Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack

A few years ago on this blog, I re-evaluated some of Frank Miller’s work, set against his fervent, blind support of the Bush wars. Today, I read a vitriolic rant by Miller, posted at his blog, where he offers the following clumsy thesis—

The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Miller offers no evidence about how or why the OWS protesters will “harm America,” nor does he support his claim that the protests are “anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment.” Honestly, I can’t even tell if Miller is being sarcastic when he writes “blessed” to describe the First Amendment, which clearly states that the citizens of this country have a right to assemble. Most Americans support the OWS movement, or at least the spirit of the movement, even if they do not agree with all of the tactics or, um, fashion sense and personal hygiene habits of the group. But Miller, furious reactionary that he is, does not bother once to consider a single idea put forth by OWS. He cannot see past the personal attire and fashion sense of some of the protesters, writing that the movement is nothing “more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.” Those kids with their iPhones!

In a baffling move of obscure non-logic, Miller then connects OWS to his “enemies,” those nefarious (if nebulous) forces “al-Qaeda and Islamicism.” The piece ends with this disingenuous call to action—

In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft. Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.

Miller of course never served in any branch of the armed forces. He also has never heard of/chooses to ignore clear evidence that veterans are part of this movement, including Scott Olsen, who was badly injured by police in Oakland.

Since Frank is so frank, let’s all be frank: Frank Miller is a tedious, ill-informed, rage-choked hack who hasn’t produced a great work in over two decades.

Even worse, he’s a fascist.

Miller’s early work in the 1980s repeatedly pointed toward the essential conflict of individual versus society; his heroes and anti-heroes constantly found themselves squaring off against corrupt totalitarian systems that sought to silence dissent and curtail civil liberties. As Miller’s career fumbled along, he increasingly endorsed the underlying fascistic elements present in his vigilante heroes, a fascism wed to an image of the hero as a man whose uncompromising ideals—and uncomplicated misunderstandings of a complex world—inevitably lead to brutal violence. See, for example, Miller’s most recent effort, Holy Terror, an extremely poorly received piece of anti-Muslim propaganda, reviled by comic book audiences not entirely because of its ideological content, but also because of its poor execution. (For a detailed and insightful take-down of Miller’s pulp trash, read Spencer Ackerman’s review in Wired).

Miller is a reactionary crank, a regressive thinker who is terrorized by the idea that the America “he knows” is no longer the homogeneous ideal that it once was. Of course, America was never an idealized homogeneous space, but that doesn’t matter. That’s what fantasy is for. And Miller is a professional fantasist. His derangement evinces not just in his reactionary vitriol toward the OWS protesters, but also in his apparent fear of the technology that these “iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats” use to disseminate their message.

Take note that never once in his screed does Miller attempt to paraphrase, analyze, refute, address, or otherwise actually engage that message. Presumably he can’t; he can’t hear it. Like one of the flat characters in his comics, perhaps Miller’s own interior monologue edges out all other voices, reinforcing his own paranoid delusions that “others” are lurking in the shadows, ready to take away the precious freedoms and ideals that only he can understand and value.

One is tempted to point out that Ezra Pound, G.B. Shaw, and Virginia Woolf, among other modernists, supported fascism, that Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and yet these artists and thinkers maintain a canonical place to this day in their respective fields. Will history be so kind to Miller? This is an earnest question. Certainly The Dark Knight Returns is a singular work in the superhero comics genre. But works like Holy Terror will do little to preserve the reputation of the man behind the Robocop sequels and The Spirit movie. Great art will survive the straining force of history, but I do not think that Miller is a great artist. He’s just a loud, angry cartoonist with ugly, unfounded, illogical opinions—and I think that that is what history will show.

Slavoj Žižek on the Failure of Imagination

“The Golden Bull” (From the Occupy Wall Street Coloring Book)


The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp — W.H. Davies

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp documents W.H. Davies’s picaresque adventures in America in the last decade of the nineteenth century. In bildungsroman mode, Davies begins by relating the story of his childhood in Wales, where he was raised by his grandparents after his father died and his mother essentially abandoned her children. Despite his grandparents’ care, Davies soon turns to petty crime, shoplifting for sport (as well as to provide trifles for his girlfriend). He’s caught, tried,  and beaten, an early run-in that would set a template for future dealings with authority figures. A restless spirit with a hankering for adventure, Davies has trouble attaining steady work; he’s a bit of a romantic, always stuck in a book. He elects to set off for America. In one of the funnier moments in the book, Davies describes writing a letter comparing America to England. Davies mails the missive home—only he’s still in Liverpool and has yet to see the New World, let alone the open sea. Of course, after years trekking across the US, Davies got to know much of the national characteristic; here he is reflecting—

