'Dark Knight Rises': 10 Comic Book Inspirations
In the early '90s, DC embarked on a period of bloodthirsty publicity stunts, putting all of their major superheroes through a hellish, life-changing experience which inevitably resulted in a new costume or four. Superman died; Green Lantern became a supervillain; Aquaman lost a hand and grew a beard; Green Arrow got blown up. The best of these story arcs was Knightfall, which begins with a mysterious new supervillain known as Bane freeing all of Batman's worst enemies from Arkham Asylum. Knightfall features the iconic image of Bane breaking the Caped Crusader's back — an image which Christopher Nolan directly replicates in Dark Knight Rises.
Available in trade paperback.
No Man's Land
One of the longest-running story arcs in Batman's history began when Gotham City was decimated by an earthquake. The government refused to aid the broken city, instead declaring it an official ''no man's land'' and cutting Batman's hometown off from the outside world. Rises captures much of the flavor of No Man's Land: Just like in the comics, all the bridges around Gotham are blown up, leading to a citywide descent into anarchy.
Available in five collected volumes.
Vengeance of Bane
Bane was introduced in this one-shot, written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Graham Nolan (no relation to Christopher), which established the character's Charles Dickens-meets-Conan the Barbarian origin story. In Vengeance of Bane, we learn that Bane lived from childhood in a vicious Caribbean prison called Peña Dura, a brutal existence that toughened him into a master criminal. In the comics, Bane became a test subject for a super-drug called Venom; Dark Knight Rises ignores the Venom and turns the prison into a semi-mythological underworld, but otherwise Bane's origin is similar...until the final reveal.
Available in the collection Batman Versus Bane.
The Dark Knight Returns
Frank Miller's classic tale has always been an influence on Nolan's Bat-films, but that's more true than ever with Rises. Like Returns, the movie finds a long-retired Batman returning to the fight against crime. And the film's version of Bane has quite a bit in common with the initial villain of Returns: A steroidal, frequently shirtless leader of an anarchic gang called the Mutants.
Available in trade paperback
Catwoman: Her Sister's Keeper
The modern Catwoman's origin story was introduced by Frank Miller in Batman: Year One, and was fleshed out considerably in the four-issue miniseries Her Sister's Keeper, by Mindy Newell and J.J. Birch, which was released just in time to capitalize on Michelle Pfeiffer's role in Batman Returns. In this retelling, Selina Kyle lived on the bad side of Gotham City as a prostitute who takes in a young runaway named Holly Robinson and becomes a burglar to make ends meet. Rises hints at the prostitution thing — Kyle seems more focused on erasing her criminal history of thievery — but the film maintains Catwoman's persona as an up-from-the-streets antihero. Juno Temple even plays Holly Robinson!
Out of print, alas
Well, whaddaya know: Joseph Gordon-Levitt was Robin all along! And although the John Blake character is a complete Rises invention, certain aspects of the character — like his orphaned backstory and his eventual status as Batman's heir — bear a striking resemblance to the original Robin, Dick Grayson. For a bit of flavor of the grown-up Grayson, try to find a copy of the collected edition of the Nightwing solo series, wherein Grayson takes up residence as the superhero in Gotham's even-more-miserable sister city Blüdhaven.
Available in the trade paperback Nightwing: A Knight in Blüdhaven
Dark Knight Rises goes out of its way to never actually call Anne Hathaway's cat-suited Selina Kyle ''Catwoman.'' It comes close, though, when Bruce Wayne is looking over a newspaper and sees a reference to a criminal called ''The Cat.'' That's a reference to the very first appearance of the character in Bill Finger and Bob Kane's Batman #1, where she's a nameless and costumeless jewel thief. The content might be different, but the beats of their initial meeting are even similar: ''The Cat'' is stealing a necklace, and Batman lets her get away because...well, look at her.
Available in volume one of DC's Batman Chronicles series
Son of the Demon
Talia al Ghul is one of the more curious characters in the Bat-mythology. As the daughter of immortal baddie Ra's al Ghul, she's sort of Batman's enemy, but she's also a longtime love interest. In the weirdo semi-classic Son of the Demon, written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jerry Bingham, Talia actually marries Batman and becomes pregnant. (The child ultimately grew up to be the latest Robin in modern comics continuity.) Rises keeps Talia's identity a secret until the end, radically alters her origin story, and makes her a more openly villainous character. But the romance is still there. Available in the collection Batman Versus Bane.
Bane of the Demon
The Bane-Talia alliance resembles this late-'90s miniseries, in which Bane joins Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins and attempts to embark on a relationship with Talia. Also in Bane of the Demon, al Ghul declares Bane his heir — something which is echoed in Rises — when Bane declares his intention to finish the work of Ra's al Ghul.
Available in the collection Batman Versus Bane.
Even more so than its predecessor, Dark Knight Rises plunges into the rank and file of Gotham's Finest, with Commissioner Gordon leading a well-financed police department into all-out war with Bane's men. Few comic books have done a better job of exploring the everyday people of Gotham than Gotham Central, a shortlived, commercially unsuccessful, but absolutely thrilling portrayal of the day-to-day life of detectives in the worst city on earth. Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and illustrated mainly by Michael Lark, Gotham Central reads like David Simon reportage and is one of the great hidden gems of DC's last decade.
Available in four collected volumes