I am breathless; Frank Miller’s bayonet stuck in my chest...

This month’s cover features Nancy Callahan, a Sin City dancer recently made famous in Frank Miller’s monthly comics series Sin City: That Yellow Bastard, published by Dark Horse Comics. In this fourth chapter of Miller’s Sin City tour, Nancy, introduced as a minor character early on, now dazzles her way into the forefront. A cowgirl dancer harboring one violent, secret childhood night, Nancy not only attracts the attentions of barroom onlookers but those of ex-cop John Hartigan, her protector, and the evil Roark, a U.S. Senator trying to bury the truth about what his son almost did to Nancy when she was eleven.

Sequential artist and writer Frank Miller gives another portrait of his “Miller Hero” in Sin City: That Yellow Bastard. His main characters have haunting, teeth-clenching drives to succeed that must echo Miller’s own drive to be known as the comics medium’s most intense action artist. Frank’s pen and paper action in Sin City makes film makers John Woo and Quentin Tarantino suck eggs. Marv, protagonist of the initial Sin City chapter, personifies the Miller drive and begins a work of art that ranks Number One on my list of “Reads that I just couldn’t put down” (right above Andrew Vachss’ Shella).

Frank Miller’s drive to make the comics genre a place of uncensored and creator-owned storytelling is one that’s almost unparalleled in the industry today. He published the landmark creator-owned Ronin with DC comics in 1983, then completely blew superhero books into the adult market with 1986’s masterful and mature Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. In 1993 he co-founded the “Legend” branch of Dark Horse Comics, which ensures creative protection and freedoms to a select fold of talented artists, and he currently writes a monthly column on industry topics and freedom of speech rights in the Overstreet’s Fan magazine.

Never staid, always developing, Frank Miller’s artwork has changed quite a bit in the past two decades while his craft as a writer becomes focused on maintaining an engaging, frenetic pace. In Ronin, Miller pays homage to both classic Japanese samurai strips and the organic style of Jean “Moebius” Giraud. Now, in Sin City, his black and white noir style plays off negative space and simplicity, and reads with deceptive ease.

Not only an accomplished artist, Frank Miller’s also written many fist-clenching, explosive adventure tales for other embellishers to bring to life. His work with David Mazzucchelli, on Marvel’s Daredevil series, is known as that book’s seminal work and remains unsurpassed. Scripting for Geof Darrow, an exhaustively detailed artist, Miller hones his tuff-guy dialogue in The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, and, in Hard Boiled, pushes the Blade Runner and Robocop man-in-the-machine riff to its severest limit. The epic Give Me Liberty series, introducing power survivor, Martha Washington, is drawn by and co-created with David “Watchmen” Gibbons.

While most of his current Sin City heroes are men protecting ladies, one should not overlook the strong female survivors in works past. Elektra, the beautiful assassin Miller created to haunt and taunt Daredevil, is now one of Marvel Comics’ top resident “Bad Girls.” (Miller’s 1990 work, Elektra Lives Again, was a tour-de-force for his longtime collaborator, colorist Lynn Varley.) The apocalyptic future in The Dark Knight Returns is stomping grounds for an aged Batman, with a girl sidekick, Carrie “Robin” Kelley. Martha Washington rises above poverty, racism, and corrupt power mongering, saving lives and keeping herself intact amidst chaos.

Whether he’s charting a course for Sin City’s latest head-knocking hero or lashing out against book burners, Frank Miller’s drive to push the comics genre into a recognized and mature playing field is an art in itself. Sure, he has some stinkers out there (those Spawn things he wrote), but the body of good work he’s amassed is already classic. If you’re an adult who enjoys unflinching action, Frank Miller’s a master. His mood-effects and story pacing skills are riveting. Drop by any comic book store and ask to see some of his work – everyone in the industry knows who he is. Let Frank Miller bludgeon you...and watch yourself enjoy it.

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This is reprinted from Exotic Magazine © 1996 X Publishing