Miller's first published work may have been at Western Publishing's Gold Key Comicsimprint, on the licensed TV-series comic book The Twilight Zone. Though no published credits appear, he is tentatively credited with the three-page story "Royal Feast" in issue #84 (June 1978), by an unknown writer, and is credited with the five-page "Endless Cloud", also by an unknown writer, in #85 (July 1978). By the time of the latter, however, Miller had his first confirmed credit in writer Wyatt Gwyon's six-page "Deliver Me From D-Day", inked by Danny Bulanadi, in Weird War Tales #64 (June 1978).
One-time Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter recalled Miller going to DC Comics after having broken in with "a small job from Western Publishing, I think. Thus emboldened, he went to DC, and after getting savaged by Joe Orlando, got in to see art director Vinnie Colletta, who recognized talent and arranged for him to get a one-page war-comic job". The Grand Comics Database does not list this job; there may have been a one-page DC story, or Shooter may have misremembered the page count or have been referring to the two-page story, by writer Roger McKenzie, "Slowly, painfully, you dig your way from the cold, choking debris..." in Weird War Tales #68 (Oct. 1978). Other fledgling work at DC included the six-page "The Greatest Story Never Told", by writer Paul Kupperberg, in that same issue, and the five-page "The Edge of History", written by Elliot S. Maggin, in Unknown Soldier #219 (Sept. 1978). His first work for Marvel Comics was penciling the 17-page story "The Master Assassin of Mars, Part 3" in John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18 (Nov. 1978). Miller had a letter he wrote to Marvel as a comics fan published several years earlier, in 1973 (The Cat #3).
At Marvel, Miller would settle in as a regular fill-in and cover artist, working on a variety of titles. One of these jobs was drawing Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #27–28 (Feb.–March 1979), which guest-starred Daredevil. At the time, sales of the Daredevil title were poor; however, Miller saw something in the character he liked and asked editor-in-chief Jim Shooter if he could work on Daredevil's regular title. Shooter agreed and made Miller the new penciller on the title. As Miller recalled in 2008:
When I first showed up in New York, I showed up with a bunch of comics, a bunch of samples, of guys in trench coats and old cars and such. And [comics editors] said, 'Where are the guys in tights?' And I had to learn how to do it. But as soon as a title came along, when [Daredevil signature artist] Gene Colan left Daredevil, I realized it was my secret in to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it".
Daredevil #158 (May 1979), Miller's debut on that title, was the finale of an ongoing story written by Roger McKenzie and inked by Klaus Janson. Although still conforming to traditional comic book styles, Miller infused this first issue with his own film noir style. After this issue, Miller became one of Marvel's rising stars. Miller sketched the roofs of New York in an attempt to give his Daredevil art an authentic feel not commonly seen in superhero comics at the time. One journalist noted,
"Daredevil's New York, under Frank's run, became darker and more dangerous than the Spider-Man New York he’d seemingly lived in before. New York City itself, particularly Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, became as much a character as the shadowy crimefighter; the stories often took place on the rooftop level, with water towers, pipes and chimneys jutting out to create a skyline reminiscent of German Expressionism's dramatic edges and shadows."
However, sales on Daredevil did not improve, Marvel's management continued to discuss cancellation, and Miller himself asked to be taken off the series, as he disliked McKenzie's scripts. Miller's fortunes changed with the arrival of Denny O'Neil as editor. Realizing Miller's unhappiness with the series, and impressed by a backup story he had written, O'Neil fired McKenzie so that Miller could try writing the series himself. Miller and O'Neil would maintain a friendly working relationship throughout his run on the series. With issue #168 (Jan. 1981), Miller took over full duties as writer and penciller. Sales rose so swiftly that Marvel once again began publishing Daredevil monthly rather than bimonthly just three issues after Miller came on as writer.
Issue #168 saw the first full appearance of the popular ninjamercenaryElektra, although her first cover appearance by Miller was four months earlier on the cover of The Comics Journal #58. Miller later wrote and drew a solo Elektra story in Bizarre Adventures #28 (Oct. 1981). Miller added a martial arts aspect to Daredevil's fighting skills, and introduced previously unseen characters who had played a major part in the character's youth: Stick, leader of the ninja clan the Chaste, who had been Murdock's sensei after he was blinded and a rival clan called the Hand.
