With minicomics, hardcover reprints of each individual issues and spinoffs, all utilizing top industry talent under the guiding hand of the property's creator, Frank Miller's Dark Knight III: The Master Race has the most ambitious rollout of a major comic book property in years.
And, as we now know, it's not going to stop anytime soon. Even though The Master Race was originally marketed as the culmination of Miller's Dark Knight Trilogy (starting with The Dark Knight Returns and continuing through The Dark Knight Strikes Again), this month has brought the announcement that Miller plans to write Dark Knight IV soon.
So, what does Frank Miller have to say about Dark Knight III and the future of the franchise? We caught up with him recently to ask.
When you started working on this project, did you have any inkling that DC was going to do this massive launch with the hardcovers and a hundred variants and everything?
Oh, come on! Of course! I wouldn't expect them to do anything else, and if I were them, I'd do exactly the same thing. They want to sell comic books, they want to make good comic books, they lined up an excellent team, and they are in the business of selling comic books and making money. What better way to do it? I think they're doing exactly what a publisher should do, and I applaud them for it.
Obviously, you have been heavily involved with this project, but with the plans for sequels and spinoffs and things, do you foresee a time when you're comfortable with DC putting a Dark Knight project entirely in somebody else's hands and doing one you're not directly involved with?
With this property, it's been a long journey. What are the elements from the kind of expanded DC Universe of Dark Knight Strikes Again that will be playing the biggest role in informing The Master Race?
I can't really speak too much of what Brian's got in mind. I know that Lara is playing a very big role in this, and so is Carrie, the two characters that I made up for The Dark Knight and that he was fond of. So I'll be fascinated seeing where they're taken.
They're working on some very good things. It's been fun to advise Brian on the small details about Lara for instance, and that she floats off the ground if she's very angry or wants to make a point. Ways like that, I'v ebenen able to consult. And it's amazing to get my hands on these characters again and take them where I'd like to go.
In the world of The Dark Knight, you haven't historically been particularly kind to Superman. What was the idea behind giving the Kryptonians such a prominent role in DK III?
No, I've been particularly brutal to Superman, but that's not because I don't like the character; it's because the point-of-view has always been Batman's. If I did a story where Superman was the lead character, Batman would be the antagonist. I adore Superman, it's just that Batman does not, so when I'm writing Batman, I do not. It's very much a writer's job to take on a character's point of view.
Personally, I grew up watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons and reading Superman. I even liked all the stuff with the flying dog and all that. So these are characters I'm completely in love with and Dark Knight for me is a project in which these characters are relished. They're enjoyed as the rich creations they are. I never mean to show them any disrespect whatsoever.
Both of the first two installments incorporated real-world politics and sociology. Is there a more real-world element to Dark Knight III that we aren't aware of yet?
Does the title hint at anything? [Laughs] That's a big hint. The idea that there being the Kandorians released on Earth would in fact create a master race, and that coul dbe come a menace, would change Superman's role in the world tremendously and it changes Batman's role as well. It's going to be fascinating to see what happens.
The talking-heads element of the first two series is still somewhat present, but for the most part it's been replaced by text-speak. Is that just about the evolution of media, or is there something else you're trying to say there?
When I wrote old Spider-Man comics, I'd use newspapers. I'd use The Daily Bugle, for instance. When I started to write The Dark Knight Returns, I switched over to television, and now the switch has gone over to a more Internet news service. I think that as our communications vehicles change, we're bound to change the way they're represented in our comic books.
When you write stories that are set in the kind of near future, it's almost inevitable that you find yourself predicting things correctly. Do you ever take stock of that?
Well, it means I got something right! A lot of the things that I predicted were natural extrapolations of what was going on at the time, so if my guess is right, that's great. I also predicted a lot of things that never happened, but we can all very nicely ignore that.
Was it very important, since you weren't drawing Dark Knight III, to get Klaus involved for visual continuity?
I wasn't really talking with DC in the early stages. Brian informed me that this was going on, so he and I got together and worked out where it was going to go. The title "The Master Race," for instance, was mine and it means exactly what it says: The Kandorians are freed, with all the rather terrifying implications of that.
Given the controversy around things like Holy Terror and 300, are you intentionally kicking the hornet's nest when it comes to titles like The Master Race and The Last Crusade?
Are you asking me if I'm worried about stirring up a controversy?
No, I actually was asking if you were delighting in the controversy!
Oh! Well, I'm not a pyromaniac but I try to be one in print.
When you first developed the original series, did you ever think that Carrie was a character who would have the kind of appeal that she has?
Well, to me, she always has. I would love to do a series — in fact, I intend to do a series of her and her alone that would be very much like a comic book Nancy Drew series. It would be her detective stories. They would be smaller-sized, they would be designed to that they could be, even though they would be comic books, they would be comic books for children. That’s something I intend to do. Just picture a small figure of Robin on a cover holding a magnifying glass. Maybe hardcovers.
When this came out, it was ostensibly the end of a trilogy. Now, there's more and more coming soon. Is this now something you see yourself taking to the grave with you and just continuing indefinitely?
I certainly hope so. After the first one, I said ‘Never again.’ After the second one, I said ‘Never again.’ Brian looks like he’s doing a terrific job; I can’t wait to jump in myself again. There’s no reason not to keep going with these. The character is immortal and more ideas spring to mind all the time.