Tag Archives: Frank Miller

Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child by Frank Miller


I don’t know, man. At one point in time, it was interesting to see a writer with skill take select super heroes, exploit their symbolic properties and hollow them out — emptying their forms of all the baggage inherent of an industry and the expectations placed on that industry by a readership with various wants — to solidify the idea of what a specific character can represent or tell us. You know, to get to the point of the whole exercise. To nail down why a certain idea even exists in the first place, and to cash in on the potential of it all. It read like righteous pay back to all those men who spent their heydays making this stuff up, who had to watch corporate guys in nice shirts get rich and tan and relaxed from things they put no effort into. It said, ‘Hey, we appreciate the sacrifice. We know you lost all that security, but we can at least give you back something. We can at least show ‘em you were chasing something stimulating or evocative.” 

Frank Miller did a lot of writing like that. That writing is so entwined with his career. It not only told us so much more about the fiction we thought we knew and conquered, it managed to raise the stakes. It took loose ends and half-thoughts, and it showed the actual potential in those things to create art worth time and concentration, that could stand on its own. If you look at those few infamous years in the ‘80s when Miller, Alan Moore, Howard Chaykin, etc. were trying, really trying, and if it’s correct to assume what motivated them was a real concern and excitement for the medium, you’re looking at something very interesting. You’re looking at an attempted takeover and correction of history. It says so much that Moore signed the type of contract he did for Watchmen. As much as that book is, in some sense, about the end of super hero comics, that contract (if it had all gone to plan) really was the final thought. 

But whatever. Time’s moved on, and those years (as have been covered extensively) backfired on those participants. Sadly, though, I think a participant like Miller has grown nostalgic for that period, and it feels as if he’s acting against what it was all about. I don’t hate what he’s trying to do with Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child. The entire Dark Knight Returns series has flirted with elements of the real world, whether Ronald Reagan or 9/11, by way of extreme, flamboyant images and tone, so it makes sense to me that Miller would want to use the latest installment to do the same with Trump and all that’s come as result. I also don’t hate the sentiment imparted by this comic, though how it’s executed is definitely on the nose (especially on that last page) and lecture-like. What I find disappointing is how bland it feels. 

It reads like everything else created now. The motivations of the characters are obvious. Why they are present feels obvious. All the crazy, crazy wild of life is reduced to protest signs and clear indications of where everybody stands. It’s a story that doesn’t even really engage any of the other countless pieces it contains because it’s so caught up in being relevant to the thing none of us can escape. Whereas The Dark Knight Strikes Again felt and feels insane and is insane because it took reality and dyed it and threw electric current and weird noise and fire at it, all to distort the hue, The Golden Child comes across as a little desperate to shock or is hungry to make us go, “Ohhhh, wow, the world.” It’s a book that can’t keep up with reality or outdo reality in its fiction, so instead it simply reflects what we see all the time back to us, and it ends up displaying not Miller’s strengths but his weakness to do anything in this comic that can really stretch our imagination. You read it, look at it and say to yourself, “Yep.” And when you put it down, you feel like you could have said everything in that comic yourself because you have. You have been holding this conversation for years now, everyday, with yourself, your friends, your family, and strangers on the Internet. You have read every article. 

I don’t know what that says of Frank Miller right now. I know he’s lost a lot of favor for his questionable outlook on the world, but I still look at his classic work as some of the best of a certain type of comic. It means a lot to me. It’s weird to see him back at DC seemingly trying to bolster his legacy or brand by turning works like The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again into franchises. It’s literally the opposite of what Alan Moore has committed himself to. That said, Miller has every right. I can’t say there’s anything inherently wrong with it. The man has earned the opportunity to expand upon his body of work in any way he deems appropriate, and maybe he is legitimately interested in telling more super hero stories with characters he has experience with. 

