Thursday, August 4, 2011

Comic Book references in movies Part VI: 'The Dark Knight'

Every writer of the Batman movies had either an extensive prior knowledge of the Batman comic books or did an extensive research before writing the script. Each and every one of the theatrical Batman movies has numerous subtle and not so subtle nods and references to the comic books and reveals an impressive knowledge of the comic book back catalog.
One of the last posts focused on differences and deviations from the comic books from each movie, listing the number of things which were changed to fit the story more and serve it better ( This time we'll focus on all the references and similarities to showcase the writers' knowledge of the Batman stories and to point out what was taken from the comics


The Dark Knight continues Batman Begins' tradition of drawing primarily and heavily from the graphic novels, one shots and limited series' of the late 1980's and 1990's, but this time the writers also went all the way back to the roots, to the earliest issues of the Batman comic book. In addition to the same sources Batman Begins drew, some of the cited influences for The Dark Knight are the first two issues of Batman and The Killing Joke. To read more about this particular portrayal of Joker check

1. Disguised Joker robs a bank and when he's about to leave he reveals his identity. The same happens in 1942's Batman #9

It's not a comic book reference, but the mask Joker is wearing is very reminiscent of the mask Joker was wearing in the 1966 TV show in an episode called "The Joker is Wild"

2. In the 1970's Bruce moved into a penthouse 

3. And had an underground bunker in the city that served as a secondary batcave

4. Very often during the late 80's Batman was depicted as having scars and bruises after his nightly outings

5. Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon are shown as a powerful, united and uncorrupted trio. They all meet together on the rooftop next to the bat signal. This, as well as the "I believe in Harvey Dent" line, comes from 1999's The Long Halloween

Batman disappears and Dent is surprised. Gordon says "He does that". This also comes from The Long Halloween

6. Since Silver Age on, Batman was freely allowed to witness the crime scenes and have a full access on the site

7. The idea of a dead Batman impostor comes from two different sources. One is 1978's Detective Comics #476, and the other one is 1999's Batman: Dark Victory where victims were hung by a villain called the Hangman who used to pin his identity on them

And perhaps 1981's Detective Comics # 504 was also an influence

8. The term "squealer" and the idea of cut faces smeared with lipstick most likely comes from 2001's Gotham Noir

9. In the Modern Age, Joker has been most often depicted as having a haggard and unkempt hair. He was also depicted as a young man in The Killing Joke

Also, while the Modern Age depicted Joker as having an inhumanly large smile, the idea of the frozen smile which was there since the character's inception through the Bronze Age was starting to get toned down eventually disappearing completely

10. Joker is known to leave his card

11. Joker tells multiple versions of his past. The preference of having a choice comes from The Killing Joke

12. However, what he says is a lie. Alan Moore confirmed the flashbacks in The Killing Joke to be the canon story that doesn't contradict the established canon, which brings us to another influence. In 1999's Batman: Mad Love, the story about the abusive father was a lie told to gain sympathy from Harlene Quinzel. The second story about an unhappy wife is influenced by The Killing Joke

As Joker said himself, he's a liar

13. Batman often traveled oversees to apprehend criminals (Panel from 1990's Detective Comics #620 and #590)

14. Batman often left notes for cops stuck to the tied criminals (panel from 1990's Detective Comics #615)

15. Joker announces his next move on TV. (Panel from 1977's Detective Comics #469)

16.  Batman often used some help from his computer to select suspects (panel from Detective Comics #629 and #618)

17. Harking back to Batman #1, Joker dresses up as a cop to get to his victim, at the same time his "smile" still gives away the character

18. In  The Long Halloween Dent pretends to be killed in order to then return later as a part of strategy to outwit the enemy. That's what Gordon did in the movie

19. Batman's known to scare thugs with dropping them from small heights. Panel from Batman #237

20. One of the goons tries to take off Batman's booby trapped mask. This happened in 2003's Batman #609

21. Even when in jail, Joker knows he won't be there for long. Also, his identity remains a secret and there's no record of him at all

22. The scene when Batman loses his temper over Joker was inspired by the scene with the decoy from The Killing Joke

23. While Two Face origins where always depicted as being caused by Moroni's vial of acid, Dent became Two Face for the second time because of an explosion in 1954's Batman #81

24. Two Face's scarred side is depicted as bold in The Long Halloween

25. Joker talks about his relationship with Batman and how he doesn't want to kill him. It was restated few times, and just like in the movie, despite what Joker says, he has every intention of killing Batman afterwards

