Frank Miller Lights Up The Silver Screen

With the increasing popularity and spotty success (yes, spotty, because Daredevil is certainly no Spider-Man or X-Men) of films translated from comic books, it is easy for most to look primarily to name like Stan Lee.

However, there have been two films-with heavily similar styles-that have brought out their not-as-big creator. Those films would be 2005’s Sin City and the recently released 300, and their creator would be graphic novelist Frank Miller.

Although his name is being more recognized by the public now, Miller has been around for quite sometime. His early career started in the late 1970’s with, interestingly enough, both Marvel Comics and DC Comics (rivals, for those who are unaware). Miller broke out when he breathed life into Daredevil and helped introduce Elektra.

His success pushed forward with Batman, which included Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. There was a heavy constant: he set a much darker tone for comics, making him very popular in the comic world. The dark tones and film-noir style have carried over throughout his entire career.

Flashing forward through the disappointment that was RoboCop 2 & 3, Miller has started to make a bit of a comeback. Because of the RoboCop debacles, Miller had initially been wary of Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City proposal.

Rodriguez threw together a proof of concept of the Sin City story “The Customer is Always Right,” and Miller was convinced. The film was met with both critical and public success, now holding the #70 spot on the Internet Movie Database’s top 250 user-rated films.

After the success of Sin City, Miller opened up towards the film industry even more when Zach Snyder approached him with a proposal for “300.” Miller had written 300 as an Eisner Award winning 5-part series back in 1998. As he did with Sin City, Miller was heavily involved with 300.

Again like Sin City, it was Miller’s work was more translated than adapted, with almost exact replicas of stills from the comics put on screen.

Behind the work of Miller and Snyder, 300 became a quick success. Opening in both standard theaters and IMAX, it set March records for both theaters. According to IMAX Corporation and Warner Bros. Pictures, 300 sold out in 57 IMAX locations, resulting in $3.6 million.

The 3,000+ other locations the film opened up in made up the rest of the $70 million 300 made. Its sales beat out the previous opening-weekend March champion, Ice Age: The Meltdown. Yet again like Sin City, 300 has also reached the Top 250 on IMDB, standing at #176.

Now, Miller’s involvements in films are taking off. Sin City 2 and 3 are slated for 2008 releases, both of which will be co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Miller.

According to a report on superhero/comic news site Superhero Hype!, Miller and Rodriguez are in preproduction and hope to begin shooting this June.

Miller’s other upcoming project, set for 2008, is the adaptation of The Spirit, a former Sunday-newspaper comic strip from the 1940’s. The Spirit is about a masked crime fighter named Denny Colt, who goes by The Spirit.

He was created by the late Will Eisner, who is credited as being one of the most influential comic artists/writers of all time. In the same report, Superhero Hype! said that Miller said he has an idea about who he wants to play The Spirit. However, he told them, “If I told you, I’d have to kill myself.”

Outside of films, Miller is returning to his Batman success with Holy Terror, Batman! Set in modern times, Gotham City is attacked by terrorists, and the Dark Knight takes it upon himself to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al-Qa-eda. Miller summed it up rather nicely: “It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a piece of propaganda- Batman kicks al-Qa-eda’s ass.” (Telegraph.co.uk, February 16, 2006) Holy Terror, Batman! is expected to be released this year.

So as Miller becomes more of a Hollywood staple with the likes of Robert Rodriguez, it is recommendable that you follow his work. His dynamic storytelling has clearly captured audiences on multiple artistic levels. His ways are dark, and if you are to read or watch his work, you’re in for one wild night.