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U DECIDE: Frank Miller

October 4th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , ,

Has he totally lost it, or has he, like Alan Moore, looked upon the legacy of his ’80s work and run screaming in the other direction?

Alan Moore has spent the past 15 years reinventing himself to be Grant Morrison. Has Miller spent the past few years doing something similar?

Bear these two quotes in mind when you answer:

I’ve seen all these characters of my childhood fall into disarray. They’ve become neither fish nor fowl. Those of us who wanted to test the boundaries of what a superhero comic book could do, unfortunately broke those boundaries and the results have not all been very good. We pushed against the old walls, and they fell-but nothing much has been built to replace them. And now the roof is leaking and the sewer’s backing up. So I’m taking this romp through the material again and showing just how spiffy this stuff is. I’m doing it without cynicism and giving my best. I’m also having a very good time.

What I want to bring back to superheroes with this project is a sense of play. Things have gotten so dreary. The heroes have gotten so ugly that even their muscles have muscles. The elegance of Gil Kane is gone. You don’t see the sheer joy of Green Lantern’s power ring. The magic of somebody like the Flash-somebody who’s able to move so fast that you can’t see him move-is gone. There’s no sense of the basic wish that any of these characters have.

I think anyone who’s working on a superhero comic should be obliged to write down in one sentence what the central wish is of the character. Every story has to play to that theme. “Adolescent power fantasies” isn’t just a tired cliché; it’s too broad, too crude. There’s more than that to these characters, the good ones, anyway. As it is, I don’t know who these characters are anymore. I don’t know why they do what they do. Why Green Lantern became a drunk driver when he can fly always loses me. And I’m told they turned him into a mass murderer as well. The fun’s gone out of it. I want to try my hand at bringing it back.

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19 comments to “U DECIDE: Frank Miller”

  1. The dude has a point. When guys like Miller were writing DKR and Watchmen, the formula of the superhero comic was a straightjacket. An opressor to be risen up against. They were largely successful, but success breeds imitators, many of whom were wholly unworthy. It is those imitators that killed a lot of the fun in comics, although that is not to say that comics are no longer fun. Nor should it be construed that fun comics can’t embrace the humor of the gallows. I think perhaps Frank has a point, although to an extent (judging by some of his latest work) he is overreacting.


  2. I’m sorry, that quote is from Frank Miller? It’s just hard to reconcile that with the writer of All-Star Batman and Robin: Smut Spectacular.

    McDuffie is bringing back the fun, the joy, and the wonder. The Green Lantern and (so help me) Booster Gold teams are doing the same.

    Frank Goddamn Miller is paying the rent by scraping out his pants and serving it to us on a platter marked “This is GENIUS! You goddamn QUEERS!”

    Sorry, had to vent that. Anyway, what could I say that David Willis couldn’t say much more succinctly:

    http://www.shortpacked.com/d/20060207.html


  3. I haven’t really been closely reading All-Star Batman, but based on the recent reviews, it’s like he’s turned a corner and the “Goddamn Batman” is gaining acceptance, if not approval. But put an All-Star trade on a table with Elektra Lives Again, and it’s not an apples-to-oranges comparison, is it?

    A more intrusive guess: Frank’s recently divorced, isn’t he? And rolling around in a big pile of Hollywood money. I think Frank may have initially intended to bring back fun and joy and magic, but is working through a few personal things. With Jim Lee drawing butts.


  4. Alan Moore has spent the last 15 years reinventing himself to be Grant Morrison? Lost Girls? A Small Killing? 1963? The Nativity On Ice? The Courtyard? Light of Thy Countenance? Voice of the Fire? The Birth Caul? … And that’s only the 90s.


  5. I must admit I have no time for the ’80s style “serious superheroes” books riding the retro wave; never resisting any chance to gratuitously stick the boot in, I thought Watchmen was self-conscious, derivative, and heavy-handed when it first appeared and time hasn’t mellowed my opinion of this vastly overrated series – so the comics I dislike most of all at the moment are filled with unsexy ’80s retro “superheroes-in-the-real-world” type stories. All these soldiers-in-tights comics seem miserly and lacking in wonder, surrealism or novelty. Even Alan Moore himself ran screaming from this kind of story and began an ungainly, 15-year long attempt to reinvent himself as me. So why anyone would look to the awkward pomposity of mid-’80s comics for inspiration is baffling.

    Grant Morrison, 2003.


  6. While I do enjoy AStGDB&RtBW, I can’t help but think there are ways to do fun, creative, evocative superhero stories that might be a little less…gonzo. He made it sound like Ultimate Batman, and I got something more along the lines of Adult Swim Batman.

    and I like Grant Morrison a little more that I know he thinks Watchmen is overrated


  7. OH, WELL OF COURSE IF GRANT MORRISON SAID IT HIMSELF IT MUST BE TRUE. Because as we all know everything he writes is the best God damn thing ever and has multiples layers of subtext and meaning dripping from every orifice.

