Original Art Stories: Frank Miller vs Klaus Janson

You may remember a while back I received an email from The Former DC Staffer who discussed the falling out between Frank Miller and Klaus Janson over The Dark Knight Returns. Here's how the FDCS remembered it, "Klaus Janson was working Dark Knight and used Greg Brooks as a background inker. Well Frank Miller gets wind of this and has a fit, something about the integrity of the project and letting an amateur put his hands on it. The end result was art for Dark Knight #1 and #4 went to Frank Miller and art for Dark Knight #2 and #3 went to Klaus Janson. Now here's an interesting bit, the original art never once came into the production department. It was sent to a printer for black and blue line copies on strathmore paper. Corrections were made by Bob (little fingers of lead) Rozakis on the printed blackplate; hence the famous Lois Lane flub in Dark Knight #1. As a production man Bob was a great accountant!"

As we also know Brooks wasn't the only background assistant that Klaus used - others, such as Todd McFarlane, were also used.  However Klaus remembered it a bit differently, but there is a common thread. Have a look.

"Frank and I had a complete falling out on Dark Knight," said Janson shortly after publication of the series, "We’re not going to work together any more; the falling out was that extensive.  Frank was not happy with the inking job that I did on the third book.  By my own admission, it’s not the best job I’ve ever done, but it also wasn’t the worst thing I`ve ever done. He wanted me to quit. But I wouldn't quit because I didn’t think that I had any reason to quit. My feeling was that I wouldn’t quit, but if somebody were to fire me I would accept that. In a nutshell, cooler heads prevailed and I inked the fourth book. Don’t get me wrong. I don`t want to sell what Frank was doing short. I think he did a great job on the writing. I think Lynn [Varley] did a tremendous job on the coloring. And Dark Knight was a very good project for me in the sense that it was, obviously, extremely lucrative. I don`t regret any of it. What I regret is that I wasn’t able to show perhaps more of what I'm capable of doing, that it was artistically restricted because it was a writer’s book rather than an artist’s work. Artistically, it wasn’t my most flashy work.”

The common thread is the contentious third issue.  I can't help but wonder if the truth lies in both stories - Miller wasn't happy with Janson's inking in the third issue, because he knew that Klaus was using assistants and not inking the whole book himself, and thus not giving the book the attention that Miller would have liked.  Like the book or not, it was, and still is, Frank Miller's masterpiece, a book that sits beside Watchmen as a genuine DC classic and a book that helped define a generation of comic books, and a character.  No wonder Frank was pissed off - he'd put a lot into the project, and if Klaus wasn't prepared to put the same care and attention into it, well.

On the other side of the coin, Janson had deadlines to meet and wasn't backwards in coming forwards with his use of assistants.  You get what you pay for.  Personally I think the inking on the third issue is that bad, but then I'm not that close to the project.

To close out our Frank Miller day, ask yourself this, why is the cover to Daredevil #167 on this blog?  Simple, I want to show off the cover that should have appeared.  In 1980 Miller and then Daredevil scribe, Roger McKenzie (and where is he these days?) wrote a strong anti-drug story titled Child's Play.  However just before publication the Comics Code rejected the story outright, even though the message was a powerful one.  Miller made changes, to no avail.  Thus the story had to sit on the shelves for another two years before Miller became a force to be reckoned with, and a force not to be denied.

Child's Play appeared in Daredevil #183, with some minor modifications, and was a major success and was, rightly, held up as a positive anti-drugs message both at the time and since.

You know, the Comics Code were idiots at times...but thems the breaks.  Now I can't help but wonder why Marvel have never used this cover, after all they've used virtually everything else Frank Miller has left lying around the place.  All things considered, I much prefer this cover to almost any other of Miller's Daredevil covers.  I'm not sure why, possibly because I haven't seen it a million times since.


Mike Moran said…
Interesting. I never knew about that. It is too bad since Miller/Jansen was a great look.
Ben Herman said…
I've never even read DKR (yes, strange but true) so I don't have the book in front of me to compare the inking on the different chapters. Just guessing, but I think that possibly Janson also might have been frustrated by the fact that when they worked on Daredevil, as the series progressed, Miller was actually doing less and less in the way of finished pencils, and at the end he was just giving Janson rough thumbnails, leaving it to Janson to not only ink the art, but do the finished pencils, i.e. the majority of the artwork. Yet most readers didn't realize this, and kept saying "Wow, what awesome artwork by Frank Miller," totally ignoring Janson's tremendous contributions. So perhaps by the time DKR rolled around, an overworked Janson said "The heck with it," and employed assistants since he guessed that most people wouldn't even been paying attention to his contributions on the book whatever the case. Just a guess, though. I could be completely and totally wrong. But I do think Janson hardly ever gets enough credit for how incredible the artwork was on Daredevil.
Anonymous said…
Always go to the source for the facts! What I know about the project is just 2nd or 3rd hand info. Janson was always a class-act.


DB-You are getting my emails, yes?
Jonathan Rowe said…
However bad you may think the inking was on the third issue, the finished product is still way better than what Miller produced in The Dark Knight Strikes Again. If ONLY he had Janson with him to pick up his slack in that book.
BerserkRL said…
"the famous Lois Lane flub in Dark Knight #1."

What was the flub?

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