Frank Miller delves into his views on America and his international influences

Frank Miller - American Genius
Frank Miller - American Genius (Image credit: Silenn Thomas)

A new documentary is being released in late 2021 that profiles the iconic writer/artist/director Frank Miller from a fresh perspective. Frank Miller - American Genius pulls back the curtain on the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns author to delve into his evolution as a storyteller in what director Silenn Thomas calls an "intrinsically American" experience.

"Frank is constantly absorbing what has come before, and what is going on currently so that his work is a living, breathing thing."

(Image credit: Tula Lotay)

Miller and Thomas are in Lucca, Italy during the last week of October to screen the film and meet fans as part of one of the world's biggest comic conventions, Lucca Comics & Games.

Speaking to Newsarama from Italy, Miller shared his view of America.

"Well, I was raised by two very patriotic veterans of World War II," Miller tells Newsarama. "So I got a very Jeffersonian upbringing by devotees to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who believed in the principles on which the nation was founded. For all the obstacles along the way, those principles always meant a great deal to me."

Silenn Thomas by Sophie Holland

Silenn Thomas by Sophie Holland (Image credit: Sophie Holland)

"I embrace my American side, but that to me has nothing to do with puffed-up, flag-waving patriotism. 'Make America Great Again'.... That to me is nationalism, which isn't what I believe in."

Frank Miller - American Genius's director Silenn Thomas came to know Frank MIller while as an associate producer of the 2007 film 300. The two remained in touch, and in 2019 Miller tapped Thomas as the CEO of his production company, Frank Miller Ink.

"When I met Frank during 300, I was impressed by his connection with comics, and with Batman. I grew up in Europe, in France, but I have Italian heritage. I'm a new American, and became an American by choice. What was clear to me when I got to know Frank was that has was a storyteller, and an artist as well," says Thomas. "With this documentary, I wanted to discover how and why for myself, and for anyone who would watch this.

"Through Frank Miller, I discovered a whole world - a world that has fans here in Lucca, and fans around the world. His work has connections with French comics, with manga, and the whole storytelling form. I think Frank is the American hope."

Frank Miller

Frank Miller (Image credit: Lucca Comics & Games)

Like modern America, Miller's storytelling is influenced by people from various cultures - both in the past, and those he meets in person.

"Manga influenced me tremendously, as did several European comics like those of Hugo Pratt," Miller says. "Early on I considered myself building on a foundation informed by Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Hugo Pratt, and Bernie Krigstein. Now, I think of it more as constantly learning.

"These days, I'm usually working with people who are a generation younger than I, and I'm learning a great deal with them. In terms of their artistic experience, they've been to worlds I've never been to and experienced media I haven't. 

"I haven't sat around with an iPad," Miller laughs. "That's a whole different way of communication. We live in a world with constant media stimulation. There's no end."

Both Frank Miller and Silenn Thomas are attending Lucca Comics & Games 2021, presenting this documentary Frank Miller - American Genius.

Frank Miller is high on our list of Batman creators who defined the caped crusader. 

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)