Friday, August 27, 2010

Comics That Deserve Your Time & Attention, Part 5: The Frank Miller Edition

Even if you aren't a die-hard comic geek, chances are you've heard of Frank Miller in some capacity. Robert Ridriguez managed to successfully translate Miller's "Sin City" work to the film world, while eventual "Watchmen" director Zack Snyder tackled "300", all of which would set the stage for Miller himself to direct a take on his idol and mentor Will Eisner's "The Spirit" (the results of which are, well, not really worth mentioning...), even though years ago Frank had quite a bit of a falling out with the whole Hollywood scene.

It was in his mainstream superhero work that Miller really got noticed. After signing on as an artist for one of the "Spider-Man" titles, Miller eventually found himself writing and drawing "Daredevil". During his run on that title, Miller completely re-vitalized the character, as well as introducing the femme fatale Elektra, and came back a few years later to do it all over again with DD. In the meantime, Miller's real claim to fame came with his revitalization of Batman for DC Comics, with the classics "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman: Year One".

Though Miller's more recent work, namely "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" and "All-Star Batman & Robin" is far removed from his best material, the impact that Miller made not only in the superhero realm, but in the realm of crime, noir, and action-oriented works outside the mainstream, have cemented him as an industry icon.

Here's a best of list of some Frank Miller works that you may have missed...

DC Comics
Co-Artist: Lynn Varley

A pet project of Miller's which he wrote and drew that pretty much defies any sort of description. A failed samurai and his demonic enemy are resurrected in the future New York City to wage war on another all over again, but that sentence really only scratches the surface of "Ronin". Part philosophical allegory and part science fiction thriller, "Ronin" wasn't too well received when first released in the early 80s, but in the years since has developed a loving following. Rumor has it that it's due to be made into a film directed by the guy who made "Stomp the Yard"...Christ almighty let's hope not.

Avatar Press
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

Remember when I said that Frank Miller had a bit of a falling out with Hollywood some time ago? Flash back to the late 80s. "RoboCop" was a big hit at the box office, and a sequel was naturally green-lit soon after. Miller somehow got comissioned to pen a script for the sequel, which he did. The final script used for the film however bears little resemblance to his original take, which for the most part is presented here. An ultraviolent take on the cyborg policeman fighting a neverending war on crime as well as taking on the corporation-controlled police force in Detroit rarely lets up in its brutality, but it's the political satirization (which the first "Robocop" film did so well) which really makes things all the more compelling. That and the artwork of Juan Jose Ryp, who never ceases to impress.

Dark Horse Comics
Artist: Geof Darrow

A "Blade Runner" style sci-fi opus, only all the more violent and occasionally hilarious. The story revolves around insurance investigator Carl, who comes to learn that he's actually a cyborg and is the last hope of an enslaved race of robots. Besides the many parallels to "Blade Runner", Miller pays some wonderful homage to its creator and science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, while consistently upping the ante in terms of just how over the top things end up getting.

Dark Horse Comics
Artist: Dave Gibbons

Once again satirizing political and corporate America alike, Miller presents a tale set in the future where the United States is split into several extremist factions. In this time, a young African-American girl named Martha Washington is born and grows up to become a war hero and eventual revolutionary leader. One of the biggest selling independent comics of all time, "Give Me Liberty", along with Miller's "Sin City", helped make Dark Horse a big time comic book publisher to rival Marvel and DC.

That's all for now, with the final installment of this blog series will be up next time...

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