Tag Archives: Sin City

Noir Art | Frank Miller

Noir Art Frank Miller Batman

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (via ramonton.tumblr.com)

“The noir hero is a knight in blood caked armor. He’s dirty and he does his best to deny the fact that he’s a hero the whole time.”

Frank Miller has a very polarized fan-base. Some worship him as the incredible artist, writer, and contributor that gave us some of the most recognizable comics of the last 30 years, while others feel that he’s devolved into a sloppy, jaded old man who’s well has run dry. I don’t know where I stand personally. Instead of doing the norm by providing an in depth biographical overview of his life and accomplishments, I’d rather explain my own experience with Mr. Miller’s work. As for biography, let this suffice: He was born January 27th, 1957, raised in Montpelier, Vermont, the fifth of seven children. He’s bounced coast-to-coast, living first in Hell’s Kitchen then Los Angeles, then back again.

I remember when I first saw Frank Miller’s work, I was a seventeen year old wasting an afternoon at Border’s with a friend. Invariably, I found myself thumbing the crisp pages of the latest science fiction, then fantasy novels– but, as was my habit, I stopped at the comics aisle, their glossy pages and appealing art too pretty to resist. I recall hefting a thick book from the bottom shelf,  a black and white bound hardcover called “The Art of Sin City.”

I was perplexed. As I turned the pages, I was surprised to not find anything remotely  Las Vegas–the only reference I had for ‘Sin City’ at the time– save the seductively inked woman in the cowboy chaps and tangled in a lasso. The art was beautiful, and the style intoxicating, but the content quickly overwhelmed me. My cheeks reddened, and as my friend approached I quickly returned the book to the shelf. I didn’t mention it to him, but it was the most interesting book that I saw that day– and the only one I can remember presently. Ten years have passed between then and now, and I can still remember the feeling I had when I held that book, like it was going to suck me in. That’s impact. That’s Frank Miller.

Fast forward to Emerald City Comic Con, 2010. I had begun to dabble in comics for the first time, collecting various floppies and trades– mostly in search of lasting appeal. Super heroes bored me for the most part, and I had latched on to Conan The Cimmerian as a possible obsession, but it wasn’t full blown yet. I expressed interest in “Criminal” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, but I was yet to read any of it, my interest more in following the buzz of the crowd than in staking out any real corner of the con for myself. Enter Matt P., whom I had met only hours before, asking me, “What books do you read?”– In a moment of pure embarrassment, I honestly didn’t have an answer for him. But as the con wore on, and I my tasting more widespread, I found a genre I had seldom looked at before; “noir.”

I couldn’t get enough ‘noir,’ even if I couldn’t exactly define it, much less describe it to anyone. Matt asked me again about the books I liked, and after throwing him a few titles he immediately prescribed “Sin City.” Returning from the Con, I hopped online and bought “The Hard Goodbye” on faith and recommendation. The rest is history.

When I received the title in the mail, I didn’t even realize it was the same stuff that had held me captive ten years gone until I cracked the cover. As I fanned the pages, the result was the same– the feeling of exuberance came rushing back.

Since then, I’ve read far more of his work– Dining on his Batman contributions, Daredevil, Ronin, and 300; but his masterpiece will forever be Sin City (at least to me). As his style has evolved, I’ve found that I like him less– his later work feels more rushed and less concerned with the clean and stark contrasts of his earlier days. Perhaps he’s evolved this way to escape the crisp lines and defined boundaries of his youth. Maybe he’s testing us, seeing how loyal we’ll remain to him– I don’t truly know. But I do know that there was pure blissful magic flowing from his pen at various periods of his life, and for that the noir genre and myself are forever indebted.

