Ever the controversial figure, Frank Miller is nevertheless one of the greats. As one of many notable comics creators who shot to prominence in the 1980s and ‘90s, Miller’s work on such characters as Batman and Daredevil helped define a generation of comic readers. But he’s seen his share of deserved criticism over the course of his career — graphic novels like Sin City and 300, while stylish and influential, have been derided for their treatment of women and people of color, and the more recent Holy Terror was shellacked by readers and comic writers alike for its unabashedly propagandistic attack on Islam.
Miller presses on, critics be damned. He’s a bit of a crank, after all, and will proudly call himself "a prick" in front of an audience of die-hard fans at Comic-Con. Reunited with director Robert Rodriguez, who helped bring Sin City’s stripped-down style to film back in 2005, he’s now preparing for the release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Coming out on August 22nd, the new movie is a return to his beloved world of fast cars, brutal killers, and dangerous women, but promises to push the envelope even further. We sat down with Miller to talk about the new film, his influence, and when Sin City 3 will come out.
With this being both a prequel and a sequel to Sin City, why’d it take so long to make this?
Well, let me put it really simply. Robert and I were ready to go the day we finished the first one. But Hollywood is a complex business, and there are many lawyers and financiers and distributors involved, and I lay all the blame on them.
What’s it like working with Robert and some of the old cast again?
It’s wonderful. It was partly a family reunion, because Robert and I hadn’t worked together since [the first Sin City] and so many of the cast members came back, and partly an infusion of new family members, because so many terrific actors like Eva Green and Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed up. It gave me a chance to explore my world that much more deeply.
What can we expect from this, style-wise? Have you updated the comic book look you and Robert pioneered in 2005 in any way?
A lot’s happened in 10 years. People accepted the first Sin City, so we moved to take things further and make it closer to the books. The biggest variation from the first one is the use of 3D, which at first I resisted, but Robert showed me that the sparing way I draw — the fact that I remove so many elements from my pictures to hone in on what I want you to read — lent itself to 3D very well. So, overall I would say, as proud as I am of the first movie, this is a whole new experience. I think you’ll be quite thrilled.
What do you think of this huge wave of comic book movies and TV shows?
Well, I think that, of that comic book movies that I see, they tend to break into two categories. Ones that are very faithful to the source material, and keep the energy of a genius like Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko within them, and thrill the audience as well. And on the other hand there are the absolutely dreadful ones that are conceived in boardrooms and where the material is very carefully and faithfully castrated.
"Movies conceived in boardrooms are carefully and faithfully castrated."
What about sequels? For years it’s been that the sequel would just never do as well story-wise or production-wise as the original. Have we finally gotten to a place where they can really raise the bar?
Well, if you look at it, when they’re done well, stories can be continued across several movies. If you look at the work of Sergio Leone and George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, you’ll see movies that often surpass the original. If a sequel is done because the first one just succeeded, and the orders are from on high to do the sequel, it’s not probably not going to be too impressive. But with Sin City, I’ve got an entire world to explore. So, I’m happily looking forward to Sin City 3.
The last several years have seen a lot of your work being adapted for the screen. Daredevil is heading to Netflix. The Wolverine was based on your work with Chris Claremont. Do people just knock on your door asking for ideas?
No. No, they do what they do. And I consider myself a contributor to a collective force. You know, without the work of everybody from Bill Finger to Jerry Robinson to Dick Sprang to Denny O’Neil to Neal Adams, I don’t believe I ever could have done Dark Knight. So, there’s no resentment here. But I wouldn’t mind if they bought me a car.
"I wouldn't mind if they bought me a car."
Would you ever consider doing TV, what with it being a golden age of television right now?
Sure. I mean, it’s another exciting way to tell stories, and that’s all I’m after.
Along with the accolades, you’ve earned a lot of criticism for your more recent work for your portrayal of women and religion. Has that affected your work in any way as you go on?
Oh, I’m very careful not to read reviews, because my skin is too thin. If people love it I take that too seriously, if people hate it I take that too seriously. So, it’s better that I only get asked questions like that in interviews.
What are you working on right now?
Well, Sin City 3. Robert and I are talking a lot and working on more of the ancient Greek stuff and developing new Sin City material.
Learning to fly... I don’t know! My stories take me where they take me. I’ve got so many I’m having trouble keeping up with them. So, it’s just a matter of exploring what kind of stories I wanna tell and exploring my craft so that I get to be able to tell better stories. It’s a very organic process. I don’t have a master plan.