Unable to handle both writing and penciling Daredevil on the new monthly schedule, Miller began increasingly relying on Janson for the artwork, sending him looser and looser pencils beginning with #173. By issue #185, Miller had virtually relinquished his role as Daredevil's artist, and was providing only rough layouts for Janson to both pencil and ink, allowing him to focus on the writing.
Miller's work on Daredevil was characterized by darker themes and stories. This peaked when in #181 (April 1982) he had the assassinBullseye kill Elektra, and Daredevil subsequently attempt to kill him. Miller finished his Daredevil run with issue #191 (Feb. 1983), which he cited in a winter 1983 interview as the issue he is most proud of; by this time he had transformed a second-tier character into one of Marvel's most popular.
Additionally, Miller drew a short Batman Christmas story, "Wanted: Santa Claus – Dead or Alive", written by Denny O'Neil for DC Special Series #21 (Spring 1980). This was his first professional experience with a character with which, like Daredevil, he would become closely associated. At Marvel, O'Neil and Miller collaborated on two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual. The 1980 Annual featured a team-up with Doctor Strange while the 1981 Annual showcased a meeting with the Punisher.
As penciler and co-plotter, Miller, together with writer Chris Claremont, produced the miniseriesWolverine #1–4 (Sept.-Dec. 1982), inked by Josef Rubinstein and spinning off from the popular X-Men title. Miller used this miniseries to expand on Wolverine's character. The series was a critical success and further cemented Miller's place as an industry star.
His first creator-owned title was DC Comics' six-issue miniseries Ronin (1983–1984). This series shows some of the strongest influences of manga and bande dessinée on Miller's style, both in the artwork and narrative style. In 1985, DC Comics named Miller as one of the honorees in the company's 50th-anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.
Miller was involved in a few unpublished projects in the early 1980s. A house advertisement for Doctor Strange appeared in Marvel Comics cover-dated February 1981. It stated "Watch for the new adventures of Earth's Sorcerer Supreme - - as mystically conjured by Roger Stern and Frank Miller!". Miller's only contribution to the series would be the cover for Doctor Strange #46 (April 1981). Other commitments prevented him from working on the series. Miller and Steve Gerber made a proposal to revamp DC's three biggest characters: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, under a line called "Metropolis" and comics titled "Man of Steel" or "The Man of Steel", "Dark Knight" and "Amazon". However, this proposal was not accepted.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and the late 1980s
The story tells how Batman retired after the death of the second Robin (Jason Todd), and at age 55 returns to fight crime in a dark and violent future. Miller created a tough, gritty portrayal of Batman, who was often referred to as the "Darknight Detective" in 1970s portrayals. Released the same year as Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' DC miniseries Watchmen, it showcased a new form of more adult-oriented storytelling to both comics fans and a crossover mainstream audience. The Dark Knight Returns influenced the comic-book industry by heralding a new wave of darker characters. The trade paperback collection proved to be a big seller for DC and remains in print 25 years after first being published.
By this time, Miller had returned as the writer of Daredevil. Following his self-contained story "Badlands", penciled by John Buscema, in #219 (June 1985), he co-wrote #226 (Jan. 1986) with departing writer Dennis O'Neil. Then, with artist David Mazzucchelli, he crafted a seven-issue story arc that, like The Dark Knight Returns, similarly redefined and reinvigorated its main character. The storyline, "Daredevil: Born Again", in #227–233 (Feb.-Aug. 1986) chronicled the hero's Catholic background, and the destruction and rebirth of his real-life identity, Manhattan attorney Matt Murdock, at the hands of Daredevil's nemesis, the crime lord Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin. After completing the "Born Again" arc, Frank Miller intended to produce a two-part story with artist Walt Simonson but it was never completed and remains unpublished.
