web stats

CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages – Frank Miller Comments on Jim Lee’s New Art Style

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we look at Frank Miller expressing his displeasure with Jim Lee using an art style influenced by Miller.

Reader Rob T. recommended I feature this one.

Back in 1993, Jim Lee debuted a new art style that was influenced by Frank Miller, specifically Frank Miller’s work on Sin City.

Here it is, from 1993’s Darker Image #1, featuring the first appearance of Deathblow…

And here, from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For #1, from later in 1993, is Frank Miller using his character Marv to show his displeasure with Lee drawing in a style inspired by Miller…

Just in case people weren’t quite sure what he was getting at, Miller then explained in a letter column that he was irritated by other artists drawing like him. He specifically mentions Lee and Michael Netzer.

Years later, of course, Miller and Lee would do All Star Batman and Robin together, so I imagine they hashed things out.


I wonder in which language “Madre Dio” is supposed to be.

That Deathblow stuff looks like Jim Lee style, with a bit of Miller “inspiration” thrown in.

I’ve never cared for either of them (although I have to admit that Miller panel is pretty nice on it’s own, I’ve never thought he was a great sequential artist), but this just makes Miller sound like a jerk. To my eye, Lee is clearly not ripping him off.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 4, 2011 at 5:33 am

As per Wikipedia:

Madre de Dios is a fairly common Spanish designation for the Virgin Mary, literally meaning “mother of God”.

Okay. What am I missing here? Where’s Miller’s “comment”?

I dunno, Zane. From the article context, I guess the guy Marv is beating up is suppossed to be either Lee or Deathblow, but how you’d make that connection otherwise I can’t say. Nor can I tell how Lee’s image is suppossed to be influenced by Miller.

@Tom Aren’t you proving Nataniel’s point? If the proper Spanish is “Madre de Dios” why does the comic say “Madre Dio”?

I know as a multilingual reader, it annoys the hell out of me when writers try to insert non-English dialogue and can’t be bothered to look it up.

Not that any of this has anything to do with Frank Miller’s meta-message.

Wayne….Okay, I can KINDA seen bandoliers on the guy Marv is pummeling….so, I suppose he is supposed to be Deathblow.

To me, the Miller influence is strongest in the last panel of Lee’s work.

I do find it funny that they worked together years later. Guess in the industry, money heals all wounds.

All that said….Brian, great idea for a column. Let’s us see a little behind the scenes gossip.

Rainbow In The Dark

October 4, 2011 at 6:38 am

The “Madre Dio” dialog as used in that panel ACTUALLY means “MOTHER OF RONNIE JAMES DIO!” Hahaa! ;)
Just kidding.

On the topic: I’m a longtime fan of Jim Lee’s art and Frank Miller’s earlier work as well as the first few Sin City tales. I DO remember all of this about Jim Lee’s being influenced by Miller’s Sin City art style. If I recall correctly, I even remember Lee outright saying as such in various interviews and such at the time. Miller’s Sin City was such an inspiration to Lee, I remember him saying that Miller’s art style intrigued him and he wanted to give it a try in his own way. So Lee chose to do so with Deathblow.

I also remember Miller’s dislike of it and his statements in his letter pages for his Sin City books.
He wished that the artists aping his style would venture off and find their own style rather than adopting his style. As much as he seemed disgruntled over Lee’s Deathblow at the time, I remember he seemed EVEN MORE disgruntled by Michael Netzer’s work on the 4 issue DC Comics mini-series The Huntress.
Lee’s Deathblow DID have it’s obvious Miller influences to the art and all, BUT Lee also seemed to retain much of his own flavor of his art style.

Netzer’s art for The Huntress, however, was EVEN MORE Miller/Sin City-esque. Just look up images from it by Netzer and you’ll see how even more closely his art for The Huntress resembled Sin City than even Lee’s for Deathblow. I think I even recall in that letters page write-up that Miller even went so far as to call out how Netzer did very much the same thing utilizing a Neal Adams “house-style” when working on stuff for Adams’ Continuity Comics titles in the early 90s, or something like that. Can’t be sure. I’ll have to look through those old Sin City issues of mine for clarification. ;)

It’s not as if Miller himself wasn’t influenced by anyone. How odd for him to become so proprietary, especially since Lee was hardly swiping specific panel layouts and the like.

