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Frank Miller returns to Batman - Dark Knight Returns playground for a Carrie Kelley YA graphic novel

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns excerpt
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns excerpt (Image credit: Frank Miller (DC))

2021 marks the 35th anniversary of DC's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, and work is almost complete on a spin-off of the original story, starring the book's breakout character, its new Robin, Carrie Kelley.

We'll forgive you if you forgot about the spin-off - it was announced quite some time ago.

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

Back in early 2018, DC announced that Frank Miller was working with artist Ben Caldwell on a young adult graphic novel focused on the diminutive Carrie Kelley. Since that announcement though, there hasn't been any new information... until now.

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

"[The Carrie Kelly book] is shaping up great; Ben is just a powder keg of talent," Miller tells Newsarama. "It'd probably be out now but it just keeps growing, due to his enthusiasm and output. I'm already kind of tugging at his sleeve about doing something else after this."

Originally estimated to be a 200-page OGN, Newsarama has heard Caldwell has drawn much more than 200 pages for the as-yet-unnamed Dark Knight Returns-related project. But as Miller tells us, it's not a Batman & Carrie Kelley story - it's a Carrie Kelley story, with a sprinkling of Batman.

"Without going into all kinds of detail, by entering her world with this story we start to see her perspective on Batman, and how he occupies a very interesting space," Miller says. "Sometimes we don't know if he's really there, or just part of her mind. She's integrating his teachings into her thinking, and how he lectures her and talks to her. But other times he's there physically."

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

Beyond Batman, the book will also elaborate on Carrie Kelley's life outside of superheroing - including her life as a student.

"This book also picks up on some of the people in Carrie Kelly's life besides Batman, such as her classmates. She's definitely the smartest kid in her class, even with the sarcasm she always brings."

Miller says that Caldwell has added much to his idea of the female Robin character he introduced way back in 1986's Dark Knight Returns.

"Caldwell brings something special to this project… something that I just find both liberating and thrilling," says Miller. "He has made Carrie Kelly his own. I gave Carrie Kelly a very classic children's book illustration look when I drew her, and in Ben's hands she's become this electric, cartoon of a character.

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

"Ben's work here reminds me of Carmine Infantino and how he drew the Flash. When she's moving you sometimes see three or four figure-drawings of her, so you see every motion she does even though she's going at a faster speed," says Miller. 

"He also plays a lot with Carrie Kelly's proportions," Miller says. "She isn't just a child in an adult world; she's a diminutive child, so even with other kids she's teeny-tiny."

This untitled Carrie Kelley/Dark Knight Returns-related project is the third book in a five-book deal Miller signed in DC in 2018, following Superman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child

The fourth and fifth books have yet to be announced, but Miller has said previously he'd been having a "fixation" on World War II era DC characters. When asked about these projects, Miller tells Newsarama he has nothing to announce on that front.

"Not yet. I'm still banging on that door."

Dark Knight: Carrie Kelley project concept art (Image credit: Ben Caldwell (DC))

We'll keep banging on that door too, and will report back when we know more about the Carrie Kelley OGN spin-off from Dark Knight Returns.

Carrie Kelley ranks high on Newsarama's list of the best Robins in comic books.