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Marvel has wanted its own Batman: Dark Knight Returns for almost a decade, and now they have one

Frank Miller re-defined Batman with Dark Knight Returns, and Marvel wanted the same for its Avengers

Avengers; Twilight #1 variant cover
Image credit: Frank Miller (Marvel Comics)

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns changed Batman, DC Comics, and arguably comics as a whole. 38 years later, the comic is either #1 or #2 in the best-selling DC collections - and it has been for decades. It was created by Frank Miller, coming to DC after making his name with his seminal work on Daredevil. An obvious question has been 'Why hasn't Marvel done something like Dark Knight Returns?' Well actually, they have - and its taken eight years of work.

Avengers: Twilight
Image credit: Alex Ross (Marvel Comics)

In 2016 - during the release of the second sequel to Dark Knight Returns - then Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, the company's executive editor Tom Brevoort, and its senior VP of business affairs & talent management David Bogart realized amongst themselves that Marvel should have something like what Frank Miller had made for DC and Batman.

"We were talking about why it was that Marvel didn’t have a future storyline along those Dark Knight lines, and I went away overnight and came back the next day with the bare bones of the plot for Avengers: Twilight," Brevoort said recently on his Substack. "But Axel and David both commented on it, making suggestions and giving ideas and input that went into the final product."

That was in 2016, but it wasn't until 2019 that writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Daniel Acuna became involved with the project.

"Now, the story that Chip and Daniel are delivering isn’t exactly what we had laid out all those years before, but it is an outgrowth of that development process," says Brevoort.

A five-year process to write-and-draw a series isn't unheard of, but in the world of monthly comics that Marvel sits in, it's exceedingly rare. According to Brevoort, the fact that Avengers: Twilight wasn't in the same time period as other Marvel books made it easy to postpone when the schedule of Marvel and the creators became too tight.

"As a project that wasn’t connected to the mainstream continuity of the Marvel Universe, Twilight was easy to push back in favor of other things," says Brevoort. "So it wound up scheduled a few times during that period, and then being kicked back when the month wound up with too many releases, most of which were contemporary and needed to come out at that moment."

The ties between Avengers: Twilight and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns are so obvious that Marvel hired Miller to draw a variant cover similiar to the iconic Batman: Dark Knight Returns cover, and then asked Declan Shalvey to do five more in that style for other issues.

Avengers: Twilight #6 goes on sale May 29, with a collected edition due out August 27.

Keep up to date on Popverse's Marvel coverage, with these highlights: Marvel Comics' return to fun, how Marvel Comics' boss said it was lost in 2023 (and how its finding itself again), How 2024 is a pivotal year for Marvel Comics & Marvel Studios, the 3 big challenges facing Marvel Studios in 2024 (and what they could learn from Marvel Comics), Inside Marvel Comics' plans to fix its pricing issues, Overgrown children of the atom: Marvel's X-Men can't evolve past their '90s commercial peak, and the biggest outstanding questions of the Marvel Studios' movies & TV shows.