Friday, February 5, 2010

It’s always been Miller time

It’s no wonder Frank Miller can be a grumpy old bastard sometimes. When you’ve had half the comic world falling over themselves to tell you how shit you are for your entire goddamn career, you’ve got the right to feel a bit surly.

Sometimes it feels like everybody likes to have a go at Frank Miller. Any new article, essay or interview with the creator that appears online attracts bitter comments about Frank’s stories and abilities, often ascribing personal world views to his work that can be a little tenuous.

It’s certainly gotten worse since the rise of the internet, and some people - who have certainly never seen the kind of commercial and critical success that has been enjoyed by Miller - feel entirely justified in laughing at him.

For every one person who adores All Star Batman, the general buzz around the sadly silent series seems to have 10 people who can’t stand it, to the point where comicblogging king Mike Sterling’s unashamed love for the comic is sometimes assumed to be taking the piss. (And maybe he is, but he still seems to genuinely love the book.)

And the worst part is – none of this is new. Read some old, yellowing Amazing Heroes magazines or David Anthony Kraft’s Comic Interview, and there is plenty of Miller-love to be found, but also the same criticisms of his work – that ridiculous fascination with his plot machinations, a snide sneer at the most superficial aspects of the work that ignores any real depth.

Some people actually seem to enjoy missing the point of Miller’s work, even if they haven’t realised their snark has no currency. One of the most irritating things about the criticism of Miller’s work is the superficiality.

Mention Sin City to a Miller-hater, and they will come up with a long (and occasionally valid) list of things to hate. They’ll bang on about the misogyny, the stale plots, the harder-than-diamonds dialogue and all that jazz, and completely ignore the craft.

It’s a little mindbending to think that Frank started Sin City nearly two decades ago, because a lot of the things he has done in the comic are still being picked apart by draftsmen who are getting rich rewards from the veins he has mined.

Look at the panels, the negative space that spills out over everything, the transitions between scenes, and there are some remarkable things happening in Miller’s comics. The man’s work might look like he’s stuck in a certain style, but there is also a sense of brave experimentation.

That experimentation doesn’t always work, or it may take some time to see what the hell Frank is getting at, but at least he’s forging his own path, going his own way.

But this is ignored in favour of sneering at something like Miller’s typically strong women. It’s just irritating, like the morons who refuse to read Beto Hernandez’s traumatically good Palomar stories because they can’t get past the big tits.

Despite these dismissals, Miller does find an appreciative audience, and there are even some poor souls out there who can find nice things to say about The Spirit movie.

Me, I’m always up for some Miller. His work – both writing and art - is strangely compulsive, slightly frustrating, occasionally devastating and always entertaining. That beats the same old shit anytime, sweetcheeks.


Mikester said...

I absolutely do love All Star Batman. Less enamored of its shipping schedule, however.

Duncan Falconer said...

People who don't like the Tank are, basically, assholes, not to be trusted. Certainly not w/ opinions on comics, it's a rule.

Damian Duffy said...

He's done good work, he's done odd work, he's done interesting work. My distaste for All Star Batman actually had more to do with Jim Lee, who, while a talented draftsman, is a crap visual storyteller.

However, that being said, there is no excuse for the post-9-11 diatribe/infomercial-for-the-collected-edition that was "Martha Washington Dies." That is The Spirit movie level badness right there.

I suspect some of the off the rails nature of his more recent stuff is the lack of an editor willing to tell Frank Miller when he's veered off into the territory of suck.

Bob Temuka said...

See, I do enjoy Jim Lee's art and even liked Martha Washington Dies, so there's obviously no hope for me.

These tastes have been heavily influenced by personal circumstances. I read that last Martha Washington story under exceptional circumstances and fell for Lee as an X-head in the late eighties, that issue where Storm got blown up.

There was never any doubt of the love, Mike. I just think the way some people rise to the bait is really, really funny.