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Biographies of the Stars

Interview with Frank Miller (1993)

COMIC-ART.COM: Why are you doing Spawn now, at this time?

FRANK: Todd asked me. You'd be amazed how often projects begin that way, when someone just calls up and asks and you get along with them well enough and you like their work well enough, and a story comes out of it.

COMIC-ART.COM: How do you know Todd MacFarlane?

FRANK: Again, Todd asked me. He sought me out.

COMIC-ART.COM: From knowing your work?

FRANK: Yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: There wasn't a personal connection before this?

FRANK: Oh no. No, we've barely met face to face, but he came up and introduced himself at a convention in Portland a few years back and we spoke briefly and later on, you know, he sent me copies of the work he was doing and we got talking.

COMIC-ART.COM: Had you ever worked with Todd previous to this?

FRANK: Yeah, I wrote an issue of Spawn . I think it was number eleven. I was one of the four writers he brought in.

COMIC-ART.COM: And do you know who the others were? I know Alan Moore was one.

FRANK: There was Alan, there was Dave Sim, and Neil Gaiman.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, interesting. Boy, he's really going for the big guns.

FRANK: Well, (laughter).

COMIC-ART.COM: Which issue of Spawn had you written?

FRANK: I believe it was Spawn number eleven.

COMIC-ART.COM: And did that story have any connection with this project?

FRANK: No, not really. That was me sort of trying to do essentially just an issue of Spawn . You know, I mean, I had read over everything he'd done and tried to keep it in tune with what he did.

COMIC-ART.COM: Did he give you any kind of plot outline about how to fit it in with his continuity?

FRANK: Absolutely not. Todd said, I'll draw whatever you write.

COMIC-ART.COM: Really? Boy, that's trust.

FRANK: And I wrote a full script and he executed it, I thought, very, very well.

COMIC-ART.COM: When you say full script do you mean a D style full script?

FRANK: A full script is kind of like a screenplay only broken into panels. On the Spawn/Batman project, at his request, we're working more what is called the Marvel style.

COMIC-ART.COM: And did you feel comfortable switching back and forth?

FRANK: Oh, I'll work any way. I've worked with a lot of people. Everybody's got their preferences and you know it really all depends on who you're working with, what they're more comfortable with. For instance, with Dave Gibbons we work full script, which he's very comfortable with and so am I. Because he brings so much to the image of Martha Washington that I know that I can write all of the dialogue in advance and that he'll make all the actors look exactly right, and he'll make me believe in the situation. I mean, he'll tell the story beautifully. Other people have a more freewheeling approach. Like myself, for instance. I don't write myself a full script. I tend to play around with the visuals a lot and come up with the words to reinforce them.

COMIC-ART.COM: When you're writing for yourself is there a certain amount of making it up as you go along?

FRANK: Not in terms of plot, but in terms of the moment by moment stuff, absolutely. On Sin City, that's one of the reasons why Sin City always ends up being longer than I expect it to be. The first Sin City book was intended to be a fortyceight page book and it ended up being two hundred pages long. Because as the characters started doing what they wanted to do they wanted more room and I very happily let them have it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Do you find that as you're working on a script that the characters begin talking to you?

FRANK: Oh, absolutely. They, uh, that's when it starts getting fun. It's the clunky beginnings when you're just searching around for it that are difficult, but once you're rolling and you've got a feel for your characters, it turns into a real joy. And they often surprise you?

COMIC-ART.COM: By taking the story in directions you didn't anticipate?

FRANK: Oh yeah. The, in the new Sin City series I had mapped everything out like I always do as far as who my lead character, Dwight, was and what he was up against. He's thrown me a few curve balls.

COMIC-ART.COM: I've already talked with Todd and he's told me a little bit about what the Spawn/Batman book is about and it was interesting. He said the villains were going to be terrorists, more realistic, downctocearth type villains, and I was wondering, whose idea was that?

FRANK: The story was my idea. Todd had approached me having an angle on how the two characters, Spawn and Batman would relate to each other, which is they have a contract between the two, which was an insightful one. He pointed out that Bruce Wayne was very much a man of privilege and that Spawn was a total loser in terms of how things work in the world. You know, Bruce Wayne is handsome and rich and Spawn is impoverished and hideous. I took that in mind and constructed a story with a, coming up with an opponent that would sort of give them cause to have something to do with one another but also using what Todd had suggested about the contrast between the characters. I said the best way to treat it would be to break the rules of these crossover books and make the two actively dislike each other for the entire story.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, so there's no rapproachment anywhere in the story?

