This past Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con during the DC Comics Master Class panel, writer/artist Frank Miller announced on stage that he will soon be working on a new comic-book series entitled Superman: Year One. Much like his 1986 classic Batman: Year One, which explored the origins of Batman (as well as Commissioner Jim Gordon), Frank intends to do the same for Superman as well. From his interview with Vulture:
“I’ve got a new Superman project that’s getting started, telling his origins … It’s telling his beginnings from when Pa Kent discovered him in the cornfield, and the little boy goes to youth, and then to manhood.”
And as I soon as I read about this announcement on Twitter, I responded to this rather calmly:
Frank Miller is known and revered for many great and legendary stories: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, Ronin, Martha Washington Goes To War, 300, Sin City, and also his work on Daredevil, which led to the creation of Elektra. And he’s also known for his…less-than-great and less-legendary stories:
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Holy Terror, All-Star Batman & Robin, the fact that Michael Madsen actually spoke the line, “You’re pushing sixty, and you got a bum ticker” in Sin City, and the time he wrote and directed both The Spirit and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.
(I’m not sure which pile I should add Dark Knight 3: The Master Race to, but despite the fact that Miller co-wrote it with 100 Bullets writer Brian Azzarello, I still can’t get my hopes up. If you’ve read it, feel free to share your thoughts about it in the Comments section)
Like Chuck Woolery, Adam Baldwin, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, and James Woods, Frank Miller seems to have become a planet-sized asshole since the attacks on 9/11 took place. And that perspective doesn’t come across any louder or clearer than when you read Holy Terror.
Originally meant to be a Batman story called Holy Terror, Batman! in which the Caped Crusader goes up against Al-Qaeda and presumably punches Osama Bin Laden in the face, Miller decided to abandon that concept and simply tell a story about a crimefighter named The Fixer (who clearly isn’t meant to come across like Batman in any way, shape or form) who teams up with a jewel thief named
Catwoman Natalie Stack in order to take down an Al-Qaeda terror cell after several suicide bombings take place all over their hometown of Empire City. From David Brothers’ review of Holy Terror for Comics Alliance:
Except the war isn’t against Al-Qaeda, not really. The suicide bomber was a young girl named Amina, a Muslim exchange student from an unspecified country. She thinks about the decadence of Empire City and describes its skyscrapers by saying, “Its towers stab into the sky like sharpened sticks aimed at the eyes of God.” When a young man offers her a drink, she takes it and says that its her “first alcohol. Ever.” They don’t use alcohol where she comes from, she explains, and when the man asks if she’s from the Dark Ages, she says, “Maybe the future. We’ll see.” The slurs against Islam continue as the book goes on. The Fixer nabs a terrorist and calls him “Mohammed,” because “you’ve got to admit that the odds are pretty good it’s Mohammed.” They call him “Moe” throughout the rest of the book. The terrorists are viewed as something sub-human. One page contrasts Americans watching a Transformers-style movie on a big screen with Arabs stoning a woman buried up to her neck in the dirt while calling her an infidel, slut, and whore. A generic man in a suit takes his wife, wearing an Afghani Burqa, beats her, and then leaves the house. And finally, when Natalie infiltrates a mosque, she thinks, “the night wind blows away seven centuries.”
The constant bashing of Islam as a throwback to the Dark Ages is stupid, ugly, and tiresome. It’s also factually incorrect. While Europe was in the midst of the so-called Dark Ages, the Arab world was in the middle of what was essentially a golden age of enlightenment. They made vital discoveries and advances in science, math, medicine, art, architecture, and several other areas that had a profound impact on the rest of human civilization.
Al-Qaeda is treated in the text as something that is representative of Islam, rather than something that is a twisted, rotted off-shoot. Conversely, the Ku Klux Klan are terrorists are nominally Christian, but they’re never portrayed as representative of Christianity or whites. Again and again, Miller hammers home outdated and bigoted assumptions. The Fixer and Natalie Stack approach torture with glee, Natalie sends a terrorist off to his “seventy-two black-eyed virgins,” and on and on and on.They’re fighting Islam, not Al-Qaeda, and the book suffers greatly for it.
This is from All-Star Batman & Robin (which was also pencilled by Jim Lee) and how it portrayed Batman…
…and also how it portrayed investigative journalist Vicki Vale.
So…you can just imagine how a story from Frank Miller about Batman vs. Al Qaeda would turn out.
Which gives me plenty of reason to worry and wonder how Superman/Clark Kent will be treated and portrayed in Superman: Year One. One of the things Miller is best known for is his portrayal of Superman in The Dark Knight Returns, and it’s not entirely flattering. Instead of being a noble and upstanding figure who inspires everyone around him as he fights for truth, justice, and the American way, he has become a stooge for the fascist government who cares more about making the President happy and carrying out his bidding than he does about helping others, including his fellow superheroes. Which soon results in Superman squaring off against Batman by story’s end, their long-simmering resentment for each other and their methods finally coming to a boil. And Miller, who clearly loves the underdog (as much as you can call an incredibly wealthy White man skilled in numerous martial-arts techniques and blessed with a brilliant analytical mind an ‘underdog’) didn’t make Batman hold back as he brutalized Superman both physically and verbally throughout the entire encounter:
And as for how Frank Miller views Lois Lane…well, considering that he doesn’t think very highly of the fact that Elektra, his creation, is still alive after being brought back from the dead (despite Marvel Comics once promising him that they would do no such thing and allow her to stay dead) and that he once said that he now views her the same way a father views his highly promiscuous daughter, in that he doesn’t approve of her behavior but still cares about her nonetheless…considering that he doesn’t seem to understand why Superman would want a normal human like Lois Lane as a girlfriend instead of someone like Wonder Woman who is just as strong and fast and powerful as he is, and not some Woman Of Kleenex in the bedroom, I don’t really want to know what he thinks about Lois Lane.
