Tag Archive: Frank Miller


wonder-woman-jill-thompson-cover

The best artwork in a graphic novel you will find this year is at your comic book store this week.  Seven-time Eisner Award winner Jill Thompson has created the definitive Wonder Woman origin story with Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, written and painted in the spectacularly vibrant manner only America’s most acclaimed writer-artist could create.

You may be familiar with Diana, Amazon Princess, and her ancient origin story, but this new version is a keeper–a storybook you’d read to your kids with lush colors and mythology steeped in classic folklore.  The action and storytelling are similar in execution to the best work of Alan Moore and his bold layouts, as well as the action and story development in Frank Miller’s 300–an easy comparison because of the setting and theme–yet Thompson’s story and art is far richer.  Thompson’s watercolor-painted comic pages and layout work is up there with the 1980s-1990s work of Mike Grell, and Wonder Woman: The True Amazon may very well be not only looked back on as the benchmark for all Wonder Woman: Year One attempts to come, it’s very possibly the best looking graphic novel from DC Comics since Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

jill-thompson-wonder-woman-excerpt

Best of all, Thompson’s story is surprising.  For much of the tale Diana is anything but heroic.  An early subtitle was The Very Selfish Princess–should that give you a hint.  Thompson looked deep into the mythos of Wonder Woman–celebrating her 75th year this year–and asked “what did Diana go through to become this iconic figure?”

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comix movie

We’ve seen plenty of recent efforts trying to get to the heart of what comic books and their fans are all about, including documentaries reviewed here at borg.com like Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle, and With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story.  The latest look at comic books, creators, the industry, and fans is being released tomorrow from filmmaker Michael Valentine.

Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages includes interviews with noted comic book industry veterans, including Stan Lee (Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four) (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman, Justice League of America), Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Productions (Hellboy, Sin City, Goon, Concrete), Marc Silvestri of Image Comics and Top Cow Productions (Tomb Raider, Hunter Killer, Witchblade), and Todd McFarlane (Spawn).

Filmed by Valentine over a decade, the documentary includes footage new and old from cosplayers at Comic-Con, WonderCon, Anime Expo and Wizard World.  The documentary provides an overview of the world of comic books, backed by superhero-themed music and montage images of comic book panels.

Here is a preview of the Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages:
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Kubert main cover DKIII     DK II The Master Race alt cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am truly hoping Frank Miller’s eight issue The Dark Knight III: The Master Race does what I hope J.J. Abrams will be successful at with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If the first issue is any indication, the series might be better than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to the seminal work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Why the comparison to Abrams?  Unlike DKI and DKII, which was written and illustrated by Miller with colors by Lynn Varley, DKIII is “co-written” by Brian Azzarello, and illustrated by Andy Kubert with inks by Klaus Janson (who also inked the original Miller pencils on DKI).  It’s this concept of expanding an original story to new creators that may allow this Dark Knight Elseworlds story to regain some steam.

Dark-Knight-III-The-Master-Race-12     Jock DKIII cover

With Issue #1, Kubert has drawn the beginning of a continuation story that looks like it was drawn by Miller.  Miller’s original four-issue series included many unique design concepts, including frenetically rendered heroes as well as psychedelic street thugs, TV screens delivering the backstory of the world view as the plotline moved forward, and plenty of grim, dystopian future-Gotham characterizations.  All of these are back, yet in an updated style, including the attention to current technologies that weren’t around in the 1980s like texting to deliver the view of the state of Gotham as part of its world building.

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Frank Miller The Master Race DK 3

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  Comic book readers all remember first reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  Most of the world would acknowledge it is one of the top 20 most influential graphic novels of all time and belongs on many a top 10 list for any kind of novel.  We all look ahead each week to the next good read, and can’t wait to read the next DKR.

