Directed by Silenn Thomas (300), Frank Miller: American Genius follows the near half-century career of the legendary comic book writer/artist Frank Miller, from his small-town beginnings in Vermont all the way to New York City, Hollywood, and beyond. Frank Miller is one of the most influential artists of his generation. He’s reinvented pop-culture icons like Batman and pioneered independent comics for adult readers with works like Sin City and 300. The fact that his artwork was showcased in the prestigious Louvre art museum in Paris elevates the comic medium as a whole.
Frank Miller has had a titanic impact on the world of comics and pop-culture. You can see his DNA in the works of Paul Pope, David Rubin, Victor Santos, Wes Craig, and Rafael Grampa amongst many others. Aspects of Frank Miller’s Ronin bleed into Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack, TMNT started as a Frank Miller’s Daredevil parody, and Hardboiled was the cult comic that turned Geof Darrow into the concept artist for The Matrix.
The documentary doesn’t shy away from Miller’s box office bombs, political controversies, and battles with alcoholism. The film provides a raw, unvarnished portrait of one of comics’ most prolific iconoclasts. Young creatives can view the film as both a cautionary tale and a road map to artistic achievement.
The key to Frank Miller’s success is that he pulls from disparate influences, like The Spirit, Moebius, and Lone Wolf and Cub, that are foreign to his readership. Miller also has a finger on the pulse of his audience and speaks to them directly in an uncensored way. When Miller is on his A-game he’s able to take these disparate influences and combine them into something new. The result is a story that’s unlike anything the reader has ever seen before but also speaks directly to their dreams and anxieties.
The film ends on a hopeful note with a truly gorgeous animated rendition of Carrie Kelly assuming the role of Batwoman with the tagline, “The Future is Young.” I hope we get to see a Spider-Verse quality animated film with Carrie Kelly’s Batwoman in the near future.