FRANK: Not in terms of personality. You know, even though they, by necessity, have to work together at one point. It really is like a buddy movie gone wrong.

COMIC-ART.COM: Todd had said it takes place in New York City.


COMIC-ART.COM: And did that location present any story possibilities that a fictional location wouldn't?

FRANK: I've done so many stories in New York that it might as well be fictional. Mainly Batman as detective is...The trail of the crime leads Batman to New York and to Spawn.

COMIC-ART.COM: Do you have Batman functioning more as a detective as he did in some of the old stories? You know, picking the clues up, analyzing them and going at his investigation in a more scientific way?

FRANK: At the beginning, but this is, I only have fortycsome pages in this and this is my first crack at doing Batman in his prime. And I'm eager to show the, what my version is, of Batman when he's oh, somewhere around thirtycone, say. When he has all of his faculties together. He's not the talented bungler that was in Year One, nor the arthritic character that was in Dark Knight. (Laughter)

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, I was going to ask you, how did it feel to be doing Batman again?

FRANK: I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm just getting the art no, so I'm just beginning the scripting itself. But I've got a lot of notions about things that I want to throw in. It's kind of refreshing. It's been a while. It's like when I go back to Daredevil, it's visiting an old friend. In the case of Batman I've done so much less work with him that each time feels like a real big step up to the plate.

COMIC-ART.COM: How is it doing Batman for Image rather than DC?

FRANK: Well, it's, I don't know quite what you mean.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, the way Todd couched it, he jokingly made a reference to approaching you by saying, Look, Frank! Here's a way to do Batman and the DC editors won't be in our hair. He was being funny.

FRANK: Well, DC of course, has to be consulted, but essentially it's teamwork between me and Todd. And so far it's been a lot of fun.

COMIC-ART.COM: Have they placed any restrictions on what you're doing?

FRANK: I've had conversations with Denny O'Neill where he's defined the parameters of what he believes about Batman. And that's an ongoing thing.

COMIC-ART.COM: God knows, Denny's worked with Batman for ages.

FRANK: Yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: And did some really fine work back in the sixties, remember? How is working with Todd different than other artists you've worked with?

FRANK: There's no two that are the same. With, how do I put this? You'll have lots of you knows and how do I put this to cut out of this interview aren't you?

COMIC-ART.COM: Don't worry about it. I clean it up.

FRANK: Okay. What I find is exciting about a collaboration is that I look, play to the other person. It's like we're having a game of handball, and it always affects the kind of story I write and how I write. And so the first throw of the ball is from me when I throw them a plot that I believe plays to their strengths or their proclivities or whatever. You know, again getting back to the example of Dave Gibbons. When I write a Martha Washington script I know I can describe a scenario and a setting that is ridiculous and he will make everyone believe it, which is a talent that is amazing. And I also know that he and I, we joke back and forth and certain things really get him going. He likes certain kinds of scenes. And so I play very much to his strengths of making three dimensional characters, of making believable settings. And to his sense of humor. In the case of Todd, we haven't worked together as much as Dave and I have, but I write to the kind of frenetic energy his pages have. You know, there's a vitality to the stuff that's very exciting, and I don't...And so the Spawn/Batman for instance that I'm writing doesn't have much in the way of slow moments. You know you never see Spawn and Batman sit on a rooftop and talk about their childhoods.

COMIC-ART.COM: Todd had said that this story is action, action, action pretty much.

FRANK: Yeah, and as it's evolving, as we're bouncing things back and forth, it's getting more so. We don't have much room, at least it feels like not much room to me for returning to Batman.

COMIC-ART.COM: What do you perceive Todd's main strengths are?

FRANK: First off, I'd say what I just mentioned, the vitality of his work. The other thing, and this may sound like a weak compliment, but it's meant as a very strong one, is his terrific committment to the doing of it. He's not a flash in the pan. I think he's going to be around for a while. And he does work that shows a love of work.

COMIC-ART.COM: You know it's funny you say that because he was joking about he'll Spawn wrapped up in the cape. He said, `It's great. People think it's atmosphere. For me it's laziness. I don't want to draw the body.' (Laughter) You know, he's probably being selfcdeprecating there because I think his stuff is terrific.

FRANK: Yeah, he's a, well let's see. How do I put it. His stuff is very alien to mine. And I like working with people who are very different than me.

