Along with Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns was the comic book that changed comic books – both for the better and the worse. Now, twenty-five years on, comic book writers are still trying to emulate the dark, gritty, and imaginative sensibilities of Frank Miller’s groundbreaking story, typically emphasizing the dark and gritty over the imaginative.

So it was pretty much a given that the story – which I endearingly refer to as Old Man Batman In the Future – would be adapted as a feature film, animated or otherwise. Well, according to Bleeding Cool, an animated version of The Dark Knight Returns is indeed on its way to the direct-to-DVD market.

For those unaware, The Dark Knight Returns is the tale of 55-year-old Bruce Wayne coming out of Batman retirement to take down an old enemy – Two-Face.  As a result of un-retiring, he’s forced to fight the various street gangs that have risen in his absence, as well as The Joker, the American government, and eventually the Man of Steel himself, Superman. (Spoiler alert: Batman wins.)

Apparently, “multiple sources” are telling Bleeding Cool that an animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns is coming down the pike (not unlike Justice League: New Frontier and All-Star Superman before it), courtesy of “several veterans of Batman toons past.” This news comes after last year’s announcement that Batman: Year One, also written by Frank Miller, will be adapted as an animated feature, to be produced by DC animation veteran, Bruce Timm.

This actually wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen an animated iteration of The Dark Knight Returns. In the WB’s The New Batman Adventures, there was an episode that paid tribute to Frank Miller’s quintessential caped crusader tale. It essentially adapted one of the more important scenes from the book – and pretty faithfully, I might add.

Check it out below:

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about DKR getting the same underwhelming treatment that All-Star Superman received earlier this year. On the one hand, Returns is a story that should absolutely be adapted into other mediums for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s just so damn entertaining. (Our own Chris Schrader goes into more detail explaining why a Dark Knight Returns movie should be made.) On the other hand, these animated features almost never do the source material justice and sometimes feel more like grabs for cash shallow adaptations rather than genuine attempts to craft pure artistic awesomeness.

If I had my druthers, Warner Bros. would be hiring Genndy Tartakovsky to direct this movie using (perhaps) the same style and technique he did for his animated prelude to the film Priest. Hell, it was basically a love letter to The Dark Knight Returns anyway.

Batman: Year One, directed by Lauren Montogomery and Sam Liu (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths), is set to premiere at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. Keep your eye on the main page for more The Dark Knight Returns animated movie news.

Sources: Bleeding Cool & Comics Continuum

Images by Frank Miller