Warner Bros has made many popular modern DC books into animated features over the last 4 years, and after getting their feet wet with fare like Under The Red Hood and New Frontier, they’re finally going to go for one of the biggest, baddest comics in their library: The Dark Knight Returns.

Returns tells the story of a 55 year old Bruce Wayne returning to his Batman identity after a decade’s absence. He confronts Harvey “Two Face” Dent, The Joker, and Superman at various points in the story, and takes on a new Robin as his partner. The series, written and and drawn by Frank Miller, is one of the most highly regarded in the DC canon, and helped lay the blueprint for the dark and gritty Batman that is best known today.

WB had a real misfire in their first animated production, re-writing and altering The Death and Return of Superman into a standalone 75 minute feature. Literally dozens of issues and hundreds of characters were cut from the story, and the movie still felt rushed. By comparison, choosing shorter stories (no more than 6 issues) to adapt has worked well for WB, and the bulk of The Dark Knight Returns should make into a fine animated feature. There are some thematic elements that may push WB beyond their usual PG-13 rating, but I certainly hope the original story makes it through unmolested.

Elements of The Dark Knight Returns were present in a Batman The Animated Series episode, “Legends Of The Dark Knight.” In it, 3 children share stories about what they know about Batman. One of the kids is a dead ringer for TDKR’s Robin, Carrie Kelley, and her tale depicts a 5 minute sequence almost directly lifted from the page of Batman fighting the Mutant gang. Michael Ironside provided the voice of Batman in this sequence, and would honestly make a fine choice to reprise the role in a full feature. See a clip at the bottom of this article.

An animated production of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One is already nearing completion, and is expected to premeire at Comic Con 2011 in San Diego, with a DVD/Blu Ray Release following.

Tip via Joey O and [Bleeding Cool]

Didn’t read the original book? Its never too late to catch up on the classics.