Frank Miller Controversy

Having written a recent column dealing with Frank Miller’s “Holy Terror” graphic novel, and subsequently one regarding the Occupy protests, I feel that it would be pertinent for me to follow them up with a piece relating to Miller’s recent controversial blog post about the movement.

In a Nov. 7 post to his blog at entitled “Anarchy,” Miller railed against the “nostalgic” protests, saying it is made up of “louts, thieves and rapists,” and chastised it for making the country look petty in the eyes of the terrorists we are fighting.

“Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy,” Miller said in his post. “And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently – must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh – out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle.”

He ended his tirade by daring the Occupy protesters to enlist in the military and help in the War on Terror. Apparently Miller hasn’t heard that military veterans do participate in the Occupy movement, with some even being injured during the protests after having spent years overseas fighting that enemy of his.

The blog post sparked a huge backlash on twitter from Miller’s colleagues in the comic book industry who, while a fan of his work, sympathize with the Occupy movement and were appalled by the disgust he feels toward the protesters involved in it.

Having just read his latest graphic novel, “Holy Terror,” shortly before the controversy arose, I found myself, as a fan, unable to really stay disappointed in Miller for very long. It was clear in “Holy Terror” that Frank Miller is immensely preoccupied with his right-wing ideology and, specifically, with the killing of terrorists. If there was any confusion about that, Miller clears it up himself in the blog post prior to “Anarchy,” entitled “Propaganda.

“3000 of my neighbors were murdered. My country was, utterly unprovoked, savagely attacked. I wish all those responsible for the Atrocity of 9/11 to burn in hell,” Miller said in the Sept. 23 post, adding that if he were young enough, he’d gladly be serving in the military and killing the terrorists himself.

It seems harsh, no doubt, but this is coming from a guy who was allegedly working on Batman comics at his residence in Hell’s Kitchen when the attack on the World Trade Center took place. I don’t know what that’s like. If the way he deals with the grief and the guilt and the anger from that experience is to make comics, well I can’t really blame him.

As a self-proclaimed liberal weenie-head, I can certainly say I disagree with his black-and-white worldview and his wish to perpetuate violence and murder, but I am not him. I don’t know what he’s been through, and I certainly am not going to pretend to know the guy.

There is another side to the coin, however, and that is the quality of his work. While I couldn’t possibly disagree more with the ham-fisted political message in “Holy Terror,” I can’t remember the last modern comic I’ve read that had art as kinetic, as explosive and as fun as the line work found in Miller’s latest endeavor. In an industry of pencillers and inkers trying to make static, photo-realistic storyboards for prospective movie pitches, Miller reminds us that comics can move; they have energy, they are animated.

Reading further entries in his blog, you’ll find that the artistic side of him is still alive and well. If you were to look past his Fox News-esque editorials of late and his juvenile sketches of dinosaurs eating al Qaeda suicide bombers, you’d see informative articles about the craft of cartooning.

In the post entitled “When In Doubt, Black It Out,’” Miller writes about his enjoyment of computer graphics in film but worries that it may be discouraging artists from utilizing negative space in their work.

“Closure is a term you learn in art school. It is the teasing of the viewer’s eye to complete the image you not-so-entirely present. You, the storyteller, leave your piece of work deliberately incomplete, so that the viewer becomes an active, creative participant, finishing the job and thereby enjoying it all the more,” Miller enthused.

In another post, entitled “Time,” Miller schools his fellow artists on how to properly convey the movement of time in comics without having to resort to cheap tricks, such as simply producing a 2-D, multi-panel movie, or using repetitive “talking head” panels.

“Done with skill and wit and economy, cartoon art charms the eye,” Miller wrote in the piece. “Properly wined and dined, the reader settles down and takes the story at the pace the cartoonist intended.”

The Miller whose work we all enjoy is still there. He might have some social and political views that I think suck, but that shouldn’t concern me. I don’t even know the guy. I have people in my own family that probably think the same way about the Occupy protests as he does, and I still respect and admire them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You can’t agree with everybody, even your heroes, nor should you. And really, as a consumer, and as a fan, what Miller thinks shouldn’t matter to me. He isn’t a journalist or a policymaker, he’s just a guy in New York who draws comic books. As long as Miller keeps turning out some of the most exciting, intriguing cartooning in modern comics, his duty to the public is fulfilled.

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Mike Greear is a journalism graduate from the University of West Florida currently living in New York City. During his time as an undergraduate, he reported on everything from Presidential campaign stops to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, eventually working his way up to being the editor-in-chief of the University of West Florida’s student newspaper, The Voyager. Since graduating, he worked briefly as a reporter for Foster’s Daily Democrat in New Hampshire, reporting on crime and municipal stories in the city of Rochester as well as interviewing Republican primary candidates, before returning to Florida and freelancing for the Pensacola News Journal. He now resides in Long Island City, writing weekly columns for and hoping to break into the comics scene.

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  1. Miguel Rosa says:

    I’ve leafed through Holy Terror in the bookstore, and it’s easily the best drawn comic book I’ve seen in 2011. The language of comics is so perfectly used in it. The movement, the sense of weight – those panels are so full of energy! Some could argue that Batwoman is better drawn, but as much as I love Williams III, I think he makes many of the same modern mistakes – static panels, too much posing, a reliance on photorealism. Miller’s anatomy is crude, rushed and ugly in the old Kirby way, but like Kirby he knew storytelling was more than just pretty pictures.

    I’m fascinated by the horizontal format he chose to use, to give room to his panels. I think it’s sad that ten years after the rise of widescreen, Miller just comes along and says, “Sorry, boys, you’ve been doing it all wrong; this is how you do real widescreen.” In your face, Porter, Quitely and Hitch.

  2. David Balan says:

    I think it does matter.

    I don’t think it matters what Frank Miller personally thinks, not at all – I couldn’t care less. But what he writes matters. What he chooses to put out there as a work matters, and what it says and implies matters. When that is a shallow, narrow-minded, prejudiced view of a particular group of people, and worse yet, an advocation to kill all of them without even knowing the slightest bit about them (or, as his comments have evidenced, how long we’ve really been involved over there) – that matters.

    And it makes for a terrifically bad story.

    Making art that some people like is no excuse for writing terrible stuff. As an entertainer and full creator, half his responsibility is in the art, half in the writing. At the very least, the writing has failed awfully. The art?

    I would contend that it too has failed, but I’ll have to look into that more thoroughly and get back to you.

  3. Haven’t read TERROR yet but am intrigued to see his art, though not expecting much from the story. But in contrast to David, I do think that “making art that some people like” is a worthy goal. When it comes right down to the wire, there is no work that is universally liked. I don’t care if it’s MOBY DICK, some people like it, some people don’t.

    I know that’s a little logic-chopping there, and I think I know what David essentially meant. But let the debate begin anyway!

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