Frank Miller: The Dennis Miller of Comics

14 Nov

by Mike Hansen

Miller at the 1982 Comic-Con

Frank Miller in 1982, when his greatest works were still ahead of him. (Image via Wikipedia)

I haven’t seen this big a left-to-right swing since [insert your own stupid Dennis Miller obscure reference here].

A week ago, Frank Miller wrote some ignorant bullshit about the Occupy Wall Street movement, in a post entitled, “Anarchy.”

A lot of folks have called him out – just check out the comments below his post for a taste.

Ty Templeton had the cleverest response: a comic strip letter from a master cartoonist to a writer who can barely be bothered to do comics – certainly not any great comics – anymore. Here’s a taste:

Ty Templeton Frank Miller Funnies

It would be so easy to tear Miller’s retarded rant to pieces, but why bother? Anyone on the planet with access to Google can decimate its entirety in seconds.

I’ve loved almost all of Frank Miller’s work. Virtually everything he’s created since becoming the writer on Daredevil over 30 years ago has been a masterpiece (excepting his two pointless Spawn cash-grab stories). I still remember when I was assisting his editor at Dark Horse, Diana Schutz, and opening the FedEx box containing the entirety of Sin City: Family Values – it was such a rush and a privilege to be one of the first to read it, to experience a master of raw communication at work. But that seems like a long time ago now.

It was even a treat to see Miller at play, doing masterful, stupid comedy in his “Lance Blastoff” strips and The Spirit film. But I don’t see that in Miller today, either.

How did Miller go from creating works of genius like this:

Frank Miller CBLDF

to obvious, pointless junk like this?

A Nice Thought by Frank MillerSuicide bombers are bad? Really? That’s the best Miller can accomplish these days?

If Miller really had balls, he’d be doing much more than supposedly spend a decade drawing a bad piece of what he calls “propaganda.” The Dutch “Mohammed” cartoonists, the murdered Theo van Gogh (to whom Holy Terror is distastefully dedicated), and this French newspaper put their lives on the line by standing up for free speech and against extreme Islamist terror (even in the face of being firebombed). After he finished The Dark Knight Strikes Again in the wake of being in New York on 9/11, Miller’s been sitting this out, enjoying his (deserved) Hollywood money and writing pale shadows of his past works like the ridiculously goofy All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder and the very silly The Spirit film. There’s no way in hell that he spent ten years making Holy Terror; it’s so sloppy and slapdash that it looks and reads like it took him ten days.

Miller's cover to Batman: The Dark Knight Stri...

Miller's last great comic (maybe) (Image via Wikipedia)

Miller is probably disappointed that he hasn’t been threatened or firebombed over Holy Terror, not realizing that it’s a book that was outdated years before it was published – which is why it’s barely been talked about (despite its sales) compared to his previous works. I bought it out of curiosity, and to support my pal, editor Bob Schreck, but it’s the first Miller work I’d been in no rush to read. In fact, I just read it today – and it sucks. While some pages have technically proficient and even masterful work, as a whole the novel is empty: it’s the most cartoonish thing Miller has ever done; even “Lance Blastoff” had more depth and value than this. And Miller’s own 300 did a vastly superior job of propaganda-as-storytelling, with its twisted and larger-than-life characters all part of a beautifully told flashback from a storyteller character.

I was glad that Miller got Holy Terror out of his system, and I was hoping that this would clear the way to his next masterwork, but after seeing this and his recent blog vomit, I don’t want him anywhere near Sin City: he would just tarnish its legacy and turn it into Clown Town. If I have to choose between hating people whose worldview doesn’t conform to mine, and using my damn brain, then I Wanna Be “Anarchy,” Mr. Miller.

Marv walking through the rain in the The Hard ...