It was Jim Lee AND Tim Sale (who took over for Lee on Deathblow) that Frank Miller had a problem with aping his style. To me the Miller SIn City influence was obvious, but each, Lee and Sale, retained enough of their own style in the finished artwork to justify its existence without having it be dismissed as a rip-off. It was influenced by Frank Miller, not blatantly plagiarizing him. In my opinion, as much as I love Sin City,I think the Deathblow work by Jim Lee and Tim Sale actually looks better.

i dont think the jab by Miller is as malicious as its being made out to be. I know Jim Lee thinks the world of Frank Miller and I highly doubt that Frank held any kind of animosity towards Lee.
If anything I would imagine Miller was possibly offended that the style was homaged on such a two-bit character as deathblow.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank Miller hated Scott McDaniel’s artwork on Daredevil (Fall from Grace/Tree of Knowledge), too, since not only was it another obvious style influenced by Sin City, but it was actually on Daredevil, a title Frank is famously known for.

The Crazed Spruce

October 4, 2011 at 8:59 am

Yeesh. Most people would be flattered that a fellow artist cited them as an influence. I mean, sure, if Lee was basically tracing over his existing work (which, to be fair, is the kind of thing that a lot of artists, especially the lesser Image artists, were doing at the time), then I can see him having a problem with it, but this? Get off your high horse, Frank, and appreciate the implied compliment.

You can tell that’s Deathblow that Marv is standing on by the shoulder pads and the stripes on the guy’s face. Look at the wrinkles in his forehead, there are two clean white lines to replicate the red lines of Deathblow.

I think Miller did call out Scott McDaniel, too, now that it’s mentioned…it wasn’t any one guy he was reacting to. Maybe if it had just been Jim Lee Miller would have been flattered (and he does seem prone to flattery), but when it seemed like a lot of artists suddenly decided to start drawing “Sin City style” and were rewarded by fans with higher sales, it crossed the line and Miller started feeling exploited.

What made the Jim Lee side of things seem a bit sad was that Lee was going on in interviews about what an inspiration Sin City was and how Deathblow was his new dream project…and then he dropped it after, what, 2 or 3 issues? I guess artists can be mercurial like that.

Reprint the letter column address – that Miller rant was AWESOME.

Maybe Miller was just commenting on how Darker Image #1 really, really sucked.

Seems pretty obvious Marv is beating up Deathblow. Though readers who didn’t know what Deathblow looks like wouldn’t get the reference, but I’m sure Jim Lee understood just fine.

So yeah, did Kazuo Koike ever draw Ogami Itto slicing up Marv while Daigoro plays in his blood?

On Michael Netzer’s style on Huntress: He wrote a bit about it here.

The only appropriate response to Lee deviating from his early style is relief.
His X-Men and early Image stuff was goddamn hideous.

What, did Frank Miller invent black and white? I’m sure there were scores of Japanese comic artists shaking their fists at Frank when he was aping their style during his Daredevil runs, not to mention Ronin…

As long as it isn’t a full-on swipe, artistic styles belong to nobody.

I for one love when an artist will pay homage to classic comic art, whether in cover or interior pages, as long as credit is given where it is due.

@ Jack Norris – Jim Lee’s X-Men stuff was so “hideous” that I believe X-Men #1 is still the best selling comic of all time…

IIRC, the first issue of Deathblow was more Sin City-ish with Deathbow feeling sorry for himself in a shadowy church.

The sad thing is as other people have noted, when ever Miller gets obsessed with a new artist, it always shows transparently in his work because he’s often regurgitating their style in a most obvious way. See Hugo Pratt, Kazuo Koike, Moebius, and around this time Jose Munoz, whose extremely similar art was featuring in the hardboiled crime graphic novel series SINNER (I’m sure Miller’s choice of SIN CITY for a title was a complete coincidence), and you sure as hell never saw Alack Sinner beating up Marv…though Brian, if you need a concept for The Line It Is Drawn….

Has anyone mentioned to Frank Miller how much “his” style looks like Alberto Breccia and/or Jose Muñoz?

Wasn’t Batman: Year One also stylistically influenced by Alex Toth, although filtered by Mazzuchelli’s own style? Miller didn’t object to that.

And I just remembered, David Lloyd did this type of stark black and white contrast on V For Vendetta long before Miller did it on Sin City.

Frank is alright. It’s just that at the time he was a little full of himself. Happens sometimes when success comes fast and people let it go to their heads. So he pumped himself up a little at our expense. No biggie.

