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The Amazing Mr. Miller

The Amazing Mr. Miller

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Being a comic book geek, there are times when a particular book or story or even the writer of said story really reminds me of why I got into comics almost fifteen years ago. For me, it was a writer/artist named Frank Miller.

Mind you, I had heard of Frank's work before. Having written and drawn for both Marvel and D.C., Miller has become known as one of the most influential and talented people involved in the comics industry to date. He had written and drawn "Daredevil" for a long time. He was able to introduce a dark and gritty style to the story about a blind superhero, which truly brought in the fans who had dismissed the character as a wannabe Spider-Man.

One Daredevil story in particular introduced two of the most popular characters ever created: the violent and psychotic Bullseye and the mysterious and deadly Elektra. This Daredevil story proved so popular that it eventually became the basis of the "Daredevil" movie, starring Ben Affleck as Daredevil, Jennifer Gardner as Elektra, and Colin Farrell as Bullseye. But while that story was one of the best comics that I have ever read, it could have never prepared me for Miller's take on Batman.

Frank's greatest success came with DC's character Batman. In the 1980s, he wrote the acclaimed "Batman" story, "Wanted - Santa Claus - Dead or Alive!" Which involved the caped crusader helping to keep a guy in a Santa Clause outfit out of trouble. However, Miller's most notable work -- the groundbreaking "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" -- is an alternate history which features an aging Batman. Very much on his last legs, very close to retiring ... but still able to kick all kinds of butt. This story also features Batman's final encounter with the Joker as well as a knockdown drag-out fight with Superman. This comic's story is so well done it has become required reading at various film schools.

In 1988, Miller explores Batman's first year on the job with his acclaimed "Batman: Year One." This story has been of particular interest of late as the Christopher Nolan movie that will be released this summer -- "Batman Begins" -- is loosely based on this particular storyline.

While Miller may have had his greatest success with Batman, I feel that his "Sin City" books were where Frank really came into his own. Produced in the 1990s for Dark Horse Comics, these are a series of dark, violent, and gritty set of stories that allowed Miller to flex his artistic muscles.

In "Sin City," Miller uses stark images with black and white only with no color whatsoever. (Color would slowly begin to creep into the series with the infamous "That Yellow ***" book.) With the character art for these comic books, Miller makes the "beautiful" extraordinarily so and the ugly, very repulsive. He played with the themes of black and white as some sort of fixed distinction. There are times as each story develops where you find the character that is deemed the most outwardly beautiful is probably the most twisted inside just by the artwork alone.

The world of "Sin City" as Miller envisioned it is a dark and sweaty one where secrets hide. His artwork encapsulates that concept perfectly; from the smoke filled taverns to the filthy hotels. The world seems almost irredeemable and -- at first glance -- so do the characters.

Until recently, "Sin City" was thought to be unfilmable. Particularly due to Miller's protectiveness of his source material as well as the fact that the film technology necessary to properly capture the look of the comic had yet to be invented. That is until a director named Robert Rodriguez who is known for a couple of movies involving a mariachi who carries guns in his guitar case, and another set of movies that involve two kids who are spies (Seriously, who makes this stuff up?) approached Miller with some already shot footage. Miller was floored as to how close this footage came to capturing his original vision. Which is Miller agreed to Rodriguez's outrageous proposal. Which was to have the two of them co-direct the movie version of "Sin City."

This Dimension Films release has been acclaimed for its outrageous art direction as well as its brava storytelling. But -- strange as it may seem -- an even more outlandish Frank Miller inspired project may soon be coming to a theater near you.

What project am I talking about? "300." Miller's genius take on the battle at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Where 300 Spartans met the armies of Persia at a small pass and held them long enough for the Greek army to mobilize. This graphic novel is incredibly hard to find nowadays but well worth seeking out. If only as a demonstration of Frank's alchemy. His ability to transform the most unlikely material into thrilling comic book reading.

Rick Gutierrez is a Theater Arts Major with a minor in Journalism. Rick is a proud member of Toastmasters International. He lives in North Hollywood Ca. with his wife Molly.

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