Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sleeping on the job

Hey, Comics Blogaxy! How come I have to hear about Frank Miller's new Batman book in which he fights al-Qaida from a right-wing political blog? Shame on you!

I have questioned whether Miller is a fascist before. I wonder if this book will confirm that idea. This certainly has the potential to be an interesting book, and I have no problem with Batman fighting "real-world" terrorists. Miller seems to be sliding into insanity, though, so I wonder if this will be an opportunity for him to show those camel jockeys who the tough guy on the block is.* We'll see. What do you all think?

* Come on, people - you know I'm joking. If Quentin Tarantino can use the "n" word, I can say that.

70 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Quote from the article:

"Be afraid," [Miller] said, adding, "I think it's some of the best artwork I've ever done."

Didn't he say the same thing about DK2?

If that's the case, then color me afraid.

2/14/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Yeah, I saw this. I think a couple of mainstream outlets picked it up, too. I'm taking a wait-and-see, believe-it-when-I-see-it approach on it, though I have to admit, the thought of Batman yelling "I'm the g*ddamned Batman!" at Bin Laden does make me smile.

PS: No, Tarantino cannot use the "n" word. There's few celebrities I'd genuinely want to get into a fistfight with, but QT tops the list.

2/14/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I think Frank Miller has, if not fascist tendencies, deeply-entrenched far-right-leaning ones, which are apparent in everything from his interviews to eveything he's done from the first "Dark Knight" on forward. I also think they've grown more apparent over time, to the point where he's shifted from a vaguely confused quasi-anarchist perspective (Batman fights The State as embodied in Superman and Ronald Reagan) to near-endorsement of fascism (Superman and his superpowered daughter have the right to conquer the planet with Batman's help because they're strong while the squabbling little people are foolish and weak).

Anyway, I'll predict that Batman Versus The Terrorists will feature lots of grotesquely racist parodies of Arabs along with the usual Miller-by-Rain Man narrative captions, only now filtered through a War On Terror lens ("Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Clark. Weapons. Weapons of mass destruction. Mass destruction. Good soldier! Good soldier!") and that the usual suspects will hail it as Miller's most brilliant parody yet.

2/14/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous jdonelson.nyc said...

Imagine my shame when heard about this for the first time from co-workers who read about it in the New York Post. Somebody should confiscate my Comic Blogger Card.

2/14/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

Why, exactly, is having Batman fight Al Qaeda indicative of a fascist tendency? Maybe I should ask, why is it any more of an indication than the dozens of comics out there filled with masked vigilantes beating the crap out of people?

2/14/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

I don't see how Batman is, in any way, the right character for this kind of story. I've never understood him to be particularly political, and I think it insanely ironic for a character who is the embodiment of "vigilante" to be fighting suicide bombers.

And isn't the terrorizing of criminals a mjor facet or Batman's schtick? And he'll be fighting terrorists.

I'm starting to think that Miller writes Batman stories because it's the only character on which he can get away with stupid shit like this. What's a matter, old man? Afraid to try something new?

Does Frank Miller not see all the distaste and parody of the propaganda comics of old? Has he not seen the racist treatment of various ethnicities? Or does he not see the problem with it? Has he not seen all the ridicule of "slap a jap"? Or does he just not care?

Frank Miller's just become an old bastard.

2/14/2006 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger RAB said...

Trebbers, Greg said "I wonder if this book will confirm that idea" which is NOT the same as saying that the concept of Batman fighting Al Qaeda is inherently indicative of fascist tendencies. It's past examples of Miller's work -- including those noted by Iron Lungfish -- which raise that concern.

2/14/2006 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Well, it could be worse. He could be drawing cartoons of Mohammed.

But both seriously and more frivolously, I'm curious as to what "the best artwork" he's ever done is going to look like. If it's as solid and detailed as the first SIN CITY outing I'll probably pick it up.

2/14/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gardner said...

Don't be too hard on the internet comics community--this news has been around a while. It's mentioned in this interview from last summer and rumored here and here in late 2003. I seem to remember Miller talking about it as early as 2002, around the time DK2 was finishing up, though I can't find proof at the moment.

2/14/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

I was going to say, I thought this was old news. Miller's been talking about it since 2002 or 2003 at least. More details here, tho.

2/14/2006 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for the links, Gardner.

Yeah, Trebbers, what the others said. Miller is NOT the master of subtlety, and I just wonder if this is going to be "Batman punches a lot of Muslims in the brain and goes home," which will be stupid. This might be like (I'm going to say it!) superhero comics dealing with rape, or the Spider-Man 9/11 issue - things that are best left out of comics, because they become grotesque in comics.

2/14/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

When Miller gleefully described the book at Wondercon, the San Francisco audience gave him tepid applause at best. He then took the crowd to task for not wanting to win the war, and there was a definite chill and a "wtf?" feeling in the room at that moment.

