But if you consider the camp 60's TV series you get some idea where the transformation started. Of course he was not still camp by 1986 but at that time a lot of emphasis was on the detective side of his character and the stories were about his brain power not his physical prowess.
I, of course, bought the books when they came out and now I have them safely bagged and boxed. Somewhere. I just do not know where that somewhere is.
When DC put 750 digital Batman comics on sale and that included the four issues of The Dark Night Returns at only 69p each then I bought them again just to read them again.
I have always liked Frank Miller's artwork (possibly because we were born on the same day) and I still found it visually striking after the best part of thirty years. Other artwork from that period has aged much less well.
The story is also familiar now but was fresh then. Superheroes had gone bad (that was mostly Batman and Green Arrow) and had disappeared when they were no longer seen as heroes. Some had been locked up. In the meantime the world had gradually become a worse place and heroes were needed.
There are other nice themes running through the book like the hopeless American President (based on the then President Raegan) having to deal with a Cube-like crisis.
Two Face and the Joker play significant roles but the story is really about Batman dealing with general lawlessness rather than supervillains. And he deals with it using extreme physical force and psychology. He hurts people to make his point. That means that is return is seen as a double-edged sword, some think he is doing good in tackling crime while others think that he is the criminal.
I had not read the book for a couple of decades but large chunks of it had stuck with me. A lot of it had gone though and that made the rereading almost as much fun as it had been the first time.
One scene that had stuck with me was the confrontation between Batman and Superman in the fourth and final book. One of the tricks Batman had was some synthetic Green Kryptonite. I wonder where that came from?
I really liked the idea that Batman had put so much effort in to preparing for a fight against Superman, even when they were friends and colleagues.
The Dark Knight Returns was a great book in 1986 and it still is.