Frank Miller is reuniting with Batman with Dark Knight III: The Master Race, but he's also reuniting with a classic collaborator in a special one-shot. On February 17, DC will publish Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade by Miller and artist John Romita Jr., the team behind 1993's Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. They'll be joined by co-writer Brian Azzarello, who's also co-writing the Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
"I can’t say much, but I can say this book’s a prequel to Dark Knight Returns and it’s got a lot to do with Jason Todd and what happens to him at the hands of the Joker. All this was only touched on in Dark Knight Returns." said Romita. "We know Jason Todd met his end, but this is going to tell the story of how he met his end and what transpires up to that point."
This 64-page prestige format book is set 10 years prior to Dark Knight Returns, earlier even that the unfinished All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder. Romita talks about how the original Boy Wonder will look in this one-shot.
"Since he’s still Robin at that point, I told our editor that I’d like to make it slightly distinct or at least different from the Dick Grayson version," said the artist. "But at the same time, it’s can’t be too different. And we also have to keep his look different from Carrie Kelley’s. But once we establish the year that it is, maybe his hairstyle will be distinct to what it is at that time."
Bruce Wayne will also, obviously, be younger than he was in Dark Knight Returns.
"Bruce Wayne can’t have all grey, but he has some. He’s not an older guy, he’s middle aged," said Romita. "But being Batman for all those years, it’ll wear on you. You beat the body up. So there are little those considerations that I like to take into effect. With Jason, he’ll be in a Robin costume, but it’ll be a little different."
Although Romita has worked full-time in superhero comics for 37 years, this will be the first time he's drawn a solo Batman book. The second-generation illustrated the Dark Knight briefly in his recent Superman run, and also drew the 1994 one-shot Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights.
"Very. The only Batman project I’d worked on prior to this was the Batman/Punisher crossover back in the mid-90s, but of course it didn’t get as deep into the character as this is going to," said Romita. "Every comic artist has always wanted to draw Batman. There’s something physically and visually amazing about drawing the character. Of course, the character himself is pretty special, but what Frank has done with his version of it—everyone knows his Dark Knight. So this is more exciting than you can imagine. The chance to finally work with Frank again and also to work with Brian Azzarello—I haven’t worked with him before—that’s damn exciting. I’m just really looking forward to this."
The original Dark Knight Returns is a considered a seminal comic book series, but Romita admits he never read it up until recently.
"You’re going to laugh. The first time I read it was about a month and a half ago," Romita admitted. "In 1986, when it came out, I looked at the artwork. I love Frank’s work. But I never really paid attention to the dialog. With as many comics as I have lying around, I often don’t read the dialog. I’m a fan of the artists. I was not looking to read Dark Knight Returns, I wanted to see the artwork and follow it storywise."