If anyone missed the link, I drew a couple of stories in that style for Star Reach and Hot stuff about a decade before Sin City. These two jobs that were well known, controversial and came out around when Frank started working in comics, were likely no small influence on his high-contrast work. But I’m always flattered when Frank or anyone tries aping something I did and would never take them to task for it because they probably learnt something from it. And it would be a sick thing to do to someone who’s showing some respect for your work. Though Frank never even came close to the writing style and skill in these two short pieces. Here are the links: http://bit.ly/qitsnghttp://bit.ly/nLzf5G

Such fun with Frank.

Miller came up with Chiaroscuro? Good job!

Netzer had been doing that ish since the late seventies. http://www.michaelnetzer.com/archive/thenewcomicbookoflife/HS_01.html

Well. I remember the “controversy” at the time, with Lee and Sale being called out for using that style in Deathblow. I’m guessing some of the ire comes from it being an Image title, where the guys purportedly were doing their own, creative concepts that they couldn’t do elsewhere — and then they’re aping a style that Frank started using, to much success and acclaim, and as others pointed out here, then dropping those concepts and turning Image into little work for hire fiefdoms.

As it’s been pointed out, for Frank to get proprietary when he was/is an artistic influence sponge himself is a little laughable. I think this page from Sin City on its own is nothing over the top, but it sounds like Frank outdid himself in the letters column about the issue.

And Frank did kind of come out with this style full force in ’91 after not really drawing much since…DKR? (IIRC, most of the things he did between then and Sin City were writing gigs). Also, it’s the “hard boiled” dialogue and narration in Deathblow that probably also irked Frank. Yeah, he’s also riffing on old detective stuff and all, but no one else was doing this in comics at the time (or not many), and Frank had shown since at least ’83, and the pinups he did for Ms Tree of classic detectives, that he was a big noir fan. For all these other people to do watered down versions all the sudden…well, I can see where it’d grate.

And all due respect to Mr Netzer, but the two links he gives look MUCH more like Jeffrey Jones/the Studio-lite than anything Frank Miller’s done. And the hippie “story”…

Whereas in the link Burgas provides, Netzer is DEFINITELY aping Frank (as he doesn’t deny).

Sorry Travis, but you’re saying things that don’t sound to be in the best interest of artists trying to get along. I don’t think there’s any other reason for Frank to get irked other than being full of himself and having an overblown sense of self-importance at the time. Frazetta didn’t get irked at Wrightson. Kirby didn’t get irked at Steranko, Buscema, Smith or countless others. They apparently had a slightly more humble outlook and sense of courtesy that understood where artists draw their influence from. They knew better than to use terms like “watered down versions” as you do. So again, sorry. But it’s not understandable to me in any humanistic form for Frank to publicly castigate and humiliate colleagues that drew inspiration from something that wasn’t really his own personal intellectual property or creation. Frank’s success came on the shoulders of countless other artists who opened doors to comics art before he even knew what a comic book was. Unlike his predecessors, when the ball fell in his court, he went haywire and started smacking people around with it. Certainly not of the more gracious moments for him.

Don’t get me wrong because Frank and I are alright as far as I remember. It’s just that In the few times we’ve talked since, I never sensed a feeling of remorse from him or any indication that he thought he overstepped a basic civility or courtesy with us. And I really couldn’t give a flying fish about it. I’ve been a little more forgiving in the past but the story resurfaces from time to time with the same intonations. So I’ll allow myself a little criticism this time.

Those first two links you mentioned have the high contrast look in common. Frank’s influences also rest with Steranko and to some degree Jeffrey Catherine Jones who also poured on the black as a thing in and of itself. Like you say, there weren’t many working in high contrast/noir so the few who did would stand out. Those two stories were accompanied by a whopping industry buzz about me and Frank was right in the heart of it. It’s just natural that they contributed to his thinking in this direction. If you look at how the space ship is treated in the last few pages of the Star Reach story, you can see the beginnings of the Sin City look there. It doesn’t matter if you can explain it away as being too distant, anyone who understands how artists think about their work and understands the time period, could see the connection.

On a final note, if we’re using the term “aping”, I’d say that a lot of the Huntress work took that look to heights Frank Miller couldn’t have dreamed of. A lot of it ran rings around Sin City in drawing, design and finesse. But you’d have to look at the books to see that, if you can try to ignore what you’ve heard about it. I often shudder at the ease with which misinformed subtle insults fly around fandom as if trying to grade artists on nothing more than pop hype ratings. I know what I can do and don’t really need anyone’s corroboration for it.

