Frank Miller is one of the most legendary pop artists of the last half-century. As a comic book artist and writer, his takes on Batman, Daredevil, and other superheroes have gone on to powerfully influence the big-budget film and TV adaptations of those characters. Even his epic non-superhero comics, such as Sin City and 300, have become successful movies.
This week, Miller publishes something a little different with Cursed. The book (which, per Miller’s streak, is already being adapted as a Netflix series starring Katherine Langford) reframes the myth of King Arthur around Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. In this version, it is Nimue who is chosen by the legendary sword Excalibur and fights to save her people. The book is written by Thomas Wheeler and features eight full-color and 30 black-and-white original illustrations by Miller.
In honor of Cursed‘s publication this week, EW caught up with Miller to discuss the pop culture that has shaped his life and work.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the first comic you remember reading?
FRANK MILLER: That’s easy: Superboy. Particularly Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, in Adventure Comics.
What comic made you want to make comics?
The thing that made me want to do comics want to do comics more than anything else was the Max Fleischer Superman cartoon. I would say I knew when I was 5 years old that I wanted to do comics, so it couldn’t have been Marvel. The first superhero I made up when I was that age had a costume that looked just like Superboy.
What’s a superhero you’d love to draw that you haven’t gotten to yet?
I don’t know, I’ve done a lot of them. It would have come up in conversation or fit into a story, and then I’d tackle the problem. But I look at some of the Jack Kirby characters, and I think it’d be fun to have a crack at The Thing. I just don’t lay awake at nights worrying about it.
What’s a comic that every kid should read?
If you want to see what comics can do and learn how to do it, the answer is Calvin & Hobbes. The drawing is such a joy.
What was your favorite fairy tale as a kid?
It started with Disney’s Sword in the Stone and grew into every iteration of the Arthurian myth. I was really transfixed with it. But even more than the [Alan Jay] Lerner and [Frederick] Loewe Camelot and certainly later the movie Excalibur, the myth that I was always most transfixed by was Robin Hood, from the old TV show with Richard Green through to Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner and all the various people who have played him in the movies. I’ve just always enjoyed Robin Hood in particular.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
I read a lot children’s books, I was a major Dr. Seuss fan. But I grew up in a family where reading was really encouraged, there were lots of books around, so I fell in love with crime novels. I was reading the old classics like Raymond Chandler, and that was back at the height of Mickey Spillane’s popularity. The subject matter was often very trashy and not stuff that would be made for kids, it was very accessible to read. The action was really exciting and the language was easy to follow. So I read a lot of his stuff too. I was too young to have read the pulp magazines, but I read an awful lot of pulp derivatives. For someone growing up on Stan Lee, that makes perfect sense.
What’s a book people might be surprised to know that you love?
I’ve read a lot of books. I’m trying to think of things people might be surprised by. I would say I was a big fan of Wuthering Heights, which a lot of people regard that as a girls’ book, but it’s a pretty classic gothic romance.
Who’s your literary hero?
Anybody who gets published. Especially getting published without any pictures in it, my hat’s off to any of them.
What’s a TV show you’ve watched over and over again?
Kojak. That was a favorite of mine when it first came out and I was just a little kid, a country kid growing up in Vermont. It was a portrait of New York in the late ’60s/early ’70s, and I absolutely loved it. I fell in love with the romance of this very soiled, ugly New York. I have revisited it very occasionally in it over the years and have found different values I’ve really enjoyed.
But I would say the most impressive over the most years is Gunsmoke. That holds up beautifully. That really was a remarkable show, especially when it finished its incredibly long run and then became a series of TV movies that were genuinely epic. The other one I want to add is I Love Lucy. That one and The Honeymooners were absolutely brilliant. The Honeymooners was a masterpiece of live TV. They were both wonderfully written, and the performances — in particular by Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball, but also the supporting cast like Art Carney — were just brilliant. There’s a reason they called it the Golden Age of TV. The performances were so vital.
What’s your favorite superhero movie?
The one I keep going back to is the original Superman. It’s like they got it right the first time, which is really a rather amazing achievement. Richard Donner and company delivered. I’ve got to particularly say that Margot Kidder and especially Chris Reeve managed to capture and recreate those characters. Gene Hackman! It was like, so many things went right. I spoke with Donner once, and it was very clear he knew exactly what he was doing.
Since you crafted such an epic noir in Sin City, what’s your favorite noir movie?
Ooh that’s a tough one. I’ve got a whole shelf of them. There’s one that if you can dig it up is really amazing to behold, it’s called Pickup on South Street with a young Richard Wigmar. That is a classic noir. But there’s also the unbelievable White Heat starring James Cagney. It’s a prison thriller. But I could go on, we don’t have time for this.
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
That would be the old Gary Cooper western High Noon. It is astonishingly simple in its story, and as pure a story of a hero as you’re gonna find. That’s the one that hit me earliest and hardest.
What was the first record you bought with your own money? I’m definitely revealing my age, but I’m sure it was a little single, it could’ve been the Monkees or something. I know that I was into Johnny Cash very early on, and I still am. But my first album? That would’ve been Bob Dylan. It might have been Blood on the Tracks.