I do wonder, though, if the Frank Miller who drew those pages back in ‘84 or ‘85 would do this. I wonder if the guy who thought to work hard and take all this stuff in a new direction, to make a point of its artistic merit, would appreciate a DKR line of books. Because, now, isn’t it just like anything else they sell in those comic book stores? Isn’t it now just another story to exploit and perpetuate? At least it’s Miller doing so. I guess that’s the difference. The man is in control. 

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“Everybody’s been too damn polite about this nonsense”

Saturday’s usually a quite day on the internet. Nothing really happens. Most people use the day as an opportunity to step outside and experience the real world.

But when Frank Miller decides to drop a king sized bastard of a blog post, well, people tend to log back on.

I’m sure by now most of you have read Miller’s latest example of public expression. It’s a little blog post he titled “Anarchy.” In it, Miller criticizes the now inescapable Occupy movement as well as suggests that our real enemy exists in the form of a turban and prays to another god. Haven’t read it? Do so. It’s interesting.

Now, before I really set out on this attempt of clearing my head, I need you to understand that Frank Miller is and always will be one of the absolute greats in this medium we call comic books. No matter what he states on the internet, no matter the man’s political beliefs, Miller’s pure ability as a visual storyteller earns him a pile of respect. I guess you could say it’s similar to Dave Sim. His views of women and whatever else may be completely insane, but removed from that Sim’s skill as a draftsman as well as completing such a ambitious project gives his credibility as a comics artist.

It’s complicated. Most suggest the artist and the artwork are one and the same, and they are, but it doesn’t always mean that you can drag in outside comments to tear down the actual works. It’s two different contexts.

So, I love Frank Miller’s comics, and I most likely always will. Because you know what? They’re great. Absolutely great. This world would be an even sadder place without a Dark Knight Strikes Again in it.

That said, because I can discuss Miller’s works as Miller’s works …you know, as their own thing, away from the other stuff, I can discuss Frank Miller as Frank Miller. Meaning, without discussing his works, I can talk about his beliefs and how he chooses to express them online. So that’s what this post is. This is a criticism of Miller’s blog post and the point he makes in it. None of this has anything to do with Miller’s comics. And I must say, Miller’s gone a little far.

I’m completely cool with an artist holding an opinion. Even when it’s an opinion I could not disagree with more. Opinions make us who we are, and this is a world of variety. In some funny way, even when differing opinions may annoy us, the human species, most, I feel varied opinions are an absolute necessary otherwise we’d all be chugging Diet Coke and watching re-runs of Charles in Charge, acting as if that were the pinnacle of society. So, if Frank Miller wants to be all conservative and tell the young kids to get jobs, fine, he can do just that. I wouldn’t agree with the belief, but if it’s how he feels, whatever, I can ignore the opinion and still read DKSA happily.

His latest statement goes beyond opinion though and into territory of hate and unnecessary name calling. As Miller puts it, the Occupiers are “nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness” who will undoubtedly “harm America.” That’s a bit much.

The Occupy movement may have made a mess of Miller’s beloved New York City, and it may also lack a solid focus, but to go out and generalize an entire group of people as “rapists” and “thieves” extends beyond the regular old understanding of being upset and disagreeing. And to claim that the movement will “harm America” … I don’t know, that only comes off like a plea from a successful man who enjoys the system currently in place because he’s at the top of it.

I kind of get where Miller’s coming from with his dislike of the Occupy Movement. He’s a cartoonist who’s worked hard for many year to achieve what he possesses today. He worked for the respect, the reputation and the money. And difficult work as well, locked away in isolation hunched over a drawing board. So, yeah, kids marching in the street, somehow acting like they’re entitled would set you off. You’d want to be the old man bellowing “get off my fucking lawn” in order to voice some concern over the latest generation’s willingness to work.

The problem is though that the Occupy Movement isn’t that simple.