Odd criticism from Miller – how much Gil Kane, etc. did he flat out swipe in his early days? Guess he doesn’t like tributes… at least when they’re directed at him. (C’mon, Frank, you aren’t that modest!) I’m not a big fan of Jim Lee, but I can appreciate his work. (Unlike most of the artists in the so-called “Image” style/era, he definitely understands the structure of anatomy and layout, before he violates them. His style is informed on knowledge.)

Hi Jackson. Though I think my first comment was written before yours, it was only posted after. So, you wouldn’t have known about it even if you’d checked. Thank you kindly for the good vibes.

There’s a Facebook album of choice Huntress images for anyone more curious.


Travis: A thought about the “hippie story…” I know that smaller ideas that use a lot of words can be stimulating and that it seems there’s not much of a story there. But as Mike Friedrich suggested in the SR editorial, there’s a lot of inbetween the lines reading to be done there. I think if you try to get into what it’s saying to the background of a comic book artist who utilizes the medium for more than entertainment for its own sake, and notice how it weaves past, present and future narrative that predicts the pertinence of comics to culture, as they’re becoming today…. well, there may be a lot more there than the “hippie story…” brushoff, especially considering how direct and bare it is. I think it needs to be viewed with a little more imagination than we’re used to being spoon-fed these days. It tells a lot more story than many graphic novels and provokes a rare type of stimulation with many readers. It worked in its time as it certainly caused a lot of thought, discussion and commotion… in case you might have missed it.

I can understand why Miller was pissed at those artists aping his style at the time. I can’t recall Frank ever claiming that he came up with the black and white noir style – if you can find a quote feel free to put it up. But make sure you reference it for fairness’ sake.

What he took exception to, and I wholeheartedly agree, is that he was using the style quite successfully at the time, to differentiate his Sin City stories from all the other art out there at the time – the Jim Lees, the John Byrnes, and the Image look etc. It was a unique “look” in the mainstream (highlight mainstream) comic book scene at that time. Then a number of artists (I’m not judging them as I’m sure they were pressured to do so) began to cash in on the style he was using, and most notably, with inferior comics that were by and large, badly written and produced very quickly.

I can understand Frank’s annoyance in how his product, something he was personally invested in and had taken a HUGE leap of faith to produce (black and white comics back then in the mainstream? HUGE risk) might be “watered down” by all these inferior products. That fans might be confused and pick up a certain comic thinking it was a Miller Sin City comic – ever see “Armed and Dangerous?” – a blatant rip-off of Sin City and quite confusing to a reader not “in the know.” And then to cap it all off with these artists claiming they were “homaging” him, when really, we all knew that they weren’t doing so – they were cashing in on the popularity of Sin City and the art style of the book (by choice or forced – who knows?). Just like the era in which EVERY second comic seemed to be a poor knock-off of Jim Lee’s Wildcats.

The problem here is that a lot of posters are negatively viewing/ judging Frank by his personality, things he’s said in the past, “Tall Poppy” syndrome etc INSTEAD of the actual situation presented here. If it was anyone else I’m sure most of us would be less critical and acknowledge that at the time Frank was quite right to be pissed about the situation.


Netzer wrote:
“On a final note, if we’re using the term “aping”, I’d say that a lot of the Huntress work took that look to heights Frank Miller couldn’t have dreamed of. A lot of it ran rings around Sin City in drawing, design and finesse. But you’d have to look at the books to see that, if you can try to ignore what you’ve heard about it.”

I remember buying the Huntress miniseries at the time and quite enjoying it BECAUSE I was a huge SIn City fan. I still have it. And while I can still appreciate your art, it’s clearly influenced by what Miller was doing at the time. And no offense, but stylistically it is not as good as Miller’s at all. Miller’s art was a part of the story and was integral to the plot, the dialogue and the characters. You can’t see Sin City drawn in any other way. As for the Huntress miniseries, honestly, any art style could’ve been attached to that story and made little difference (because of the simple fact that the Huntress has been drawn by many different artists).

Claiming this is just about “high contrast” is silly.

Tim Sale’s art is usually high contrast, but not trying to look like Miller (though I daresay there’s a strong influence).

The work he did on Deathblow was definitely him trying to look like Miller. He openly admits that that’s what Jim Lee hired him to do.

What you’re saying is very strange, Jamie. If you’re suggesting that Frank worked hard to achieve a look and style so that he could be the only one who does it, then you might like to review art in comics throughout its history. There’s no such thing as an artist developing a style that they can claim intellectual property rights to. Just the opposite really. Most artists who pushed the envelope were more than happy that the look they developed became embraced by mainstream trends. The history of comics art is saturated with overlap periods of styles that caught on, and no artist has ever been irked at other artists because they became influenced by it.

