My basement. To some, a place where treasures of great value are stored. To others, a dusty tomb housing unmitigated evil.
For it is in this concrete cavern of clashing convictions that the caped crusader they call Corporate Dog, keeps his capacious collection of comic books!
Alas, he must always remain on alert, lest his alluring antagonist (the mesmerizing Mrs. Dog) admonish him for amassing such a bevy of boxes and awkwardly abusing alliteration!
(Okay, okay! Holster that thing already, Tex. I promise. I'm done!)
As we join our hero, a menace even more devious than that of marital discord lurks outside his sanctum, threatening the peace of his middle-class suburban lifestyle. He stands unaware and ignorant of the horrors that await him, blinded by the Kryptonite-like weaknesses that all such heroes possess: his Woodstock-era nostalgia, and putrid false righteousness!
It's an enemy quite unlike any he's ever faced; one that can make weak-minded men soil themselves, and Founding Fathers spin in their graves! And if he's to have any chance of victory, Corporate Dog will need to combine his powers with those of an insane comic book artist who harbors a penchant for wingnuttery!
Will our hero prevail? Will he face certain defeat? Will he order the turkey club for lunch? Join us, after the Squiggle of Trepedation to find out, True-Believers!
The Secret Origin of The Goddamn Frankman!
Unless you occasionally dip a toe into the funny-book pool, you probably don't know who I'm talking about when I mention this mysterious wingnut comic book artist. That's okay. I'll give you a quick overview. You might find that even if you don't know who he is, you're quite familiar with some of his work (the highlights of which, all seem to have made their way to Hollywood in one form or another).
Frank Miller rose to stardom in the world of comic book writers and artists, by bringing an unapologetic noir style to a genre that was suffering from stale and unrealistic characters and storylines. At least, that's how one might've described him, through the 80's and 90's, when he created some of the most memorable comic book tales of those decades.
Daredevil and the Death of Elektra? It's the iconic story that was chosen for 2003's Daredevil movie, and while one might charitably say that the film forced Ben Affleck to take a long, hard look at himself and turn to a life of directing, the story as it was written in the comic book is quite a bit more nuanced. It quickly became a fan favorite, catapulting sales of the title to previously unheard of levels.
The Dark Knight Returns? This is where Miller really made his bones, crafting a gritty, "adult" story about an aged Batman, long-since retired, fighting both the ghosts of his past, and a future that claims it doesn't need heroes. It's not the same story that became a critical success on the big screen (due to the efforts of the Brothers Nolan) but it certainly shares many of the same thematic elements, and contributed greatly to the style of the revamped Batman movie franchise.
Sin City? Brutal. Violent. Sadistic. Misogynistic. Dark. And those are its selling points. It's Frank Miller at the height of his career, let loose with his own characters, setting, and art style. It's Dashiell Hammett meets Quentin Tarantino (who would go on to direct a short sequence in the film that was based on the series). It's a floor wax AND a dessert topping!
And then there's 300 which I'll mention here for the sake of completion, and because it provides a nice segue. This book never quite reached the same level of critical success that his other books had, and it's rife with historical inaccuracies (which I'm generally okay with, if the author makes no claim to accuracy, and it's in the service of an amusing story). But the film version of the tale about 300 Spartan warriors who fought at the Battle of Thermopylae, is perhaps more widely known.
300 provides an interesting case study of Miller. Because while the series was originally written in 1998, the movie that was based on it didn't get produced until 2006. Miller himself was an executive producer for the film. And while the comic book series might be accused of a sort of gung-ho glorification of war, it's a few scenes that were created specifically for the movie, that seem to echo the political leanings that Miller would come to embrace in the interim.
The Hero's Tragedy
Let's face it... every comic book character faces a critical turning point in their lives, where they decide to leave a life of normalcy, don tights and a cape, and fight villains. For Bruce Wayne it was the murder of his parents. For Peter Parker it was the death of his Uncle Ben, during a robbery that he alone could've stopped. And for Frank Miller it was 9/11:
"I could never stomach the flower-child twaddle of the '60s crowd and I was ready to believe that our flag was just an old piece of cloth and that patriotism was just some quaint relic, best left behind us."You might notice I chopped up his words a little bit, but I think the underlying sentiment remains. Blind jingoism, you see, is vital for our country's continued existence.
"To me [that piece of old cloth] stood for unthinking patriotism."
"I draw and write comic books. One thing my job involves is making up bad guys. Imagining human villainy in all its forms. Now the real thing had showed up. The real thing murdered my neighbors. In my city. In my country."
"Patriotism, I now believe, isn't some sentimental, old conceit. It's self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation's survival."
Now, maybe you think I'm being a bit unfair to ol' Frank. But have you seen the work he's turned out since then? Have you heard the statement he made recently that spurred me on to write this diary? No? Then spare me your flower-child twaddle! Moving on.
With Great Power Comes Great Paychecks
Here's the part where I admit that I enjoy much of Miller's earlier output. Progressive bugbears abound in his work, but I always assumed that it was all about the genre informing the artist. Noir is meant to be exploitive, nasty, and dirty. The heroes are assholes. The women are walking tributes to the Madonna/Whore Complex. It's not nice, and it's certainly not realistic, but it does serve as a cynical reflection of society and human nature, and that's what makes it compelling.
