Batman The Dark Knight Returns Limited Signed and Numbered Gallery Edition

Script by Frank Miller, art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson (original coloring by Lynn Varley). All illustrations are ©DC Comics. For a complete list of all books reviewed in this blog, please visit the index page.

Another instant hit by the Graphitti Designs team!

Although dated March 2016 in the credit page, this book was issued in May 2016 by Graphitti Designs under the DC/Vertigo label (ISBN: 978-1-4012-6443-7, 13.5 x 21 inches or 34 x 53 cm for the slipcase, $275). This limited signed edition (275 copies, mine is #41 or #46 it is hard to tell) comes with a sturdy debossed slipcase with debossed taped-spine. It is still advertised on the Graphitti Design store as limited to 250 copies. This edition features an exclusive sequentially numbered page signed by Frank Miller. Notice that the illustration of the signature page is not featured in the regular editions as such (but it is an illustration included in the extra section).

the signature page

it is definitely #46 on the cardboard box, but here it seems to be numbered #41

Below are pictures of the regular and variant cover editions produced by Graphitti Designs (both issued without the slipcase), and a picture for size comparison with the Absolute slipcase edition and the 10th Anniversary slipcase edition.

regular edition

variant cover edition
left hand side, the already massive Absolute edition, right hand side, the 10th Anniversary edition

The limited signed edition features the same cover than the regular edition, but the spine building is different (debossed taped-spine).

The inner book (13 x 20 inches or 33 x 51 cm, 216 pages) was printed on thick mat paper. Second and third of cover feature the same background illustration. There are also pictures of the sewn binding (the book has been printed in China).

second of cover

seams at the middle of the book

third of cover

the signature plate is the first opening page

This book, referenced as Graphitti Designs Gallery Edition #6, has been designed by Brainchild Studios and edited by Bob Chapman & Joseph Melchior. There are pictures below explaining how at Graphitti Designs they have sourced the original art, and how they have handled the scanning process.

table of contents

right hand side, original art scan of the cover of the first 1986 Warner TPB edition
The main section of the book, i.e. Batman The Dark Knight Returns originally published in four issues in 1986, features all four original covers. Like it is explain in Graphitti Designs statement above, over 75% of the original material has been retrieved.
Based on 47 pages of art (46 interior pages + the cover), there were 188 pages to hunt down. I have counted 49 missing original pages, printed in shades of grey instead in the book. So indeed we have 74% of the original pages scanned in this edition, plus extra original art excerpts from Miller re-inking. Out of these 49 pages, 42 are printed reduced in size, 8 x 12 inches or 20 x 30 cm instead of 12 x 18 inches or 30 x 46 cm). I have asked Graphitti Designs about this choice, here is their response: "Since these books are focused on the presentation of the original art, we make pages that are not source from the originals smaller. This gives greater focus to the pages sourced from the originals".

  • pages 12-13-17-23-26-27-32-35-36 from issue #1 (page 1 being the cover)
  • pages 7-11-21-22-30-32-33-34-36-39-40-45 from issue #2
  • pages 6-15-16-18-22-30-31-43 from issue #3
  • pages 4-6-8-9-11-15-16-17-22-24-31-39-41 from issue #4

left hand side a "missing" page printed reduced in size

The remaining seven missing pages, are printed if full size (12 x 18 inches or 30 x 46 cm) on overlays:
  • pages 2-9-17-27-32-35 from issue #3
  • page 26 from issue #4

right hand side, overlay of page 26 of issue #4, left hand side, Miller original re-inked panels from the same page

There are many overlays used in this book (I have counted 30 of them, including the extra section), to compare Klaus Janson original inking to Frank Miller re-inked panels, or to compare Frank Miller's pencils to the final inked page:
  • page 1 (cover) from issue #1, 2 and 3
  • pages 2-3-4-8-9-13-14-17-23-24-26-27-34-35-37-38-39-44-46-47 from issue #3
  • pages 21-25-26-27-39-41 from issue #4

