While riding the subway train home, Margaret Corcoran's purse was stolen from her by members of the violent and profoundly non-religious Gotham street gang known as "the Mutants." Margaret Corcoran begged her young assailants to return her purse back to her. They shoved her purse back at her with a laugh.
Margaret Corcoran was evidentally a religious woman, for she immediately prayed to thank God for the return of her purse.
Unfortunately, this "Mutant" gang embodied a particularly vile evil, for the return of the purse was merely a ruse. They had put a bomb in the purse, with which they murdered Corcoran while she kneeled on the subway platform. They did this just for the fun of it, demonstrating a profound lack of reverence for life.
Margaret Corcoran and the brief overt religious reference associated with her also provide an example of popular comic book writer Frank Miller's frequent use of religion in his writing and characterization.
Margaret Corcoran's precise denominational affiliation is not overtly identified during her brief appearance, but she is probably a Catholic. "Corcoran" is an Irish name and most Americans with this surname are Irish Catholics. Furthermore, nearly all of Frank Miller's overtly religious characters are Catholics, including (according to Miller) the two mainstream superhero characters he is best known for writing: Batman and Daredevil. (Note that while Daredevil's Catholic religious faith is well established and overtly identified throughout comics and other media in which he appears, Batman's identification as a Catholic is tentative, with some people dissenting from the opinion of Miller and labelling the Dark Knight a lapsed Episcopalian rather than a lapsed Catholic.)
NARRATION MIXED WITH MARGARET CORCORAN'S THOUGHTS: It's the train, thinks Margaret Corcoran. My legs never hurt like this when I wait the tables. The train -- it won't let the pain lie in my calves where I'm used to it. Varicose veins, the doctor said. Easy for him to tell her to quit her job, easy for him to talk about surgery. Surgery. With no insurance and two payments left on Jamie's braces and the turn-off notice from the electric company with winter on its way.
She feels the metal square insider her purse and smiles. Almost nobody tips anymore. But an uptown drunk left ten dollars on the table tonight. What with the turn-off notice it was wrong to spend the tip on the pain. But young Robert's art teacher says he has talent . . . She pictures Robert's able little hands, his eager smile . . .
[Margaret Corcoran's purse is grabbed from her by two young thugs wearing Cyclops-like visors. They are member of the violent street gang known as "the Mutants."]
NARRATION: Her purse strap bites into her shoulder . . . and Margaret Corcoran, who had not pleaded with Blue Cross when they cancelled her insurance or with Citicorp when they repossessed her car . . . begs like a wino for a ten-dollar paint set.
[Margaret Corcoran had used the ten dollar tip she received to buy a paint set for her son. While Margaret prostrates herself begging for the gang members to return her purse to her, one of them blocks her from reaching his partner, who holds the purse. The gang member with the purse has his back to Margaret, and she does not see him dropping something into the purse. Suddenly he shoves the purse into her stomach, handing it to her forcefully and shoving her out of the subway train and onto the platform.]
NARRATION: She feels her purse hit her stomach as the train rumbles to a stop. She hears them laugh. She lands hard on the cement, but it only hurts. She feels the square of metal and thanks God and can't help but cry.
[In shadows, the two members of the "Mutants" gang flash sinister smiles as they watch Margaret from the departing subway train.]
NARRATION: Then she feels something heavy and round like an apple in her purse.
[We do not see the explosion of the bomb that kills Margaret Corcoran. Instead we flash to one panel showing a television newswoman reporting the story.]
TV NEWS REPORTER OR ANCHORWOMAN: Woman explodes in subway station -- film at eleven.
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 102; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley.
The walls in Margaret Corcoran's paintings are green - the walls of the Milltown Rooms in the National Gallery of Ireland (which contain the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century paintings of the Irish School depicted in Corcoran's canvases) are green too, but it's not the same colour, and in that interval lies all the difference.
Perhaps this is not an uncommon name. A real-life woman named "Margaret Corcoran" was mentioned in a national news story carried by the Associated Press. This Margaret Corcoran was the mother of a boy molested by a priest who was named, ironically enough, Father Miller (no connection to author Frank Miller, of course). Like the "Margaret Corcoran" from The Dark Knight Returns, this woman has a son named "James", although he is nicknamed "Jim" instead of "Jamie." Also, both women have a son who is a talented artist. From: Associated Press, "Men say church knew of sex abuse decades ago", published in The Enquirer (Cincinnati), 6 March 2002 (http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2002/05/06/loc_men_say_church_knew.html; viewed 2 April 2006):
Six men who claim they were molested as youngsters by a priest say Catholic Church officials were informed about the allegations decades ago, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Parents of four of the men say that they or their husbands reported the alleged misconduct by the Rev. Louis E. Miller, according to the Courier-Journal of Louisville. The parents say the Archdiocese of Louisville either did nothing or transferred Father Miller to another school.
The six men, all now middle-aged, are former Catholic school students. Five of them have sued the archdiocese; one has not...
Margaret Corcoran, who is now 78, recalls her son -- James B. "Jim" Corcoran, then a 13-year-old seventh-grader and now a plaintiff in the case -- coming home from school one day as "white as a sheet."
The altar boy told his father that Father Miller had molested him in the sacristy of the church immediately after Mass, Margaret Corcoran said. "My husband wanted to go knock his block off," she said. "I told him that is not the way to handle it."
Instead, they told Father Miller's boss at Holy Spirit, the Right Rev. John W. Vance, according to Mr. Corcoran and his mother.
"Father Vance didn't believe me," said Jim Corcoran, who is now 52 and a commercial artist.
"He said there is nothing wrong with Father Miller," Margaret Corcoran recalled. "He said your boy needs to see a psychiatrist."
...Archdiocesan officials have said they had no record of complaints against Father Miller before receiving one in late 1989, which prompted his removal from ministries involving children.