Getting in on the fun of San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend was, as always, acclaimed comic book creator/graphic novel author Frank Miller to promote his hardcover collector’s edition of The Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Miller was also promoting the 2018 release of his 300 prequel titled Xerxes: The Fall Of The House of Darius And The Rise Of Alexander.
But amid promoting his new work, in an in-depth Q&A with Deadline, Frank Miller spoke about the modern superhero film genre that is taking over the box office more and more with each passing year. A director himself, having co-directed 2005’s Sin City and helming 2008’s The Spirit, the literary mind referenced the days of 1978’s Superman that made audiences believe a man can fly. According to Miller though, the genre might have been perfected earlier this year with the release of Wonder Woman — “the crown jewel” of the modern era of superhero movies.
“This has been the best period for superhero movies we ever had. I mean there was that wonderful sunburst of the first Christopher Reeves Superman movie. That was just a ray of sunshine,” Miller said. “We’ve had ups and downs over the years. Now look at what we’ve got. Wonder Woman is the crown jewel.”
While many praised the film directed by Patty Jenkins for its callbacks to movies such as Superman, some may find it hard to believe that the seemingly cynical Frank Miller would give that level of praise to the DCEU’s most optimistic film yet. And when pushed on his comment, Miller defended it.
“Without question. She is perfect,” Miller said. “If I may, I think that was because of the old Lynda Carter TV show. That was a clunky old show, cute for its time and fun. But this movie managed to do everything right. The Israeli actress Gal Gadot, not only is she spectacularly beautiful but she’s heroic and she gets away with that costume. Having Chris Pine, the guy who used to be Captain Kirk, play Steve Trevor…he was impeccable in that role. Evil Nazis always work. I just thought they managed to have a real good rock ’em, sock ’em adventure movie with a genuine sense of mythology to it. The parts in Amazonia were breathtaking. Her mother, played by Connie Nielsen, she was just wonderful.”
But Frank Miller didn’t just stick to DC, where he famously injected the darkness of Batman in the 1986 comic book series The Dark Knight Returns. Miller went on to praise the Marvel-Sony hit Spider-Man: Homecoming as well for its fun approach to the character.
“It’s funny. I found Wonder Woman breathtaking and exhilarating and Spider-Man I felt like I was a little kid rocking along with Spider-Man. They’ve had good luck casting Spider-Man, haven’t they?” He said. “This one was a lot more fun, down to the music. When he was jumping across the rooftop and they were just boogieing with it. It was just so much fun. This has been a great era for superhero movies, without question. It’s like they came back and it’s like everybody is riding a wave of simply wanting to bring the joy of the genre in and lose the cynicism.”
It might be pretty weird for fans of Frank Miller to see the author revel in the joy being brought out in the most recent superhero films. Miller, along with comic book legend Alan Moore, pioneered heroes embracing their darker side. Now seeing their work come to life in the form of film — something Miller has grown to love — the more “gloomy” movies have been the butt of some jokes exchanged between the two comic book icons.
“I joked about that with Alan Moore. He had done Watchmen, and I had done Dark Knight. A whole bunch of gloomy superhero comics were coming out and then we started seeing gloomy superhero movies,” Miller said. “I said, Alan, we’ve ruined everything. Nobody’s having any fun. He went, you’re right, Frank.”
During the Q&A, Frank Miller spoke of a more optimistic approach coming in his newer work — a slight departure from his older material. Whether or not the lighter approach in film, something the DCEU has been criticized for lacking up until Wonder Woman, has influenced his writing is only partly true since “everything” is an influence on Miller. But the shift in tone on the big screen has certainly had an effect.
“What’s happened is I’ve done a bunch of work that I guess made gloomy cool, and then they out-gloomed me,” he said. “I don’t want to be gloomy. I’m going a different direction. But I still intend to scare the crap out of everybody.”
Asked about his plans to return to the director’s chair in the future, Frank Miller said there aren’t any as of now, but that “it’s not the kind of itch you lose.”