Your derogatory language about “ripping off” someone’s style suggest you don’t really understand comics art and how it develops. Even Jack Kirby, one of the seminal innovators of comics, spent more than a decade of his career “ripping off” everyone who preceded him, including greats such as Lou Fine. It took him more than a decade of learning from others in order to be able to break away. When he finally broke loose with Marvel, he never once derided all the artists who “watered down” his style for Marvel. He developed a look that he was more than happy to share and spread around for the sake of an evolving comics culture. Neither Kirby nor any other artist who contributed a certain look to a medium has ever suggested we understand the strange thing you’re asking us to understand about Frank Miller.

And to be fair with Frank, he never suggested such a thing himself. His stated reason for criticizing us was that he thought we could do better doing our own thing. But like I said, I think he was just full of himself at the time and a little intoxicated with a his own self-importance.

Grant: I think we’re mixing a few issues that weren’t meant to be mixed, so I’ll first say that I’m also a HUGE Frank Miller fan. More than anyone else, his work drew me back into comics in the early 90’s. His contribution to elevating the medium is immense. His cognizance of what comics could be is beyond measure. Sin City was a brilliant creation in both story and art. Nothing I’ve said here changes any of that.

I never said the Huntress mini-series is better than Sin City. I’d never make that comparison because what you say about it is true. Sin City is an independent creation where the artist/writer is its absolute creator, free of any previous incarnation and free of outside editorial control. The Huntress is an entirely different thing and can’t be fairly compared to Sin City. Its limitations are inherent in what it is.

Inadvertently, when some have used terms like “watered down version” regarding the Huntress mini-series in the past, I’ve let it go without addressing the issue of the art itself. But it gets a little boring listening to the same type of misinformed, or not very thoughtful comments, especially from some who don’t seem to understand comics art very well. So, I’ve decided to try to defend my work in the Huntress this time and I think you misunderstood what I meant.

As you say, it’s the totality of Sin City that makes it what it is. The art and story mesh together in a rare way of being created for each other. The Huntress, not being that type of creation, could never achieve that totality. But that doesn’t mean the art is a “watered down” version of Miller’s. I know Frank’s work and I don’t think many would argue with the notion that drawing in the classical craft sense is not one of his strengths. And I wouldn’t suggest that it has to be. I’m personally drawn to much more abstract and suggestive approaches than I have ever been. Frank understood he had a weakness in classical comics drawing and more than made up for it with an ability to tell a story suggestively and almost abstractly. It’s a beautiful contribution to the medium that I believe has helped a lot of artists who followed him. Comics art doesn’t always have to be classical.

On the other hand, my work in Huntress is much more strongly embedded in an underlying classical approach to the craft, subtlety and finesse of drawing. That’s why I chose my words carefully and said the drawing, design and finesse were better than Frank’s work in Sin City. I meant that in the sense of the craft of classical comics art. I know that the totality of the Huntress series cannot be compared to Sin City. But it’s my opinion that when isolating some panels of it, the level of craftsmanship there is far superior to Frank’s. I’d say the same thing about Jim Lee’s Deathblow, btw. The drawing there is much better than what Frank can do. I think it’s a reasonable observation and doesn’t really infringe on the totality of Frank’s work in Sin City. Nice to hear you liked it.

No offense Michael but the fact that you’re so quick to reply to a post which disagrees with your POV and version of events speaks volumes to me. Just reminds me of the old chestnut, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

The term “ripping off” IMO is not derogatory, but an accurrate reflection of what was occurring at the time. In addition, I wouldn’t be so precious about using the word “derogatory” after reading some of your previous posts about Miller – some read as a very derogatory (especially when we all know he’s not going to bother showing up to defend himself). I stand by the comment – not as an insult, but as an accurate description.

Just because my opinion differs to yours doesn’t necessarily make it “strange.” I’d hate to think you were trying to discredit a different opinion to yours by implying I’m some kind of addled fanboy, and that because you’re in the industry everything you write is absolute truth and I’m just misinformed. Some posters here, myself included, have been reading comics and about comics history for decades.

In fact I’m just getting through a Joe Simon Autobiography in which he discusses how every publisher around was “cashing in” on Kirby’s art style immediately after Captain America came out, demanding that all comics adopt the “Kirby style.” Joe Simon discusses a situation in which Irv Novick who had been drawing the shield for months had been told to draw the comic in the Kirby style. According to Simon pretty much every artist was “cashing in” on the Kirby style. “Cashing in” sounds an awful like “ripping off” to me – a practice that obviously back then was understood as a necessary evil, particularly as comics weren’t viewed as anything worthwhile – just a product. But I think Kirby would have had a different opinion today, if a bunch of artists started mimicing his art style (especially if he was the only one doing it at the time) to the point where it was difficult to differentiate each other.