We just don’t mean that literally.  We once thought that is exactly what we wanted, once upon a time.  Then Frank Miller delivered what we thought we wanted with his sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, or DK2.  It was pretty much unreadable, made worse because it was released on Miller’s trademark staggered “I’ll release it when I feel like it” schedule (remember All-Star Batman and Robin?).

So DC Entertainment just issued a press release late Friday announcing The Dark Knight III:  The Master Race.  Really?  The Master Race?  From the guy that wrote the offensive, bigotted Holy Terror?  What is DC Comics thinking?

DKR 2

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, DK2. Be careful what you wish for.

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abrams-star-wars-comics

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three new Star Wars comic book series beginning this year as the license returns to Marvel Comics, we’re taking a look at the second book in Abrams Books’ series of hardcover art house books on the franchise, Star Wars Art: Comics.  From the series that also brought us Star Wars Art: Posters, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and Star Wars Storyboards, Star Wars Art: Comics hones in on sequential art found in the comic book medium.

Star Wars and comic books have been in lock-step since Star Wars first hit theaters, thanks to George Lucas and an early meeting with writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.  The transcript of that meeting is included as an appendix to the book.  Beginning with the first comic book adaptation from Marvel and running through the Dark Horse years, Abrams has compiled a solid overview of thirty years of interpretations of the myth and magic of the Force.

Star Wars original cover art to Star Wars Howard Chaykin

Plates from cover and interior artwork were hand-picked for the book by George Lucas.  Star Wars Art: Comics is worth its price alone simply for the clear photos of Howard Chaykin and Tom Palmer’s original cover art for Marvel’s Star Wars Issue #1 and Dave Cockrum and Rick Hoberg’s original artwork to the oversized edition, both also featured on the book’s binding under the jacket.  Al Williamson’s stunningly rendered imagery from his adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back pepper the volume as well.

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Affleck as Batman and new Batmobile

So there it is.

Zack Snyder has revealed the new Batmobile and our first look at Ben Affleck in his new Batsuit for the 2016 release Batman vs. Superman.  Somehow it makes you think this man in a rubber suit is going to beat the pulp out of the Man of Steel, doesn’t it?

It immediately calls to mind an amalgam of both Frank Miller’s Batman from The Dark Knight Returns:

Frank Miller Batman

Frank Miller’s Batman re-design from 1986.

and Jim Lee’s modern take on Batman first lauded in his “Hush” story arc:

Jim Lee Batman Affleck costume

Jim Lee’s 2002 era Batman.

Our first peek is a dark and gloomy image, which begs questions like “Is there any color to that wide bat emblem on his chest?”  And maybe, “Why so serious?”

Cascioli Batman Affleck suit Zack Snyder Trials of Shazam original art CJ Bunce

Mauro Cascioli’s take on Batman in 2006.

It also has the look we loved with Mauro Cascioli’s gritty Batman in his Trials of Shazam series.

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Eva Green Sin City Dame to Kill For

After the original Sin City, the 2005 film adaptation of Frank Miller’s 1993 graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics brought to the screen by co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, it might take a lot to get audiences back in the theaters for a sequel.  But Miller has a big comic book fan base, and Rodriquez several fans of his slightly askew action flicks, so it’s not that big of surprise a studio is taking another run at the Sin City universe.

Lions Gate has now released its trailer for Sin City:  A Dame to Kill For.  If the preview won’t get you into the theater, the great cast list might be enough to add this one to a future Netflix queue.  Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, Jamie King, and Powers Booth all are returning from the original film, and adding Jeremy Piven, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Christopher Meloni, Eva Green, and Ray Liotta (with rumors of Lady Gaga and Christopher Lloyd making appearances).

Sin City Dame to Kill For

As with the original movie, the sequel certainly has its own comic book noir style, although it certainly borrows a lot from Dick Tracy–plenty of “dames” in seedy places, car chases, ugly and gruff villains, and just as ugly and gruff good guys (or at least they are almost good guys).  As with Alan Moore, his books and film adaptations, Miller’s work tends to be just as polarizing.  You love it or you hate it.

