For years, Frank Miller spoke of a Gotham City graphic novel that would be like no other -- for the 120 bone-crunching pages of "Holy Terror, Batman!" Miller -- arguably the most important comic book artist of the last 30 years -- envisioned a story in which the Caped Crusader went on a blood quest against Al Qaeda.
Earlier this week, sitting over coffee at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, Miller said the elusive project is finally close to completion but that the name and central character have changed and that DC Comics won't be the publisher. Miller frames all of this as a decision that was driven by the work itself and not dictated by a DC leadership that, according to insiders, has long been leery of the politically charged concept.
"It's almost done; I should be finished within a month," Miller said. "It's no longer a DC book. I decided partway through it that it was not a Batman story. The hero is much closer to 'Dirty Harry' than Batman. It's a new hero that I've made up that fights Al Qaeda."
Miller, best known as the writer and artist of "The Dark Knight Returns," "300" and "Sin City," said the story will be set in a place called Empire City that, as the name suggests, evokes New York. The landscape and people are fictional but the real-life Al Qaeda will be transferred to this universe with its name, history and mission intact.
The book's title will be shortened to "Holy Terror." And what of the protagonist?
"The character is called The Fixer and he's very much an adventurer who's been essentially searching for a mission," Miller said. "He's been trained as special ops and when his city is attacked all of a sudden all the pieces fall into place and all this training comes into play. He's been out there fighting crime without really having his heart in it -- he does it to keep in shape. He's very different than Batman in that he's not a tortured soul. He's a much more well-adjusted creature even though he happens to shoot 100 people in the course of the story."
In the 1980s, Miller was permitted to take the iconic Batman character through an unprecedented reinvention with "The Dark Knight Returns," which showed the embittered hero in his twilight years when Gotham has collapsed into near-anarchy and the Caped Crusader finds himself being hunted down by Superman and engaging the Joker in a battle to the death. "The Dark Knight Returns" became a publishing sensation and, along with "Watchmen," ushered in a new era of ambition in the comic book medium that led directly to the contemporary boom in superhero cinema.
Despite that history, DC executives were reportedly leery of Miller's plan to drop their globally recognized property inside an Al Qaeda vendetta fantasy. Miller, though, says he is the one who decided to leave the familiar hero in the Batcave for this particular mission.
"I had a talk with [former DC president and publisher] Paul Levitz and I said, 'Look, this isn't your Batman,'" Miller said. "I pushed Batman as far as he can go and after a while he stops being Batman. My guy carries a couple of guns and is up against an existential threat. He's not just up against a goofy villain. Ignoring an enemy that's committed to our annihilation is kind of silly, It just seems that chasing the Riddler around seems silly compared to what's going on out there. I've taken Batman as far as he can go."
Read the rest here:
I'm glad to see someone of Miller's stature in the comic industry taking on this issue, and I can't wait to see the backlash, including the fatwas after publication. I can tell you that I will be looking forward to it, and if it gives al Qaeda the treatment that they deserve, I will be doing everything within my power to support Miller.