By Devon Sanders
I’m loyal to nothing, General—except The Dream.
–Frank Miller’s Captain America in Daredevil: Born Again (1986)
With those eight words, at 14 years old, writer Frank Miller showed me what type of American I wanted to be. This Captain America was a steadfast believer in the American Dream and what it should mean. Miller’s Cap questioned and didn’t follow authority blindly. He was his own man among many good men and women. He’d earned every bit of respect he’d gotten. I wanted to be like that man.
—The Fixer after hitting a “Jihad” screaming terrorist in the face in Holy Terror (2011)
And with those words, I knew what sort of American I never wanted to be.
Frank has been on my mind a lot lately. Nine years after the release of Frank Miller’s Sin City flick, we’re getting a sequel; Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Since the original’s release, we’ve gotten 10 sporadically produced issues of his and artist Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin, the aforementioned Holy Terror and a critically panned and largely ignored film, The Spirit, written and directed by Miller, himself.
Overshadowing and creeping into my personal feelings about much of his current output are his statements on things political.
Be aware that it’s friendship when they want free work out of you and it’s just business when they turn around and fire your sorry butt. Expect to be fired, it is an axiom in Hollywood.
These are the words of Frank Miller who once famously tore up an issue of Wizard Magazine, the dominant comics news magazine of the time and proponent of all things “hot”, warning creators to watch out for corporate greed and mistreatment.
This same Miller has evolved into someone who has no kinship with the Occupy Movement, famously calling it out as:
…anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.
Some who’d never read a comic or never heard of Miller may have taken those words as a sort of rallying cry, or an insult, or simply dismissed him as simply out of touch. To me, as someone who’d discovered him in early adolescence and held him up, clean into adulthood, as the writer who’d shown me the power of the comics medium, I felt massively taken aback. I never needed or wanted his politics to line up exactly with mine. I mean, I shouldn’t care but I do.
Miller sounded just fucking hateful.
Frank Miller meant something to me. His writing shaped me. To this day, his words make me want to write.
I am absolutely in love Frank Miller’s earlier work and I’m not alone. From his early Daredevil to his seminal Batman works, Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and the Sin City saga, when you talk about comics that changed the medium, any, if not all, of these are brought up in the conversation.
As a comics retailer, whenever someone asked why I was so in love with the comics medium, I would always hand them Daredevil: Born Again and promise them that if they didn’t like it, I’d personally refund their money.
No one ever took me up on the offer.
I respected Frank Miller for his art. On that day when someone asked him for his words and he gave them, I lost a lot of respect for the man.
That day, I realized that if I was going to continue as a fan of Frank Miller, I needed to find a way to separate the man from his art. Would I be buying any of his newer work? No. Mainly because nothing in Sin City has spoken to me in well over a decade. Would I be able to and more importantly, willingly recommend his older works?
Absolutely, they are the foundation of my own particular love of comics and nothing can take that away from me or from my experience.
Much in the way that, while I may not care for much for the proselytizing Cruise has done in the past, I will usually line up for Mission: Impossible because well… I’ve always loved it and sort of surprisingly, Tom Cruise found his wheelhouse in this particular franchise and I appreciate him for keeping it alive. Yet, whenever I see Tom Cruise’s name attached to a movie, I see the baggage of his comments on postnatal depression (a very real thing I’ve seen friends struggle with) and I usually stay away all over again. I’m pretty sure I missed out in seeing a really great sci-fi flick in Edge Of Tomorrow because of this.
Opinion is a thing we all have access to and because of the internet, we have more access to others’ thoughts and feelings or lack thereof than ever before. In some weird way, I almost respect Frank Miller for being willing to stand up for what he believes in today just as much as he had Captain America do nearly three decades ago. Maybe his Cap never spoke for him but he certainly spoke to me. Our beliefs, if they ever did, no longer seem to line up but that’s ok.
I’ll always have Daredevil: Born Again.
So, my question to you all is:
Should we even care what a creative thinks beyond the comics page?
Devon Sanders pronounces “paradigm” as “para-dig-um”. He can be found on Twitter at @devonsanders.