Frank Miller is not a man who’s hung up on his own achievements.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter about the upcoming release of Dark Knight III: The Master Race (which he co-writes with 100 Bullets and Wonder Woman‘s Brian Azzarello), Miller is in fine form, laughing and joking with inker Klaus Janson — who works with Andy Kubert on art for the main series, in addition to working with Miller on a 16-page mini-comic insert for the first issue — but refusing to be seen as the iconic creator the industry sees him as.
“Not only was the first Dark Knight ahead of its time in terms of format and storytelling, you can see something that Frank did that was way ahead of its time, in that he introduced a female Robin,” Janson says at one point. “And that was groundbreaking 30 years ago. People are talking about diversification these days, but Frank was doing that 30 years ago. That was an amazing, and very forward thinking, thing that Frank was doing back then.”
Miller’s response? “Well, thank you, but one of the reasons I did it was that I just thought the costume looked better on a girl,” he says, laughing.
That character, however, Carrie Kelley, is one so close to Miller’s heart that he temporarily dropped the humor when he talked about her. “To me, she’s always been the most important part of the whole thing. She’s the apple of Batman’s eye and of mine,” he said.
After spending the original 1986 series as Robin, Kelley took on the identity of Catgirl for the 2001 follow-up, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. For The Master Race, things have changed again, although to say anything more would be to spoil the series’ first issue. Compared with other superheroes, Kelley is one who constantly changes and evolves; Miller said that he “certainly hopes” that the readers take her example to heart. “She is the complete symbol of youth,” he explained. “She is the future, and she’s everything that Batman is working towards.”
His sincerity about the importance of youth, and of change, faded when the conversation got back to the new series, and the idea of The Dark Knight comic book franchise having an important legacy for comic book fans. He downplayed his contributions to Dark Knight III — “Brian wanted to do it, and it sounded like a fine idea to me. He brought me in to just bother him,” Miller joked. “Brian knows exactly what he’s doing, and I’ve been happy to advise him and offer what suggestions I have” — although he did admit to feeling a certain protectiveness when it comes to the main character.
“Are you kidding? When it comes to Batman, I’m a raging dictator,” he laughed. “I’m looking hard to remind Brian about what I think the essence of the character is. Batman is very, very unlike other heroes. Superman is very much a super ego, wanting an orderly world, whereas Batman is an agent of chaos, looking to disrupt order. He’s a super id. They’re a perfect balance — they’re the World’s Finest team, they belong together … punching each other senseless.”
Talking of great teams, Janson was enthusiastic about the chance to work with Miller again, for the first time in almost three decades, on the mini-comic fold-in to Dark Knight III‘s first issue. “We did one illustration for an anniversary book, but this is the first time we’ve done sequential work since then. It was 12 pages of complete nerves, on my part,” said Janson. “We’ve not worked together since we had that knife fight,” Miller added, laughing. “We should do more. We always have a good time when we work together.”
Janson was equally complimentary about working with the series’ main artist, Andy Kubert. “I hate to say it, but there’s no struggle involved,” he said. “It’s taking what he gives me and getting out of the way. I exploit certain opportunities he gives me to contribute, but the pencils are fully realized. They’re just damn good.” (“Unlike the crap I gave you,” Miller joked.)
With Dark Knight III launching, Miller is looking forward to what’s coming next. He’s teased both a fourth Dark Knight series and a new Sin City comic, but no matter what the next project turns out to be, he revealed that there’s one simple goal that he has with everything he’s worked on. “I think I’ve done a good job my entire career pissing everybody off,” he said. “I hope to keep pissing people off with every single thing that I would do.”
Dark Knight III: The Master Race No. 1 is released digitally and in comic book stores Nov. 25.