I’m sure there are plenty of people protesting who fit the description of “young and entitled,” and I’m sure there are at least a dozen who are simply lazy and want handouts. But what about all the people who have actually tried to get jobs – like the college graduates – or the individuals who had jobs,  were laid off, tried all other means possible and now only have this? I’m sure there are also examples of that. So, what, they’re all rapists, now? Thieves?

No. Occupy is just a group of people who want change. Yeah, the focus may not be entirely tight, but I don’t necessarily feel that matters. What matters is the idea within this movement. The idea that people have tried and tried, but because the system is so damn complicated and broken, have no other option and now must take to the streets in order to voice a desire for help. That’s all this is at this point. It’s the social consciousness manifested into a physical form, and it’s showing everyone that these large problems can no longer be ignored.

I can only disagree with Miller when he states that the movement will “harm America.” No. What’s in place now, this broken system … that will harm America. Not the people’s desire for change and improvement.

And there’s also the call to arms Miller puts forth. According to him, we should all enlist with the military immediately to fight the real enemy … Al-Qaeda.

Now while these guys aren’t entirely nice and kind, Miller voices his concern for Al-Qaeda in a way which suggests fear. Fear of extremists rising up and shattering everything we know. He then moves on to insult what is probably most of his fan base – the nerds – by using the age old “you live in you mom’s basement” technique.

Really, a class act.

Certainly, Al-Qaeda is something to be concerned about as they are in favor of scary, bad things – to put it plainly. And I do feel that this extreme group should be dealt with in some fashion – whether diplomatically or actively – in order to protect innocent people. But Miller kind of casts these guys as cartoon villains, or as the “black” to his “white.” There is no grey.

And that’s the problem. We live in a fucking grey world. To be so “these are the bad guys, we’re the good guys” comes off as immature, really. It comes off as extreme. Isn’t that what Miller’s against? Extremism? I thought so, but this blog post really has me questioning. If Miller’s against extreme measures, well, I would say he’s being a bit hypocritical here because this “call to action” is completely extreme. I mean, the guy wants all of us to go to war and kill terrorists. That’s like as extreme as it gets.

That’s better than peacefully protesting the government? Really, Frank Miller?

While Miller may fear a sense of extreme anarchy, it seems he’s entirely for an extreme sense of order. You know, keep the powerful on top and eliminate the crazed religious guys. Put us all in the military where we can wear the uniforms and jump out of bed at 5 am. I kind of can’t believe Frank Miller – the same Frank Miller I have always loved – wrote this blog post. But I guess I should.

When I first read Miller’s statement, I automatically went into a mode of justification. I needed to find a way to justify his actions here because Miller, to me, has always been a man worth respecting. And I still feel he is simply based off of his work. But the fact is, Miller, even though a hero, isn’t exactly what I felt he was cracked up to be. At first response, I sent out this tweet:

So Frank Miller said some highly conservative shit. Big deal. I don’t agree whatsoever, but it’s not like he kicked me in the balls.

After a few moments of thought though, Miller’s statement went past simple “conservative shit.” This tweet was my sad attempt to save Frank Miller in my own eyes. I was fighting off the truth about someone I look up to. Reading “Anarchy” kind of falls in a similar place as meeting your hero. That terrible thought in which your hero does not live up to expectations. Yeah, I guess he kind of did kick me in the balls.

So I can’t really justify or apologize for Miller’s outside concerns anymore. He is a legend, and I love his comics – but I have to face facts – Miller’s political beliefs are not my own, and the way he choose to voice them leans a bit close to the extreme, and I’d say, unhealthy. The man can be a great cartoonist, and I can enjoy his work. This doesn’t mean I cannot call him out on his absolute bullshit, though. And that goes for any artist, really. Whether comics, music or film. I can dig the work, but just because I dig the work or am a fan doesn’t mean I have to stick up for everything they do or say.

Because “Anarchy” is absolute bullshit. Just the typings of a fearful, “good vs. evil” man. Miller does claim everyone is “too damn polite about this nonsense,” but I’d say his rough and rude approach did little to help either.


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