Let's start with issue #1:

original cover for issue #1 with overlay on

and without the overlay

page 12 & 13 from issue #1

an iconic missing original page printed in shades of grey

a zoom on a panel to judge of the high quality of the scanning process

Now some pictures of issue #2:

again the cover with it's "final page' overlay

and beneath the overlay Frank Miller's original pencils

the lucky owner of this page had it signed by both Klaus Janson and Frank Miller

this page always gives me the shiver, and it constitues the point where I realized this story was a masterpiece

Now let's move on to issue #3 where Frank Miller started to re-inked Klaus Janson work. There are some very interesting insights on this topic (as well as other pictures of interior art) at the 13th dimension website.

cover for issue #3 with its overlay

zoom on what we see in transparency

without the overlay

left hand side: Frank Miller re-inked and below the final art on overlay

On some pictures I have used white paper sheets to better show Frank Miller's re-work on original Janson inking.

Miller re-work to the right

the page used for the cover of this Gallery edition

to the left, Miller's re-work

to the right, Miller has massively re-inked this page (also see the two zooms below)

Below are another side by side comparison between Miller and Janson inking  (Miller re-work to the left), ...

... and between the original art before and after the captions are included on the page (you can click on any picture to enlarge it):

This time the overlays show Klaus Janson original inks on the final page re-inked by Miller (see below):

there is a side by side comparison of this page in the extra section 

And now we finish the main material description with issue #4:

no overlay for this cover

Another Janson/Miller inking comparison on these three enlarged panels:

to the right the overlay ...

... and below it, Klaus Janson original inking

Klaus Janson inking

Frank Miller re-work (notice the changes in the eye of both characters)

we see here how previous material is reused

The extra section is 19 pages long (including two gatefold illustrations and the last overlay), its content is detailed in the third picture:

gatefold colored cover for Warner TPB

Fan Boy #4 with Sergio Aragones

side by side comparison of page 47 of issue #3

In addition to this article, and for more detailed insight about the reproduction quality, don't hesitate to read this Comic Book Daily review by Scott VanderPloeg.


  1. The signed edition's cover looks soon much better compare to the standard edition!! it's a good buy!

    1. And I have checked with Graphitti Designs, the Ronin signed GE has also the same design than this signed GE. I will post pictures of the Ronin signed GE on the associated article this evening (pictures taken by Graphitti)

  2. Was waiting for you to do a review on this! You did not disappoint! Keep it up.

  3. Excellent review! I got the standard edition myself, it's a beautiful book, but boy that limited edition looks especially nice!

    Really fascinating to see the original art, especially Miller's re-inks.

    Next up for me is the Sin City Curators Edition, which I understand will be an even bigger book!

    1. Yes, it is also next up for me too unless Mike Mignola Amazing Screw-on Head AE is published before.

  4. merci encore pour cette très bonne review, perso j'ai la version standard qui me satisfait pleinement ! super bouquin , surtout étonnant quand on compare les les retouches de Miller par rapport à l'encrage initial de Janson bien en dessous il est vrai. continuez !

  5. Great review! Was surprised how large the book is compared to other IDW artist editions. Do you have a twitter or instagram account of pictures of books you have reviewed?

    1. Yes these Graphitti Designs editions are massives. No sorry I don't have an instagram account, and on twitter I only post links to these reviews.

  6. This is great! I'm the owner of edition #47 of 275 of this book and I can back up everything that's said here. What an INCREDIBLE volume.

    1. and all that in addition to the fact that this is one of the greatest story ever told ;)

  7. I am not agree with the editor decission to print in minor scale the pages cant been scanned from original art. I think the book deserve the same size to a better read experience (just adding a note as in the IDW editions). obviously is cheaper printing the lower size, but in this kind of expensive books is a pain to see the withe of the paper:) Great review as always


  8. Why did Frank Miller re-ink the pages? They look horrible compared to Janson's work

    1. It is mostly suggestive (for my part I prefer Miller's finished art compared to Janson), but I think Miller's work is more adequate for an "end of the world/swan song" story. Janson's work is too clean in comparison. I really like The Dark Knight, and the Joker spectral look at the end of their confrontation (they are indeed old men).


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