Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dammit

I wasn't going to post about Lea Hernandez, but I had to go and mention an opinion in the previous post. So now, I feel a need to elaborate.

(Yes, There's More)I find it creepy. No two ways about it.

And this is not a commentary on the general state of comics, or the objectification of women in comics (I understand completely about the pandering and sexualizing and demand an equal amount of sexualization of male characters), or even the quality of the book itself (I stopped reading after issue one and haven't picked up since).

This is solely about Frank Miller.

And it's not because I consider him a "Master" in the Art form either. I enjoyed Batman: Year One and Born Again but I'm not going to put him at the level of Willaim Eisner. Even though Dark Knight Returns did predate Watchmen for starting the grimness craze, I still don't consider him that good. If comic books have any modern masters, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison top the list.

But it's not about his status, or his talent, or even a lack of talent.

It's because I've long been getting a subconcious vibe from his work.

I noticed a pattern around the time the Sin City movie came out.

The Hard Goodbye -- Older Man/Younger Woman
That Yellow Bastard -- Older Man/Younger Woman
Hell and Back -- Older Man/Younger Woman

Then there's the Dwight stories, where Dwight may not be all that older, but he tends to involve himself heavily with adoring prostitutes.

Add to that, his other works I'd read:
Daredevil: Born Again -- Karen Page is a drug-addicted prostitute
Batman: Year One -- Selina Kyle rebooted from simple cat thief to prostitute
The Dark Knight Returns -- Older Batman/Little Girl Robin

Now, any one of these stories standing alone is actually pretty damned enjoyable. I prefer Catwoman's new origin. But putting them all together, and realizing that the same writer has been using the same basic staples in so much of his work is disturbing to me. This body of work has left me with the overall picture of "Dirty Old Man" when I think of Frank Miller.

And this little bit of script has just confirmed it.

I can hear a confirmation of the story about Wally Wood increasing Power Girl's bra size and laugh (possibly because Wood was that much better and artist than Lee, possibly because Power Girl's dialogue tends to be smart and empowering). I can ogle Lantern butts, find out somehow this tradition is actually intentional, and giggle. But due to a confirmed lack of professionalism on his part, added to what I've seen in his own portfolio, I'm afraid I can't think of Frank Miller without shuddering anymore.

16 comments:

  1. Hmm, definitely I can see where you're coming from. Personally I think it's probably harmless and exceedingly amusing. (I think that sort of behaviour is comedically idiotic.)

    But I can definitely see how it can be creepy too...and I don't think it's unprofessional to shudder at him.

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  3. James, I think you're trivializing things too much here. Yes, I'm well aware of the cheap shots Ron Marz has taken. Hell, I spent a good 6-8 years giving them. But Marz got cheap shots for a short period in his career. Every single thing I've seen of Miller's seems to reinforce this skewed view of women. Even down to anecdotal evidence, Miller himself has advised "If you don't like it Babe, don't buy it" in these circumstances, in an anecdote I didn't want to bring up but that contributes to this view of his attitude just a tad.

    Which brings me to my second point. The potential for harm. Marz had no real influence. He had his own characters to play with, and was entirely beholden to the editor's whims. He had little influence on the readers at large, as he was a new writer with only one big story under his belt. He's still fairly young now. A lot of people reguard him as very good, some regard him as medicocre, and a decent number as very bad. He's not about to be listed on a lsit of "Masters of the Industry" though.

    I know I said that wasn't one of my reasons, but I suppose it is. I may not consider him a "Great" but Frank Miller seems to have an inordinate amount of power in this industry. They may have moved past allowing him to mess with canon, but that doesn't change the fact that he's writing an iconic character in a manner I can't imagine them allowing with a different writer. It doesn't change the fact that he has a cultish fanbase that follow him rabidly, to the point that even his worst work must be satire. It also doesn't change the fact that aspiring writers will look at him as an example to emulate, and that is possibly the most important problem.

    His choice of words betrays that he is downright unprofessional in writing his scripts. This gives the unpleasant choice of this is perfectly acceptable in this career field, or they are making exceptions for him in particular.

    I don't know, maybe it's because I work in an overwhelmingly male dominated field, and I have to answer professionally to men of Miller's age on a regular basis so I can at least empathize with the threat of what Lea's experienced. Except in my career field, if anything even approaching that script had been overheard in conversation by someone of that much seniority, we would have a scandal to hit the news channels. In the comics industry, it's considered acceptable in official writings. And not in "characterization" but in artistic instruction.

