This afternoon, Neal Adams and I were talking about the evolution of the comic artist; how the very best ones will end up in film?not just storyboarding ala Jim Steranko and Mike Ploog, but actually behind the camera. Like Frank Miller, who is currently co-directing “Sin City.” The transition is a natural: Better artists see everything through the camera eye.

Here’s Part II of my chat with Frank which was conducted on the dawn of his then new Sin City project:

Meth: How do you feel about other people illustrating you?

Miller: In general, it’s a lot of fun. I get to work with guys like Dave Gibbons, who can pull anything off. There is no problem Dave Gibbons cannot solve; I can’t write anything so silly that Dave can’t do it with a straight face and make people think that it makes sense. Whereas with Jeff Darrow, there’s nothing I can write that’s so mundane that he can’t make it look silly. It affects the way I write.

Meth: Everyone knows that you’ve had your disagreements with Marvel. On the other hand, I understand that you have the ideal relationship with Dark Horse ? that they more or less give you freedom to do whatever you want.

Miller: I’m my own boss. Occasionally, I say, “I’m doing this or that.” For instance, I’m doing a story right now about a Greek battle in 480 B.C., so I call up and say, “Do you want to publish it?” And they say, “Yes. Do it.”

Meth: Do they ever say no?

Miller: Not yet. [laughing] I tell them that if I ever come up with something they don’t want to publish, they should just say so and there won’t be any hard feelings, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Meth: How about the Marvel experience?

Miller: Apparently, they have some bald chick running around, claiming to be Elektra. But she’s still dead? I can’t moan and groan and complain too much because I’m not Jack Kirby. I didn’t give them a Pantheon. And, also, Jack Kirby was there before me, so I knew what I was getting into?I knew from the beginning that they were going to do what they did, so I really shouldn’t belly ache.

Meth: With Sin City, you’re transitioning from comics readers to book buyers. Any thoughts on that?

Miller: That’s been my goal ever since 1984, when I first stopped doing the monthly superhero stuff, and did a book for DC called Ronin. I was voracious when I did that. I had this vision in my head of living the life of an author, and at the time, I was a kid in a candy shop?it was comics! And I was discovering all of this European stuff, all this Japanese stuff, and it just flooded into that book. But what it really did was focus my ambition on working to produce novels in comics form.

I’ve always been uneasy with that term “graphic novel” because it sounds so pompous, but I always wanted to do really thick comic books that had the scope of a novel. And ever since then, I’ve been working toward that. I love it when someone says they’re discovering the stuff through the “collection” because to me they aren’t collections?they’re the end products; they’re the goal. I find myself more and more drawn to the long form.

My latest, Sin City: Family Values, is 128 pages long. It was never serialized. People will use the term “graphic novel” because of the page count, but it’s a long short story. It was an amazing five months that I spent on this thing because I was essentially living alone with this job, and I’m used to doing periodicals. I think the industry has got to move away from the notion of doing periodicals, and more towards producing books. The periodical nature of things has to do with the children’s market, which is virtually gone. But I know that, market be damned, I’m going to do more pieces like this because I just love doing it?pursuing an idea all the way through and not worrying about chapter breaks or monthly schedules. The form works beautifully when you have a great number of pages to play with. You can do panorama, or extend a moment across 10 pages. Whereas with the old standards, you only had half a page.

Meth: Have you ever thought about writing a novel?

Miller: Not really. It’s kind of like something Will Eisner once said beautifully. He said that he thought he was okay at drawing, and okay at writing. The way he put it was he took two ineptitudes and made an eptitude. Some of us are good at combining the two, and I think that’s where my talent is.

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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