Lost in Translation: Frank Miller’s Batman


Rage of the Fanboys

Batman fanboys are a different breed.  Literally, they make being simply a fan of the character an impossible chore.   When you start criticizing any part of the mythos, they start positioning themselves to shout you down with the fervor of a coked up pit bull.  It is impossible to conclude any valid question about the character, his abilities or limitations when discussing them with a true Batman Fanboy.  Popularity of the character has played a significant role in how  damn unstoppable this character is and in 2016 the overblown nature of this character will reach its peak with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  

Enter Frank Miller

The first time I came into contact with the concept of Batman vs Superman being a legitimate fight was in the pages of the Frank Miller’s fever dream inspired The Dark Knight Returns.  Frank Miller is the Alpha of all Batman Fanboys.   His psychotic version of this character is on par with Johnny Depp’s version of Willy Wonka as one of the most bizarre interpretations of a popular character, I’ve ever seen.

The premise of this story is so bizarre that it makes the sheer ridiculousness of the Batman vs Superman fight at the end, the least out of place event in the story.   For those keeping score, I will continue to discredit Frank Miller until he decides to stop being a racist, misogynist misanthrope.    Frank obviously loves the character and it shows.  Frank’s assholish Batman wasn’t fully realized until All-Star Batman and Robin forced us to gaze into the ragged maw of madness that was Frank Miller’s mind in a post-911 world.

And on to All-Star Batman and Robin

My initial reaction to reading All Star Batman and Robin was “Frank is nuttier that Squirrel Shit.”  Subsequent readings have only strengthened the stench of pine scented excrement.  If Frank’s take on Gotham’s most famous resident was isolated in it’s on little box of strangeness, it would be one thing, but EVERY depiction of this character in modern media, seems to use Miller’s assholey Batman as inspiration. Bale Bats referenced a ton of Frank’s work of the character and BvS was born on the pages of The Dark Knight Returns.  The problem with Frank’s handling of the character is how obnoxiously self-aware Batman is.   Frank’s Batman knows he can’t lose because he is the Dark Knight then he does and says horrible things because of his in-universe infallibility.

Kidnapping, Child Abuse, setting people on fire are the heroic things this Batman does in his books.   He is a hate filled, surly, malcontent who doesn’t like anybody, even his JLA teammates.  He is punishing to team with as well as punishing to read.  My personal feelings about Frank Miller aside, I think my biggest problem with his Batman books is the sheer unpleasantness of the entire reading experience.   The Characters are just assholish doppelgangers of more recognizable characters, the writing is stilted, the dialogue is non-engaging and the plots are muddled.  The art is the only saving grace of the All Star books, Jim Lee draws an inspired Batman.

Jim Lee Batman

On the other hand, Frank’s Batman looks like a grimacing Lego Man.

Miller Batman

Although nostalgia often has a blinding effect on art, the older I get, the less I enjoy many of Miller’s Batman designs.   If I had to chose, I would opt for Miller’s weird writing with Jim Lee’s art.  Miller writing with Miller art is too much for me to take.

Something about Frank

Look… Frank Miller is an industry Icon.   His run on Daredevil redefined the character.  Sin City modernized the concept of Noir in comics and brought it to the mainstream.  Even though I’m not a fan of the Dark Knight Books, they are immensely popular with fans of Frank’s take on Gotham City.  As with any piece of art, the interpretation remains with the viewer.  My interpretation of Miller’s work is that it is tainted with strands of misogyny and disdain for every other character except his male POV characters.  His vision of Gotham City is jarringly ugly and not a world I wish to explore.  His Dark Knight is a joyless human being.  His passion about justice translates as a disturbed fascination with maiming criminals.  His attachment to Gotham City is tinged with hatred.  It is clear that Frank enjoys the character, but it seems like he hates everything else about Batman’s universe.  In my opinion, there are much better interpretations of the character.  Right now Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s run is nothing short of amazing.  This team truly enjoys the character, his universe and his history no need to punish yourself with Frank’s take on the character.


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