Examining the career of legendary, controversial Frank Miller – Tufts Daily

Posted: April 15, 2021 at 6:51 am

Theres Batman before Frank Miller and theres Batman after, Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead (200319) said in a recent Zoom interview with Miller, hosted on the Collider Interviews YouTube channel. Was it a bold statement? Surely, but not wholly without substance.

Cutting his teeth as a fill-in and cover artist in the late 70s, Millers big break came in the form of a monthly art gig on the floundering Daredevil (19642015) title, and just 10 issues after he began drawing (starting in Issue #158), he began to pull double duty as writer and artist. Millers run on the titular character was nothing short of revolutionary, so much so that in his first issue as the books auteur, he created Daredevils recurring love interest (and now a hugely popular character in her own right), the deadly assassin, Elektra. One issue that sticks out is #191, Roulette. After the attempted resurrection of one of his allies, Daredevil plays a deadly game of Russian roulette with a .38 caliber revolver, while examining the importance of his ongoing war on crime and the factors that led him to become The Man Without Fear.

The first thing I thought was Im going to turn this into a crime comic, Miller said when reflecting on his Daredevil work. He later joked, I just stole from Will Eisner, a revolutionary comic artist in his own right and a friend of Millers before his death in 2005.

Miller followed his work on Daredevil with an art gig alongside prolific X-Men writer Chris Claremont in their 1982 miniseries, Wolverine, and a miniseries about cyborg samurai in a dystopian cyberpunk future titled Ronin (198384), published by DC Comics.

This collaboration with DC would eventually bloom into The Dark Knight Returns in 1986, with Miller once again returning to his role as writer and artist. The story is a dour reinvention of Batman as a stoic 50-something-year-old man, 10 years retired from crime-fighting and seeking a good death as he grapples with his place in a world thats past him. To say the book is revolutionary would be to undersell it, and yet in the interview, Miller explains his inspiration as though hes recounting a vacation. People had been bugging me to do something with Batman, and I woke up one day and realized I was 29, which meant that I was about to turn older than Batman, he said.

As impressive as his body of work on two of the most popular vigilantes in comic books is, Millers recent work has been the subject of great scrutiny and necessary critique. In 2011, Miller published Holy Terror, an attempt at a modern propaganda comic dealing with the war on terror. What followed was a mess that Wired comic reviewer Spencer Ackerman described as a screed against Islam, completely uninterested in any nuance or empathy toward 1.2 billion people he conflates with a few murderous conspiracy theorists. From the portrayal of Muslims as a unified villainous organization to the abhorrent misquoting of the Quran, Holy Terror is a stain on Millers career, though one hes not keen on erasing.

I dont want to wipe out chapters of my own biography, Miller said in a 2018 interview with The Guardian. When I look at Holy Terror, which I really dont do all that often, I can really feel the anger ripple out of the pages. There are places where it is bloodthirsty beyond belief. The answer is as complex as his work, not quite an apology but nonetheless taking responsibility for his mistakes and attempting to illustrate his moving forward.

Frank Miller will undoubtedly be a fixture of the comic book world for a long time, and hopefully, his recent posts in support of the Stop Asian Hate movement are emblematic of movement in the right direction.

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Examining the career of legendary, controversial Frank Miller - Tufts Daily

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