INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Frank Cho hates Superman. Don’t take my word for it; just ask him. But after years of friendly queries by an art-collector friend, Cho bit the bullet and took on a rare commission of Superman — but only if he could do it his way.
“One day the impossible happened, I was bored and I had some free time and Hawaiian Dave gave me a big wad of cash. On top of that, he told me that I can draw whatever I desire as long as Batman and Superman is in it …,” Cho explains on his blog. “Since I hated Superman so much, the only logical conclusion was to do the scene in the Frank Miller’s masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns, where the old Batman comes out of retirement and beat the shit out of Superman. And off I went.”
Not that I’d forgotten, but CSBG’s new 75 Greatest Batman Covers poll was just the latest reminder that this is Batman’s 75th anniversary year. According to Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics, Detective Comics (Vol. 1) #27 hit newsstands on or about April 18, 1939, which means the celebrations don’t have to start right away.
Still, so far Batman’s 75th seems to be a rather low-key affair, at least as compared to Superman’s 75th last year. That anniversary included a special logo, a new movie, a few new ongoing series, a couple of celebratory collections (including one for Lois Lane, who shares the anniversary) and an animated tribute. Batman’s already gotten a giant-sized Detective (Vol. 2) #27, and the final Arkham Asylum video game is coming out. Additionally, before 2014 ends, we’ll probably see Ben Affleck in the new Batsuit, plus whatever Batman Eternal has in store. Beyond that, however, it seems like business as usual for the Dark Knight.
Fortunately, business has been pretty good for a while now, such that slapping an anniversary tag on the various Bat-offerings almost seems superfluous. By this point Batman practically is eternal — but what does that really mean?
“I know there’s a certain appeal for creators to work on the classic characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, but I’ve said this before: I asked creators who have worked on those books who the people were doing the books ten years ago, and they don’t know! But I can say, ‘Who worked on Sin City?’ and they’ll go ‘Frank Miller.’ Who worked on Hellboy? Mike Mignola. Who worked on The Goon? Eric Powell. They know it instantly. So to me, the lure of creating your own character and owning it — owning your own universe and being associated with that — in the long run for talented writers and artists makes me question why someone would toil away on a company owned character for years and years of their lives.”
– Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, discussing his company’s commitment to publishing creator-owned work
“I do admit that I am surprised that the series has such a high profile still but, make no mistake, I’m very happy to be a part of it. I can’t speak for Frank [Miller], but neither I nor anyone else in the DC office realized the impact of the books at that time. It would have been crazy to predict way back then. It’s not unheard of to have a particular project garner a lot of attention in the moment, but it is unusual for a project to cast such a long shadow, to hold up so many years later. Dark Knight Returns was a hurricane. It was a force of nature that swept everyone up in its path, and I learned a lot from that experience. I’d love to work with Frank at least once more, whether it’s for the 30th anniversary or something else, so this is my way of starting to put the offer out there. Let’s go, Frank — it would be great fun!”
While DC Comics sacrificed some bragging rights in 2011 when it rebooted its superhero line, even the never-before-renumbered Action Comics and Detective Comics, one consequence of relaunching TEC was that it was only a matter of time — 26 months, to be exact — before the company got around to publishing a new Detective Comics #27. And that the second Detective Comics #27 would see release during the 75th year of Batman’s career, well, all the better.
The first Detective Comics #27, published in 1939, was, of course, the first appearance of Batman. The anthology’s cover was surrendered to an arresting image of a spooky man in tights, wearing a bat-mask and sporting huge bat-like wings, scooping up a gangster in a headlock while swinging in front of the yellow field above a city skyline. “Starting this issue,” the cover trumpted, “The Amazing and Unique Adventures of The Batman.” Inside, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s pulp- and film-inspired detective hero cracked the “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” and the amazing and unique adventures begun therein have yet to cease.
