Dark Knight (nickname)

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The Dark Knight is the nickname of the superhero Batman who appears in American comic books published by DC Comics. Batman was first referred to by the nickname in Batman #1 (Spring 1940), in a story written by Bill Finger.[1][2]

Use in media[edit]

  • The Dark Knight Returns or Batman: The Dark Knight, a 1986 miniseries by Frank Miller
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, a monthly comic book series from 1989 to 2007
  • Batman: The Dark Knight, an ongoing series written by David Finch, started in 2011
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy, a series of films by Christopher Nolan.

Batman's nickname was capitalized upon in the 1999 two-issue comic book story Dark Knight of the Round Table. The story was set in Arthurian England, where Bruce is a scion who initially opposes King Arthur but eventually joins him at the Round Table and fights against Mordred and Morgana.[3]

Application of the nickname[edit]

"Because we have to chase him. Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now, so we'll hunt him. Because he can take it, because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian... A watchful protector... A Dark Knight."

– James Gordon – The Dark Knight (July 2008)

The nickname was highlighted in Frank Miller's 1986 comic book series The Dark Knight Returns. The book The Monster Hunter in Modern Popular Culture said Miller chose the name for a reason, "In this case, 'dark' is not so much referring to the fact that he works at night or that he wears a black suit. Instead, the 'dark' here refers to the soul of the Caped Crusader which may or may not be every bit as tainted as those he captures."[4] In The Dark Knight Returns, when an electromagnetic pulse has shut down Gotham City, Batman travels on horseback. The book Riddle Me This, Batman! describes the scene as "a knight errant in a medieval romance" and cites Jesse Nash in how the story's Batman is a postmodern revision of Arthurian myths. The book said in addition to the horseback ride highlighting "the medieval aspects of Batman's worldview", it also notes that Batman is hardly representative of King Arthur. It said, "What we see when Batman charges in on horseback to restore order is not Arthur restoring a golden age, but a more essentially medieval scene of a lord using his power and authority as blunt instruments to protect and restore the social structures that serve his hegemony."[5]

In the 2008 film The Dark Knight, Batman and Police Commissioner James Gordon "decide Batman cannot embody both chaos and order" so they conceal the crimes of District Attorney Harvey Dent and make the public think that Batman murdered Dent. They "preserve Harvey's value as the White Knight", and Batman "will only be the Dark Knight".[6] He is able to play this role because "the public and at times vigorous debate concerning his moral quality, which, more often than not, is amplified by the mass media". The book The 21st Century Superhero says, "Batman can convincingly play the dark knight only because his role is perceived as (potentially) evil from the outset—at least by a few. While Batman is the one who theatrically produces signs, those few represent the constitutive counterpart."[7]

Cinematic Sociology: Social Life in Film theorizes why Batman is also known as "The Dark Knight". Its author writes that Batman acts for justice and order, but "it is not always clear which side of the law he stands". The book says, "Batman's dubiousness makes him unique as a superhero in that his activities are motivated by a prominent inner struggle that causes him, as well as others, to question the moral orientation of his motivations and loyalties."[8] Screening the Face says Batman wears an upper-face mask similar to a knight's visor. The book writes that the mask justifies Batman's "status as a Dark Knight, the paradoxical (both dark and knight) lynchpin of the recurring, and hence mythical, Batman narrative".[9]

Batman and Philosophy writes that while "The Dark Knight" is a nickname for Batman, he has not always been characterized "as dark and brooding". It said that Batman stories in the Silver Age of Comic Books (in the 1950s through the 1970s) were "cute and campy" or had "a gag or a gimmick", much like other superhero stories at the time.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. Nobleman, Marc Tyler (2012). Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Charlesbridge Publishing. p. Back Matter. ISBN 978-1-58089-289-6. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. The term appears on p. 7 of the story "The Joker" from Batman No. 1, which is reprinted in the book Batman Chronicles, Volume One (2005). In the lower right panel, Batman is shown swimming in the water after having been knocked off a bridge by the Joker, and the caption reads "THE SHOCK OF COLD WATER QUICKLY REVIVES THE DARK KNIGHT!"
  3. Tondro, Jason (2002). "Camelot in Comics". In Sklar, Elizabeth S.; Hoffman, Donald L. King Arthur in Popular Culture. McFarland. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7864-1257-0. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  4. Dude, Heather L. (2008). "Vigilantism and the Graphic Novel's Monster Hunters". The Monster Hunter in Modern Popular Culture. McFarland. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-7864-3406-0. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  5. Bundrick, Christopher (2011). "The Dark Knight Errant: Power and Authority in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns". In Durand, Kevin K.; Leigh, Mary K. Riddle Me This, Batman!: Essays on the Universe of the Dark Knight. McFarland. pp. 26–28. ISBN 978-0-7864-4629-2. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  6. Langley, Travis (2012). "Which Batman?". Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight. Wiley. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-118-16765-6. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. Schlegel, Johannes; Habermann, Frank (2011). "'You Took My Advice About Theatricality a Bit – Literally': Theatricality and Cybernetics of Good and Evil in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and X-Men". In Gray II, Richard J.; Kaklamanidou, Betty. The 21st Century Superhero: Essays on Gender, Genre and Globalization in Film. McFarland. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-7864-6345-9. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  8. Sutherland, Jean–Anne; Feltey, Kathryn (2012). "Deviance, Crime, and Law". Cinematic Sociology: Social Life in Film. SAGE Publications. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-4129-9284-8. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  9. Coates, Paul (2012). Screening the Face. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-230-29847-7. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  10. Southworth, Jason (2008). "Batman's Identity Crisis". In White, Mark D.; Arp, Robert. Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul. Wiley. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-0-470-27030-1. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

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