    And yes, even this shouldn't bother me. I've probably said worse myself on this very blog. Were it not for the entire body of work, added to the age, prestige and personal influence (not professional influence, since his stories are being kept out of canon) of the writer.

    The idea of someone of Miller's apparent attitude having so much personal influence, even when they are clearly so far past their prime, is more frightening to me, actually, than the thought of him reaching out and fondling a female fan at a comic convention. Because, as you pointed out, it won't hurt his image until something like that happens. He will still continue to have as much prestige and influence as he always has.

    Don't get me wrong, I love a good butt shot as much as anyone, you all know that by now. But this is just the latest in a list of creepy things surrounding this writer. Things he will never ever be called on, I'm afraid.

    And what harm is it to me? Well, none I suppose. Unless I someday want to work in comics, which, let's face it is an idea most of us comic-book fans have toyed with.

    But of course, that can't happen, because by all the evidence I've seen, I'd probably get arrested for punching the "Great Frank Miller" in the jaw at the first convention I met him at.

    It's a shame, Kalinara would've liked my Green Lantern stories. I can't claim greater skill, but I'd have had backside shots of both genders, and yes, strategically ripped clothing -- but my scripts would have been worded professionally enough to put one in the back of trade paperback.

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  5. But that's not really the point... The point is, WHEREEVER this type of artistic treatment of women is not counterbalanced by the same artistic treatment of men, it's a symptom of people still thinking of women as being little more than the collection of stereotypes depicted. (I'm a great proponent of equal objectification, myself.) The issue here is that the industry just lost talent, and Mr Miller was only the illustration of why.
    I find myself trying to find a mature, strong, balanced feminine character, or, hell, even a well-realized female character, one with complex motivation, in any of Frank Miller's work that I have read. And I'm finding myself coming up with good motivation, and cunning, and ... not much else.
    The issue is that I've never seen him have an older, more experienced woman guiding a younger man... Unless you can come up with something?

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  6. i agree. Morrison and Moore are the true masters of this age of comics. They are the Kubrick and Hitchcock to Frank Miller's Michael Bay.

    Miller gets attention, lots of it, and somewhere along the line it got confused with praise.

    It could be said that Miller produces fine comic books. But on that note, then, I would challenge that Moore and Morrison produce fine works of art that exceed the limits of the artform that they were created for.

    Frank is stuck, that's why his movies look so much like comics. Its all he can do.

    Oh, and PS, Giffen and DeMatteis are comics' Billy Wilder.

    you heard it here first.

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  7. James Walker wrote:
    "Frank is stuck, that's why his movies look so much like comics. Its all he can do."

    I commented about this in Ragnall's "Cotton Candy Stand" thread. Hopefully someone will read it, since I spent 5 minutes writing it :)

    Basically, Vicki Vale's portrayal was so vapid and devoid of any depth, the ass shot was NECESSARY to make her SEEM necessary to the plot. I only thumbed through it in the store, but I think Vicki is absent from all subsequent pages (and issues).

    These stories may reflect his personality, maybe his fantasies, or they may not. Maybe he's just writing things that the average person can't conceive of, or dismisses as "sick."

    As for professional influence, Miller still has that. They launced a NEW Batman title based on his writing the scripts. The ass shot, however, is indicitive of the fact that he's "losing it." Rather than writing a powerful story, like he did years ago, he's opting for gimmicky storytelling.

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  8. I just wanted to add two things:

    (1) For various reasons, Frank Miller has made the shift from the comics world into some of the more rarified zones of American popular culture. As I've said elsewhere, magazines and newspapers that would have rarely (or never) even acknowledged the existence of superhero comic books have definitely taken notice of Miller. Whether we like it or not, this means something. And if culture brokers from "the outside world" read All Star Batman, they're going to make judgements about FM, the industry that produces the work, and the consumers and readers of it. (I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it's what happens.)

    (2) I appreciate your post, Ragnell, and you bring up really excellent points about themes that tend to consistently resurface in Miller's work. And, as your responses to the comments have shown, what we're ultimately talking about goes way beyond Miller.

    The bigger issue is the climate the comics industry operates under, and the climate that it fosters. (With the industry, of course, reflecting broader cultural trends.)

    Is there a climate that encourages female objectification in superhero comics? If so, why does it exist? Will this industry ever equally objectify men? What is the target demographic for superhero comics? Are the companies simply giving consumers in that demographic what they think they want? Is this what they should be doing? What about readers outside that demographic?

    We shouldn't pose these questions to demonize people, or threaten their livelihoods. And though I listed them, I don't have the answers. But I do believe that posing these questions and talking about them will ultimately result in our geting better comics.