My impression of Americans from the beginning is of the best, and I have never since had cause to alter my mind. They are a kind, sympathetic race of people and naturally proud of their country. The Irish-American is inclined to be the most bitter, remembering from his youth the complaints of his parents, who were driven through unjust laws from their own beloved land; and such a man is not to be idly aggravated, for life is a serious subject to him. This man is not to be aggravated, especially under the consideration that our conscience is not too clean in this respect, and that we are apt to be very slow in making that open confession which is good for the soul. The most pleasing trait in Americans, which cannot for long escape us, is their respect for women and the way in which the latter do deserve it.

In a strange moment that’s never quite fully explained (there are lots of these in Super-Tramp), upon arrival in America, our hero elects to take up with a vagabond named Brum, who teaches the would-be tramp the ins-and-outs of jumping rail, beating trail, and begging from town to town. In one inspired episode, Brum takes our hero to Michigan, where vagabonds could wait out the winter in warm jails with plenty of food (and tobacco). Here, the tramps could barter their own sentences with the complicity of the judge and jailers, who were basically working a scam on the taxpayers. (Luckily, no one makes undue profits by overcrowding prisons in America today. Right? Right?) Brum is one of the first players in a large cast of indigents and outsiders, men of dubious honesty and strange talents whose common thread is that they are all aliens to mainstream society. These are self-exiles whose only telos is movement itself.

These themes of travel and outsider status link Davies’s narratives strongly to those two Jacks of all trades, London and Kerouac, although the clean, spare style of Super-Tramp shares more blood with London’s reportorial rhythms than Kerouac’s unbound typing. It’s also hard to read Super-Tramp without recalling Steinbeck’s bindlestiffs, and just as in Steinbeck’s finest works, there’s depth, humility, and pathos in Davies’s writing, whether he’s describing picking berries, sharing a drink with the fellows, or moving cattle across the Atlantic.

And if Davies demonstrates empathy for his fellow man, that empathy extends to his keen descriptions of nature and animals; his tender descriptions of the poor cattle he helps transport to England are especially moving. Here, Davies shows the reader his naturalist sympathies—

I like to see to a good scientific bout by men who know the use of their hands, but would rather walk twenty miles than see animals in strife. Although of a quiet disposition, my fondness for animals is likely at any time to lead me into danger. After reading cases of vivisection I have often had dreams of boldly entering such places, routing the doctors with an iron bar, cutting the cords and freeing the animals, despite of any hurt I might receive from bites and scratches. Perhaps I should cut a ridiculous figure, walking the crowded streets with a poor meek creature under each arm, but that would not bother me in the performance of a humane action.

These dual drives—empathy and outrage against injustice—guide Super-Tramp, set against an abiding spirit of freedom and nature. As the narrative progresses, Davies repeatedly foregrounds the Darwinian peril the emerging capitalist industrial culture places on ordinary people. His note on vivisection above becomes tragically ironic late in the book when a terrible accident on the rails claims one of his feet.

Despite his hard (if self-elected) life, Davies would later become more comfortable as one of the most famous poets of his age in England, lauded for his plain, naturalist style, and championed by George Bernard Shaw (who wrote the preface to Super-Tramp and helped get the book published). The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp is an engaging page-turner that will likely appeal to fans of Jack London and John Steinbeck or anyone fascinated by the grime and romance of a hobo jungle. With its emphasis on the human face of those who refuse to play into the capitalist system, the book is as timely as it ever was.

And yes, the band got their name from the book.

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp is part of Melville House’s new Neversink line.

Slavoj Žižek on Occupy Wall Street, Communism, and Not Wanting To Be Perceived as a Nostalgic Idiot

(See also).

King Lear on Occupy Wall Street

Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.

King Lear, 4.6

Lemony Snickett on Occupy Wall Street

Lemony Snickett (aka Daniel Handler, aka one of the dudes in Magnetic Fields) offers Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance.”  (See also: Occupy Writers). A taste, but read the whole thing—

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

. . .

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

. . .

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

. . .

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.


Slavoj Žižek at Occupy Wall Street