Here is the trailer for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For:

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Robocop Last Stand cover

BOOM! Studios’ new eight-issue mini-series Robocop: Last Stand is something of a surprise.  It looks like it could easily stand up next to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and Sin City.  The art looks very much like an impression of the ugly future-world of Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  Yet Miller is not the artist here.  Korkut Oztekin is the series artist, and seems hand-picked to create a book that looks as if Miller was responsible for every aspect of it.  This means that the art isn’t very pretty, it is violent in the way most Miller books are violent, and the characters tend to be wide-eyed and a bit freakish.  Robocop: Last Stand is based on the unused screenplay Miller wrote for RoboCop 3, but the comic book script was written by Steven Grant.

The best part in Issue #1 is RoboCop himself, appearing in this new series a short time after we last saw him in the original film.  Now he is seen as an enemy of the people of Old Detroit, destroyed and being revamped into Delta City, with the real enforcement group the strange organization called OCP (a mega-corporation called Omni Consumer Products).  OCP is on a manhunt for the former cop named Alex Murphy, murdered but brought back to life in the form of a cyborg cop with “full body prosthesis,” detailed in the original film.  In Issue #1, released this week, we see RoboCop take on what looks like the early stage, scout walker-inspired ED-209 enforcement droid that famously fouled up and killed an OCP employee in a classic original movie scene, and continue his work fighting crime in the city.

Robocop Last Stand interior

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DKR original cover art Issue 2

If you’ve any doubt which is more popular and influential–Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, or Alan Moore’s Watchmen–a coming original comic art auction may end the discussion once and for all.  Heritage Auctions is auctioning the cover to The Dark Knight Returns Issue #2, with pencils and inks by Frank Miller.  Only slightly less iconic than the stunning cover to Issue #1, the cover to Issue #2 took the world by storm, showing the classic superhero like he had never been seen before, not as heroic and stoic, but as grim and mean.

Back in February 2013 Heritage began to auction off the 1986 original art to all but one of twelve covers to Watchmen by Dave Gibbons.  The cover to Issue #1 fetched $155,350, Issue #2 sold for $38,837.50 and Issue #3 sold for $22,705.00.  Heritage’s magazine said the other covers will be sold in a coming auction.  However, in May 2011 an interior splash page of The Dark Knight Returns–Issue #3, page 10–also from 1986, sold for a whopping $448,125, as we reported here at borg.com.  That said, that page (shown below) was simply stunning.  Personally, this reader would rather have the interior page on the office wall than the Issue #2 cover, but cover art is cover art and interior art is interior art–covers sell for big bucks compared to interior pages.  And the cover to Issue #2 is arguably the defining image of the new grim Batman of the 1980s that survives to this day in the dozen+ monthly comic book titles and Christopher Nolan’s grim movie trilogy.

frank-miller-dark-knight-returns-record-winning-sale

Issue 3, Page 10 original Frank Miller/Klaus Janson splash page art that sold for almost a half-million dollars at auction in May 2011.

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300 Rise of an Empire poster

The adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300, based on the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, was met with both critical and popular success.  Known for its in-your-face blood-and-gore battle scenes, it may be the most graphic battle film ever made.

The original film starred Gerard Butler (Timeline, The Phantom of the Opera) as King Leonidas, Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as his wife Queen Gorgo, and supporting genre actors David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Van Helsing) and Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, X-Men: First Class, Jonah Hex, Hex, Inglourious Basterds).

Headey and Wenham are back for 300: Rise of an Empire, and an interesting choice, Eva Green as lead character Artemesia.  As she did in her role in The Golden Compass, she is wielding bow and arrow, this time apparently as a villain.

Check out the first trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire:

Note the preview highlights Zack Snyder as director–his Man of Steel is in theaters this weekend and he directed the original 300.  300: Rise of an Empire is scheduled for a March 7, 2014 release.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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