Nov

3

To the Point: Bwog Talks to Frank Miller

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When Bwog first learned that there was a possibility of comic book legend Frank Miller making an appearance at Columbia in conjunction with the Libararies’ Graphic Novel division, we quaked in our boots to hear what the author of Sin City, Batman: The Dark Knight, and 300 would have to say to us. For logistical reasons, the event was never realized, but we managed to obtain the better-than-consolation prize of an e-mail interview with Miller. Like his characters, he’s incredibly terse and takes an unflinching stance on the issues he’s passionate about.

Your new work, Holy Terror, is your first full-length graphic novel for some time. How long have you been working on it? Where did you get the inspiration from?

Where else? 9/11. Who could ask for a more perfect villain? With much interruption, my conviction only hardened. I want all those terrorist bastards dead.

On your website, you wrote an interesting piece on how Holy Terror is propaganda, and how the comic-book medium has been rife with political messages in the past. When you sat down to write Holy Terror, did you intend for it to honor this legacy, or did that happen in the process?

From the beginning, I sought to create propaganda. Evil is Evil: I want every member of al-Qaeda to burn in hell.

Do you think your past work has possessed the same political potency? Where do you think Holy Terror fits in your body of work?

My political commentary, was, in the past, satirical. 9/11 changed all that. Now I’m serious. An existential enemy has attacked my country. I respond in kind, with the best of my tools at my disposal.

Besides writing, you’ve also had a a recent entry into the movie business. What was directing alongside Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino like? What was it like to take the reigns on your own movie, ‘The Spirit’?

It has been an utter joy. I particularly enjoy working with actors. I can’t wait to do more.

In general, how do you feel about the recent growth of superhero movies? Do you think it has meant good things for the future of the comic books?

Yes. Comics can serve as a creative fountainhead for movies. We don’t answer to anybody, so we can offer stories that are untainted by the “development process”. The movie business can see what free minds can create.

Having explored other mediums, what do you think can be found in a graphic novel that cannot be found in other art forms? Why do you think comic books have managed to survive even as the movie industry became larger?

Movies have sound. They have movement. They have actors. It’s a whole ‘nother show. Graphic novels, however, can crawl inside a reader’s brain, creating fantasies, wonders and horrors that you won’t find on the silver screen.

Is there some branch of human experience or area of intellectual inquiry to which graphic novels have unique access?

We can wed the word with the drawing, a pair of disciplines that have been wrongly separated in the last two centuries. We can spark the mind, and take it to new places.

At Columbia, we have quite a conservative core curriculum of canonical western texts and visual arts. Do you think that graphic novels, or other kinds of graphic media, should be included in such a survey?

Hell, yes. What’s holding you back?

Miller in person via Wikipedia

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    This is really interesting. Good work Bwog.

    (PS. Q4 should be "reins" not "reigns")

  2. Nicely done!  

    Nice interview, Bwog! Sadly, Butler's copy of "Holy Terror" is still on order, but I have a signed copy in my office if anyone wants to take a look at it. The art is stunning--some of the best Miller's done ever, I think.

    We were very disappointed that the hoped-for event at Columbia wasn't able to be scheduled. I'm working with a couple of partners on a "Comic New York" symposium in March 2012, and was hoping Miller could be part of that, but he's going to be off filming "Sin City 2," alas.

    -- Karen the Librarian

  3. joe c

    There used to be some kind of Media Studies course way back when in the 80's that my friends took and they read comics (graphic novels were still starting out); I wonder if the course is still around in some form?

  4. Sorry to be "that person," but...  

    I know comic books are historically, inevitably politicized, but I'm pretty shocked that such an explicitly hateful and negative message is being encouraged. I feel like I have read quite a few, and while his calls for all of al-Qaeda burning in hell are certainly not unique, it does seem problematic in the whole post-9/11 dialogue (or in any America vs. Them discourse, really). Is there something I'm not "getting" about the nature of propaganda in comics, in particular this Miller "Holy Terror" work? I'm just shocked that this sort of language and intention is acceptable at this point, unless I'm simply not understanding what Miller is saying.

    • with "that person," but...  

      Totally with you, but c'mon this is the author of 300 for chrissakes. Love Sin City, love Dark Knight but even those are nothing groundbreaking in the religious/political profundity. (Hence, Mr. Miller, why your graphic novels are not in ANY core curriculum)

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