Symbols in the Dark Knight Returns

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In the Dark Knight Returns, Superman, while lifting a tank, stated, "We must not remind them that giants walk the Earth." The symbol of giants invokes an idea of the past that people no longer wanted to concern themselves with. These giants are the super heroes, like Batman and Superman, who used to save the day, but were now rejected. The giants, despite all the good they had done for mankind, reminded people of the evil that used to lurk during their reign. Americans associated criminals with the heroes, and therefore believed that the return of superheroes caused to return of crime and other infamous villains. They did not see that Batman returned to a life of fighting crime as a result of the emergence of the Mutant Gang. Batman, and all he stood for, now represented all the potential evil of mankind.

            All of the symbols that came to represent these giants also had a strong impact on the people of Gotham. Some rejoiced at the sight of the Bat Signal looming over the city; to them, it meant that he was looking out for them and they were safe. An even greater number of people shuddered at the sight because they were wither the criminals now at danger or those who believed that the vigilante caused more problems and inspired more crimes. The latter reacted to those named the Sons of Batman, who killed in his name. However, they did not follow his approach; Batman never killed, but those who called themselves his followers did. Therefore, Batman gets blamed for all the murders committed in his name, further causing the Bat Signal to symbolize death and destruction. In a moment, the Bat Signal becomes both a beacon of hope and a sign of disaster. On the contrary, a gleaming red cape and a glowing yellow "S" sparks wonder and curiosity among a generation that merely considered super heroes a myth. Unlike Batman, Superman responded when called to action and did not hide in the shadows. That giant did not pose an immediate threat to the people of Gotham, but rather he was a symbol of patriotism, strength, and safety.

            When the two giants face off, it is a symbol of the end of the super hero era. As Batman's mask falls exposing himself as Bruce Wayne, the mysterious nature of the giant is removed. He becomes just an ordinary citizen who dedicated his life to fight crime in the name of justice. He is no longer a giant. He is a man, a weak old man. This changes the status of the giant and relates him to a normal being. Unlike Superman's Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne was a mortal human and subject to human sufferings. He was just another man, but when he donned the Batman attire he became a giant and a symbol, whether positive of negative, to all of Gotham. His fall marks the end of super heroes to all. It represents the entrance of a new time without the symbol of the Batman itself, but his message and purpose will live on.

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