By Robert Lloyd
Back in 1986 I was graduating college with an associates degree in industrial management. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns was released about the same time I was graduating. It’s very timely to me because it was about one thing that was on my mind at the time -- getting older. The story was about a 55 plus year old retired Bruce Wayne forced to return to the fray because of urban decay.
Well, at the time a lot of manufacturers were closing in my town and taking their operations overseas. My chance of being a manager in any industry was dwindling to zero.
In Connecticut, our main employer was Electric Boat. My grandfather discouraged me from seeking employment there, because he was laid off twice. I was hopeful to land a position with a defense based employer at the time. I did get a job at a place called United Nuclear; the week of graduation. Full time with benefits. That same week United Nuclear closed their doors and one thousand people lost their jobs.
The story showed me how Bruce Wayne coped without having all the wealth that helped Batman in the past. The Dark Knight shows us how he adapted his skills to the modern world. Something I still struggle with today.
1986 marked a lot of firsts in my life. Going to a full time job and struggling with bosses that were not the most ethical or clear minded people. I ended up taking a job washing and fueling mail delivery trucks at night -- quite a far cry from being a manager. My supervisor and fellow co-workers could have been part of Batman’s rogues gallery. I’d mention the famous package delivery company I worked for, only I don’t have many good things to say about the place. I remember clearly before I was hired I had to produce both my associates degree and my high school diploma to the man who interviewed me. The manager then told me, "just because you've graduated college doesn't mean you graduated high school." It was the most demoralizing interview in my life. But I needed the job. I'd put out enough resumes and the only thing I'd gotten so far was compliments on my persistence.
My grandfather was very sick at the time, going in and out of the hospital. I had to start paying bills and checking on the quality of his care. My mother and I had to take charge of the situation immediately. We caught our home health aide stealing sugar and sweet and low packets from our dining room table. When I asked her what she was doing, she wouldn't respond. At that point we just asked her to leave and we realized that it was better for us not to have someone from the hospital in our home.
The Dark Knight Returns marked the end of my days as a serious collector of comics. I couldn't afford to collect like I used to. I had responsibilities and things that had to be done to maintain my life. The real world crept into the fantasy, and made me realize that I had to forget the past and move on.