It startles me to note that the last time I communicated directly with you,
rather than through mutual acquaintances, was back in 1983-4. I specifically
recall a 45 minute telephone conversation which will be, likely, long gone from
your memory. In it, I praised your work on Ronin (time flies), including the
treatment of each two page "panel" as a canvas, including the innovative use of
colour to accentuate this plan.
That said, many things having changed, I have a few less than salutary comments
(brief, I promise) about your current work on Batman and Robin. Just so you
know I am not merely anti-Frankie, kindly first accept my deep regards and
effusive praise for Sin City, both in comic book and cinematic form. How to go,
lad, how to go!
I begin my small observations about B&RtBW with a recapitulation (in poorly
transcribed paraphrasing) of Goethe's three criteria of criticism. To wit:
a. What was the creator's goal (or were there goals)? b. Was/were said goal(s)
accomplished c. [crucially] Was/were said goal(s) worth accomplishing?
I see nothing wrong with breaking toys for fun. I used to love to explode my
toys when they had used up, for me, their fun quotient. Of course, it becomes a
bit more ethically (even morally) complex when the toys you break may be ones
legally shared with others, or spiritually, so to say (in my atheist sense of
spirit), shared with the zeitgeist.
But I have read with some credulity your account of why you like playing in
this toy box, and so we will let stand, stipulated arguendo, that your work
there is both evanescent and ephemeral, not canonical. Alors.
What I would then say is that, in the "sister" publication to your Batman one,
far from only (I did NOT say "merely", Frank, nota bene), Grant Morrison and
Frank Quitely have done more than merely stir up the sand box (or even make zen
sand paintings, which are yet another level of art, as you well know). They
have, in the opinion of some, created one of the most original, and arguably
the best ever, Superman story.
I think this speaks eloquently to Goethe's 3rd principle, but of course, one's
mileage may vary.
Let me just insert here my thought, in case you intend to counter this with a
notion of "realism" or "grit", that I am a huge fan of noir and cyberpunk, but
I don't, mixing metaphors here, put salt on my brulee, no matter how much I
like it on my chips. And in regards to a more "real" sense of the world as it
is, Goethe again weighs in, regarding art, by saying "if you show things as
they are, you make them less than they are". You mayn't agree, of course,
Frank. But it captures my sense of the thing rather splendidly.
I also think, harking back to our long ago telephone marathon, that the
colouring you used to use was more subtle and effective, but we are men of the
world, things change (they did for you, for your sometimes pal Robert
Rodriguez, and before either of you, for me; so I am hardly saying they should
not have done, only that some things, perforce, are lost, naturally enough).
But let that pass, because as Paddington Bear reliably informs, "things
change". That, as both Paddington and Heraclitus remind us, is the only
tautology. How quantum we all are, eh?
At any rate, Frank, I wanted to express my continued admiration for your craft,
for much of your work, but not for this particular venue. I find it fun, not
abhorrent. I am not sitting in my basement eating cheetoes and bemoaning the
fact that Bat-Mite isn't bedeviling an 8 year old Dick Grayson, even as Bruce
is on Planet Z(ed) wearing rocket belts.
I AM bemoaning the fact that I think your sense of iconoclastic fun has
overridden (and more power to you, frankly) your sense of art, in SOME cases.
And I had kind of hoped that, subversively, those with whom I have shared this
letter might see it less as a small regret to you, and more as a prod to go out
and read Grant's and Frank's Superman series.
In a final comment about things changing, if you are not one of the
stereotypically monolingual Americans (I'm a Canuck by proactive choice, I was
not when we met via Mr. Bell's device), you might appreciate this coinage I
have, yes, changed to suit my purposes:
Plus ca change, plus c'est la merde.
I leave you, as always, with my affectionate advice in closing:
Take care, take chances,
p.s. Have you ever forgiven Jimmy S. for hanging up on those Springsteen
tickets? Ever since he (Bruce, not Jimmy) crossed that picket line, I've been
less than enamoured of his public pose, personally.