DC has honored that milestone in various ways over the years, with notable celebrations including Michael Uslan and Peter Snejbjerg’s 2003 Elseworlds one-shot Batman: Detective No. 27, and 1991’s Detective Comics #627, in which the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle and Marv Wolfman/Jim Aparo creative teams did their own takes on “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” and both the original story and a 30th-anniversary version by Mike Friedrich and Bob Brown were reprinted.
This week brings Detective Comics (Vol. 2) #27, and another opportunity to celebrate that original issue, and Batman’s 75th anniversary, which DC does in a 90-page, prestige-format special issue — essentially a trade paperback with some ads in it — featuring contributions from the writers of all four of the main Batman books of the moment and about as strong a list of contributing artists as a reader could hope for.
Ahead of the August premiere of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s movie sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Dark Horse has announced it will debut a massive omnibus hardcover collecting the artist’s entire landmark crime saga.
In addition, the publisher will bring Frank Miller: The Art of Sin City back into print in trade paperback format, and re-release the hardcover edition 1993’s A Dame to Kill For. All three are scheduled to arrive on June 25.
Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City brings together Miller and Lynn Varley’s seven hardboiled tales — The Hard Goodbye, A Dame to Kill For, The Big Fat Kill, The Yellow Bastard, Family Values, Booze, Broads & Bullets and Hell and Back — in one 1,344-page volume that Dark Horse contends is “suitable for home defense.”
The omnibus will be accompanied by the softcover edition of the long-out-of-print Frank Miller: The Art of Sin City, featuring an introduction by critic R.C. Harvey, and the 212-page A Dame to Kill For, in hardcover for the first time in years. See the covers and solicitation text for all three books below.
UPDATE (Jan. 3): Dark Horse has notified us that Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City will retail for $100. The price originally listed was incorrect.
Frank Miller has yet to finish work on Xerxes, his long-discussed follow-up to 300, meaning Dark Horse won’t be able to release the comic in time for the March-premiering 300: Rise of an Empire.
What’s more, ICv2.com reports no progress has been made on the planned five-issue (previously six-issue) miniseries since March 2011, when Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson told the website Miller had completed the second issue.
With the 2007 release of director Zack Snyder’s 300, sales of the collected edition soared, propelling the 1998 book to the top of bestseller lists and leading Dark Horse to order two 50,000-copy printings to meet demand.
While Snyder’s film was a direct adaptation of the comic by Miller and Lynn Varley, even replicating its imagery, it’s unclear how close Rise of an Empire hews to the plot of Xerxes, which the writer had described as “a sweeping tale with gods of monsters” centering on the Battle of Artemisium (it’s a naval engagement that occurred at the same time as the Battle of Thermopylae).
Warner Bros.’ announcement of a “Batman vs. Superman” sequel to Man of Steel at Comic-Con International triggered a 161 percent surge in digital sales of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in July, setting a record for a full-priced DC Entertainment digital title, Variety reports.
The publisher previously mentioned “a huge jump in month-over-month [digital] sales” of Frank Miller’s pioneering 1986 work, but didn’t offer more than that. Like most publishers, DC doesn’t reveal actual sales figures for either print or digital.
The influential four-issue miniseries brings an aging Batman out of retirement a decade after the death of Jason Todd to save Gotham from sinking deeper into decay and lawlessness. With the help of a new, female Robin, Carrie Kelly, the Dark Knight ends the threat of the mutant gangs that have overrun the city and confronts two of his greatest enemies. But then he must face his former ally Superman in a battle that only one will survive.
Although Man of Steel director Zack Snyder was quick to caution at Comic-Con that the sequel wouldn’t be an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, actor Harry Lennix read dialogue from the book — “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat” — and Miller was reportedly set to meet with the filmmaker.
Frank Miller’s original cover for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 sold at auction last week for $478,000, The Associated Press reports. Initial expectations had placed the price at more than $500,000.
Although Heritage Auctions has sold other original art from the landmark 1986 DC Comics miniseries — a page from Issue 3, featuring Batman and Robin in mid-air, fetched a record $448,125 in 2011 — this was the first cover to ever appear at auction. It’s also the only one from the four-issue series to be rendered completely in pen and ink by Miller.
