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Shant Eghian

Shant Eghian is a graduate of Assumption College, with a bachelor's degree in history and political science. His interests include American foreign policy, political philosophy, comic books, and the impending robot uprising.

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 3: Ronald Reagan and the Republican Establishment

One of the most innovative aspects of The Dark Knight Returns is that Miller very clearly places Gotham City in the real world of 1980s America, and not a hyper exaggerated comic book universe. Ronald Reagan is president, the United States is locked in an ever-escalating Cold War, and real-life celebrities like David Letterman and Dr Ruth Westheimer are murdered by the Joker. Of course, Miller never comes right out and names these people, but by the way he draws them, it is easy enough to figure out what he is up to.

Based on previous installments of this series, you may assume that Frank Miller would be very supportive of Ronald Reagan. After all, Batman is a stand in for a type of conservatism that, to paraphrase Whittaker Chambers, recognizes the reality of evil and fights it instead of smiling and waving at it (Chambers, Witness, 704). In a time when Reagan was constantly (and rightly) denouncing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” while many on the Left did not want to hear it, a reader may easily think The Dark Knight Returns is thinly veiled pro-Reagan propaganda. When Reagan does show up approximately halfway through the book however, Miller paints him in a less than flattering light. In almost every appearance, Miller portrays Reagan as a doddering, uncaring fool, who throws American soldiers into Cold War conflicts for no particular reason.

Check out the previous installments in this series: Part 1, The Media, and Part 2, Law and Order

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 2: Law and Order

Considering Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as a Mirror to Today’s Politics

In an interview with Comic Book Confidential in 1988, Frank Miller remarked that 1980s America was a “very frightening, silly place… it’s often silly and frightening at the same time and [he] hope[d] [The Dark Knight Returns] is silly and frightening at the same time.”

Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 of this ongoing series. Warning: spoilers in this and the previous installment.

You do not have to read very far in The Dark Knight Returns to realize that Miller can indeed illicit horror and laughs on the same page, if not in the same panel. Miller’s genius at combining these two seemingly contradictory responses lead to some intriguing commentary on criminality and society’s response to it. And like Miller’s satirical attacks on the media, his observations on modern America’s inability to seriously deal with crime make interesting parallels with the Trump era.

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 1: The Media

Considering Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as a Mirror to Today’s Politics

To fans of comics, The Dark Knight Returns stands as one of the seminal works of the medium. Written and drawn by comics legend Frank Miller in 1986, the story revolves around an aging Batman coming out of retirement after an intolerable surge in Gotham’s crime. Known for its intense action, suspenseful plotting, and dark atmosphere, The Dark Knight Returns proved to mainstream audiences that comics could be more than cheap, disposable, kiddie fare, and could stand as its own as a serious form of entertainment and storytelling.

One distinctive aspect of the book is its sharp political satire. Miller takes aim at a bevy of institutions, from the police force, to politicians, to Ronald Reagan, to the media.

At first glance, Miller’s satirical remarks can be seen as the bloviations of an angry young man. Almost no one avoids his ire, and his statements can seem contradictory. On the one hand, he attacks the media as fake and soft on crime, so he sounds like a conservative. On the next page, however, he attacks Reagan as hollow and is critical of American actions in the Cold War, so he comes off as a liberal. Is there any real coherence to Miller’s attacks, or is he just flailing his arms around with no real positive political agenda?

Frankenstein’s Monster, Mr. Hyde, and the Horrors of Science

For the past month, I have been diving into some of the Golden Age Horror films from the 1930s. Like most people, these are movies that have always been in the background of my cultural knowledge, but ones that I have never actually seen. I decided to change that this October, so I watched Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Like a lot of older films, they can be slow and somewhat hokey at times. Since these were some of the first sound films ever produced, most of the actors came right from the stage to the screen, and it shows. As anyone who has been in acting knows, you have to overact on a stage production in a way that comes off as silly in a film, but since many of these actors were not used to the transition, a lot of the performances come off as overdone.

But none of that can suppress the genuinely great scenes in these films; indeed, they deserve the bone-chilling reputation that they have garnered over the decades. No one can ever forget Lugosi’s haunting performance as the title character of Dracula, Fredric March’s leering grin as Mr. Hyde, or Colin Clive’s electrifying screams of “It’s alive! It’s alive!” as the horrifying creature comes to life.

Robespierre’s Radical Liberalism: Reflections on Ruth Scurr’s Fatal Purity

Were Robespierre and the Jacobins Proto-Socialists?

Having recently finished Ruth Scurr’s biography on Robespierre, Fatal Purity, I have had my world turned upside down on the actions of Robespierre and the course of the French Revolution. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the French Revolution was a disaster, a massively overblown response to legitimate grievances against the ancien regime. But Scurr’s biography blew apart many preconceptions that I had about what the French Revolutionaries really wanted, the differences between the various revolutionary factions, and the conditions that lead to the infamous Committee of Public Safety that summarily executed thousands of innocent French citizens.

Like any biography, particularly one about a controversial figure such as Robespierre, Scurr’s biography is subject to different criticisms. She seems to me to try to be objective as possible, but of course, no history is perfect, and is always subject to different interpretations. This being said, the book seems to be generally favorably reviewed, and I am no expert on the French Revolution, so I am not going to review the book. Instead, I am just going to make some general observations about things I learned and what some valuable lessons from Robespierre’s life and role in the French Revolution could be.

I think the most important myth that Scurr’s book shatters is that Robespierre and the Jacobins were some kind of Proto-Socialists. This is a view held by both Robespierre’s admirers and detractors.