2/14/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

I don't know about that. That's how superhero comics started out, after all--in his first story, Superman fought wife beaters and war profiteers. It seems that in our own past and to some extent still in foreign countries like Japan, it was still possible to sublimate these sorts of tensions into escapist fiction rather than trying to shove it all under the rug. It's remarkable to me that the nation that was on the recieving end of Hiroshima created Godzilla. Maybe confronting these things in fiction helps us better confront them in reality? I don't know.

2/14/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Also: Why are people uneasy on some level about opposing Al-Quaeda? Shouldn't even liberals vehemently oppose an organization that oppresses women and beheads journalists? Isn't uncritically opposing the Bush Administration in everything just as bad as uncritically supporting the Bush Administration in everything?

Also also: "Holy terror, Batman" is a very inspired title. Wasn't there already a Batman comic called Holy Terror, though? Based on Miller's recent somewaht over-the-top tone, this comic will probalby read like a latter-day version of Fighting American, and I am behind that. At any rate, Miller marshalling his talent for stirring up controversy to support an actual cause is somewhat better than the pointless frat-boy posturing of ASSBAR.

2/14/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Adrian - good points. However, let me rebut:

Yes, that's what happened in WWII. I would point out a few things, though: Germany and Japan were recognizable enemies, while al-Qaida is a very chimerical (at best) organization, so this might just turn into a "whoever Miller doesn't like" sort of thing.

Second: Do you want to read a comic where Batman beats up cringing swarthy men in robes who shout "Allah akbar" and nothing else while Bats laughs at how pathetic and inferior they are? That's what the superhero comics of the 1940s were, and I'd like to think we've moved past that. As I pointed out, Miller is NOT subtle, and while I don't think he'd stoop that low, I wouldn't put it past him.

Third, sure, I think everyone opposes terrorist organizations. This goes back to a "recognizable" enemy - is Batman going to beat up small children who strap bombs to themselves? It seems too complicated to deal with in comic books, and again, Miller doesn't do subtlety.

Fourth: the first official "Elseworlds" story was called Holy Terror. Gorgeous Breyfogle art, story about Batman in a world in which the Puritans never were thrown out of power in England. Good memory, sir!

2/14/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Why are people uneasy on some level about opposing Al-Quaeda?

Okay, you know that certain kind of figure Frank Miller likes to draw? That certain "ethnic" kind of figure? The short, fat, wrinkly guy with the big nose, the balding head, the greasy hair and the stubble - the one that not infrequently turns out to be Greek or Jewish or something else from the Mediterranean and shows up in Sin City a lot to leer and talk about money? I imagine that sort of character popping up a lot in this comic, and I imagine Batman punching a lot of those characters before getting to wrestle with a big swarthy guy wielding a scimitar.

Given Miller's recent ravings about "those animals" who "pose an existential threat to our civilization," I think Miller's got more issues than just "opposing al Qaeda." He's got an exterminationist streak a mile wide.

2/14/2006 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Ouch. I was unaware of that "those animals" comment. Depressingly, it doesn't surprise me much.

2/14/2006 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I first heard about it on G4/Tech TV. So I should feel far more ashamed than you for hearing it on a neo con blog....

2/14/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Here's another question worth discussing--why are almost all prominent coservatives who are professionally in comics raving nutters? There are, in fact, still some intelligent conservatives, but you wouldn't know it from comics. Is this because of the intellectual decay of modern conservatism in wider American society, factors unique to the culture of American comics, or some combination of the two? One factor that should be taken into account is that the majority of comics fandom is liberal. So does this issue have something to do with the fact that conservatives in comics feel more ideological pressure on them, forcing them into more extreme positions? Or the fact that since there are less conservatives in comics, there is less of a social network that would act as a check on extremism? Or is it just that comics naturally attract people with very rigid black-and-white political opinions, and since theirs is not the dominant ideology, they are forced into a role where politics define more of who they are?

And for that matter, why is American comics so preodminantly liberal? I recently read a blog post about giallo films that talked about Primary and Secondary Processes:

The giallo is not a realistic genre, despite the general absence of overtly fantastic or supernatural elements. Realism of any sort belongs to the Secondary Processes that Freud described as characteristic of sensible, waking, workaday life. From our (over-)valuation of Secondary Processes derive such mainstream literary and cinematic values as the psychological complexity of characters, narrative originality and eschewing of convention, subtlety of presentation, and reality testing (a technical term for the "disbelief" that must be suspended in order to appreciate and participate in fantasy).

The giallo, by contrast, is peopled with simple, stock character types. The genre is so rigidly governed by convention and formula that all the movies seem to be mere reiterations of some primal Story... All of this belongs entirely to the Primary Processes that characterize childhood mental life, primitive culture, neuroses, religion, fantasy, and dreams.