Miller and artist Bill Sienkiewicz produced the graphic novelDaredevil: Love and War in 1986. Featuring the character of the Kingpin, it indirectly bridges Miller's first run on Daredevil and Born Again by explaining the change in the Kingpin's attitude toward Daredevil. Miller and Sienkiewicz also produced the eight-issue miniseries Elektra: Assassin for Epic Comics. Set outside regular Marvel continuity, it featured a wild tale of cyborgs and ninjas, while expanding further on Elektra's background. Both of these projects were well-received critically. Elektra: Assassin was praised for its bold storytelling, but neither it nor Daredevil: Love and War had the influence or reached as many readers as Dark Knight Returns or Born Again.
Miller's final major story in this period was in Batman issues 404–407 in 1987, another collaboration with Mazzucchelli. Titled Batman: Year One, this was Miller's version of the origin of Batman in which he retconned many details and adapted the story to fit his Dark Knightcontinuity. Proving to be hugely popular, this was as influential as Miller's previous work and a trade paperback released in 1988 remains in print and is one of DC's best selling books and adapted as an original animated film video in 2011.
During this time, Miller (along with Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore and Howard Chaykin) had been in dispute with DC Comics over a proposed ratings system for comics. Disagreeing with what he saw as censorship, Miller refused to do any further work for DC, and he would take his future projects to the independent publisher Dark Horse Comics. From then on Miller would be a major supporter of creator rights and be a major voice against censorship in comics.
1990 saw Miller and artist Geof Darrow start work on Hard Boiled, a three-issue miniseries. The title, a mix of violence and satire, was praised for Darrow's highly detailed art and Miller's writing. At the same time Miller and artist Dave Gibbons produced Give Me Liberty, a four-issue miniseries for Dark Horse. Give Me Liberty was followed by sequel miniseries and specials expanding on the story of protagonist Martha Washington, an African-American woman in modern and near-future southern North America, all of which were written by Miller and drawn by Gibbons.
Miller also wrote the scripts for the science fiction films RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, about a police cyborg. Neither was critically well received. In 2007, Miller stated that "There was a lot of interference in the writing process. It wasn't ideal. After working on the two Robocop movies, I really thought that was it for me in the business of film." Miller would come into contact with the fictional cyborg once more, however, writing the comic-book minieries, RoboCop vs. The Terminator, with art by Walter Simonson. In 2003, Miller's screenplay for RoboCop 2 was adapted by Steven Grant for Avatar Press's Pulsaar imprint. Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, the series is called Frank Miller's RoboCop and contains plot elements that were divided between RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3.
In 1991, Miller started work on his first Sin City story. Serialized in Dark Horse Presents #51–62, Miller wrote and drew the story in black and white to emphasize its film noir origins. Proving to be another success, the story was released in a trade paperback. This first Sin City "yarn" was rereleased in 1995 under the name The Hard Goodbye. Sin City proved to be Miller's main project for much of the remainder of the decade, as Miller told more Sin City stories within this noir world of his creation, in the process helping to revitalize the crime comics genre.Sin City proved artistically auspicious for Miller and again brought his work to a wider audience without comics. Miller lived in Los Angeles, California in the 1990s, which influenced Sin City.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear was a five issue miniseries published by Marvel Comics in 1993. In this story, Miller and artist John Romita, Jr. told Daredevil's origins differently from in the previous comics, and provided additional detail to his beginnings. Miller also returned to superheroes by writing issue #11 of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, as well as the Spawn/Batman crossover for Image Comics.
In 1995, Miller and Darrow collaborated again on Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, published as a two-part miniseries by Dark Horse Comics. In 1999 it became an animated series on Fox Kids. During this period, Miller became one of the founding members of the comic imprint Legend, under which many of his Sin City works were released, via Dark Horse. Also, it was during the 1990s that Miller did cover art for many titles in the Comics Greatest World/Dark Horse Heroes line.
Written and illustrated by Frank Miller with painted colors by Varley, 300 was a 1998 comic-book miniseries, released as a hardcover collection in 1999, retelling the Battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to it from the perspective of Leonidas of Sparta. 300 was particularly inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, a movie that Miller watched as a young boy. In 2007, 300 was adapted by director Zack Snyder into a successful film.
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again and the 2000s
Miller has said he opposes naturalism in comic art. In an interview on the documentary Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman, he said, "People are attempting to bring a superficial reality to superheroes which is rather stupid. They work best as the flamboyant fantasies they are. I mean, these are characters that are broad and big. I don't need to see sweat patches under Superman's arms. I want to see him fly."