His post-9/11 work, though? Yeesh.
The downward slide started with the barely readable The Dark Knight Strikes Again followed by the complete train wreck that is All-Star Batman and Robin. In these tales, Batman isn't just a darker, more world-weary version of himself. He's written as an unintentional parody. He's angry. He's cruel. He's sadistic. And he fights against an equally cartoonish rendering of a liberal police-state; one that could only have been inspired by Rush Limbaugh's painkiller-induced nightmares.
If nothing else, though, I have to give Miller some credit for handing us this meme, which is just truly epic:
Less-established writers might have been told that their skills would be more suited for a line of work such as fast-food preparation. But not Frank. He soldiered on from these critical setbacks, inspired to reach even wingnuttier heights with Batman.
Pop quiz, hotshot: You're on DC Comics' payroll. They let you do whatever you want with one of their flagship characters, because even though your artistic integrity has been floundering as of late, you're still somehow making large scads of money for them. You're on this born-again 9/11 kick, and you're relentlessly angry against a particular religion, its adherents, and a certain man who was the ringleader behind the attacks that altered your entire worldview. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
Oh, yes. Yes indeed. And the result would've been called 'Holy Terror, Batman!' if only DC hadn't pulled the plug on the project.
No matter. When DC hands you a pink slip, you make pink lemonade! And so it was that Miller continued writing his muslim opus, using thinly-disguised analogues for the Caped Crusader and his cast of characters (Fuck! Sorry! That alliteration was totally inadvertent.)
The newly Batman-less 'Holy Terror' was released on September 14th, 2011, and I'm guessing that the only reason it wasn't released three days earlier, is because comic book distribution traditionally takes place on Wednesdays. More's the pity. We can always use a good laugh when September 11th rolls around, and I understand that 'Holy Terror' doesn't disappoint.
Meanwhile, Back on Earth-616...
Ah, but I didn't come here to bash Frank Miller! I came to join forces with him! Remember that insidious threat to humanity that I mentioned at the beginning of my diary? The one that only he could assist our hero with?
If you've stuck with this diary so far, you can probably ascertain the nature of this villain. And Miller? Man. Is he ever pissed that the rest of us haven't been keeping our eye on the ball like he has...
Everybody’s been too damn polite about this nonsense:I'll let you read the clever double-entendre he creates out of the word 'movement' for yourself. Because Miller and I? We've got BIGGER fish to fry!
The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is 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.
Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.That's right, you unruly rapist hippies! You didn't face off against Doomsday like I did! You didn't have 99% of your species wiped out due to weird alternate universe hijinks like I did!
Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.
And you sure as hell didn't go to Hollywood, hang out with nubile young starlets, and make movies like Frank Miller did! They say Hollywood exists in a bubble, but Frank Miller is PROOF that Hollywood gives a certain clarity of vision that you just don't get in your sheltered, comfy little worlds!
Frank Miller is a patriot who has sacrificed so much for his country! And you selfish fuckers just don't see it!
I mean who looks like they're sacrificing here?
If you said, "Eva Mendes" you'd be right! But runner-up? Frank Miller. Because you wouldn't believe how hard it is to rock a fedora these days, when they're associated with douchebags like Jack Abramoff.
Approved by the Comics Code Authority?
But just in case I've left you worrying that comics are naught but a trashy exercise in sex, violence, and right wing politics, I want to assure you that the kids are alright.
Says Neil Gaiman (writer of Sandman among others):
“In truth, everything I do or see or think I do as a writer,” Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman, responded. “But supporting Occupy Wall Street seems to me less about being a writer or a citizen, and more about being a human.” After “an enormous series of criminal acts,” Gaiman said, “nothing fundamental appears to have changed.” He also pointed me to a blog post about two recent jail sentences, and to a remark made by Francis Bacon: “Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.”Tweets Warren Ellis (writer of the eerily cognisant Transmetropolitan among others):
Thanks for the TRANSMET love. But remember: Spider Jerusalem isn't real. The people of #Occupy are. They need your support more. #OWSAs a person who's presumably interested in politics and media, you owe it to yourself to check out Transmet. But I digress.
Because while I decided to highlight two of my favorite comic book writers, there were quite a few more who weighed in directly on Miller's rant...
Ron Perazza : Thinking back on it, Frank Miller’s writing is filled with the glorification of right wing militant politics. Shame his reality is the same.Will this be the end for our heroes?
Gail Simone: Frankmillerink.com is a great link if you like absolute bullshit.
Tim Seeley: Frank Miller is what happens when fear overrides rational thought. Anything he doesn’t understand is evil & full of rapists.
I'm ashamed to say I have no clever denouement for this diary. But who needs clever denouement, when you have a picture that says everything that needs to be said...?
You don't want to piss off the Goddamn Batman, do you? Of course you don't. So donate to Occupy Wall Street (or your own favorite local Occupy movement):
And since we're talking about the printed word, why not send a few books to the OWS Library, which finds itself needing to rebuild after the events of the last few days. You can send your contributions to...
The UPS Store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
Attn: The People’s Library
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038
8:09 PM PT: H/T to swellsman and David Brin, who both beat me to the punch by about a week with their own diaries, though I honestly didn't realize it at the time I wrote this.