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Photo Credit: AFP & Joël Saget. © Picturehouse 2024

To say that Frank Miller is one of the most influential cartoonists of the last 50 years is understating the case: not only did Batman: The Dark Knight Returns forever change the way we viewed superheroes, it influenced all the superhero films that followed. His collaboration with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City changed the way we looked at movies and 300, directed by Zack Snyder, was a cultural phenomenon.

lg-fmag-poster.webpAnd now all that has been covered in a documentary, Frank Miller; American Genius, produced and directed by Silenn Thomas. The film covers Miller’s entire life and career, and will be showing in Cinemark Theaters tonight for one night only, with a livestreamed introductory conversation between Miller and Rosario Dawson. Tickets can be purchased here.

The film covers Miller’s work, from Daredevil to DK:III, with interviews from Jim Lee, Dan DiDio and sadly passed greats Neal Adams and Stan Lee.  It also touches on the dark side of recent years, including Miller’s past controversial statements and the poorly received Spirit film. It also addresses his alcoholism – which nearly killed him – and his recovery.

I had the chance to talk to Miller about the movie and his work – you can hear the entire interview on PW’s More To Come Podcast – but a few selected comments here:

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Silenn Thomas, Producer, Writer, and Director of FRANK MILLER: AMERICAN GENIUS. Photo Credit: Sophy Holland. © Picturehouse 2024

On getting in front of the camera for a change:

Miller: I was asked. Silenn Thomas said she wanted to make this and I know that she’s someone who’s immensely competent, and who I can implicitly trust. So I immediately agreed.

On coming close to death from his addiction and how it changed his approach to work:

Miller: It changed it very much. Having everything at stake and everything in peril tends to really help you figure out what you’re up to. I don’t remember who it was who said the sight of the gallows focuses the mind. That’s much more eloquent than anything I could say about it. It’s become much more clear to me what I want to do with my stories. And how much more I want to explore what our wonderful medium can do.

On discovering manga via Lone Wolf and Cub:

Miller: It really was Kozure Ōkami. I just happened to see one of those phone book sized editions of it, and just fell head over heels in love with it. I loved how much it went against the the obsessions of Western comics, the prettiness that that everyone had and the overproduction where everything had to have so much rich color all over it. The drawings that had to look as if it were done painstakingly and slowly. It made me really want to to kick loose and let the work become much more fluid and alive.


On the upcoming Sin City story to be drawn by Milo Manara:

Miller: I was up on stage with him in public, and he asked me. I had never considered the possibility of, ever working on Sin City with anybody else. In fact, I pledged never to, but, I guess I answered him with humor. But it really betrayed my real thought. I told him that that he could do it only if he learned how to draw girls. [laughter] He’s also one of the best humorists. His work is loaded with wit, and it’s a chance to work with a real Maestro. But there isn’t really a timeline for the project. It really depends on how we all get it done.

On seeing the Cocaine Bear poster that referenced Sin City

Miller: Basically that that’s called just having an influence. It’s part of the way it works is that people get ideas from just that the other thing. If I complain too much about that, I can only imagine what I would do when someone waved Will Eisner or Hugo Pratt in my direction,

On whether there’s still life in the superhero genre: 

Miller: Sure, it’s a genre now and like any it can build into different things. It still could be detective stories. I’m not the only explorer. I’m not the only one crawling down into these caves. I would not presume to be the one to say which way they should go, or what’s to explore. I’m waiting to see. As much as I’m enjoying my own exploration, I’m eager to see what other people are doing.

On what he hopes people will get out of Frank Miller: American Genius

Miller: I hope they get a really good look at our wonderful tribe, and how it works, and all the other observations and issues that Silenn has decided to pursue in the course of this. It alternates between the very personal and the creative plus the community of the field.

Frank Miller and Silenn Thomas at San Diego Comic-Con International ® 2023. Photo Credit: Tom Misuraca. © Picturehouse 2024


Frank Miller; American Genius plays tonight, June 10th, at Cinemark Theaters. 

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