Jamie, you just replied much faster than I did last time. Does that mean you protest too much? And look at how fast I’m replying now. So what? Stop being so judgmental and please try to get off the high horse. I’m generally a very nice guy but I’m a little sensitive to people getting uppity with me.

Nothing you’ve said changes the history of development of art styles. Some instances stand out but the process permeates the evolution of comics art. I criticize Frank because he overstepped a common courtesy and insulted other creators, singling us out as if we did something unique and rare in this case. This is simply not so and God knows Frank has ripped off enough from other artists that he should know better. That’s why you’re asking us to understand it on the grounds you do sounds strange to me in the context of everything else.

And since when is “strange” necessarily an insult? Get over yourself.

Jamie: “I wouldn’t be so precious about using the word “derogatory” after reading some of your previous posts about Miller – some read as a very derogatory (especially when we all know he’s not going to bother showing up to defend himself).

Oh yea. Like Frank was fair with us by insulting us in his letter column without asking for our comments before he published it. At least I’m doing it in an open forum where Frank is welcome to show up and “defend himself”. If he sees himself as being above discussing it publicly, that’s his problem, not mine.

Jamie: “I stand by the comment – not as an insult, but as an accurate description.”

I wish you’d be more honest with yourself. You know it’s an insult. The notion that in your opinion it’s an accurate description doesn’t change the insult.

Forgetting everything else, “ripping off” is definitely a derogatory statement. Just look at the definition of the term:

1. To steal from: thieves who ripped off the unsuspecting tourist.
2. To steal: ripped off a leather jacket while ostensibly trying on clothes.
3. To exploit, swindle, cheat, or defraud: a false advertising campaign that ripped off consumers.

Rainbow In The Dark: “I think I even recall in that letters page write-up that Miller even went so far as to call out how Netzer did very much the same thing utilizing a Neal Adams “house-style” when working on stuff for Adams’ Continuity Comics titles in the early 90s, or something like that. Can’t be sure. I’ll have to look through those old Sin City issues of mine for clarification.”

At the time, I had started a lawsuit against Neal Adams for a character that we initially co-created, Ms. Mystic. It seems that this really irked Frank and after his comments on the Huntress art, he went into a tirade about the lawsuit. He was suggesting that because I developed my drawing skill from working with Neal, then I don’t have a right to claim an agreed-upon joint ownership of a character that was initially my idea. I think it’s a good indication of Frank not thinking clearly about all this at the time. He was being emotional and a little over-protective, even though a drawing style has nothing to do with intellectual property rights.

Just found a scan of the original letter column.


Reading it now, it doesn’t sound as bad as the impression it made over time. In a sense, Frank’s right. What he’s saying is something we should be striving for. But demanding it while ignoring the process of trying to get there seems unreasonable. At least as far as Lee and Sale are concerned because they’ve both proven they were on the way to finding their unique path as artists. And when talking about what we’re fighting for as creators… well, long after he said all that, Frank became again willing to put aside the fight and go back to writing what DC wanted from him. So he wasn’t really so steadfast as he thought he would be. His portrait attached to my comment there shows that I love the knucklehead anyway.

I think it’s good to remember that pretty much all commercial comics are to some extent “trend-based” in both subject matter (like “Dazzler, Marvel’s roller-disco sensation!”) and art style, and even commercial graphic design has bits of this and that other things thrown in or snatched from here or there.

The early issues of Teenage Mutant Turtles were all drawn with a heavy dose of Frank Miller, but it was clearly because those guys enjoyed his style, and Bill Sienkiewicz’ super-expressive style was a huge influence on a lot of later, lesser artists, though early on in his work Bill was trying his best to look like Neal Adams!

But I do own the color red and anyone who has red on a superhero is ripping me off!

Well, I just read the scanned lettercol from Mr. Netzer’s comment just previous to mine, and wasn’t aware until now that Miller also used Neal Adams as an example, that was a coincidence and nothing was meant by it. I wish I could draw like that! I’m sure he inspired many a young artist, and that’s a good thing. Young geologists, not so much but that’s another story! ;-)

Also, yes that was a quite ungracious column by Frank Miller, though it is his book I don’t think the editor should have let him get away with those slams.