26. Batman tend to break when failing in saving someone's life. Alfred is always there for moral support (panel comes from 1991's Legends of the Dark Knight #16)

27. The idea of hostages disguised as Joker's men or Joker comes from 2000's Batman #754

28. Joker using knives trying to stab Batman and then hitting him with a plank comes from The Killing Joke

29. Batman uses the sonar eyes in his cowl. (Panel from 2006's Batman #647)

30. Joker is trying to prove that under pressure everyone will become homicidal lunatic

31. Joker falls to his death yet is laughing. (Panel from Joker #4)

32. In Batman #1, Batman saves Joker from falling to his death

33. In 1986's Batman:Year One, Gordon's family is kidnapped and his son is saved from the fall by Batman

Special acknowledgment to fellow Batman historians BatmAngelus and SilverNemesis


  1. Great article.

    I just watched the Burton Batman and I have to say it Burton's Batman doesn't even kill anyone in the first half, until after he finds out Joker killed his parents but until then he acted more or less like the modern no-killing Nolan Batman.

  2. What's the comic with Bruce contemplating his failure of saving someone called?

  3. You missed the method of Joker's escape.

    In Batman #1 he uses something similar to his Dark Knight counterpart to escape jail.

  4. The panel with Bruce being torn by his failure comes from Legends of the Dark Knight #16. Ill add it to the article

    As for Joker's escape in Batman #1, Joker doesnt escape in #1. The last panel is the panel of him behind the bars

  5. GothamAlleys, awesome compilations and thanks for the recognition!

    Just thought I should add a couple things:
    1. "In The Long Halloween Dent pretends to be shot in order to then return later as a part of strategy to outwit the enemy. That's what Gordon did in the movie"
    Just a correction, but I believe Dent pretends to be killed in an explosion at his house in The Long Halloween.

    2. "Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon are shown as a powerful, united and uncorrupted trio. They all meet together on the rooftop next to the bat signal. This, as well as the "I believe in Harvey Dent" line, comes from 1999's The Long Halloween"
    While I bet Nolan and Goyer got it from The Long Halloween, I'd like to add that the Long Halloween itself borrowed from the comic book storyline Eye of the Beholder and was the first comic to cover Dent's alliance with Batman in detail and feature a rooftop scene of Gordon, Dent, and Batman (as well as the first to bring up that Two-Face's coin originated with his father, which is also referenced in the Dark Knight).

  6. Hi BatmAngelus! Thanks for the correction about Long Halloween, I didnt even realize I wrote 'shot' instead of'killed'

  7. Oh I meant another issue, that displayed Jokers return by him using hidden explosives to break out of jail.

    Your missing also the fact Joker in the Dark Knight left smiles on his victims corpses like his comics counterpart, only he paints his smiles himself.

  8. Thanks for reminding me about the Joker smile. Actually there was a comic book with victims with cut faces and smeared lipstick. Ill add it soon

  9. There's another nice little wink to the comics in the final fight between Joker and Batman in TDK; Joker uses a CROWBAR.

  10. The Joker DID escape in Batman #1 in the story ''The Joker Returns''. It was featured in that comic, your wrong. That's the last panel of the first part of Batman #1, not the last panel of the entire first issue. The last story of Batman #1 features The Joker's escape from jail, in which he accidentally stabs himself and laughs
    and is believed he's dead, until its found out that he's actually alive.

  11. Youre right, I dont know how could I have goofed so badly. Mustve been a long day when I posted that comment. Still, I wont be including the jailbreak because getting out of jail using explosives is a very general thing, nothing that could have been assigned as a possible influence or reference from any specific comic book. If he would use other prisoners in any way to detonate the explosives than it wouldve been a different story

  12. I just discovered this blog yesterday and was told about it by other Batman fans who were surprised I didnt know about it. Now I know why, this blog is a terrific source of knowledge and articles about very interesting subjects

  13. Here's another one: Joker announces that someone will die and then dies, some by poison like Loeb. Its like what he did in Batman #1

  14. Thats right. Its an obvious one but somehow ti slipped

  15. There was an issue of "Brave And The Bold" no #111 when Batman "teams" up with Joker and in a few panels the "Death Smiles" and spread out marked playing cards are displayed very clearly.

