Batman Vowed Not to Kill, but Does He in 'The Dark Knight Returns'?

The best Batman movies have been inspired by 'The Dark Knight Returns' and Batman does kill in the movies. So, what really happens?

Brandon Charles - Author

Mar. 7 2024, Published 4:08 p.m. ET

Ben Affleck as Batman in 'Zack Snyder’s Justice League'
Source: MAX

How could a comic book released nearly 40 years ago still warrant enough praise and devotion to still be discussed and dissected? Podcasts help fuel the fire.

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Batman, one of the most popular comic book characters and the lynchpin of the DC cinematic universe, has been omnipresent in most people’s lives. Since Tim Burton’s 1989 dark take on the Caped Crusader, it has been impossible to only think of the fun, cartoony, colorful Adam West Batman. It’s probably because the 1989 version was partially based on Frank Miller's groundbreaking 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns.

Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot with director Zack Snyder on the set of 'Zack Snyder’s Justice League'
Source: MAX
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Does Batman kill in 'The Dark Knight Returns'?

This should be an open-and-shut case, but isn't. Filmmaker Zach Snyder's March 6, 2024, appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience may have comic fanboys (points finger at self) pulling out their graphic novel from the shelf to double-check their memories. Does Batman kill? He took a vow not to kill, right?

Within one minute of the over two-hour podcast, Zach is raving about Frank Miller, the comic artist behind The Dark Knight Returns and 300. “I was a Frank Miller fan for a long time. I thought I would do another, I thought I would do Dark Knight Returns, frankly. That was the movie I wanted. I still want to do it. I always tell everyone, like, if I could do Dark Knight Returns, I’d be done with comic book movies.” But does Batman kill?

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Source: YouTube

Batman doesn't kill in ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’

Batman shoots a criminal in The Dark Knight Returns. After shooting the criminal, a new police commissioner puts out a warrant for Batman’s arrest on charges of assault, breaking and entering, and creating a public hazard, but there's nothing about murder. There have been numerous articles about Batman as a potential killer in Frank Miller’s groundbreaking series but none is better and more direct than the Reddit thread “Stop saying Batman killed in The Dark Knight Returns — he doesn't.”

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Later in the Joe Rogan podcast appearance, Zach mentions this comic book scene. In his reading of the comic, Batman does kill the aforementioned criminal. So while the reader never actually sees Batman kill and the commissioner doesn't say Batman is wanted for murder, Zach and others read it as Batman killing.

The Batman inspired by 'The Dark Knight Returns' definitely has killed.

One of the major reasons people may think Batman has been murdering since The Dark Knight Returns is the best Batman movies have been inspired by The Dark Knight Returns and Batman does kill in the movies.

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The Batman in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns may have spared the major villains but he kills numerous henchmen. You may not remember it because most of it was done via explosives rather than a gun.

The Christoper Nolan Batman trilogy begins with Batman Begins, a film that ends with Batman not saving the life of villain Ra's al Ghul. Batman even acknowledges his no kill policy earlier in the scene, you know, before he doesn’t not kill.

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The main reason fans may think Batman kills is because he kills quite a bit in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Zach Snyder film isn’t a carbon copy of the Frank Miller miniseries, but it is heavily influenced by it. In the same Joe Rogan Experience episode, Zach says, “Batman v Superman literally steals a lot of Dark Knight Returns, I’m not going to say it didn’t, it did, but it’s still Dark Knight Returns.”

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