Interesting about Neal, Ganky. He developed his style in early 60’s commercial art and newspaper strips where in the beginning he was a virtual clone of Stan Drake. He pushed that style but it was common in advertising though not in mainstream comics, so it stood out right away. But it wasn’t as new to the illustration field as it seemed to be at DC. Inspiring young geologists is a lost cause, btw. They’re trying to get a degree for the most part. If they supported Neal’s theory for a growing Earth, they’d fail. Though it makes a lot more sense than the garbage they call Plate Tectonics :-)

I believe it’s already been said before, but the whole selling point of Death Blow was that Jim Lee would be using a Frank Miller inspired style. It wasn’t a secret that his style was being used.

Remember, that back in the early 90’s, EVERYBODY drew in Jim Lee’s style (except Frank Miller). So it was a big deal that the propagator of that style was switching to draw like someone else.

To be honest, my friends and I thought that it was an homagé to Miller. We had never heard of Frank Miller before, and because of Jim Lee using his style, he instantly became cool and credible in our eyes (remember, we were kids).

I randomly came across the first issues of Deathblow for the first time, and all I knew about them beforehand was Jim Lee drew them “differently,” and since I don’t like dude’s art, I figured I might as well give it a look. My first thought when flipping through them was “Looks like someone liked SIn City.”

@Living Silver

Not everyone in the 90’s drew in Lee’s style, thank god.

In all fairness I always thought Miller was actually aping José Antonio Muñoz drawing style here is a link http://www.bulledair.com/index.php?rubrique=planche&album=bar_joe2 this is from 1987 way before sin city
so if frank called somebody out on copying him he was just being a hypocrite and probably praying none of this Argentine masters comics were ever translated

Adding to what has been said here, and aside from the references already made to Breccia, Muñoz and such, I’ll offer what is – to me – an even more blatand example of Miller also “aping” someone else’s style – namely, italian artist Guido Crepax.
The samples found online won’t do this justice, but I see A LOT of Crepax’s influences on Miller’s early DD work, and more than a hint of Crepax’s interpretation of italy’s chiaroscuro and b/w fumettos later on, especially in Sin City. So, I guess, all other creators who were accused of swipping Miller could make an argument that they were, in fact, directly inspired by the same fumettos and even Crepax, since Miller himself didn’t create that art style out of blue…

Good catch, Dan. Some of Guido’s later close-ups of women seemed to have made a strong impression on Frank. Even if only subconsciously. But I don’t have a problem saying my Huntress series was inspired by Sin City, in the same way that I think Frank would (or should) own up to the influence of Breccia, Muñoz, Kirby, Steranko, Crepax and others on his. I just think its a natural and common developmental reality in the arts and that we’d be hard pressed to find artists who didn’t draw inspiration from, and base a portion of their work on their predecessors. It’s prevalent and it’s all over the place. This particular case stands out probably because Frank made a big deal about it publicly and had an audience to hear and repeat it.

I also don’t think terms like aping or swiping apply in these cases because none of us swiped or aped any of frank’s work directly. We just got into that headset but each of us structured our work independently. Aping and swiping is usually about being able to identify specific images the work was based on. Lee, Sale and I didn’t do that type of thing here. Frank’s influence was more of a cosmetic one but there were no direct swipes. Just the opposite, I think we each added a unique personal touch to that look.

On a more positive note, I had a chance to see Holy Terror recently. I liked Frank’s art there a lot and think he’s pushed himself well beyond Sin City in the design, storytelling and pacing. It’s a beautiful book. The story might be a little flat by comparison (though the subject matter makes up for it) but the art is fabulous.

Mychael Darklighter

July 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm

i love this place.
thanks, michael for dropping in.
lots to think about there.

I don’t like Lee’s stuff at all. Never have. Miller is a great. Lee’s art being influenced isn’t really noticeable here. I doubt Miller has a whole lot to worry about status-wise. Nobody I know likes Lee. Most of us hate his stuff, and get pissed off at his designs and his style. Sorry Jim, nothing personal.

miller, regardless how berserk he’s gone, is one of the few that has a unique drawing style. when you see his work you know its him. miller grew up on alex toth, and other greats. jack kirby etc.. i think john romita jr draws daredevil similar to frank. blocky characters n such. batman year one has some snippets of frank miller. i think the story of year one sucks to b honest.

I wonder what Miller’s thoughts are on Liefeld’s copin his style? via Shadowhawk #0.

Back then I thinkyou could make a jab like that and have it not be malicious. Look at the Overkill Comic Book Greats where the three creators are constantly jabbing at each other.

