The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
and/or an unnamed Catholic priest in Gotham
Also: Catholicism in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4, a Russian nuclear missile causes an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out electrical systems throughout Gotham (and elsewhere). This results in a city-wide blackout, and also causes a 747 airplain to collide with a skyscraper. The darkness, explosions and fires on the ground lead to mob violence. A Catholic priest is injured during the melee. Specifically this priest was pistol-whipped by a advertising agent Byron Brassballs, a self-identified "religious" Christian who has "been to church every Sunday since [he] was a kid."
The Catholic priest injured after the electromagnetic pulse is quite possibly (based on his dialogue and his aversion to boistrous rock music) the same person as "Father Don," the priest appeared on television in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 criticizing a Led Zeppelin album for having hidden Satanic lyrics.
Based on his appearance, this priest is probably not the same priest who, in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2, answered a TV journalist's on-the-street questions about his opinion of Batman. The priest who answered the question about Batman in #2 was completely bald on the top of his head, and had much smaller eyebrows. The mob-injured priest in #4 has bushier eyebrows and a bushy lock of hair on the top of his balding (but not completely bald) head. Both priests are similarly attired and both are balding with short black hair on the sides of their head; both are middle-aged and seem slightly heavy-set. But it appears they are not the same person.
When reading Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as well as many of other comics written by Frank Miller, one could easily surmise that all of this writer's characters belong to one of two religious groups: Catholic and lapsed Catholic.
Virtually every character in The Dark Knight Returns whose religious affiliation can be deduced is apparently a Catholic. This includes not only the unnamed priest being interviewed by a TV show on the second-to-last page in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2, but also Margaret Corcoran (a crime victim in the subway), Arnold Crimp (a mentally disturbed man who killed three people in an "adult" film theater), Peppi Spandeck (a devout Catholic shop owner) and Batman himself. (Batman is never explicitly identified as a Catholic within the text or images of The Dark Knight Returns limited series, Miller has stated in published interviews that Batman is Catholic.)
The quotient of Catholic characters in Frank Miller's comics is significantly higher than found in the writing of other mainstream comic book writers.
Dialogue excerpts from: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), pages 179-183; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley:
CATHOLIC PRIEST (possibly Father Don): Try not to judge them too harshly. It was a cruel test for all of us . . . and, we can hope, a lesson . . . None of us can look back on that night without shame. Even before it all . . . I was wrapped in myself. You see, I have always been rather sensitive to noise . . . and that boy- he seemed to keep pace with me deliberately , taking the joy from my evening walk . . .
[FLASHBACK: The priest recalls walking on the busy city street, putting his hand to his ear with an annoyed look on his face while a young man (either in his late teens or early twenties) walks right next to him, a portable stereo system ("boom box") held on his shoulder. Other people on the street stare at the young man with the boom box, who obviously has the music cranked up way to loud . . . with his horribly loud radio . . .]
CATHOLIC PRIEST: . . . When it shrieked, I blamed the boy. Truth to tell, I turned to confront him . . .
[The "shriek" coming from the radio was caused by the electromagnic pulse from the nuclear missile launched by the Soviet Union.]
CATHOLIC PRIEST: . . . Then I noticed his own confusion -- and the darkness that seemed to fall across the entire city. I heard shouts . . .
BYRON BRASSBALLS: Yes, I was shouting. What do you expect? I happened to be up against a bitch of a deadline. What? . . . Yes, of course I'd heard about the bomb. But I've got problems of my own.
I'm not crazy about getting out of my car in that neighborhood -- but I know I better call the agency and make sure my ass is covered.
[FLASHBACK: Byron Brassballs, wearing a business suit, is seen flying backwards away from his car door due to the force of a nearby explosion.]
BYRON BRASSBALLS: So I'm barely standing up when there is this explosion knocks me flat-- My ankle feels like it's broken -- Somebody is going to get sued-- I'm barely on my feet when that girl is all over me, talking about World War Three. I don't like being touched -- and like I said, I've got my own problems -- but she won't shut up.
[FLASHBACK: Byron Brassballs punches the young (probably teenaged) girl who approached him, hysterical or upset about the explosion.]
BYRON BRASSBALLS: Nobody told me about any airplane. The cars were popping off like firecrackers -- everybody screaming -- it was evey man for himself.
Oh, right. The cop. Listen, I've never broken the law -- not in any way that counts. And it wasn't me who told him to try to help that Jap bitch out of her Volkswagen.
[FLASHBACK: Byron Brassballs recalls seeing a police officer killed or gravely injured when caught in a large explosion from the exploding gasoline engine of a car he was trying to help a woman out of.]
