I vaguely remember reading something, last year maybe, about Paul Dini writing a Batman story based on events that happened to him in real life. It sounded like an interesting premise and I like Paul Dini (who doesn’t) so I thought, yeah I should read that. Then, in testament to my internet overstimulated brain, I promptly forgot all about it. Until a few days ago when Jim hands me Dark Night. I took a quick look at the cover and was like “ooooh a Paul Dini Batman story? Awesome!” “Um no. It’s not that kind of book,” Jim said, “it’s the book he wrote about his mugging. You want to read this.” And I did. Or at least I thought I did.
I wanted to read this book before I opened the it (Risso’s cover is simply striking). I still wanted to read it after the first few pages, in fact I wanted to read it more as the narrative started to take shape. But as the story developed that all changed. Page after page I wanted to read this book less and less but felt compelled to read it more and more. Dini’s writing combined with Risso’s masterful artwork made the book impossible to put down no matter how dark and gut-wrenching the story became.
In Dark Night Dini tells his story and it’s one that many geeks, nerds, and dorks will find familiar. A childhood spent trying, with varying degrees of success, to be invisible to and to minimize their target value to bullies and the other monsters of childhood, seeking refuge in their creativity and imagination.
Finding success and a career in the world that was his joy and escape as a child, every geek’s dream, you’d think that that would be enough to make for a happy ending. But as so many people know, the demons within are often times harder to defeat. In some ways this story is that of many others, Dini has trouble balancing work and his personal life, is the stereotypical quiet nerd who gets walked over by the pretty girl. A scenario that would seem cliche and made up to some but not to anyone who is or knows that guy–and everyone who knows nerds knows someone who is that guy. And then something happens that makes all this seem like a walk in the park–Dini is mugged and severely beaten while walking near his home.
The physical injuries are serious but the mental ones are the hardest to overcome. This is what Dark Night is really all about. How Dini worked his way through the trauma he suffered and was able to reclaim control over his life. And along the way, the voices of his characters were never out of his mind. His imagination helped him through his childhood and now it would help him work his way through one of the darkest times in his life.
Now of course there where real life friends and family helping him as well as medical professionals, but this is Dini and he was working on Batman at the time–these characters could never be far from his mind.
Dark Night is a story of one man and how he overcame himself to recover after a random act of violence but it is really so much more. Dini’s story is one that all of his fans can relate to in some way. As fans, we share his love of the characters and each of us, in our own way, at one time or another, have gathered strength from them. Maybe our story isn’t exactly Dini’s story but parts of it will resonate with us all. The message of strength, courage, and determination is universal and whatever our demons are, it can help us face them.
Even more so, as part of the generation who grew up with Dini’s Batman, Joker, Harley etc it’s his version of these characters that live in our brain and are our inspiration and strength. And now we have Dark Night to add to this legacy. There is one panel near the end of the book (pictured above) where a man says to Dini, “must be great to connect with people in that way, you must have the best job in the world.” Dini replies, “I’ve been very lucky. I work with good people.” Well we’ve been very lucky too, Mr. Dini. We’ve been told stories by good people and this is just another to add to the collection. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it helped you as much as I know it will help others.
Rating: 5 Stars
Book: Dark Night A True Batman Story
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Letterer: Todd Klein Logo Design: Chip Kidd
Release Date: June 21st 2016