Sunday, October 7, 2007

Off Topic - Frank Miller

I'm a huge Frank Miller fan. His stuff, both the art and writing, has such a hard, unapologetic edge to it. Yet it never comes off like he's trying to give his stuff an edge. It's very natural feeling. He is definitely what I would call a major influence on me in the realm of comics.

But sometimes, even your influences can let you down.

Yesterday I was flipping through 300 when I came upon the page where the messenger rides into town before good 'ol Leo kicks him into the pit. There's a panel of the messenger is riding straight toward the reader. His horse is in mid-gallop, and he's leaning forward and to the left (his right).

Something about that panel rang very familiar to me... like I'd seen it before. Then it hit me. So I rushed over to my bookcase, pulled out my copy of The Dark Night Returns, and flipped toward the back of the book... and there it was. A panel of Batman riding a horse. He's riding straight toward the reader and he's leaning forward and to the left (his right). The panels are nearly identical! From the position of the horses' legs to the background compositions of he other characters. It's like Frank just didn't feel like coming up with another shot, so he robbed Peter to pay Paul.

I put the 2 panels side by side for you to see (click to see it larger):

That panel from The Dark Night Returns has always been one of my favorite panels in comic book history. But now, it's lessened a bit.

Am I making a bigger deal out of this than I should? Probably. Frank Miller is still a genius who's produced some of the most amazing comic book work in history. But I'm still a bit bummed that he would take such a dynamic and powerful image and cheapen it a bit by recycling it.

Oh well...

How about a Jesus Hates Zombies update, hmmm? I'm due to get the first proof from the printers any day now. And as long as everything is good with the proof, I should have the book going out to everyone by Halloween!

We've got t-shirts coming out soon. They're designed by the insanely talented Michael Bracco, the creator of Birth and Novo. If you don't know his stuff (shame on you) then check out his Website. (look at his other t-shirt designs to get a taste of how awesome the JHZ shirt is going to be) And you can pick up both Birth and Novo from the fine folks of Alterna Comics!

And stay tuned for a BIG TIME announcement concerning JHZ coming soon!

~ S


ggab7768 said...

actually frank probably used the same horse photo for reference. with the position and angle of the horse the choice for placement of the figure would naturally be the same (horses head slightly to the right, riders head to the left for balance.). i hate to burst your bubble stephen, but even the greats occasionally need to use references. the fact that he was able to use that reference and slightly adjust the light source shows his strength. honestly, to an artist, your complaint is kinda like if i said "hey, stephen wrote a story about jesus when there was already a story about jesus called the bible." hope that gave you a laugh and made you understand a little better

Stephen Lindsay said...

That doesn't justify it AT ALL, Gary. I'm well aware of artists using reference. It's absolutely vital. I don't knock anyone for that. But mix it the hell up! If you used the same reference for things, you'd get called out on it for being unoriginal. It's NOTHING like the example you gave for a writer. A better example would be if I wrote a scene in Jesus Hates Zombies that had a character walking across a tight rope, and a pigeon nearly knocked him off, but at the last moment he regained his balance, and then in a DIFFERENT comic I wrote a scene of a character walking across a tight rope, and a pigeon nearly knocked him off, bu tat the last moment he regained his balance. THAT is what, as an artist, Miller did here. He aped one of his drawing to use in another drawing. It's that simple.

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carly Monardo said...

The argument here isn't whether or not the use of reference "cheapens" art. That isn't what Stephen is saying. The issue here is that Miller basically produced a carbon copy of his earlier work and passed it off as something new.

Now, whether Miller used the same reference for both shots is immaterial. The fact is, despite Stephen not being an "artist" as you so kindly pointed out (very narrow view of the term artist, by the way), he was able to identify the panel as a copy, before he even had the other panel in front of him for reference.

f someone like Stephen who enjoys comics without actually drawing them can zero in on something like this, then other people are bound to as well, and that's bad. It's laziness. The idea that changing the light source shows Miller's artistic mettle is, frankly, asinine. Draw a new freaking panel.

GARY said...

wow, are you serious? it was just a setup for the silly bible joke. i think your newfound superstardom is causing some issues lol. holy cow!! how could anyone make a comparison between jhz and the bible and be taken seriously? i even said "i hope that gave you a laugh". i think you guys might need a vacation away from the paparrazi. (just so you know, that was a joke too.)
y'know i was bored one day and was scrolling through the blog and thought " what descriptions can i use to set up a joke about comparing jhz and the bible."
seems like you guys are a little tense right now ha ha. i guess it's understandable in a way, you guys don't know my sense of humor like the poor suckers who have to deal with me regularly.
i would bet that with the massive amount of work he's done, mr. miller didn't even notice this issue. i'm sure someone has pointed it out to him by now. i still think it would be difficult to use a picture of a horse for reference and change the light source (that part wasn't a joke), but a lot of artistic things are intimidating to me.
i'll try to play the straight man to you guys from now on ha ha.

Daniel said...

300 was a project Frank Miller was planning forever. In his works prior, he included little references to the work he was going to do. In Dark Knight Returns, the news anchor talks about a porn actor, "Hot Gates." In Sin City, a drugged character hallucinates a friend to be wearing clothing very similar (with an almost identical helmet) to Leonidas of 300. I believe the horse was not laziness (how could someone so prolific recycle?), but rather a very deliberate reference.
Which piece of work references which is debatable, but that I immediately saw the similarity when reading 300 for the first time is something Frank Miller must have intended for those who've followed his work.