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The 30-plus year evolution of Frank Miller’s Superman

by  in Comic News Comment
The 30-plus year evolution of Frank Miller’s Superman

Frank Miller will return to the “Dark Knight” world this November with “Dark Knight III: The Master Race,” the conclusion of his Batman story that started with 1986’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns.” Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson are illustrating the main story, but fans were left wondering to what capacity, if any, Miller himself would contribute art. That all changed Monday when DC unveiled cover art by Frank Miller for “Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom” #1, an Atom-centric minicomic included with the first issue of “Master Race.” The image is highly stylized, to say the least, featuring a wrinkled, grimacing Superman with huge fists and a noticeable bulge in the red underwear region. And boy, the Internet reaction was swift. The backlash was vocal, with fans Tweeting their disapproval, jokes and comparisons to Popeye and Miller’s output to the work of other divisive artists. io9.com jumped into the mix with a post titled “DC Lets Frank Miller Draw Superman’s Penis for ‘Dark Knight III.'”

Before too long, “Astro City” writer Kurt Busiek came to Miller’s defense with a string of tweets aimed directly at the haters. “This shot of Superman says everything Frank Miller wants to establish about Superman in this world,” tweeted Busiek before going on to further drive the point home that Miller’s interpretation of the Man of Steel is completely intentional. “It’s cartooning, it’s Frank presenting an idea of Superman that isn’t sleek and pretty,” Busiek said.

But this shouldn’t be anything new for comic readers. Sure, there’s been published art of Miller’s that show a more traditional Superman as fans have come to know and love — cape, hair-curl and all. But after leaving DC to go create books like “Sin City,” Miller came back with an even more distinct style — one that he stamped all over 2001-2002’s “Dark Knight Strikes Again,” and has only become more pronounced since. With the right amount of creative freedom, Miller has always strayed from the beaten path; he’s just doing it even more so now.

To provide some context, below is a sampling of Miller’s depictions of Superman from over the past 30-plus years, ranging from the very traditional to the strongly interpretative.

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