If there had to be one face to represent the Copper Age of comics (the 80's) I'd pick Frank Miller to be it. When he came on the comics scene in the late 70's he brought something that was genuinely unique, and the work he did over that decade were some of the greatest moments in comics history.When Frank Miller hit the comics scene in the late 70's, the people at Marvel knew that they had something special and let us know on the splash page of his very first issue on Daredevil (#158, May 1979).
|Frank Miller, who was born on January 27, 1957 and will be 58 this year, is surrounded by some of his greatest works of the 80's; Elektra and Daredevil, Batman and Robin (Carrie Kelley) from the Dark Knight Returns, and Ronin.|
Despite the great art by Miller and Klaus Janson, Miller's inker and sometimes finisher on Daredevil, it was not a popular title as written under Roger McKenzie and Marvel was thinking about canceling it. This changed when Dennis O'Neil became editor. He saw Frank's writing abilities on a back up story in DD and offered him to be the full time writer of Daredevil. With his first issue writing DD Frank blew everyone away.
The first thing Frank did was turn Daredevil's life upside-down by retroactively giving Matt Murdock a long lost love.
Elektra was the daughter of a Greek diplomat who he met while attending law school.
This is what Miller does exceedingly well, he creates compelling characters with a rich past and realistic opposing motivations. When you are reading a Miller comic, you are not going to get cardboard cut-out characters taken from a text on superheroes 101, you get realistic people with rich emotional lives. In the late 70's, when most Marvel comics were still aping the campy, antiquated standard that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had created 20 years earlier, this is what set Miller apart from every other writer in the business. It also took another 20 years for the comics community as a whole to assimilate these kind of complex, realistic people into mainstream comics.
He went on to fill out the character of the Winston Fisk, the Kingpin of crime, an old advisory of Spider-Man that had fallen out of favor with contemporary audiences. Miller recreated Kingpin as a devoted husband deeply in love with his wife Vanessa who asked him to give up his criminal empire and life of crime for her.
|Frank wrote a stunning 3 part story starting with issue #170 about Winston Fisk's reestablishing himself as the Kingpin.|
And to round out the cast Miller brought in Bullseye, a heartless assassin for hire who has a the uncanny ability to turn any ordinary object into a lethal weapon.
Bullseye was a pragmatic opportunist who would work for anyone who offered him the right amount of money.
The Death of Elektra! from Daredevil #181.
|Ronin originally came out as a 6 issue mini series between July 1983 and Aug 1984 from DC Comics.|
In Ronin Miller would combine his love of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima's Japanese samurai epic, Lone Wolf and Cub...
|Miller would imitate the samurai aspects of Lone Wolf and Cub as well as the way they use motion lines as seen here.|
And his love for the European work he saw in Heavy Metal Magazine like that of French, Jean "Moebius" Giraud.
|From Moebius Miller would take the cool otherworldly aspects of Ronin as well as the unusual coloring.|
|Miller rarely uses the grid arrangement in Ronin preferring a horizontal panel arrangement and when he does use a grid, he does interesting things with it like he did in the upper and lower left corners, using it to show the passing of time.|
|Miller's panel usage is so dynamic and innovative as seen here where he uses a vertical panel layout.|
|When Miller does use a grid layout he uses it in a completely new an original way as he did here showing the slow progression of a transformation from man to demon.|
|Miller can even give meaning to empty color panels as he does here as he illustrates the passing of time with them. That is a true mastery of the comics medium.|
He would also go on to work with some of the biggest names in comics on some of the greatest comics ever made like David Mazzucchelli on Daredevil Born Again and Batman Year One...
And with the idiosyncratic Bill Sienkiewicz on the 8 part maxi series Elektra Assassin and the graphic novel Daredevil, Love and War.
Miller's work was so revolutionary that he actually helped the whole medium grow. At the time the biggest artists were Byrne and Perez. Kirby, Ditko and Adams were still very much revered by the comics community and most of the artwork being produced was in the vain of Kirby. For Miller to look to Moebius and Kojima, he was expanding the American comics lexicon as well as adding his own unique way of working with comics. He was popular enough to get people to sit up and look at the unique stuff that he was producing, influencing the whole industry from the 80's on. He is THE 80's artist more than anyone else, representing all that was special about the 80's so much so that even today we are seeing comics like the modern Bendis' Daredevil and Brubaker and Rucka's Gotham Central working from his influence and even Hollywood is producing movies made of his work like the blockbuster Batman Begins and Batman Year One the animated movie. Miller's influence on the industry can't be overstated enough. He is one of the greatest creators who helped the medium to expand and grow at a really pivotal time in the history of comics, when comics audiences where growing up and wanted a comic that grew up with them, and Miller gave them that comic.
And Many more!