You could make an argument that liberalism is primarily based on secondary thought processes and conservativism is based on primary thought processes. In the last twenty years or so, superhero comics have been defined by rejection of the primary thought processes and idolization of the secondary thought processes. Perhaps we should be trying to find some kind of balance between the two instead?

2/14/2006 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Anticipating some objections: You might say that primary thought processes should not be applied to politics. It encourages stereotyping others, not seeing their humanity but rather thinking of them as (as Miller puts it) "animals." Even thinking in terms of good and bad people is dangerous. This is a worry that I see behind the reaction to this series. However, secondary thought processes can have a different kind of rigidity. As CS Lewis puts it in the Screwtape Letters:

Good and evil, courage and cowardice, heroism and villainy are real things and we ignore them at our peril. Take, for example, the moral paralyisis of some (though by no means all or even most) of the left in the face of the 9/11 attacks. There were those who argued that Bush was a tyrant for not trying to make peace with Bin Laden. They were facing real Evil but refused to admit that such a thing exists. This is what comes from overemphasizing secondary thought processes in the political sphere.

What we need to develop are thought processes that can recognize good and evil as such without thinking about good and evil people. What we need, in other words, is myth made fact. Which is part of why I am a Christian, because I believe that that's exactly what Christianity is.

How this all applies to superhero comics should be obvious enough.

2/14/2006 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Argh, sorry, I forgot to put in the quote I thought I had put in. Oh well. It was the part where the Screwtape distracts his "patient" from spiritual thoughts by immersing him in the ordinariness of his life. I also apologize for the occasional incoherence of my writing style--the German theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (who was, well, a German theologian.) and Grant Morrison were both major influences on me. Don't ever get me started talking about metafictionality and Christian spirituality...

2/14/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Why do you guys think Frank Miller is right-wing?

2/14/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Adrian makes my head hurt, so I'm going to have to chew on his comments for a while.

And I didn't call him "right-wing," T., I called him a fascist. And I didn't even call him a fascist, just that some of his writing seems to be leaning that way. I guess fascism is an extreme form of right-wing, but for me, at least, he seems to take a perverse pleasure in "being a tough guy" and "taking a hard line" on various social ills. His Batman, in both Dark Knight books, for instance, is much less than redeemer of Gotham than the avenger of wrongs. We could argue all night and all day about what Batman we should get, but to me, at least, he skews a bit right-wing in his writing. I don't know the man personally, so I can't speak to that. He could be a raving Kennedy-lover, for all I know.

2/14/2006 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Adrian makes my head hurt

Is that a good or a bad thing? :)

His Batman, in both Dark Knight books, for instance, is much less than redeemer of Gotham than the avenger of wrongs.

Having, embarrassingly, not read either, I can't say. However, this is not the case in Year One. And remmeber that it was Miller who invented the idea of a Batman who was fighting to make the city better rather than just achieve revenge and who was ultimately working towards his own obsolescence.

And just to make it clear--in relation to how conservatives in comics tend to be extreme/crazy, I was talking about creators rather than fans. T. is perfectly sane as far as I know. Maybe there is something that tends to make comics creators, independently of politics, oversensitive and extreme?

2/14/2006 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I was just curious.

I've always had trouble pinning down his politics. But he honestly doesn't strike me as right-wing or left-wing. I think the only thing he really believes in are sex, violence, cynicism and himself to be honest.

2/14/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

Adriann wrote:
"Here's another question worth discussing--why are almost all prominent coservatives who are professionally in comics raving nutters? There are, in fact, still some intelligent conservatives, but you wouldn't know it from comics. Is this because of the intellectual decay of modern conservatism in wider American society, factors unique to the culture of American comics, or some combination of the two? One factor that should be taken into account is that the majority of comics fandom is liberal. So does this issue have something to do with the fact that conservatives in comics feel more ideological pressure on them, forcing them into more extreme positions? Or the fact that since there are less conservatives in comics, there is less of a social network that would act as a check on extremism? Or is it just that comics naturally attract people with very rigid black-and-white political opinions, and since theirs is not the dominant ideology, they are forced into a role where politics define more of who they are?"

I think it's also possible that a majority liberal fandom is going to be less likely to challenge liberal ideological assumptions found in comics. I think it's a natural tendency to be more critical/aware of ideas that we don't tend to implicitly agree with. By extension, conservative ideas/creators, extreme or not, are going to get dinged up more in such an environment

Also, I don't really follow the political leanings of creators too closely, so I'm interested in who the nutball conservative creators are out there.

2/14/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

And just to make it clear--in relation to how conservatives in comics tend to be extreme/crazy, I was talking about creators rather than fans.

Can you give some examples? I don't really know of many conservative creators except for Steve Ditko (definitely crazy. brilliant but crazy), Chuck Dixon (sane as far as I know) and Beau Smith (don;t know anything about his sanity).


T. is perfectly sane as far as I know.

I am?

2/14/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

Ditko was a libertarian, which I don't consider synonymous with being a conservative. There's a libertarian streak in conservatism, but I don't think it's a dominant part of the movement, by any stretch.

2/14/2006 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Bully said...

How's Miller gonna fit babes in their underwear in a comic about Al-Qaeda?

2/15/2006 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Actually Ditko was a follower of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, which is closely related to libertarianism.

But overall, he was definitely a conservative. Just check this article here and skim down to Ditko's last issue of Blue Beetle. Or some of his college-year Spider-Man stories. Or his Hawk and Dove. He demonizes liberals, hippies, protestors and peaceniks frequently. In fact, it's often said that Lee often had problems at Marvel because he wasn't conservative enough for DItko and not liberal enough for Kirby.

2/15/2006 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Just wanted to add some more about Objectivism and how it goes beyond just libertarianism. It not only supports free-market capitalism and the pursuit of self-improvement as the highest good, it also rejects moral relativism or grey areas and takes a more objective view on morality, a black-and-white view that says what's wrong is wrong and what's right is right and there is no grey area ("A is A"). Situational ethics are rejected.

It's for these reasons that I feel it's safe to call Ditko a conservative.

2/15/2006 01:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

I am a left-leaning reader, and my knee gets a-jerkin' when I read current Frank Miller work because:

1) His work has a serious racist streak. In addition to the examples cited above, he has treated black characters poorly (e.g. Turk, the only black character I can recall from Miller's Daredevil; Luke Cage in a guest appearance came off as a buffoon; black characters are low level thugs in Sin City). I have never read a Martha Washington story, so I don't know if that tendency is present in those comics.
2) Miller's comics keep getting less intelligent, and his writing has less and less respect for the reader.
3) His art keeps getting worse (which, as far as I know, has nothing to do with politics).
4) Lots of violence (including torture) solves everything in Miller's comics.

I do not regard racism, the idea that violence solves every problem, and a refusal to acknowledge the intelligence of your audience as "right wing" ideology. Rather, these are anti-humanist "values," which I find abhorrent.

My basic hope in life is people help and look out for each other, and do not hurt each other. Torture, racism, and insulting my intelligence run counter to my beliefs (which is why I gave up on some comic book writers who turn their books into soap boxes).

I grew up in a mostly-right wing family, and I respect several values I associate with mainstream conservativism (commitment to family and community, rugged individualism, fiscal caution, the idea that there is good and evil and not everything is relative), as well as Christianity (Love thy neighbor, help the poor).

Getting back to Miller: I loved Batman: Year One, the 300, Daredevil: Born Again, and some Sin City books, because Miller's storytelling hadn't devolved into a series of stylistic tics. Additionally, his characters often win out because of bravery, determination, and a refusal to regard imposed authority as absolute (ideas I respect). If Miller writes another entertaining comic, I will be happy to read it.

Adrian- the Primary vs. Secondary Processes idea: I tend to boil ideas down to understand them (not a good tendency, I admit). Can the conflict between them be reduced to content vs. style, or is that way too simplistic?

2/15/2006 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward Liu said...

I really have two major objections to Miller's Holy Terror, Batman! The first is that I don't really need a
"propaganda piece" right now. I can get all the propaganda I want for free from the White House.

The second is that seeing Batman punching Osama bin Laden right now is only going to remind me, yet again, of the United States' complete, utter, and continuing failure to catch the bastard who tried to kill me personally. Seeing Batman do it will make my rage at this fact worse, not better.

If this had come out in 2002, or even as part of those 9/11 benefit books, I think I'd be more receptive to the idea.

As for conservatives in comics, Bill Willingham has identified himself as very conservative in at least one interview.

2/15/2006 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I've always thought that Miller pointed out the contradiction between Batman's methods and his goals, or at least what his mission is usually portrayed as. At least his mean old bastard Dark Knight Batman. Maybe it's because the way I see Batman is fairly different than the way Miller portrays him in those comic, but I'm pretty sure there will be some acknowledgement of the irony of a guy who strikes terror in the hearts of criminals fighting terrorists. I think he even mentioned it as far back as DK2. Although I certainly thinks there's a pretty damn big distinction between a guy who dresses up as a bat to scare people and, say, suicide bombers. The disparity between the two could lead to another story that isn't appropriate for superheroes or whatever, but having liked DK2 and not read ASSBAR, Miller's Batman is still a pretty big deal to me.

2/15/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

Hey, Greg; was that horrible racist epithet you used a reference to that Thomas/Adams issue of X-Men where Cyclops called some dude a camel jockey. If so, my respect for you has increased ten fold. I don't know why, but that's how it is.

2/15/2006 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Jer said...

Greg said:

'I have no problem with Batman fighting "real-world" terrorists.'

I do. I have a big problem with it. Because this global anti-terrorism effort is not some kid's game. Real men and women put their lives on the line every day to not only fight in wars in the Mid-East, but to perform anti-terrorism efforts around the globe to try to keep us safe.

Putting is into the realm of superheroes trivializes this into the realm of fantasy wish-fulfillment, and in my mind it totally trivializes the sacrifices of the men and women who are actually fighting to keep us safe around the world.

Treating this like a "boo-yeah" kid's game where Batman gets to find and beat up some easily identifiable terrorist stereotypes and "kick al-Qaeda's ass" misses the point of how difficult this type of work is, and how dangerous it is to the men and women involved in it. I find the exercise at best pointless and at worse insulting to those involved in actually fighting terrorism in the world.

Plus, I have no belief that Miller will be able to pull this off with any subtlty or depth, given what I've seen of his work over the last decade plus. It MIGHT have some merit if the purpose of his story was to show that Batman actually CAN'T beat up al-Qaeda and win, that the problem is too big for one man to solve. But then it would probably devolve into something like one of those PSA comics that Scott reviews periodically over at polite dissent.

2/15/2006 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Brad - yeah, that was it.

Okay, maybe not, but I do have that issue. When I first read it, I wondered at the fun irony of an oppressed minority using derogatory terms to describe another group of people.

Oh, and Adrian - in a good way. Anyone who is smarter than I am makes my head hurt (that includes, of course, my three-year-old and my eight-month-old, which is why my head hurts often).

2/15/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I imagine Batman punching a lot of those characters before getting to wrestle with a big swarthy guy wielding a scimitar."

This line got me thinking: Didn't Ra's-al Ghul have a henchman like that? Couldn't Miller (or any creator, for that matter) have thematically handled this topic using that, or some other, existing villain? Or is it just that "Batman punches Bin Laden" will get more mainstream attention than a typical story that deals with these issues thematically using existing characters or conflicts?

Morrison, to my mind, did this beautifully with the Genosha tribute issue of New X-Men. You could READ it as a take on the events of 9/11, but it wasn't just said outright. He used what e had and whatever connections were to be made were made by the reader. Am I wrong in thinking this might be a better way for comics (and their creators) to handle such divisive "real-world" issues?

2/15/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Tenzil said...

I decided I didn't like Frank Miller once I figured out he got Dark Knight BACKWARDS. The story makes no damn sense.

Think about it: why do people become fascists or vigilantes? Because they want to impose their will on the world, but, for a variety of reasons, can't-- without either forming a leader of a mass force or becoming a terrorist. It is from a position of weakness. Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler: all hardcore nutcases with frightening self-esteem issues. Osama can't get anyone to listen to him without threatening to kill them.

Bruce Wayne dresses like a Bat because criminals won't stop hurting him unless he beats the shit out of them. Clark Kent has NO CHOICE but to be Superman, it is who he is, not a choice. He is Kryptonian. Note he doesn't wear a mask.

Who's the one person on the planet who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants? Superman.

Who's the one person who still soils his sheets with constant fear 50 years after his parents death? Batman.

SUPERMAN should be the freedom fighter, BATMAN should be the fascist tool.

That Miller sees an abused child acting out by beating up the helpless as a heroic liberator while characterizing a powerful man who never uses his powers for his own enrichment as a villainous tool of dictators** tells you everything you need to know about Miller's psychology and political leanings.

The real tragedy is that now EVERYONE loves to characterize Supes as the dumb obedient tool and Bats as the cool Che-type.

** HOW does the government convince Superman to do anything in DK1? he can't be bribed or blackmailed, especially if Lois and his parents are dead. Thinking about this for 30 seconds tells you that Superman would laugh with derision at a President who told him he was the 'boss' of the world and Superman should just obey him. "Kiss my Ass", Superman says as he flies away at the speed of light. "Try and make me, you dried up old fart". Respect for the President? Come on- Superman ALWAYS puts human rights and justice above Goverment laws.

** WHY doesn't the Goverment employ Batman, like the Comedian in Watchmen? "He's just a man who doesn't armor his head", says Evil Government Agent. "He's deranged, we can use his psychology against him".

2/15/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Paul O'Brien said...

The problem with this sort of project is that "Batman fights real-world mass murderers" is extremely tricky to pull off for the same reason that "Batman thwarts the Yorkshire Ripper" might go down badly. Unless done incredibly well, the mere fact of juxtaposing Batman and Al Qaeda is almost guaranteed to trivialise the issue. And since the issue is the deaths of hundreds of people, and the prospective deaths of hundreds more, it shouldn't be trivialised.

Now, admittedly, this sort of thing worked just fine in 1940. But that was a different time when the public mood was much more receptive to unabashed propaganda - which is all those early stories were. Modern audiences are more media-savvy and like to believe that they're above that sort of thing. Consequently, when they recognise (or perceive) something as propaganda, they reject it as an insult to their intelligence.

2/15/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

I really don’t get what the problem is here.

If Holy Terror is even half as insane as Dark Knight II or his current Batman and Robin book then it probably will be a pretty good time.

I’ve gotten cynical, or maybe just old, but these days, I can’t find it in myself to get all worked up when I see a bad stereotype anymore.

I figure that everyone actually understands these days, that those kind of images are exaggerated bullshit. Or maybe it’s because the way the world is portrayed in all the media these days is in such simplistic images and I’ve grown numb.

Who knows?

All I can tell you is that even though I can clearly see the excesses that Miller goes to, and even though a lot of his “ideas” are kind of repellent. I can’t help but be impressed with the quality of his work, or his skill as both a writer and an artist.

Dark Knight II was not an easy story to follow, and it certainly lacked the straightforward storytelling of its predecessor, and because it was so very different from the original, many people simply hated the thing.

On the other hand, I thought it was fucking brilliant.

I thought his Luthor and Braniac were just perfect versions of the two characters stripped of all of their veneer of civilization and shown as the monsters that they are. His heroes, especially his Atom, the Question and Catgirl were just great. And yes, even though it was a very dumb and sick joke, I actually laughed out loud about the fact that the main badguy turned out to be a disgruntled Dick Grayson, still mad that he got fired for being a wimp.

And while I do have some issues with his Godlike Superman or his completely insane Batman, I still enjoyed their appearance here more then I had in their normal books in a long time.

As for the upcoming propaganda piece, I for one do not really have a huge problem with it and actually look forward to seeing the final product. I figure that it will be a fine example of Miller’s excesses.

Honestly I’ve got to say that I’m not nuts that the Shrub invaded Iraq in response to an attack on the United States from Saudi Arabia. But just because the President is a dumbass doesn’t suddenly mean that us members of Western Civilization should suddenly forget that in fact to the majority of people living in the Middle East, WE are the enemy.

I don’t like it either, but it’s the reality of the situation.

So if Miller wants to work out some of his anger about the very real war between the two cultures, then I say more power to him.

There are several great artists who I don’t agree with but whose vision is so clear and well presented that I can’t help but be impressed. Ditko is the prime example, same with Dave Sim. Miller counts in that same category, at least for me.

So I will wait and see, and judge the damm thing after I’ve actually seen it.

- rick

2/15/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I can’t find it in myself to get all worked up when I see a bad stereotype anymore.

Truly spoken like a man who is in no danger of being racially profiled or put on a watch list because some peon at Homeland Security misspelled the name of an actual terrorist suspect. Fun fact: less than fifteen percent of Guantanamo detainees are actual al Qaeda members. The overwhelming majority are Arabs and Muslims who have never raised arms against the US, and a nontrivial percentage are being held only on the word of the bounty hunters that sold them to the military. Some of them have actually been cleared by detainee status review tribunals and are still being held in Guantanamo two years later.

In case we forget in the midst of talk about how well Frank Miller draws Batman these days, racism has real-world implications.

2/15/2006 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly. But I think it'd be helpful to remember that this book will probably be sold to people whose interest is more in the artwork than in a radical policy statement.

The whole project is basically equivalent to, and I'd guess about as nuanced and subtle, as TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE or TRUE LIES.

Are you really afraid that an overpriced comic that maybe fifty thousand basement dwellers will buy is going to lock you up in Guantanamo Bay?

2/15/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Are you really afraid that an overpriced comic that maybe fifty thousand basement dwellers will buy is going to lock you up in Guantanamo Bay?

No, I'm just pissed off that racist, propagandistic swill will probably be peddled by a mainstream comic book publisher using one of the most recognizable fictional characters in America. And the sentiments that make it socially acceptable for Frank Miller to do this are the same sentiments that make it acceptable for the US military to get away with torturing and killing hundreds of prisoners mostly on the basis of being dark-skinned and Muslim: they're not like you. So why should you give a damn?

2/15/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

No, I'm just pissed off that racist, propagandistic swill will probably be peddled by a mainstream comic book publisher using one of the most recognizable fictional characters in America. And the sentiments that make it socially acceptable for Frank Miller to do this are the same sentiments that make it acceptable for the US military to get away with torturing and killing hundreds of prisoners mostly on the basis of being dark-skinned and Muslim: they're not like you. So why should you give a damn?



Without seeing one picture or reading one word from the story, you can already say what's wrong with it's execution and have already decided that it will come out if not in full support of the most atrocious of human behavior, it will at least give it a winking acceptance?

I've got to say that it seems to me that you are making several asusmptions here without very much to back them up.

So did you get mailed a preview or what?

- rick

2/15/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

As the old saying goes, "Hate is not natural, it is learned." And if Frank Miller's gonna be trying to teach hate, I think he needs to be opposed.

2/15/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"I've got to say that it seems to me that you are making several asusmptions here without very much to back them up."

Miller's own statements and artistic history back them up. The most obvious example of this being his statement that this will be purely a propaganda piece.

There comes a point where you don't have to give someone the benefit of the doubt. That point is when they tell you, plain and simple, 'this is what it is'.

2/15/2006 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger MacQuarrie said...

Now, admittedly, this sort of thing worked just fine in 1940. But that was a different time when the public mood was much more receptive to unabashed propaganda - which is all those early stories were.

The part that everyone is missing: When Captain America punched Hitler in the nose, the US had not yet entered the war in Europe. Those WWII sotries were NOT pure propaganda; they were wish-fulfillment on the part of the authors. Many of the artists and writers who created those stories were jewish, and they were furstrated that their family members were being systematically murdered by the Nazis while America debated over what the response ought to be. So they set their fantasy characters to work doing what they felt their country should be doing.

Today, there isn't such a visceral response, and there isn't such a consensus on what ought to be done, so any such stories will be calculated propaganda.

2/15/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"And the sentiments that make it socially acceptable for Frank Miller to do this are the same sentiments that make it acceptable for the US military to get away with torturing and killing hundreds of prisoners mostly on the basis of being dark-skinned and Muslim: they're not like you. So why should you give a damn?"

The US military does not torture and kill people mostly on the basis of being dark-skinned and Muslim.

Give me a break.

2/15/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

As the old saying goes, "Hate is not natural, it is learned." And if Frank Miller's gonna be trying to teach hate, I think he needs to be opposed.

I finally just read the article in question. Kudos to Miller!! I don;t even like his work, but I'd much rather read about this than read the previous attempts at having superheroes face terror (which are usually exercises in moral relativism)

And I don't mind Miller "teaching hate" if he's teaching people to hate bastards that want to kill and destroy everyone and everything that doesn't conform to Islam. If hating people like that is wrong, I don't want to be right.

2/15/2006 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Now, admittedly, this sort of thing worked just fine in 1940. But that was a different time when the public mood was much more receptive to unabashed propaganda - which is all those early stories were. Modern audiences are more media-savvy and like to believe that they're above that sort of thing. Consequently, when they recognise (or perceive) something as propaganda, they reject it as an insult to their intelligence.

Yes, thanks to baby boomers we lack any gumption and have devolved into self-absorption, materialistic, navelgazing and preachiness. We believe in nothing bigger than ourselves, and dismiss people who have faith and believe in things bigger than themselves as naive, unintelligent, primitive and jingoistic.

I agree with Frank Miller for once. In many ways the 1940s were a better time. People had a lot more character.

2/15/2006 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yay! T.'s back!

2/15/2006 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I think saying that people were better in the past, no matter what the circumstances, is making a logical fallacy. History is invariably a series of mixed blessings. Perhaps in some ways the 40's were better, but certainly not all.

Anyway, this book will probably suck. Not because it's propaganda, not because it's racist, but because Frank Miller lost his mind and talent some time ago.

2/15/2006 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I think saying that people were better in the past, no matter what the circumstances, is making a logical fallacy. History is invariably a series of mixed blessings. Perhaps in some ways the 40's were better, but certainly not all.

Agreed. That's why I said "in many ways" the 40s were better rather than saying they were better in all ways. After all there were still lynchings and segregation. Far from perfect.

Anyway, this book will probably suck. Not because it's propaganda, not because it's racist, but because Frank Miller lost his mind and talent some time ago.

I don't think Miller's talent and mind went. Looking back at his Daredevil and other stuff, I'm convinced that he never really had it and we just got older and smarter enough to realize it.

2/15/2006 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

I don't see the point when it was handled so well in like 6 pages in the darwyn cooke SOLO with the question. Then again i'd probably still pick it up because i'm a chump.

2/16/2006 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Paul O'Brien said...

"The whole project is basically equivalent to, and I'd guess about as nuanced and subtle, as TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE or TRUE LIES."

Miller openly described the book as propaganda, and it doesn't sound like he was being ironic. So it's not going to be like TEAM AMERICA, which is a satire. If anything, it's going to be the sort of thing TEAM AMERICA was satirising.

2/16/2006 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

Several people seem to be angry that the work is going to be in Millers words, "propaganda".

Now I do of course understand what you get with extreme examples of propaganda, but does the fact that something is propaganda make it automaticlly untrue?

Is it instantly a racist attack to write a story where the villians are based on actual real life villians, who happen to be from a different race or culture then the majority?

Also doesn't the fact that Miller is openly calling it a propaganda piece kind of takes away from it having value as propaganda? Isn't one of the most important aspects of true propaganda that it is never called propaganda in the first place?

- rick

2/16/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"but does the fact that something is propaganda make it automaticlly untrue?"

No, it's more like it makes it automatically biased. There can be elements of truth or partial truths in propaganda, but there are usually other truths which are hidden, in those cases.

2/16/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

T- It's possible that Frank Miller was never as good as his hype, but there are some things he wrote in the past that I enjoy even now. The Dark Knight Returns and the early Sin City volumes come to mind. Even if you don't like those works, you can probably admit that they're better than anything he's doing these days. I guess we can compromise on saying he has less sanity and talent than he had in the past.

2/16/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger JesseM said...

On the subject of Miller's politics, my impression was that, like Ditko, he was fan of Ayn Rand style libertarianism--one of the later entries in the "Martha Washington" series was almost exactly like the story of "Atlas Shrugged", with the freedom-loving genius heroes withdrawing from society and creating their own secret utopian base while letting the second-handers screw everything up in the rest of the world. I don't think Ayn Rand's politics were anything close to fascism, but it always seemed like there were some echoes of fascism in her artistic vision, with all those lone ubermensch-like heroes reshaping the world with their strong force of will, and villains always cast as greedy, whiny parasites who can't create anything useful on their own. Plus the sort of art-deco musclemen she liked to put on the covers of her books always reminded me of fascist art too.

2/16/2006 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DK2 - shudder....

Of course, the Return of the Dark Knight was probably the best piece of Conservative American literature in the last 3 decades. If Miller still had that skill, this wouldn't be a disaster - it would at least be interesting.

However, DK2.... this does not look good

2/16/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

Martha Washington went downhill fast; Give Me Liberty was a great satire of the Left and the Right, like Dark Knight Returns. Martha Washington Saves the World was barely readable crap, much like DK2. Other than the fact that she is born in "the projects" (because, you know, ALL black heroes have to be from "the projects"), there is really nothing about the character of Martha Washington that hinges on her skin color. There are some rather ludicrously stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans, but in a world where the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons football team exists, nothing shocks me on that score anymore. I have no problem seeing superheroes fight terrorists, but frankly this seems more like a job for Captain America than the Batman. That, and I'm seriously worried it will suck as bad as DK2.

2/17/2006 02:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

Racism is not applying villainous characteristics to one person, but characterizing all (or a significant portion) of the people in that group with the same negative characteristics. If bin Laden is portrayed as the villain, that's not racist. If every Muslim Batman encounters is violent and stupid, and drawn ugly and leering, that's racist. I think Miller could make his story that broad.

2/17/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"Racism is not applying villainous characteristics to one person, but characterizing all (or a significant portion) of the people in that group with the same negative characteristics."

You think that's why racial minority supervillains are relatively rare (at least nowadays)? The "Sum of All Fears" syndrome (i.e., turning a book about Arab muslim terrorists nuking Baltimore into a movie about neo-neo-nazis nuking Baltimore)? (Mostly) white comic book writers and artists are afraid they'll be thought of as racist if the villain turns out to be black (or Asian; when's the last time you saw that bad Fu Manchu ripoff, the Yellow Claw?)? Moses Magnum is the best we can do for a black supervillain? If that's the case, that there aren't many racial minorities as supervillains out of some kind of liberal guilt thing, isn't that in itself a form of racism?

2/18/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

Apparently we were ALL wrong about Frank Miller:

"I liked The Dark Knight Returns quite a lot (although not as much as The Watchmen); it really revived the Batman franchise. However, Miller is a notorious leftie, and it bugs me still the way he caricatured Ronald Reagan in that book. And I've never really understood the draw of Sin City: it is the very essence of mannerism and abstraction over coherent storytelling.

I dunno. Comic book artists, like artists generally, are a lefty breed. I'll never forgive Marvel comics for letting that douchebag John Rieber turn Captain America into a leftist platitude-spewing hippie dork. I haven't read a Cap issue since The New Deal came out."

Posted by: Monty on February 13, 2006 04:25 PM

2/18/2006 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

That's stupid. The way he depicts Reagan in that book just shows a general distaste for figurehead politticians and big government. That's not a lefty point of view, that's a thrid-party conservative point of view.

2/18/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"If that's the case, that there aren't many racial minorities as supervillains out of some kind of liberal guilt thing, isn't that in itself a form of racism?"

Nope. It's not a way of thinking that should be supported, but it's not a form of racism, either.

2/18/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"Nope. It's not a way of thinking that should be supported, but it's not a form of racism, either."

Oh, okay. Well, cool. I'm glad we got that out of the way. Next topic?

2/18/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger JesseM said...

Click here for a preview of what the Batman vs. Bin Laden comic may very well look like!

2/21/2006 01:13:00 AM  
Blogger faboofour said...

T. asserted thus...
"The US military does not torture and kill people mostly on the basis of being dark-skinned and Muslim.
"Give me a break."

Someone needs to expose oneself to more than comic books and Fox News....

3/02/2006 02:31:00 PM  

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