Nolan pulled from various Batman story-arcs and one-shots to craft his Dark Knight Trilogy. A graphic novel titled Batman: Year One did most of the heavy lifting for Batman Begins. A book called The Long Halloween and another called The Killing Joke provided material for The Dark Knight. For this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises? The 90s Knightfall arc in which film-villain Bane famously broke Batman’s back and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns which depicts Batman returning to Gotham after a long absence.
The Dark Knight Returns was published in 1986, and was considered a major game-changer for the Batman character and comic books in general at the time. The gritty, violent, mature story stunned contemporary comic fans, and is considered a classic of the medium today.
In the story, which focuses partially on Gotham City’s media and street-level citizens/criminals, contains a scene where a red-haired gunman casually strolls into a movie theater and opens fire on the patrons within. The scene cuts before the nervous gunman opens fire, and coldly transitions to a television newscast with a reporter saying, “Three slain in Batman-inspired porn theater shoot-out. Details to follow…”
“The illustrations in the graphic novel bear an uncanny resemblance to the ghastly events that played out during a midnight showing of The Dark Night Rises on Friday,” said Justine Costanza of the International Business Times. Though it’s unknown whether or not Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns inspired Holmes at this time, “he apparently knows something of comic book lore,” reports NY Daily. “James Holmes burst in through an emergency exit dressed as a comic book villain, police said.”
Here are pictures of the specific scene from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Could the story have played a role in the shooting? Even if not, aren’t the similarities chilling?