Miller's previous attitude towards movie adaptations was to change after Robert Rodriguez made a short film based on a story from Miller's Sin City entitled "The Customer is Always Right". Miller was pleased with the result, leading to him and Rodriguez directing a full length film, Sin City using Miller's original comics panels as storyboards. The film was released in the U.S. on April 1, 2005. The film's success brought renewed attention to Miller's Sin City projects. Similarly, a film adaptation of 300, directed solely by Zack Snyder, brought new attention and controversy to Miller's original comic book work. A sequel to the film, based around Miller's second Sin City series, A Dame to Kill For, is in development.
Until their divorce in 2005, Miller was married to colorist Lynn Varley, who colored many of his noted works (from Ronin in 1984 through 300 1998), and the backgrounds to the 2007 movie 300. He has since been romantically linked to New York-based Shakespearean scholar Kimberly Halliburton Cox, who had a cameo in The Spirit (2008).
In November 2011, Miller posted remarks pertaining to the Occupy Wall Street movement in his blog, calling it "nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists". Miller’s comments drew criticism from Alan Moore.
In October 2012, Joanna Gallardo-Mills, who began working for Miller as an executive coordinator in November 2008, filed suit against Miller in Manhattan for discrimination and "mental anguish", stating that Miller's girlfriend, actress Kimberly Cox, created a hostile work environment for Gallardo-Mills in Miller and Cox's Hell's Kitchen living/work space. According to the lawsuit, Cox smeared Gallardo-Mills's work area with feces, destroyed her printer with a hammer, threw phones at her, left a used feminine hygiene pad by her desk, and made comments to her such as, "I can't understand your funky accent. Speak fucking English". Gallardo-Mills says she was ultimately fired in September 2012 for complaining about Cox's behavior.
In The Spirit (2008), which was written and directed by Miller, he appears as "Liebowitz", the officer whose head is ripped off by the Octopus and thrown at the Spirit. The name alludes to Jack Liebowitz, a co-founder of what would become DC Comics.
The Spirit Although Miller co-directed Sin City , this is his first solo directing project.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For In 2005, after Sin City was released, Robert Rodriguez announced plans for a follow-up film that would feature many of the same characters. He planned for the film to be based on A Dame to Kill For. Miller said the film would be a prequel and a sequel with interlinking stories both before and after the first film. Miller, who was writing the screenplay in 2006, had anticipated for production to begin later in the year.
Miller was a producer for the film 300, which was adapted shot for shot into a feature film in 2007. The 2003 film version of Daredevil predominantly use the tone established and stories written by Miller, who had no direct creative input on the film (except for a cameo appearance). A two part direct to DVD animated movie based on The Dark Knight Returns was released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The Wolverine, released in 2013 was based on the 1982 Wolverine miniseries that Miller penciled with writer Chris Claremont.
^Saffel, Steve (2007). "A Not-So-Spectacular Experiment". Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. Titan Books. p. 73. ISBN978-1-84576-324-4. "Frank Miller was the guest penciler for The Spectacular Spider-Man #27, February 1979, written by Bill Mantlo. [The issue's] splash page was the first time Miller's [rendition of] Daredevil appeared in a Marvel story."
^Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. Dorling Kindersley. p. 189. ISBN978-0756641238. "In this issue the great longtime Daredevil artist Gene Colan was succeeded by a new penciller who would become a star himself: Frank Miller."
^ abFlinn, Tom. "Writer's Spotlight: Frank Miller: Comics' Noir Auteur," ICv2: Guide to Graphic Novels #40 (Q1 2007).
^DeFalco, Tom "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 201: "Matt Murdock's college sweetheart first appeared in this issue [#168] by writer/artist Frank Miller."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 202: "Possibly modeled after Nantembo, a Zen master who reputedly disciplined his students by striking them with his nantin staff, Stick first appeared in this issue [#176] by Frank Miller."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 202: The Hand was a league of ninja assassins who employed dark magic...Introduced in Daredevil #174 by writer/artist Frank Miller, this group of deadly warriors had been hired by the Kingpin of Crime to exterminate Matt Murdock."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 207: "Frank Miller did the unthinkable when he killed off the popular Elektra in Daredevil #181."
^Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1980s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. Dorling Kindersley. p. 114. ISBN978-0756692360. "Writer Denny O'Neil and artist Frank Miller...used their considerable talents in this rare collaboration that teamed two other legends - Dr. Strange and Spider-Man."
^Manning "1980s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 120: "Writer Denny O'Neil teamed with artist Frank Miller to concoct a Spider-Man annual that played to both their strengths. Miller and O'Neil seemed to flourish in the gritty world of street crime so tackling a Spider/Punisher fight was a natural choice."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 208: "The most popular member of the X-Men was finally featured in his first solo title, a four-issue limited series by writer Chris Claremont and writer/artist Frank Miller."
^Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 202. ISBN978-0-7566-6742-9. "The comic was an unusual blend of the influences on Miller by French cartoonist Moebius and Japanese Manga comic books."
^Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Frank Miller Experiment in Creative Autonomy" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 50 (1985), DC Comics
^Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 219 "It is arguably the best Batman story of all time. Written and drawn by Frank Miller (with inspired inking by Klaus Janson and beautiful watercolors by Lynn Varley), Batman: The Dark Knight revolutionized the entire [archetype] of the super hero."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 226: "'Born Again' was a seven-issue story arc that appeared in Daredevil from issue #227 to #233 (Feb. - Aug. 1986) by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli."
^Mithra, Kuljit (August 1997). "Interview With Walt Simonson". ManWithoutFear.com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2013. "The gist of it is that by the time Marvel was interested in having us work on the story, Frank was off doing Dark Knight and I was off doing X-Factor. So it never happened. Too bad--it was a cool story too."
^DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 228: "Produced by Frank Miller and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, Elektra: Assassin was an eight-issue limited series. Because its mature content was inappropriate for children, it was published by Marvel's Epic Comics imprint."
^Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 227 "Melding Miller's noir sensibilities, realistic characterization, and gritty action with Mazzucchelli's brilliant iconic imagery, "Year One" thrilled readers and critics alike...as well as being one of the influences for the 2005 film Batman Begins.
^Manning, Matthew K. "1990s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 253: "Frank Miller made his triumphant return to Elektra, the character he breather life into and then subsequently snuffed out, with the graphic novel Elektra Lives Again."
^Irving "Miller works Matt’s narrating captions between the present, the past, and his dream imagery of Elektra, a fragmentation given a voiceover straight out of an old crime book, but with a heavy dose of sensitivity that never veers into the maudlin."
^Burgas, Greg (September 17, 2008). "Comics You Should Own – Hard Boiled". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2011. "[W]e can see that Miller and Darrow were creating a marvelous satire, one that pulls no punches and lets none of us off the hook, which is what the best satire does. Hard Boiled is a wild and extremely fun ride, but it’s also an insightful examination of a sickness in our society that we don’t like to confront."
^Lindenmuth, Brian (December 14, 2010). "The Fall (and Rise) of the Crime Comic". Mulholland Books. Retrieved 13 November 2011. "As much as 100 Bullets is a cornerstone of the modern crime comic, it did not spring fully formed into the world. The modern crime comic era started a few years earlier with two releases: the high-profile Sin City by Frank Miller and the independent Stray Bullets by David Lapham."
^Manning "1990s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 264: "Comic legends Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr. united to tell a new version of Daredevil's origin in this carefully crafted five-issue miniseries."
^Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 267: "This prestige one-shot marked Frank Miller's return to Batman, and was labeled as a companion piece to his classic 1986 work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The issue was drawn by Todd McFarlane, one of the most popular artists in comic book history."
^Green, Karen (December 3, 2010). "Into the Valley of Death?". comiXology. Retrieved 25 November 2011. "It's like something out of Hollywood, right? Hollywood thought so, too. They made a movie in 1962 called The 300 Spartans, which 5-year-old Frank Miller saw in the theater, and it had a powerful influence on him."
^"The Honest Alan Moore Interview". 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2013. "“[The Occupy movement] is a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way, which is probably another reason why Frank Miller would be less than pleased with it. I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favour of it.”"