Happy Birthday, Frank Miller

Monday is Frank Miller’s birthday. Whether you’re a comic book fan or not, if you’re at all familiar with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films (Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Bat-movies were influenced as well), Netflix’s Daredevil series (and the Ben Affleck film), or the Sin City movies, you know Miller’s work.

The legendary comic book creator turns 63, and he’s still producing work. As could be expected, he’s no longer the prolific illustrator he once was, but is still writing Batman and Superman stories for DC Comics, and illustrating stories in his 300 mythology for Dark Horse Comics.

The Dark Knight Returns is one of my favorite stories throughout all of the movies, TV, and books I’ve enjoyed and studied in my life. An aging Batman’s regret over allowing The Joker to continue his murderous reign of crime was one of the most powerful elements of that story.

“There’s nothing wrong with you that I can’t fix… with my hands,” is a line that’s stayed me for 30-plus years.

I’m not sure any writer and artist has had more of an impact on me since childhood than Miller. His Daredevil comics were some of the first I read when storytelling and pathos became more noticeable to me than flashy costumes and the simplicity of good defeating evil.

Miller’s stories were never that simple. And he was never afraid to take established mythology and tear it apart for a good story, unearthing elements of popular characters that had never been explored.

Like a Batman and Superman who never could’ve gotten along because of how each of them sees the world. A brutal criminal who avenges the murder of a prostitute he loved because she was the only person ever nice to him. The Kingpin beating Daredevil by slowly picking away at his legal career, his finances, his personal life, rather than trying to kill him physically.

Miller became much more extreme for a few years, doubling down on a maniacal portrayal of Batman, criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, and creating a jingoistic graphic novel in which a Batman-like operative takes down Al Qaeda. He says now that his mind was in a wrong place, likely influenced by drug and alcohol abuse, along with poor health.

Apparently, he’s in a better state now — at least mentally, if not physically. Hopefully, that means we’ll get more work from Miller, who continues to be one of comics’ boldest creators even if he can’t produce like he once did. As long as he has something to say, I’ll certainly be interested in reading.

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