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  9. Basically, Vicki Vale's portrayal was so vapid and devoid of any depth, the ass shot was NECESSARY to make her SEEM necessary to the plot. I only thumbed through it in the store, but I think Vicki is absent from all subsequent pages (and issues).

    She went to the circus with Bruce that very issue. Ended up unconscious in Alfred's arms the issue after that, after saying "brutal" or "brutally" a dozen times because either she was shocky as Hell or Miller needs a new thesaurus. Whichever.

    Some are arguing that ASB&R,tBW is a work of parody, which strikes me as an attempt by contradictionalists* to make themselves look like intelligentsia (ie: "you don't like it because you don't get it," the argument used by every Matrix fan that dabbled in college philosophy when pressed to explain why their favorite movie sucks).

    I think it's just the comic version of a crappy action movie, myself. But, Hell, I've got a million other places to read Batman a month.

    *...yeah, yeah, "Jon, you're making up words again..."

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  10. Jon:
    "Some are arguing that ASB&R,tBW is a work of parody, which strikes me as an attempt by contradictionalists ... the argument used by every Matrix fan ..."

    Is this a recent phenomenon? In the "old days," people might dismiss another person's opinion by saying, "Well, I liked it, anyway."

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  11. I have known some feminists who would go so far as to refer to Miller's most recent stuff as hate literature against women. I am ultimately more loyal to comics (all comics, even the ones I despise) than to anything else, so I don't personally go that far. I also lose major feminist points for having an ecstatically good time watching Sin City. Then again, I was laughing my ass off--watching it as a serious film would be...different. I don't think it was *meant* as a parody but gosh darn it if I didn't find it hilarious.

    Hernandez's experience of major sexism in the comics-making field is really disturbing to me, as a writer who seriously, desperately wants to work in the field. I want Geoff Johns's job, I have a nigh-delusional belief in my abilities, and if the thing that's standing in my way is sexism...well I don't know what I would do if I got to that point. But any other arena I would go into, like screenwriting, or publishing, or nonprofit work, or law, or even academia, still has sexism so unless I retreat to the wilds of michigan to live as a free-range lesbian and show my face only for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, I'm going to have to deal with it eventually.

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  12. Y'know, this all well and good but in all honesty, I don't blame Frank Miller at all.

    I place the "blame" ASS-Bat at the feet of the editor, Bob Schreck. He refuses to edit Frank Miller. DC hasn't TOLD him to edit Frank Miller. Why should they? Protest all you want but dammit, what it comes down to is this:

    Miller, on name alone, is putting asses in seats, so to speak.

    A strong editor says to the people in his employ, "No, Frank. Batman can't kill the police officers not matter how "evil" you write them."

    No where in Miller's script do you seen red pen. Nowhere. Now, as has been suggested, Miller's Batman is the Batman a casual observer expects from a comic. It is a "civilian" Batman comic free of the angst we associate with Batman. This Batman is the "g-damned" Batman. Miller told you this and Schreck let him do it. Why? Miller's name puts asses in seats and let's not kid ourselves, DC as a part of a CORPORATION realizes this.

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  14. "they are too enamored with the taste of his dick to say anything to him about his nasty balls"

    Ugh ... I think we need a new metaphor.

    I think they're enamored of all the cash he makes. And all the other comics like this.

    I enjoy looking at women and artistic depictions of them ... look at the paintings of Alberto Vargas, George Petty, Frank Frazetta and others. A cheesecake comic sometimes catches my eye, also. But whenever I see panels like this, and comic covers with Power Girl, it doesn't work anymore. I think it's because I'm old/mature enough now to know that they're trying to push our buttons ... the most basic, simpleton buttons we have. And I don't need to spend money on these new books, when there's so many old books in the quarter-bins that offer the same thing ... or something better.

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  15. Is it wrong that after reading all the comments I'm still laughing at the "Free Range Lesbian" comment.

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  16. I never realized how much Frank Miller was into demeaning women in his comics until I saw the Sin City movie where three stories were put into a 2+ hour movie. Not only did the bad guys slap women, but the good guys did, too. Being the toughest girl in the movie(the leader of the prostitutes whose name escapes me) doesn't amount for shit when you get slapped by an ex-lover. Not only is his work demeaning to women, he's a hack. Especially in his Sin City work where he basically himself off.

    Granted, some of his work is really good, I just don't see the need to put him on this pedastal like other people do. If it was Chuck Austen, everyone would be backing you up.

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