BYRON BRASSBALLS: Grow up. Somebody was going to get his gun. He sure didn't have any use for it. That priest, he didn't see it my way . . .
[FLASHBACK: Byron Brassballs recalls grabbing the fallen police officer's gun. A Catholic priest grabs Byron's hand to try to prevent him from using the gun. Byron struggles with the priest, pulling the gun away.]
BYRON BRASSBALLS: He wouldn't let go. Wouldn't listen to reason. I've been to church every Sunday since I was a kid. But when push comes to shove . . .
[FLASHBACK: Byron Brassballs uses the cop's pistol to strike the priest in the face.]
BYRON BRASSBALLS: Hey -- you weren't there. Could barely see through all the smoke -- was sure I heard shelling. It was the end of the world-- and I had a gun. Wouldn't take a genius to realize that the only other thing worth a damn was food. I wasn't alone, either.
[FLASHBACK: A mob of people, led by someone with a gun, apparently Byron himself, walks through the city against a backdrop of flames.]
BALDING BUSINESSMAN WITH BROKEN GLASSES: There's no excuse for what we did. We weren't crazy. We were just an ugly bunch of stupid, selfish bastards. There was the priest, a bloody mess. I didn't care . . . No excuse . . . I was in with the rest of them, shoving, yelling about food and guns . . . There was no plan, nobody fighting the fire.
[Byron Brassballs recounds more about how he used the gun to help incite mob violence, and how he shot a black man among a mob of looters whose food he wanted to take. Batman and Robin arrived on the scene and helped quell the violence, organizing the crowd to help fight the fires around them rather than fighting each other.]
CATHOLIC PRIEST: After the mob left, the explosions continued. The fires were everywhere . . . I was barely conscious . . . if not for the boy, I . . . That's right. The boy with the radio. He pulled me clear. Saved my life. When Batman dropped off the medical supplies, the boy passed them around . . . He was at my side till morning, helping the burned. But, of coruse, there wasn't any morning . . .
Father Don warns about Satanic lyrics in Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"
From: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), page 89; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley:
NARRATION MIXED WITH ARNOLD CRIMP'S THOUGHTS: Arnold Crimp fingers the cold steel thing in his pocket and stares at the movie marquee and does not throw up. He thinks about Led Zeppelin and how they are trying to kill him.
He had not known about Led Zeppelin until Father Don on TV had explained it last night. Father Don said that Led Zeppelin hid a prayer to Satan in their song "Stairway to Heaven." They hid it very well. They recorded it backwards.
Arnold Crimp took the album from the record store where he worked until they fired him this afternoon and transferred "Stairway to Heaven" to tape. Then he played the tape backwards. He played it forty-seven times until he was absolutely certain that Father Don was right. But the young girl who was painted like a whore didn't believe him.
A Priest is interviewed about Batman
This unnamed Catholic priest is a minor character who appears in only one panel on only the one page (the penultmate page) of issue #2 of Frank Miller's epochal Batman: The Dark Knight Returns limited series (DC Comics: New York City, 1986; page 103 in the hardcover compilation).
This priest may or may not be the same person as "Father Don," mentioned on an earlier page of this issue. Father Don was a priest who stated on television that the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven" has a hidden prayer to Satan, words which are audible when the song is played backwards.
From: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), page 103; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley:
CATHOLIC PRIEST: Though surrounded by sinfulness, and terror, we must not become so embittered that we take Satan's methods as our own.
[This priest is one of a number of people interviewed by a TV news program discussing the return of the costumed vigilante Batman after 10 years of absence.]
Different images of nuns in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Above: Different views of Catholic nuns in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Left: A TV anchorman reports the murder of three Catholic nuns. (source: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1; page 11 in the hardcover compilation)
Middle: A mentally disturbed man is horrified to see "adult film" actresses dressed as nuns in a film titled My Sweet Satan. Inspired by the return of the Batman to public life, the mentally unstable man came to this seedy theater because he felt driven to punish evil-doers. (source: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2; page 89 in the hardcover compilation)
Right: A Catholic nun is part of a brigade of Gotham citizens joining together to fight fires in the wake of an Soviet-caused electromagnetic pulse and a passenger plane crash (source: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4; page 176 in the hardcover compilation)
The Pope, contraception and pro-abortion terrorists
Right: In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller envisions pro-abortion terrorists who attack the Catholic Church rather directly in an attempt to push their views. A news anchorwoman announces, "The Pope today declared that the Church's stand on contraception will not change, despite yesterday's firebombing of St. Peter's Square."
(Source: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), page 131; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley)
Webpage created 2 April 2006. Last modified 2 April 2006.
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