Remember when Miller wrote stories about standing up to the powerful, instead of insulting the people who do? (Image via Wikipedia)

After the boundary-busting Dark Knight Strikes Again, I was looking forward to more comics work from Miller. But in the 10-plus years since 9/11, Miller has never healed from its trauma. There are no heroes left in his work: just a Spirit who beats up bad guys for fun; a boring, one-dimensional “Fixer” who easily murders bad guys but is afraid of women; and a psychopathic Batman suffering from PTSD, addicted to sex ‘n’ violence and unwilling to let a young Robin help him get his perspective and priorities straight. If anyone in comics needed a Robin right now, it would be Frank Miller: his 9/11-created, blanket anti-Muslim fears have him stuck in a storytelling loop, with his voice having nothing original left to say and reduced to howling his hatred into a nation that has moved forward without him, with his now-shriveled balls dangling from his crotchety old man’s sack into the toilet water that flushed away his talent.

Cover of "All-Star Batman & Robin, The Bo...

There used to be joy in Miller's work... (Cover via Amazon)

There are already dozens of younger, better comics creators who are building on and surpassing Miller’s best work. Brandon Graham, Jeremy Bastian, Shannon Wheeler, Mike Mignola, Warren Ellis, Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, Garth Ennis, Christos Gage, and so many more are doing some of the sorts of storytelling that Miller once was best at, and doing it much better.

If I want to read about how crazy it is to put on a costume and fight crime, I’ll read Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass. At least that has the fun and wish-fulfillment in it. If I want to read about standing up to evil in a corrupt city against all odds, I’ll read Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet. Miller’s current costumed characters are just unlikeable nutjobs, and their stories are not ones that are worth telling nor worth reading. Fortunately, Legendary Comics has a number of other comics masters who deserve readers’ time and money; and if the New 52 shitstains like Catwoman, Voodoo, and Red Hood are anything to go by, Miller’s attention-seeking stunt should sell a few more copies of Holy Terror – so at least his newest publisher will come out of this okay. Hooray for capitalism.

It’s time for Frank Miller to make a decision. He can either keep going down his path to obsessive irrelevance, continuing his brand of once-innovative style while pandering to an ever-shrinking audience like Steve Ditko and Dave Sim before him. Or he can man up, stop being afraid of the invisible Muslim bogeyman, realize that he will never be able to derive justice from dead terrorists and that the world is becoming better all the time (thanks in part to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements), and bring something New and Special to Comics like he once did so well, so many times.

Come on, Frank. Prove that you’re not finished. Show us what you’ve got.

[UPDATE: More thoughts on others’ reactions to Miller, including Mark Millar, here.]

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12 Responses to “Frank Miller: The Dennis Miller of Comics”

  1. Alpha Mandrill November 14, 2011 at 17:21 #

    clown town….FUCKING WIN!

    frank miller seems a little out of touch. but i am ok with that. only because i understand folks either hate so much or close themselves off to a point where what only matters is what they are thinking. but if you are trying to put out work not only to satisfy you or comic readers you have to be up to date with the world…..

    • lost in cyberspace November 15, 2011 at 20:37 #

      I have been having an unhealthy interest in this story since it came out. reading way too many comments that sink into subjects having nothing to do with FM and his work. yours is a breath of fresh air. I thank you!
      BTW notice the sign on the wall behind FM’s picture about the “no x-men drawing” except kitty. Love it!

      • All Day Comics November 15, 2011 at 21:30 #

        Thank YOU, L.I.C. I gave up reading the comments on Miller’s site after the first ten or so – it got ugly really quickly.

        I missed that sign in the picture – good eye! That’s great!

    • All Day Comics November 15, 2011 at 21:32 #

      Good point, A.M. – I’m a big believer in empathy, and understanding others’ points of view, even when I strongly disagree with them. You never know who might open your eyes and make you see the world differently!

  2. Frank Stone November 18, 2011 at 03:17 #

    Ahem — you mean THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, not “The Dark Knight Strikes Back”.

    • All Day Comics November 18, 2011 at 11:16 #

      Yes, you’re right – whoops. Fixed now! Thanks for the heads-up.

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