WHAT DOES THE highly educated, left-leaning, middle-aged, lifelong comic book fan do about Frank Miller? We know, of course, that Miller’s depictions of women — particularly in recent years — are sexist and exploitative. We know that since September 11, 2001, some of his work has traded in stereotypes of Muslims only slightly more egregious than those of your average Breitbart commenter’s. And although he has quieted down in recent years, many of us can still remember the vicious anger he expressed toward young leftists involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’ve talked to more than one comic book reader around my age about Miller, and we always agree, “Oh, he’s such an ass.” But then, inevitably, we’ll sigh, “But I loved The Dark Knight Returns so much when I was a kid …”
Many of us grew up certain that Miller was not only an artistic genius who changed the way people thought about Batman in the 1980s, but also a champion of artistic freedom and creators’ rights in an industry that had a history of not only censoring itself needlessly but also screwing over creators like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, and Steve Gerber. Later we were forced to ask ourselves: Had he changed in some way? Had we been wrong about him? Did the problem with his later work and attitudes cast a shadow on the earlier work that we had enjoyed so much?
These are the types of questions that Paul Young wrestles with in Frank Miller’s Daredevil and the Ends of Heroism, which focuses on Miller’s groundbreaking 1979–1983 run on the Marvel Comics title. Young is about eight years older than I am, so he recalls Miller’s initial Daredevil stories as an important event of his youth. I, on the other hand, first encountered Miller’s Daredevil work with his follow-up Daredevil story line Born Again, released in 1986, and to be honest, his Batman work for DC (The Dark Knight Returns and Year One) probably had more of an impact on me — although I now think his Daredevil work is stronger and more interesting.