    My God, Grant Morrison is such a pretentious asshole it’s not even funny. I mean, I like the guys work, but jeez. And you peons just lap every god damn word of it up, don’t you?


  8. Yes. Yes we do. Did you know that Grant Morrison co-wrote the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, gave Darwin the idea for natural selection, and actually explained Unified Theory to Einstein one night when they were out drinking?

    One time he peed on my head and told me it was rain. The funny part? It actually was rain!


  9. ….lol. Grant is a god among men. And I’m his bitch.


  10. Grant Morrison isn’t pretentious he’s just usually right


  11. Grant Morrison invented a special fifth wall, which is the wall that separates his true talent from the gaze of all sentient mammals.

    That talent? The best damn martini you’ve never tasted.

    To Grant Morrison! He’s, what, 7 feet, ten inches, can bench 600 with one hand?


  12. This is a nice goal, but so far in ASBAR all I see is a bunch of completely unlikable assholes in costumes who bear little resemblance to any other incarnation, and a running gag involving a swear word that appears every second panel. His characters here don’t have fun being superheroes; they have fun hurting people, and it smells like the 1990s.

    If ASBAR is a serious attempt and not a bad joke, it indicates what might be a real decline for Miller.


  13. First, I like Grant Morrison a lot, but I strongly disagree with him about Watchmen and Alan Moore trying to be like him.

    Second, and back on topic, Miller’s current work makes me re-evaluate his past writings and question if he was ever a good writer. Don’t get me wrong, I like Dark Knight Returns, but it’s not very sophisticated, is it? I mean, it’s very enjoyable, but there aren’t many layers and Miller just drops a few subplots along the way. It’s the perfect comic for a fifteen year old, but it lacks the literate aspirations of stuff like Sandman and Moore’s work.


  14. Is the barometer of a good or sophisticated work how literary it is?


  15. Am I the only one who thought Morrison was mostly joking in that interview? I mean, it’s hard to think the Alan Moore reinventing himself as Morrison thing is serious when you also have:

    “But I see no reason why children as young as six, seven, or even three shouldn’t be allowed to produce corporate comic books to relentless monthly deadlines. And have to write several titles at once to make a decent living. That’s what a proper childhood’s all about isn’t it? This is the 21st century after all and these unruly little bastards have been milking post-Victorian sentimentality for all it’s worth for way too long.”

    or

    “Can’t I have a simple question, Miss? What’s my favorite species of butterfly? Who’s the best dancer: Fred Astaire or Christopher Reeve?”


  16. “Is the barometer of a good or sophisticated work how literary it is?”

    Not at all, and I hope I didn’t sound like some snooty prick there. I’m just saying, relative to other creators like Moore, Gaimen, Morrison, and even Ennis, Miller just isn’t that deep of a writer. I think it’s weird when people mention Watchmen and DKR in the same sentence, because the fact is that Watchmen, no matter how overrated one thinks it is, is just technically better written. You’ve said yourself that your favorite comics are those you have to read more than once. You can breeze through all of Miller’s oeuvre and not miss anything.


  17. I totally agree there, but I think that I re-read Miller’s comics for different reasons. I might rave about Flex Mentallo and hug my copies every night before I go to bed (…not that I do that sort of thing, no sir), but I have probably read Miller’s The Big, Fat Kill twice as many times as Flex (granted, age comes into play here) and know almost every panel by sight.

    I think that I’m feeling out the difference between high brow and low brow comics. Watchmen is high brow, DKR is pulp. I kind of feel that being technically better– which Watchmen definitely is, don’t get me wrong– comes secondary to being enjoyable.

    Sorry, I just woke up and am feeling a bit fuzzy. I’ve been planning to revisit this post (and Miller in general) in another post. You’ve given me some good food for thought.

    And you didn’t sound snooty at all– I’m an English major. I know how these things go :)


  18. As soon as someone starts whining about ‘My Childhood Figures Are Ruined’, any and all of their opinions on Comics become invalid. Not letting go of the past is exactly as bad as fear of any change at all. “Oh, this one comic I read doesn’t do the same thing as one I read 20 years ago – so therefore they must ALL BE ABOMINATIONS!”

    Frank Miller’s work on Batman and Robin is written purely for the parody, so let’s just treat it as a parody.


  19. Look, even I, a child of 1985(the very best year to be born, I might add), knows that the best comics ever were made in the mighty Marvel manner in the 1970s. ROM, Shogun Warriors, I could go on.