Frank Miller and Heroic Sacrifice

Why I like Frank Miller’s work – In the following interview excerpt he explains the dominant theme of his work, and how it came about.

On the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae:
I always loved this story. It’s the best story I ever got my hands on. I was a little boy, seven years old, and I saw this clunky old movie from 20th Century Fox called The 300 Spartans. I was sitting next to my brother Steve, who was two years older than I was, so we were seven and nine and too cool to sit with our parents, so our parents were in the row behind us. Towards the end of this thing, I went, ‘Steve, are the good guys gonna lose?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, ask Dad!’ So I leaned back and said, ‘Dad, are the good guys gonna die?’ ‘I’m afraid so, son.’ I went and sat down and watched the end of the movie and the course of my creative life changed, because all of a sudden heroes weren’t guys getting medals at the end of Star Wars. They weren’t Harry Potter getting cheered by his goddamned classmates. They were people who did the right thing, and damn the consequences. Ever since then, heroic sacrifice has been a theme of my work.”

This recurring theme of anachronistic ‘heroic sacrifice’ really moves me, and feels quite wild and grounding. In a world where relatives must die to feed each other…humans die to feed the soil, salmon die to feed humans, mosquitos die to feed small birds, and they die to feed larger birds, and foxes, and bobcats, and round and round…

In this world, the idea that a hero can succeed by dying, without involving some kind of ideological martyrdom, but just as an act of real protection, sacrifice, or offering of the self to a larger related whole…this idea feels really powerful to me.

This idea takes the “Disney” out of wild, natural relationships, the artificial “lynx vs. rabbit” in the nature video, where the modern viewer roots for the prey. The prey won’t lie down for the predator, it must keep the predator at top form by trying its best to flee, but no-one gets out of this world alive…what better death than feeding life? Awash in the fugue of the doping endorphin rush that occurs as the rabbit lies dying in the jaws of the lynx, it hasn’t failed, it has made the world live for the first time, all over again.

Written by Willem