Legendary comic writer and former co-publisher of DC Comics Dan DiDio has joined forces with Frank Miller to create a new comic publisher called Frank Miller Presents. DiDio spoke with us at Terrificon 2022 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to discuss the new FMP imprint and its exciting new titles and projects, including Sin City, Ronin, Pandora, and Ancient Enemies.
How did you end of working with Frank Miller to create the new Frank Miller Presents comic book imprint?
Dan DiDio: Basically, Frank and I were talking about what we enjoy about comics, what we want to see in comics, and what we felt was missing from comics. During these conversations, Frank was in the process of reacquiring the rights to Ronin. He was asking me if I wanted to be involved with it, and it sort of morphed and grew into us starting our own publishing line with all our own books. Which I think is pretty exciting, because for us— even at this stage in our careers— we are branching out our skillsets that we’ve been involved in but have actually never executed on our own. That’s the fun part for me. It’s a lot easier to make comics when you have a staff of 160 people behind it than just the two of us, but we found a way to make it work, and I’m really looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to our first materials.
What titles are you starting with?
DiDio: We’ve got four titles that we’re starting with. The first book is Ronin. Naturally, it’s a continuation of the first storyline from Ronin. Frank is writing it. He’s done layouts and the art is being done by Philip Tan and Daniel Henriques. They’re really working over Frank’s layouts. It’s got the same energy that Frank has. It’s been a wonderful experience for Philip. Not only is his art dynamic, but he’s really capturing a lot of the essence of what that series is and really pushing it forward. I’ve created a series called Ancient Enemies with an artist by the name of Danilo Beyruth. He’s a real talent. He’s really inventive and he’s taken the stories I have and he’s really been able to bring them to life. We’re designing worlds from scratch, from the ground up. The best part about it is Frank’s gotten involved in the process too by creating his own character who is going to be a part of the storyline as well. Frank’s new character is called The Geek, and he will be a part of my series, so I’m happy about that.
Frank had some ideas and he brought in Emma Kubert to help flesh out a new idea on Pandora, and he brought in a new writing team of Anthony Maranville and Chris Silvestri. They’re writers for the Star Trek series. They’ve brought a real fantasy element to Pandora, and they’ve really helped flesh out the world that Frank initiated and Emma’s bringing to life. Emma’s just exploding on the page right there, and I’m just watching her grow by leaps and bounds. I’ve known Emma for almost her entire life, so it’s fun to be working with her and just seeing the skill that she just naturally has and really works with the material. She’s Andy Kubert’s daughter. For Frank, he’s super excited to be working with a third generation of Kuberts. He worked with Joe, he worked with Andy, and now he’s working with Emma. He’s over the moon. And she’s spectacular. She’s got some books out from Image right now.
And then the last piece is Frank’s doing more Sin City. One of the Sin City books is set in the 1800s. It’s almost the origins of Sin City. On that one, Frank is writing and drawing. And then he’s writing for Milo Manara for a Sin City one-shot that will capitalize on the world of Sin City. So that’s our starting point. For us, we don’t want to put too much out there. We are trying to keep to one variant cover per book, no more than that. We don’t want to get caught up in that. We just want people to get excited about the material and to read the books. We want to make sure that the art really helps set the stories. We want each book to have the best artists possible to be out there creating the material. We think the visual sense is really what’s so important to comics these days and we want to make sure our books have it.
When are the first FMP books going to come out?
DiDio: We have an ashcan that’s going to be released into stores on August 17th. And then our first books are coming out the first Wednesday before Thanksgiving. November 23rd.
You’ve been a key player in the industry for so long. What are some things about this industry that still get you excited to this day?
DiDio: I just love comic conventions. When you see that level of enthusiasm and enjoyment, and people so dedicated to these properties and characters, and people seeking out more material and the comics creators because they want to have that connection, that’s what motivates me. That’s what drove me to comics and made me a comic fan for 50 plus years. That’s what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned. It’s finding ways to tell stories to get people excited about comics. It’s really that marriage of pictures and words that I think is so important. It’s not one or the other, it’s the combination and making sure you get that right alchemy on the books and capture people’s attention. We’re out here to entertain. That’s the first thing. I’m not out to anything past that. So long as people read our books and get entertained by them, it’s a job well done and a job accomplished.
What are your earliest memories from when you first met Frank back in the day and were working with him?
DiDio: The first time I met Frank, I was relatively new at DC. It was 2002. I just joined the company, post 9/11. He was in the middle of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the second novel, and he was coming in with pages. I had met a couple of people already, but Frank was the biggest star I had met at that moment. And he came in with his editor, Bob Schreck, and he pulled out some art. The first thing I remember is that Frank works on oversized boards. It’s not the size you see at this show, it’s twice as big. He’s pulling out these huge artboards and he was telling me this visceral explanation of how these boards were created and how he was gashing in the ink colors to make it feel very aggressive and harsh. It was this mood he was feeling in this post 9/11 world, and I saw that passion and drive and fire and you could understand what was behind all of the material you had read up to that date where this was coming from. He was just so engrossed in the material and his work that he was consumed by it in a way that was incredibly inspiring.
What will the Ronin sequel look like?
DiDio: The way Frank’s laying the book out, everything’s done as a double page spread and the panels are broken out. So they’re all these very panoramic, landscape images. It’s a really huge visual style. To be honest, we’re print guys. We’re looking for ways to maximize the printing capabilities for Franks visuals, so we’re working in that sensibility. He’s really looking at everything as these beautiful visual landscape pages that are quite exciting.
What was it like for you to see how Philip Tan has been taking a look at those layouts and adapting them? When I take a look at Philip’s work and Frank’s work, at first glance, there are not a lot of similarities there.
DiDio: There aren’t. That’s the fun part about it. What happened is Philip is a huge fan of Frank’s work, so he really wanted to work with Frank. So Philip started in his style, but in working with Frank and spending time together with the layouts and hearing Frank’s explanations, and talking about things like negative space and minimalism and shadowing and things of that nature, Philip felt himself growing as an artist and learning as a result of that process. I heard the same things from Andy Kubert when Andy worked with Frank on The Dark Knight III. That’s exactly what you want to see. Our goal is to force us all out of our comfort zone and put ourselves in a position where we are still growing. Even if you feel you’ve had a level of accomplishment in the past, there’s still a way to really move forward and continue to grow in the position and keep yourself excited about what you’re doing. It’s that energy and excitement that’s keeping Philip truly motivated in ways that he hasn’t been before, and I think that’s what’s fun about it.
To be able to learn from a master of the artform…
DiDio: Yeah, and that’s part of what Frank is. He always said he had so many creative teachers. He goes back to Neal Adams and so many of these other people who he learned with. And he wants to pass that on. Even if somebody is established, it doesn’t matter. You always can learn. That, I think, is the one thing that’s true for everyone. You should never stop learning. You should never say, “I have enough.”