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Author Topic: An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
Majestic
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 3344
Post An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
on: April 24, 2018, 13:57

Over the years I would call myself, generally, a Frank Miller fan. Especially of his earlier work. But - as we've discussed here before - in more recent years he's gone further and further off the rails.

Today I stumbled across this article, which points out how many of his tendencies were there all along.

It's a thought-provoking piece about a controversial writer/artist that I thought a few here might appreciate.

V&V GM and player since 1982 (my current campaign is 22 years old); also run West End Games d6 Star Wars monthly, as well as the occasional The One Ring and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game

Tempest
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 397
Post Re: An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
on: April 25, 2018, 18:16

Been one frick of a long time since I've posted on here, but the article you've very kindly linked, Majestic, demanded some sort of response. I agree with the lady's opinions and conclusions pretty much one hundred percent, having shared the same WTF reactions to Dark Knight Strikes Again and the in-what-universe-was-this-considered-to-be-a-good-story debacle of ASB&R. I looked over Holy Terror after having read a number of online reviews - all of which were extremely detailed, thoughtful and specific with the reasons for why this particular work was the Fourth Sign of the Graphic Novel Apocalypse - and was thinking about how much paper had been wasted printing that one copy, much less the likely thousands that had been spread like the literary fecal matter they were over the continental landscape, and which could have been put to so much better use in a newspaper that observed journalistic ethics, a trade magazine, a novel or a textbook.

We on this site have engaged in a considerable degree of head-shaking over the whole Frank Miller subject over the last ten years or so, but I feel that this linked opinion piece provides a particularly sharp bit of mythology-piercing from the perspective of "one of us", essentially. My thanks again, Majestic, and hoping to powers above that Mr. Miller's best works will continue to live on and receive publication and deserved recognition, while the worst (of which there is a considerable amount) is consigned to a far-off landfill and subject to examination by those only who are engaging in academic study of what made a particular era and/or artistic talent go off the rails, and what consequences it bred in the observing/participating population.

Tempest
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 397
Post Re: An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
on: April 27, 2018, 11:13

One more point I should have included: a signature role that stands out for breaking Mr. Miller’s rather regrettable track record on female characters is Ronin’s Casey McKenna. Another aspect that gives this the thumbs-up (for me, anyway) is the fact that the evil sentient computer bent on world domination, Virgo, was built off of Casey’s own personality; Casey was essentially fighting a digital/virtual reflection of herself...and that Billy’s entire reason for becoming what he was - the Ronin - was to become something that would appeal to her. While this one example certainly does not obviate the legion of rather over-sexualized and career-limited women in Miller’s other works, it does indicate that he does (or did, anyway) have the capacity to extend his interests past a certain limitation.

dan2448
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 1506
Post Re: An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
on: April 28, 2018, 07:29

Thanks so much for posting this article, Doug!

Definitely thought-provoking! But I suppose my own conclusions about Frank Miller are little different than those expressed in this piece because: (i) I am more than 15 years older than the author, (ii) I began reading Frank Miller's earliest work, published before she was born, and (iii) I sort of 'gave up' on Frank Miller about a year or so into "Sin City." So I never read several of his later works on which the author focuses in this piece, including "All-Star Batman & Robin" and "300." I also never bought (or have ever seen personally) a copy of "Holy Terror."

I suppose I would take issue with the conclusion in this article that Frank Miller's work has evidenced a misogynist strain all along. As a kid, i didn't read the storyline of Elektra's death at the hands of Bullseye in "Daredevil" as Frank Miller viewing women as disposable meat bags to be casually killed off in the service of cheap drama and graphic images of goring and death. I read it as a strong female character whose surprise death was made all the more affecting at the time because of the well-above-par writing and art, and because of its seeming permanence at the time. Personally, I feel like the subsequent "Elektra: Assassin" mini-series underscores my own view that Miller's handling of Elektra back then was dramatically different than, say, his later handling of the stripper characters in "Sin City." The author states that she was 11 in 1997, implying that she was born in 1986, the year that "Elektra: Assassin" was published.

Two other works published before the author's birth also came to my mind as I read this. One was the strong female characters in the classic 1982 "Wolverine" limited series (albeit written by Chris Clairemont). The other, as Tempest mentioned above, was "Ronin" (1983-1984). It's been many, many years since I read this story, but I remember it being known in part for its strong female characters.

Because this author was born in 1986, I suspect strongly that she also lacks the personal experience to understand how groundbreaking and 'controversial' it was at the time that "Dark Knight Returns" (1986) introduced a female Robin.

1986's "Daredevil: Born Again" by Miller and Mazzuchelli, which is one of my all-time favorite works, I suppose might be critiqued now, 30 years later, for its depiction of Karen as a craven, weak heroin addict who sold Daredevil's secret identity. But for me, such a skewed analysis would badly miss the point of the work.

For me personally, the fulcrum on which Frank Miller's work turned was actually the 1989 "Batman" movie. With all the success of Marvel super hero films in recent years, it may be easy to forget, and for those who were born in 1986 to lack any understanding entirely, of how popular that film was, and how it reintroduced actual comic books, and "Dark Knight Returns" specifically, to a mass-market worldwide audience.

By that time, substantially all of Frank Miller's best work, as far as I am concerned, including "Batman: Year One," which i also loved, had already been published. The author of this work will likely be entirely unaware of how that comic books experienced a massive spike in popularity at the start of the 1990s, and how Frank Miller then seemed to become primarily a very well compensated cover artist at the time, seeming to do endless riffs on his highly-influential, styled artwork in "Dark Knight Returns."

"Sin City" began in 1991. As far as I was/am concerned personally, Frank Miller's comic book work was never quite the same. Personally, I attribute that to how transcendent success/adulation can skew artists' creative work, how it led Miller in particular to 'push boundaries,' and how his 'name recognition' and 'bankability' gave him the creative freedom to get anything he drew published, without any real editorial reins/input.

Tempest
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 397
Post Re: An Excellent Article on Frank Miller
on: April 28, 2018, 13:29

Thank you for the insights and opinions on this one, Dan. Your mention of Elektra: Assassin was a point I'd totally blanked out on, and yes, I would agree entirely that, irrespective of whatever sexual insinuation/domination games Elektra and Art Garrett end up playing over the course of the story (without ever having sex with one another, which was, I felt, one of the central driving tension elements), Elektra is never in anything other than the driver's seat, metaphorically speaking. Regardless, it's also made very clear that the two of them have a definite affection and appreciation for each other at the conclusion, with Garrett's genuine "You take care of yourself now, doll," and Elektra's answer with a clear, real and I would dare say happy smile. It's moments like that, especially considering the literal hell that Elektra pulled herself from in the first issue, that make the character's ultimate fate in Daredevil #181 and Elektra Lives Again all that much more heartbreaking.

Upon reflection, I still hold strong agreement with our author's opinions, but there is considerable evidence pointing to other directions as to how things could have gone...which makes that rather two-dimensional route that Sin City and other works take all the more disappointing.

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