COMIC-ART.COM: His storytelling sense is very different from yours, I mean the way he lays out a page and so forth.

FRANK: Yes. You see what I have is sort of the best of both worlds in my career. Because when I'm doing Sin City, it's all me. That's how I see it from start to finish and it's exactly the kind of story that I most like. Then I get the luxury of going on and working with Jeff c, or Dave Gibbons and Todd MacFarlane, or John Romita. It stretches me as a writer and it teaches me things as an artist.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh yeah, working with the different influences?

FRANK: The best way to be influenced by somebody is to collaborate.

COMIC-ART.COM: Are you enjoying the collaboration so far?

FRANK: Oh yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's good. Todd had said this is going to be out sometime in the spring?

FRANK: Yeah, March I believe.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, that's what I was thinking, March. Do you have any other projects planned for Image?

FRANK: No, nothing for Image right now. Except for the Spawn/Batman , all of my projects that are in the works are going to be under the Legend imprint.

COMIC-ART.COM: Just on a practical level, do you think working for Image is going to help you sell more copies of your own Sin City book? Exposing you to a different market share?

FRANK: It would be great if it did. I mean if it's...I'll just have to wait and see. The main thing is is that I hope that...I think that anything to bring people into the stores is a good idea especially during the fallow times we're living in.

COMIC-ART.COM: Todd was saying that that was the real challenge to him is just, now that he's on top, is to keep staying on top. To keep throwing new things at people. That was one reason why he was working with you and Alan Moore and various people, you know, to bring new stuff to Spawn that wasn't a gimmick, like a hologram cover for instance.

FRANK: Yeah. And these days, everybody's kind of fighting for their lives out there.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well there's just so much stuff out there, and there's really a lot of high quality stuff out there. I think it must be hard to get that buck from the reader.

FRANK: It all depends on your aspirations. I mean I've been absolutely thrilled at the audience that's shown up for Sin City. Given that it isn't any of the things that one, it doesn't follow any of the trends that have been dominant in the field for the past couple of years. It's nice to know that that many people will show up for a black and white comic book that doesn't have a superhero universe attached to it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, Frank, ballpark figure. How is Sin City selling?

FRANK: I don't have any numbers in front of me right now, but I remember when I got them I was all thrilled.

COMIC-ART.COM: So you're happy with what you're doing?

FRANK: Yes, very happy.

COMIC-ART.COM: Good. Good. What are your plans for the future aside from finishing up the Spawn/Batman and working on your own book?

FRANK: Well, I'm going to continue doing Sin City books for the forseeable future. I have a number of projects that aren't worth mentioning right now because they aren't far enough along. But, the two other books that I'm involved with are Martha Washington Goes To War, with Dave Gibbons. I just got the first issue from Dave and it's a beauty. He's doing extraordinary work in this series. The other book is with Jeff Darrow, The Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot. And Jeff is outdoing himself. I didn't think there was room for any more stuff on a page than Hardboiled showed, but there is.


FRANK: Yeah. It's a fun time to be doing comics.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well it seems like all bets are off. If you have a good idea and you can carry it out, you can do what you want.

FRANK: Yeah. It's the kind of opportunity in history that artists have rarely had, and I welcome it and I'm doing my best to take my best advantage of it.

COMIC-ART.COM: You know Robert Williams said an interesting thing when I interviewed him. He said that as far as the graphic arts, he said comic books, the graphic vocabulary in comics has really grown in the last fifty years, whereas what they call fine art is pretty much moribund. He said comics is the area that's really exciting because people are really breaking new ground.

FRANK: I'd agree with that. And partly I think it's because we've managed to...Here's another how do I put this? I think that one of the things that makes comics a very, very exciting field is that we've had only limited su ess as a marketplace. You know there's srt of a headlong rush to be more and more like Hollywood that I think is, could turn out to be foolhardy. I've worked in Hollywood and there are, especially now, censorious restraints and so much money at stake that people don't think straight. Whereas in comics it's really amazing how little it costs to make one, how few people it needs to involve. And what a receptive audience that is out there. I think everybody got a little crazy after Image showed up with superhero universes right and left, with the speculators moving. Now the speculators are moving back. Also, I think they've readjusted things and they're actually moving ahead now. And plus Marvel I think is sliding backwards, but DC's not trying to compete with Marvel anymore and I think they're going to do better for it.

We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript

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