Batman The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (via comicbookpanels.tumblr.com)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (via mrhypnotic.tumblr.com)

Batman Frank Miller

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (via nonsensemisa.tumblr.com)

Sin City: The Babe Wore Red

Sin City: The Babe Wore Red (via mk-goldenmoon.com)

Sin City: That Yellow Bastard

Sin City: That Yellow Bastard (via mk-goldenmoon.com)

Sin City: The Hard Goodbye

Sin City: The Hard Goodbye (via mk-goldenmoon.com)

Noir Art Frank Miller

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (via beam2k.tumblr.com)

Noir Art Frank Miller

Sin City: The Hard Goodbye (via mk-goldenmoon.com)

Sin City Frank Miller

Sin City: The Hard Goodbye (via gamesmusicandyoutube.tumblr.com)

Noir Art Frank Miller

Sin City: Silent Night (via mk-goldenmoon.com)

Frank Miller Sin City

Sin City: The Babe Wore Red (via mk-goldemoon.com)

 

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Noir Comics | Sin City by Frank Miller

Noir Comics Sin City Collection

my collection, forgive the grainy photo

Instead of pursuing this review in my normal fashion, which is to analyze each volume of a noir comic with its own posting, I have determined to mix things up; Here I will provide one paragraph on each of the seven volumes of the Frank Miller classic Sin City. This review will not be a regurgitation of plot lines or summary, instead it will focus on the noir aspects of the work as a whole both pleasing and displeasing. Having freshly devoured the entire series within a span of two weeks, I feel qualified to approach Sin City with a critical and subjective eye.

1) The Hard Goodbye

Frank Miller’s series begins with ferocity. Immediately the reader is immersed in a world where sexual ecstasy and violence drip off the walls like wet paint. Within this seedy underworld our first anti-hero, Marv, staggers angrily out of the inciting incident; the murder of the only woman who ever loved him. Marv’s strengths are as impressive as his weaknesses are redeeming. He is on heavy prescription medications because he is prone to confusion and hallucination, his brutal strength makes him the frequent victim and perpetrator of horrific trauma, and he is as gentle as a kitten when dealing with the fairer sex. He is the most perfect anti-hero in any of the noir comics I have read.

Noir Comics Sin City Hard Goodbye

via digitalcomicnews.com

2) A Dame To Kill For

The second volume of Sin City paints a beautifully cruel portrait of the femme fatale archetype. The reader watches Dwight, a clean-cut, reformed alcoholic, slowly lose his self-control and self-respect to the subtle and conniving influence of the wicked Ava. Her goddess like beauty coupled with her luciferic sexual rhetoric eventually dominates Dwight, and leads him to commit the irreversible sin of murder. An intensely entertaining and frighteningly dark noir plot.

Noir Comics Sin City Dame to Kill For

via mk-goldenmoon.com

3) The Big Fat Kill

Volume three is most memorable for its sudden plot twist, where a dead grabby goon in Old Town turns out to be a hero cop and a death knell in the shaky truce that keeps the working girls safe. Sweat, desperation, and fear drive the story and tie the seedy underworld of this volume together. Most interesting are the references to the Spartans memorable battle at Thermopylae, it seems that Frank had the seeds of 300 in mind even as he was early into his Sin City saga. Also, the dialogue was near noir perfect between Jackie Boy and Dwight on the ride to the Santa Yolanda Tar Pits.

Noir Comics Sin City The Big Fat Kill

via barik.net

4) That Yellow Bastard

Frank Miller’s best comic, hands down, is Sin City volume four. Although the previous three volumes were excellent, he hits his high point in That Yellow Bastard and then never returns to it (more on that later). The reason that the story sails is because of how endearing Detective Hartigan is and how detestable Roark Junior’s pedophilia is. Additionally, the plot seems to be the least recognizable of any noir crime fiction or noir comics that I have ever read. This originality coupled with the uniquely detailed characters and dialogue makes That Yellow Bastard the black laces on the corset of Sin City. 

