Frank Miller's New York: The Icon Reveals the Places That Inspire His Work

Executive Suite - Frank Miller - Dark Knight - H 2016
Photographed by Allison Michael Orenstein
The writer-artist looks back at 'The Dark Knight Returns' and 'Daredevil.'

No comic creator uses the city as a source of inspiration quite like Frank Miller.

His legendary run on Daredevil captured 1980s New York, and the Gotham City of The Dark Knight Returns truly felt like a place that somebody needed to clean up. Most notable of all is Sin City, the acclaimed series that explores how an urban area can shape characters and story. 

"They're a perfect vehicle for a radical use of perspective," Miller says of his fascination with cities. "Also they're packed with people. There is a story behind every window."

With New York Comic Con underway, we thought it'd be the perfect time to catch up with Miller to ask him what areas of the city have inspired his work.

Miller, whose Dark Knight III recently was expanded to a ninth issue, says the rooftops of New York are where he feels most inspired. So it's no surprise that a key moment in 1986's The Dark Knight Returns No. 1 drew inspiration from the heights of a famous building.

"The climax takes place at a stylized version of the Chrysler Building, complete with art deco eagle ornaments,"  Miller says of the showdown, which sees Batman foil a plot by Harvey Dent/Two-Face, with the Dark Knight perching from a gargoyle with a rifle. 

Just several years earlier on Daredevil, Miller took inspiration from New York's famed West Side Highway, imagining it as a place Matt Murdock would frequent. 

"Early in the run of the series, I made good use of the West Side Highway, with the hero using it as a place to run,"  Miller recalls. (See below for panels from 1981's Daredevil No. 170.)

Miller also placed the climax of one of his most famous stories beneath the highway. In 1981's Daredevil No. 168, the first appearance of Elektra, Matt reveals his identity to his old love as they overcome a a life-and-death situation together. It's one of the most memorable few panels of Miller's original run, before returning for 1986's "Born Again" storyline. 

Miller shares more thoughts on Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as Wolverine and Batman: Year One, over at our 100 greatest superhero comics rankings

For fans at New York Comic Con hoping to catch a glimpse of the master, he will be signing copies of the new Sin City: The Hard Goodbye Curators Collection Saturday 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET, at booth #1636 at the Javits Convention Center. Admission to the signing will be by wristband only, with wristbands distributed Friday and Saturday mornings by a random drawing in the Dark Horse Comics booth. The new collection comes from scans of the original artwork from the Millers' personal archives, with it reproduced unaltered and at full size.