A near-mint copy of 1940′s Batman #1, featuring the first appearance of Catwoman and The Joker, went for $567,625 at the same auction. A similar copy sold for $850,000 in 2012.
The record price paid at auction for a comic is held by a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1, which fetched $2.16 million in 2011.
While Heritage Auctions has sold other original art from the landmark 1986 DC Comics miniseries — a page from Issue 3, featuring Batman and Robin in mid-air, fetched a record $448,125 in 2011 — this is the first cover to ever appear at auction. It’s also the only one from the four-issue series to be rendered completely in pen and ink by Miller, “with no significant painted elements or overlays.” Heritage characterizes it as “artistically the best of the four.”
“For fans of modern comics, this drawing is where everything really begins,” Heritage Vice President Todd Hignite tells The AP.“This moment defines Miller’s Dark Knight, and the modern day perception of Batman, like no other drawing.”
The auction also includes a 9.2 graded copy of 1940’s Batman #1, which marks the first appearance of Catwoman and The Joker. A similar copy sold for $850,000 in 2012.
The record price paid at auction for a comic is held by a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1, which fetched $2.16 million in 2011. Online bidding is expected to begin July 12, with the auction held Aug. 1-3 in Dallas.
Frank Miller is back behind this camera, this time for the director’s cut of the Sin City-inspired television commercial for the Gucci fragrance Gucci Guilty Black, starring Chris Evans and Evan Rachel Wood, with a cameo by the filmmaker himself.
Comics | Johan Palme talks to Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group about the continuing controversy over a Swedish library’s decision to re-shelve some Tintin comics because of racist caricatures and colonialist attitudes. The books were put back following an uproar, but the move has sparked a larger conversation, and it even has its own hashtag, #tintingate. [The Guardian]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and the Publishers Weekly team (including Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson) post a comprehensive report on New York Comic Con, including debuts, new-title announcements, and a quick look at logistics. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Conventions | Dave Smith looks at one of the most vexing problems of New York Comic Con: the lack of decent wireless access, a situation troubling exhibitors and media alike. [International Business Times]
One of Frank Miller’s former employees is suing for discrimination and mental anguish, claiming she was repeatedly mistreated by the comic creator’s girlfriend Kimberly Cox.
The New York Post reports that Joanna Gallardo-Mills, who was hired as Miller’s executive coordinator in November 2008, accuses Cox of verbal abuse, smearing her work area with feces, throwing phones at her, using a hammer to destroy her printer, and leaving dirty underwear and a “used menstrual pad” by her desk.
Gallardo-Mills says that after she complained, Miller agreed to allow her to work from home. However, she asserts that her complaints ultimately cost her the job.
Cox, who had a small role in Miller’s 2008 adaptation of The Spirit, told the newspaper she’s “shocked” by the lawsuit, as Gallardo-Mills “was offered a very heavy settlement and declined.”
Before a shocked country, let alone investigators, can begin to get a grasp on what led 24-year-old James Holmes to open fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens more, at least one newspaper writer is willing to take a wild guess: a comic book. Specifically, Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns.
Under the headline, “Was the Batman shooting movie shooting imitated from scene in 1986 comic?,” The Washington Examiner’s Sean Higgins claims the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, “bears eerie similarities” to the scene in which “a crazed, gun-toting loner walks into a movie theater and begins shooting it up, killing three in the process.”
In an effort to bolster his shaky, if not downright groundless hypothesis, Higgins points out that The Dark Knight Returns served “a key inspiration” for director Christopher Nolan’s big-screen trilogy. (Why stop there, though? Coupled with Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s “Year One,” the miniseries has influenced virtually every depiction of Batman over the past quarter-century.)
“Sadly, the lesson that was gained from these books was not that comics didn’t need to be hacked-out, disposable, interchangeable stories but could be well written and relevant. Instead what happened was every superhero comic, whether it lent itself to the transformation, or not, was made grim and gritty, which meant more violence, more sex. more trying to fit the superhero world into the real world.”
– John Rozum, putting the Grim and Gritty Era into historical context.