If this interaction between Superman and Wonder Woman from The Dark Knight Strikes Again is Frank Miller’s idea of the kind of relationship Superman should have…
…then, to quote Ira Madison III: Keep it.
(“Where’s the hero who threw me to the ground and took me as his rightful prize?” Sweet chocolate Christ…)
Frank Miller seems to be under the impression that because Superman is who he is, he deserves to be with the absolute best woman he can possibly find and that woman must come in the form of the prom queen/head cheerleader instead of the Chess Club president. That Superman must be with an Amazonian goddess who is just like him in terms of being able to display immense physical power, instead of being with a woman who is fiercely intelligent, incredibly good at her job, carries out said job with skill, honesty, and integrity, takes little to no shit from anyone, and is willing to see it that every word that has her name attached to it is worth reading, even if it could get her hurt or killed in the process and without any superpowers to prevent that from happening. And that woman is Lois Lane, who in Superman’s eyes, in Clark’s eyes, represents the very best of humanity. And that is why he loves her and that is why he chooses to be with her.
Greg Rucka, one of the very best writers both in and out of the comic-book industry, was asked by DC Women Kicking Ass on the 75th anniversary of Lois Lane’s creation, what it is that he likes about Lois and what makes her so important.
She’s the best reporter at the Daily Planet, and arguably the best investigative reporter in the world. She’s a woman with Superman’s courage, but without Superman’s powers to justify it. She’s smart, she’s stunning in body and soul, and she’d have to be, because Superman fell in love with her almost at first sight…What don’t I like about Lois? I mean… look, if you view Superman as aspirational, as the stories and adventures of a man who wants us to be ourselves at our best, then Lois is quintessentially that. She is absolutely the focus of that aspiration - brilliant, beautiful, courageous, kind, an advocate for truth and for justice, but amidst all that, always entirely human, possessed of all our foibles and insecurities and flaws. I love her fearlessness and her smarts, her morality and her ethics. I love that she’s a professional, who is legitimately good at her job, if not one of the best (even if we so-often don’t get to see that in the comics). I love that she does not surrender, and she does not back down. There’s so much there. She’s gone beyond quantification for me.
Donnia Harrington, who runs the film-criticism blog Fuck Your Boys Club, also echoed that sentiment:
[Lois Lane] is someone who is here to get the job done at any means necessary. She doesn’t care if you’re her enemy or her friend, if you’re in her line of investigation she will get what she needs so it’s best to just give it to her. She knows that she’s good and that’s what makes her a threat. This kind of confidence usually teeters on the edge of being arrogant, but we never get this impression from Lois because she works twice as hard as her colleagues. Any woman in a field as competitive and sexist as journalism can relate but the best thing about the DCEU’s interpretation of her is that her gender isn’t the reason why she faces the challenges that she does…Her gender isn’t the reason why she’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Her intelligence is. Her determination, her refusal to abandon stories even when Perry White tells her that she should for the sake of the Daily Planet’s reputation. They both know that she won’t. She chases the best stories and doesn’t let the risk of her job’s name get in the way of finding the truth.
And I shudder to think about the kind of treatment that Lois Lane will receive under Frank Miller’s pen when this…
…is how Frank Miller views Vicki Vale.
And if you’re wondering what’s so important about the treatment given to a highly-skilled investigative reporter who will go above and beyond in order to make sure that the truth is revealed to readers with every story she writes, and that people with power and influence have to answer for what they do, then I really don’t know what to tell you.
Miller also expressed that not only was he interested in exploring Superman get back in touch with his Jewish roots (“[Superman] has a history in World War II, and I’d like to put him there again…Superman needs to confront his Jewish roots, and I’d like to write that. I’d like to have him face a death camp.”) but that he was also interested in writing a Captain America story as well (“I feel that [Captain America] features virtues that my country has either lost or misplaced for a very long time. Especially at a time when the country is so clearly threatened, a hero like that is outstanding. I remember telling Marvel just a few days after 9/11, that I hoped they realized what they had there, because Captain America’s reaction to 9/11 would have been pretty direct.”) And after seeing what he wanted to do with Batman in Holy Terror, I can safely say that I can go the rest of my life without seeing Superman fight the Nazis or Captain America go after Al-Qaeda, as written and illustrated by Frank Miller.
Say what you will about how Zack Snyder portrayed Superman (and man, people have said and continue to say a lot in the four years since Man Of Steel was first released), but the worst that we’ve really seen from that portrayal is a Superman who is taking baby steps in learning who he really is and what he will be, that despite his inner turmoil and conflict as to whether the world can and will accept him, he never lets that stop him from helping those in need and fighting on their behalf. As Lois put it in Man Of Steel: “The only way you could disappear for good is to stop helping people altogether, and I sense that’s not an option for you.”
And I’d much rather read a comic book that shows Superman being like this (courtesy of All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely)…
…instead of Superman being whatever it is that Frank Miller has in store for him. He can keep it.
Header Image Source: Warner Bros.