Not the Writer we Need, But the Writer we Deserve: On the Topic of Frank Miller’s Batman


CDYYTFBWEAAPoHNIf you’ve read almost anything I’ve posted in regards to DC lately, then you probably already know that i’m not the biggest fan of “Dark” comics. However, DC’s constant mishandling of it’s darker direction may have led me to mislead you to thinking I just hate darker or more serious comics or superhero media in general. That’s not quite true though. I have nothing against going darker, of asking harder question. In fact, I’d say that when these stories are done right they are some of the best. Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” (along with pretty much everything the guy has done) Neil Gaimen’s “Sandman”, Garth Ennis’ “Preacher”, all dark in their own way and all among my favorite comics. But you want to know what comic creator I will never put in that list? Frank Miller. So when I heard that he would be creating a second sequel to his famed “The Dark Knight Returns” I was annoyed and angry. But the more I looked at DC’s slate of movies, the more it became clear: this is what we deserve.
Most times I can look past the artist and judge the art on it’s own terms. For example, I loath Dave Mustaine but I still think Megadeth is one of the all time great Thrash Metal Bands. Unfortunately for Miller, it’s impossible for a writer to truly separate themselves from their work. If you write a character that’s meant to be annoying, on some level you have to say “i find the traits that make up this character annoying and if you write a character meant to be cool or admirable you have to say on some level “i find the traits that make up this character to be cool or admirable”. So when Miller’s Batman is as awful as he is, calling traumatized kids “retards”…

panel

…makes that same child eat rats..

6a00d83455b71569e200e54f6cb5938834-500wi

…and wanted this to be a story about “the most pure super hero….

"we'll have to torture him" "...i'm down with that"

“we’ll have to torture him” “…i’m down with that”

Yes, this was meant to be Batman

Yes, this was meant to be Batman

yet still supposed to be the hero we don’t question, when it’s clear Miller thinks this is how a “hero” should act, what does that say about the man behind the pin?
The main issue with Millers Batman, as a character, is that he’s not Batman. He’s Rorschach from Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”, but where Moore was trying to say that this kind of violently psychotic character shouldn’t be a heroic ideal, Miller just sits there shouting “Hell Yeah! This guy’s Awesome!”. And you know what, that alone wouldn’t bother me.
What bothers me is that we are still buying it.
“The Dark Knight Returns” is kind of like my “He-Man”. I loved it when I was younger, I thought it was bad ass and edge. But time hasn’t done any favored too it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s the most poorly aged comic i’ve read, and now is just another relic of a time in comics i’m glad we moved past. Or at lest I thought we did.
But next year we are getting Batman and Superman on the same screen for the first time….and it’s Frank Millers crappy opus DC is taking inspiration from? And even though I and most fans will tell you that “The Dark Knight Returns” doesn’t hold up, and no one liked “DK2” from the get go, he’s getting another book? The only thing I can do is ask questions like “why” and who asked for this”. But I already know the answer to that.
It was us.
I can’t blame Miller for creating the art he wants to create. I have stated many times that that is the only job an artist has. And I can’t blame DC for giving him a platform. DC is a company, companies exist to make money, so if they know this will sell, why not sell it? And therein lies my issue. What does it say about us that a Frank Miller book will sell? What does it say about us that, on mass, we will forgive his sexism, homophobia and racism to the point that DC can bank most of it’s future that a movie based on his work selling?
He fact is folks, pop culture tells us a lot about who we are. The people the people that go to see action movies, were we know the violence is fake, are not the same people who went to see slaves kill each other, or watch kings beheaded. So for such an awful man to be one of the most inspirational forces in our pop culture, it doesn’t say anything good about us, does it? These are the character that are supposed to tell us what we can inspire to be, yet our idols are being molded by a madman. So what does that say about us?

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