5 Lessons Artists Can Learn From Frank Miller
Any aspiring artist could take a few notes from comic book creator Frank Miller. His titles, particularly The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and Sin City, were adapted into movies or have influenced some of today’s hottest film and television shows.
What does it take to follow in his footsteps? Here’s a glimpse:
Pick a loser.
In the recent 2016 Comic Con panel, Mass Live reported that Miller was quoted as saying “Look for a loser. Try to find a book that nobody's reading." That’s the reality of the situation. X-Men and the Justice League titles already have proven and top-notch professionals on them. You need to pay your dues and work on the lower tier books. Mashable reflects that the low-tier book Miller made his name on was Daredevil.
Play to your strengths.
Of course, it wasn’t an overnight success for the budding artist. The series started to garner attention when he took over the scripting duties. Unrestrained by creative direction, he was able to write crime noir stories that fit his style more. He was in a territory he was familiar with. And since there were hardly any other books similar to it at the time, the sales skyrocketed.
Say something new.
Miller turned Daredevil from superhero adventure to dark and gritty crime fare, with an added touch of mysticism. The fresh take revitalized the character like never before. It’s as if Miller knew that Daredevil was similar in personality and looks to Spider-Man. He needed to do something drastic to differentiate the two heroes. He did the same thing for Batman in The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. The Peak suggests that the book changed the icon from a cheesy and smiling hero to a serious and complex vigilante. The transformation resonated with fans everywhere.
Miller could have easily rested on his laurels and stuck to the superhero genre for the rest of his career. In an interview with Deadline he recounts how he branched out into other genres. First was Sin City, a dark and pulp crime noir saga and then 300, a sword-and-sandals war story. Not only did he change genres, he also changed his art style to match a different mood and story material. Some would say that this change in creative direction helped extend his career.
Have cross over appeal.
In the early 2000s, comic book movie adaptations were still not completely accepted like today. Film executives had no issues about bringing Sin City and 300 comics to the big screen because their genres were widely recognized by audiences. They have become classics in their own right, and they still continue to influence a lot of artists today. Even as digital artists began to proliferate, the stories he created remain good sources of inspiration. In fact, Frank Miller’s famous 300 series made it to many digital platforms. CheekyBingo has an armory of slot games focused on famous comics, so it seemed only logical that the 300 series would appear on the platform to tap into comic book fans the world over. Miller’s media influence also affected company-owned projects. If you watch movies like Batman v Superman and the Marvel Netflix show Daredevil, you’ll see Miller’s fingerprints on them all.
All in all, Miller's accomplishments can be considered a lofty benchmark. But if you take these lessons to heart, maybe you too can reach the same level of success.