If you are that good, you’re going to be copied. It’s that simple.

imitation is the best form of flattery. love miller’s stuff ( except 4 holy terror: dumb & kinda racist) . hate jim lee’s art , in general. both of them need 2 get a life, though …. and all star batman sucked.

I don’t get it, why would he be annoyed that another artist would be inspired by him? This isn’t all out copying, it’s simply inspired by his style. If he couldn’t handle that, I suppose he should have refrained from making his work known at all.

It’s great to hear the thoughts on this matter of style influences and such. Almost all styles any artists in history come from previous artists. Anyone. From the caves of Lascaux to any painter today. You simple can’t learn something out of thin air no matter how “self-taught” you are. Everyone has opened up an art book or magazine and seen something they liked as a kid or adult and said to themselves they wanted to do that or draw that or express that. We are all in a a fish tank breathing the same oxygen how can we not be influenced or inspired. I see comics as the place where his happens the most and sometimes it’s annoying and sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. I remember the Deathblow/Sin City thing and at the time I was in high school and wasn’t digging Miller’s work, but I knew Lee was “using” the an element of it. It would have been great to see where he would have taken it had Miller not interfered. Miller is a great artist and brought us great things. I will never forget my christmas present one year in 1989 when I got Dark Knight Returns. It was this adult thing I didn’t know what it was, but I copied one of the pages with markers in sixth grade (Batman is in the air asking himself how his body should be in agony) in a pretty huge poster board and had it in my room for several years. I loved that Batman and years later after reading it I’d know how amazing it was and still today.

In general Miller has become a grumpy old man and even in the 90’s he was showing what was to come. With all his accomplishments came a lot of major missed: Dark Knight Strikes Again, Holy Terror and The Spirit (god worst movie in my book).

I still love his art from back then and a lot of early Sin City. He did great work and I doubt there will be anything great ever again, but I will always hope there will be.

I could name all the influences I see in almost any artist out there. The best ones seem to have a pretty impossible one to imitate because of it’s complexities and personal experiences added to it. I don’ think Sin City’s style is very complex. Miller used something that was new a the time though had been around. Instead of site where he got it from he decided to act as if it came from nowhere and he originated it. That’s a personal choice and also he lacks modesty. his ego at the time (maybe still today) is as big as a house. He doesn’t know how to be any other way (it seems). There are a lot of those guys in the comic field and in almost any other artistic or business profession. It’s a plague.

I think if anything Michael Netzer admits to to his love for Miller’s work. That should be given some amount of praise. The Huntress Series I bought because of the art and because I liked his take on that Noir style. it was easily recognizable, but I also enjoyed the color treatment which I think adds to the book. I still have my late 80’s Huntress series which I need to read and then I will read that particular story. I’m not expecting anything great, but a nice ride in this Noir style in color.

I remember that huntress mini series back in the day and I thought Mr. Netzers work was good and appropriate for the story. I also remember the beef that was going between Miller and the other artists but at the same time Peter David and Todd Mcfarlane were going back and forth and John Byrne….well he was being JohnByrne. Good times. I wonder what Will Eisner or Goseki Kojima thought about Franks early Daredevil issues because it’s hard for any artist to be original.

Hi! to all of you who don’t know!

There was this legendary comic book artist named ALEX TOTH, who in his prime (whch was about 4 decades) created much of the 70s hanna barbera, and solved mostly every technical problems for himself and other comic book artists aroud him at warren publishing and dc.

He was such a genius that only once or twice in his sleep he created this style for a couple of stories for warren publishing, and never went back to that style, it was just a creative exploration for him for a month or two.

FRANK MILLER took that style and kept on doing it to this day, what a shame!

While ALEX TOTH was made allmost an outcast in the comic book world in the late 90s, and died an outcast.
ALEX TOTH was probably the most talented comic book artist in the last 50 years.
aaand by the way ALEX TOTH was not jewish.


Miller couldn’t hold a candle to Lee when it come to art

Miller was emulating Steranko pure and simple with his style in Sin CIty. If you don’t believe that, check out Jim Steranko’s work on Chandler, pre Sin City.

Miller has no room to talk, Lee by far is a better artist, Miller’s layouts are great, but also inspired by Steranko and Einser.

Michael Netzer is right in this thread.

I liked Lee & Sale’s Miller-esque art in “Deathblow.” It looks good, and it’s clearly an influence, rather than a swipe.

Frank Miller is America’s Alan Moore: Over-rated, grumpy, whiny, and hypocritical.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives