Out of all the many announcements at Comic-Con, a few were bound to slip through the cracks, and one, in particular, seemed to be almost passed by a lot of news outlets who widely reported on a myriad of movie and tv trailers being presented. However, it is still COMIC-Con, and in the middle of a DC Master Class Panel, some fascinating news was dropped by comics legend, Frank Miller.
Frank Miller is re-teaming with John Romita Jr. for a new 100-page graphic novel, Superman: Year One. The news was announced with Miller dropped in as an unannounced guest on DC’s Saturday evening “DC Master Class” panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
“It has to do with revisiting the origins of a certain DC Comics character,” said Miller, introducing the book. “It has to do with revisiting a certain DC Comics character who wears glasses in his normal life.”
Now for the uninitiated, that may sound perfectly fine, and maybe even boringly plain. But this is Frank Miller we’re talking here, the guy who made one of the best and worst versions of Batman ever read in comics. For all the goodwill that he gained from his seminal The Dark Knight Returns, he’s gone and wasted it with failures like Holy Terror, his film adaptation of The Spirit, and the notoriously tone deaf and terrible All Star Batman.
But see, here’s the issue I suppose I hold with Miller, and I’m perfectly willing to admit it’s a personal one, but I do feel it’s a sentiment held by a lot of comics fans, so bear with me. Frank Miller, while undoubtedly talented and influential, is past his prime, and outdated. Not to mention the increasingly problematic use of homophobia and misogyny in his work that has steadily increased over the years. His portrayal of heroes, anti-heroes, and villains alike is redundant in a modern zeitgeist of eternal ethical ambiguity. When Superman can be a character in a movie who snaps the neck of his first true enemy, the shock of the attempts to portray a side of a hero we’ve never seen before is lessened. For Batman, you’ve got a human to relate to, someone that can fall victim to the folly of vengeance, misguided righteousness, and vigilantism. If the attempt is to have the character of Superman be “brought down” or in some way made as fallible as humanity, you’re touching on ground that’s previously been explored, and by better writers quite frankly.
In fact, I really only see this working if Miller has adapted and grown with the character as we have, and perhaps he saw some potential in the first 20 minutes of Man Of Steel for a story worth telling. I’ll admit there is a bit of an untold story to explore there. One about a farmer boy from Kansas trying to save lives where he can but still hiding his powers from all. Making Clark a kind of superpowered Bigfoot is the only angle I can imagine that would work with Miller’s sensibility. The character of Superman just isn’t about ruthlessness, edge, grit or thinly defined moral relativism, he’s just a good man trying to do what’s good, for the sake of being good. Whether Miller can find some new way to interestingly capture that or some new spin on a character that’s had just about every spin imaginable, is up in the air for now.
Images: DC Comics