Noir Comics Sin City That Yellow Bastard

via mk-goldenmoon.com

5) Family Values

The fifth volume is an homage to the “Miller-boner” that Frank has for the deadly female assassin Miho. I will be the first to admit that Miho is really cool, but upon closer inspection she is much more of a caricature than a character. She is a product of Asian martial art stereotypes in the same vein as Tarantino’s O-ren Ishii, and has as much depth as a cinder block. The premise of the story delivered on intrigue, but was ultimately predictable and fell flat in comparison with volume 4. Its at this phase that Nancy has completely faded from the setting, and new characters are being introduced in rapid succession. It only gets worse.

Noir Comics Sin City Family Values

via mk-goldenmoon.com

6) Booze, Broads, and Bullets

Train-wreck. Volume six of Sin City is comprised of a collection of “one-shots” and it was horrid reading. It felt like Frank Miller was completely tired of the series; it showed in the dialogue and it showed in the artwork. Very few pages were crafted with the lust for detail of the earlier volumes, and the stories felt forced or contrived. The only redeeming aspect was the introduction of Delia, AKA “Blue Eyes.” She’s a bada**.

Noir Comics Sin City Booze Broads and Bullets

via mk-goldenmoon.com

7) Hell and Back

I’m met with uncomfortable and mixed feelings as I contemplate this last volume of Sin City. It had several noir aspects that I was impressed with, but again I felt like the artwork and the attention span of the author was slipping. That, coupled with the worst closing lines to any story ever (“they talked about many things.”) made me extremely sad. He seemed to introduce new characters with reckless abandon and little care paid to back story or real development. Hell and Back is as sloppy as it is disappointing. What a sorrowful dirge to such a promising canon of noir comics.

Noir Comics Sin City Hell and Back

via mk-goldenmoon.com

I will always be a fan of Sin City, even if I feel it is an unpleasantly lopsided. If you are only going to read one of them, read That Yellow Bastard.

protip: you can see EVERY page of the entire Sin City saga at http://www.mk-goldenmoon.com/Comics/Sin%20City/

 

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Noir Quote of the Week #9

Noir Quotes Sin City Hartigan

via utalkintome.tumblr.com

“An old man dies. A little girl lives. Fair trade.”

Hartigan

This noir quote comes from the first chapter of Sin City Volume 4: That Yellow Bastard. Hartigan is the only good cop in Sin City, a distinction not easily earned or free of consequences. He utters this line as he shields 11 year old Nancy Callahan from rape and death with his own life. Interestingly enough, it seems that Hartigan is the only “true” hero in the entire series; at least he is the only one who follows the archetype. All of his struggles are from outward forces (save his health and old age), and he never falters in his conviction to serve and protect Nancy. He is such a redemptive character because he understands self-sacrifice for the good of others, and in this way he fits the role of savior easily.

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Film Noir | Sin City (2005)

Film Noir Sin City Movie Poster

via impawards.com

Overtly-stylized film noir fetish satisfaction rushed over me in shuddering waves as I viewed Sin City last week. I could not have been more overjoyed and overwhelmed by the intensity of the film coupled with its adherence to the graphic novel story-lines. It benefited immensely from its unwavering dedication to accurately following the comic (which is rare in a film version of any comic book). Of course, this accuracy is obviously a direct byproduct of the author/creator Frank Miller’s personal involvement and direction.  Add Robert Rodriguez and a dash of Tarantino to the mix and you have one hell of a film noir flick. Once again I fall victim to Quinton Tarantino’s seductive direction, I’ve got problems. Before I lose myself in lengthy comparative analyses of noir definition, let me thank Stephen P. for loaning me the film (and sticking around to watch it).


1) The Seedy Underworld

Frank Miller’s invented playground of devilish behavior, Sin City is indeed a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Grit, blood, sweat, tears, and piss stain the monochrome streets and characters who walk them. Often it feels as if the city itself is a living beast rapt in the taut anticipation of cruel violence. The seedy underworld of this film noir sets the standard for the genre.