  16. I posted this in another of your posts and so sorry for doing so. In The Dark Knight during the "Tonight's entertainment" scene the Joker throws one of his henchmen at Batman prior to flicking out his shoe-knife. Whilst not a reference to the comics I think it may be a nod to Cesar Romero's depiction of the Joker during the Adam West era and his throwing goons at Batman and Robin during the 'Biff', 'Pow', 'Bang' fighting scenes. Loving the blog by the way!

    1. Lol, funny you should say that, I was thinking the exact same thing throughout that sequence :)

  17. The Joker often used conventional weapons in the golden age comics, even when he was master of chemicals.

  18. He sure did and those and more examples are in Joker History article and Joker/Batman Relationship articles

  19. I know I was pointing out the similarities between the comics version and Nolan Joker's usage of conventional weaponry, in fact the first image posted could be seen as serving as an influence on the Jokers attempt to kill Batman with a knife when Batman reaches his location, and tries to stop him from blowing the ferries.

  20. Yeah, but I think its sort of mentioned in that example of Joker trying to kill Batman with a knife. I think it relies the message that Joker did use knives in the beginning and in the Modern Age

  21. Grant Morrison admitted that Ledger took some elements of his comic ''Clown at Midnight''.

    I suggest you read that, it has elements that Nolan's Joker somewhat mirrored. Like Ledger's Joker smacking his lips, its feasible taken from this page of that comic here.

  22. That mask that Joker is wearing in the 1960's series looks very much like an Emmett Kelly mask. It's popular in the horror community for being one of the masks John Carpenter almost went with for Michael Myers' character in the movie Halloween, but some people say it wasn't.

  23. Good catch about Kelly, it is indeed his mask/makeup, but knowing that Nolan is a fan of the 60s show I think the show might have been an actual direct inspiration for Ledger's mask. Just an assumption tho, could be coincidental

  24. I would like to add that in Gotham Central #3, The Joker has a plan that requires him to get caught and interrogated by the police, just like in The Dark Knight.

  25. The back cover of The Killing Joke depicts a playing card with Joker on the top (marked J), and Batman upside down as the bottom (marked B). I wonder if this image influenced their final conversation after Batman saves him from the fall.

  26. The Dark Knight was such an amazing movie! Maybe even better than Tim Burton's "Batman".

  27. When Joker tells Rachel about his scars, he finishes the story by commenting "Now I see the funny side. Now I'm always smiling!"then. Seems to be a reference to his monologue to Batman in The Killing Joke, which ends with the line "Why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?"

    1. That was strikingly similar to what the clown said in '89: "I'm only smiling on the outside"

      also, the whole "Hit me" scene is a lot like what Batman '89 did to Joker '89 (I wonder why he missed at such a close range).

      --Nave 'Torment'

  28. Thats a good catch, I think theres definitely an influence here. Ill be updating the article soon

  29. I know it's controversial, but do you think Steve Englehart's claims, that his and Marshall Rodgers 'Dark Detective II' story was a major influence on 'The Dark Knight' film. There are some striking similaraties between the two stories?

  30. I read about it quite some time ago, would have to refresh my memory and read about it again.

  31. Hi! Great job with this series -- It's really the kind that can evolve as more and more references are added. I'd like to point out one of the more obvious ones from Long Halloween: The big stinking pile of mob-cash, taken straight from the book. Harvey's coin belonging to his father is another one. Rachel dies in an explosion--Harvey's house was put on fire. The various references to the Joker and Batman and Two-Face as "freaks" are from the book -- and of course, Maroni himself, as Gordon and Dent says near the end, is "really responsible" for how Two-Face comes out.

    -- Nave 'Torment'

  32. All good additions, whenever I have some extra time to kill Ill sure add all the suggestions from the comments

  33. A story published in the Batman Newspaper Dailies in January 1945 probably inspired the "Shattered bullet" sequence in The Dark Knight.

    I have scanned a few pages:

  34. Thanks! Soon Ill be updating all those references

  35. I would say that the scene with the Joker faking death before killing Gambol would be a direct reference to the many times Joker has faked death, I'm not sure which comic it would be but I know its a reference :)

  36. The camera angle shooting up at The Joker as he beats Batman with a pipe is reflective of the graphic novel scene in the Batman series 'A Death In The Family', in which The Joker kills Robin (Jason Todd) with a crowbar.

  37. Is the scene where Batman races to save Rachel a reference to Death In The Family with the whole idea of him racing against the time of a bomb while she was tied and locked up (presumably)?

  38. Also when the joker beats him at the end with a crowbar, it kinda looks like Under The Red Hood but with Batman instead of Robin.