Few creators can claim to have a lasting legacy on just one aspect of the entertainment industry. Even fewer can say their legacy spans through different mediums. Paul Dini is one of the distinct few who have a storied body of work in comics and television. From his generation defining animation work on Tiny Toon Adventures, Justice League, and the definitive Dark Knight in Batman: The Animated Series to some of the best comics like Mad Love; Paul Dini has a freaking amazing career. This week sees the release of his latest comic book masterpiece, Dark Night: A True Batman Story; a graphic novel drawn by the incredible Eduardo Risso, which depicts a real trauma in Dini’s life told through the lens of a Batman story.
During an intimate Q&A hosted by animation producing icon Alan Burnett, Paul Dini talked about his career and opened up about the real life savage attack at the hands of unknown assailants in his younger days. Years ago, what began with delinquent mocking of Dini by two men as he walked back to his West Hollywood home, escalated into a senseless act of violence which saw his life nearly extinguished. The assault caused Dini severe physical damage, but perhaps worse to him were the emotional scars. This event proved to be more than just the basis for Dark Nnight: A True Batman Story; it fueled a deep introspection of every aspect of the writer’s life.
Having listened to Dini speak about his work on previous occasions one can notice this was no ordinary conversation for the writer. There was something raw and vulnerable heard in Dini’s emotions when talking to Burnett about this book. At times it was scary to see Paul as he talked about these old wounds being opened for writing the book.
As a writer telling a story it’s one thing to deal with anger, frustration, fear, and mistrust of strangers. It’s a whole different thing to deal with those paralyzing emotions when a real life act of violence nearly keeps you from living your life. Sadly in our world, what Dini went through isn’t a rare occurrence. A lot of victims of violence never give themselves the chance to work through it. Sometimes it’s the fear of going through the trauma again, other times the assaulted can feel an unfounded crippling shame. Dini himself may not see it but it shows Batman level courage to share a real story like this with thousands of comic book fans who will read it and the potential for thousands more who may not be avid comic readers but feel isolated by having gone through similar incidents.
Dark Night: A True Batman Story is going to rank among the best Batman stories ever told. On its own merit the book is gripping, poignant, and masterfully rendered by artist Eduardo Risso. The story behind the story gives it a deeper resonance. Every book’s success can be measured in dollars, but DN: A True Batman story has the distinction of being able to be measured in how it shapes people’s minds and empathy. It’s not so much a sense of closure for Dini but serves as a word of advice for anyone feeling isolated by their violent trauma. When someone takes a part of you, it’s up to you to make sure they don’t take the best parts of you. That is the true legacy of Dark Night: A True Batman Story.
In our business the phrase “must have” is thrown around too often. It almost isn’t fair that you can’t say that for this book because it wouldn’t do it justice. Dark Knight: A True Batman Story is on the cultural level of Pygmalion, Catcher in the Rye, Beloved, or Gone With the Wind. Find out just how good it is by picking it up at comic book stores and amazon starting today.