2) The Anti-Hero

The anti-heroes of Sin City are incredible. They ride that perfect balance between horridly flawed and perfectly lovable. Dwight (Clive Owen), Hartigan (Bruce Willis), and Marv (Mickey Rourke) fit this character archetype with ease. Each man battles his own demons, for Dwight: his addictions, Hartigan: his heart condition, and Marv: his madness. All I can say is holy shiz Mickey Rourke, who wins immeasurable applause for this deft performance. Each of these anti-heroes, despite their disparities, won me over easily.

3) The Femme Fatale

Sin City is loaded with femme fatale archetypes; the seductress (Goldie/Wendy, played by Jaime King), the snitch (Becky, played by Alexis Bledel), the deadly (Gail and Miho, played by Rosario Dawson and Devon Aoki), the law (Lucille, played by Carla Gugino), and the victim (Nancy and Shellie, played by Jessica Alba and Brittany Murphy). Each woman executes her role perfectly, and showcases Frank Miller’s astounding understanding of film noir themes and character types. The most important femme fatale in the story is the exotic dancer Nancy. Just as in the comic book, she lingers in the background of every chapter, her seductive lasso tying Sin City in knots.

Sin City Gail and Dwight

Gail and Dwight via jestersreviews.com

Film Noir Sin City Nancy and Hartigan

Nancy and Hartigan via filmdogsonline.com

Film Noir Sin City Lucille and Marv

Lucille and Marv via thereviewbin.com

4) Misogyny

One aspect of the plot that was wrought by old-school noir misogyny occurred when the women in “Old Town” needed Dwight to save them. Some would argue that the women of “Old Town” are a great symbol of empowered femininity, but if examined closely you’ll see that it is not as empowering as initially perceived. First, they dress like prostitutes (which is pandering to a man’s desires). Second, as soon as they accidently kill a cop, they need Dwight (a man) to save them. Finally, they’re entire way of life is male defined. They were allowed to grow powerful in “Old Town” by the mob men and cops who condoned the event. Not nearly as female-forward as many would think.

5) Redemption

Every single plot-line revolves around the noir theme of redemption; Dwight must redeem “Old Town,” Hartigan must save Nancy from the Yellow Bastard and redeem the broken legal system in Sin City, and Marv must take vengeance on Goldie’s killer. Redemption as a story motivator always works (and it works WELL in this film noir).

6) Loss of Innocence

Loss of innocence as a theme definitely plays a role in Sin City. Nancy is almost molested as a little girl by the Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl), and it’s revealed that he has raped and killed hundreds of young girls. Also, Kevin (Elijah Wood), plays a psychopathic killer who eats the women he kills and mounts their heads on his wall. Coincidentally, he’s also an avid reader of the Holy Bible. How’s that for a loss of innocence?

Film Noir Sin City Goldie

Goldie via dvdactive.com

Film Noir Sin City Yellow Bastard

Yellow Bastard via jestersreviews.com

Film Noir Sin City Kevin

Kevin via villains.wikia.com

7) Eroticism

Sin City is buoyed up by some of the most riveting portrayals of eroticism I have ever seen. The nudity may appear wanton, but the passion evoked by the Marv and Goldie sex scene, and the dancing of the singularly clothed Nancy, ignite the pulse of this entire film noir. Those with more modest sensibilities should avoid Sin City; Even though nudity is very openly displayed, there are never any genitals shown(unless you count Hartigan tearing an individuals manhood off in a grotesque clump).

8 ) Blaxploitation

Gail (Rosario Dawson) is basically the “madam” of “Old Town,” and she rules it with an iron fist (or a sharpened stilleto). Also, Manute (Michael Clark Duncan) shows up as muscle for the mob. Race is never brought up as far as I can remember.

9) Smoke

The opening scene and the closing scene are both centered on a cigarette. It’s as if Sin City offers you a smoke before and after it passionately makes love to you. Breathtaking film noir. Pick it up now on blu-ray or dvd at Amazon.com.

by Chad de Lisle

PostScript: Rumor has it that the script for Sin City 2 has just been completed. I’m drooling with anticipation.

 

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