Frank Millers Sin City is my Pinnacle of 90’s era Comic Books
This article on Frank Millers Sin City is an example of something I was just inspired to write an article about as it strikes a chord with me.
I’ve been collecting comics since the early 90’s and I remember having to sneak copies of DC’s Lobo around the house because my mother didn’t like the content that was inside of them.
She felt it was inappropriate for a child of my age, and now being a father myself, I’d have to agree. Regular comics were fine, but the more graphic stuff really shouldn’t be touched by kids until they get older. In 92’ I was 10 years old, I loved comic books; especially Dark Horse comics, and this was just another great reason why.
Dark Horse often published the comics that were the “forbidden fruit” to young comic collectors. They were the “rated R movie” you snuck into when you were a kid. The pack of cigarettes you tried to buy before you were 18. The copy of your father’s Playboy you got a peek at when he wasn’t home…
All those things.
For the purposes of this article’s conciseness, I’m going to only write about the first two parts of the Sin City saga The Hard Goodbye and A Dame to Kill For, as I intend to write separate articles for the remaining story lines The Big Fat Kill, That Yellow Bastard, Family Values, Booze, Broads, & Bullets, and Hell and Back. I’ve already been taking far too long writing this blog post, so it I decided to break this all up.
I mean, let’s face it; this man’s brilliance is a lot to digest.
Some of my first Dark Horse comics that I was able to purchase were Dark Horse Presents #35-#37 (Predator, Alien) and John Byrne’s Next Men. I remember going to my local comic bookstore (LCS) in New Haven, Connecticut when Next Men just dropped, and getting some copies signed by John Byrne himself.
I still have these books in my collection today!
However, I also remember Frank Millers Sin City: A Dame to Kill For coming out around the same time (93’) and being unable to buy them because I was too young. I don’t remember if it was because the comic book shop wouldn’t sell them to me, or because my parents wouldn’t let me buy them, but for whatever reason, I was unable to obtain these comics.
More importantly, I know they had a significant impact on my subconscious because here I am nearly 30 years later; discovering my life’s purpose, changing paths, getting back into the comic book game, and some of the very first books I purchased during my “enlightenment” were A Dame to Kill For. I just had this strong desire to acquire them, and other Sin City story line comic books, immediately because they were not already in my collection, and I knew how great and undervalued they truly were.
Frank Miller’s black and white images are some of the best comic book works of the 21st century, and no one uses negative space better!
The man set the bar in this comic style and it has yet to be surpassed.
I’ve recently scooped up Dark Horse Presents #51 – #62 to ensure I have the first part of Frank Millers Sin City story line in my collection; The Hard Goodbye. Admittedly, it’s a bit more expensive and harder to come by, but still worth the investment in my opinion!
I’m still finishing my collection of the entire Sin City saga and hope have all 7 stories soon.
I think many comic book nerds (yes, me and you!) would state that the work Frank Miller did on Daredevil or Batman was far more iconic than Sin City, and to an extent, I’d have to agree. However, Sin City was Frank’s own concoction. He was not bound by any licensing or branding restrictions pertaining to how a character could or needed to be drawn. He did not have to abide by any predetermined story lines, and he did not have to scale back any graphic imagery required to adequately tell the story. With Sin City, he was completely unhinged, and able to share with us all this entire new universe he created from scratch.
I do want to talk a bit more about the artwork within these comics because holy sh*t, it was a total game changer! The artwork is instantly recognizable. If you see an image from any of these comics, you immediately know it’s Frank Miller and know it’s from Sin City.
It’s just f*cking awesome, there is no other way to describe it.
Let’s go in order of the first story written, The Hard Goodbye. The first story chronologically is found in the first section of That Yellow Bastard and is a prequal to Episode 1 within The Hard Goodbye story line. The story line begins in Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special. It’s the debut of the Sin City Universe and the first appearance of Marv, the protagonist.
I must admit, I did not read every single comic within this series as I never owned them until recently, and even now I still don’t have the fifth anniversary special. I do intend to complete the entire set, as a comic book collector and enthusiast I just have a desire to do so.
However, I did read the entire story line now to further understand why I desired these comics so much. All, with exception to Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special, have been read while writing this article.
Dark Horse Presents #51 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 2
I’ll start with Episode 2 as Episode 1 deals mostly with Marv meeting Goldie for the first time. She is a prostitute whom he ends up sleeping with, and when he wakes, he finds her dead lying next to him.
Classic crime thriller story line…
This is how Episode 2 begins.
Almost immediately, Marv hears police approaching and he knows he was setup. The police are corrupt and for them to arrive so quickly is a dead giveaway to Marv.
What I found interesting about this is how Marv professes his love to Goldie and vows to take vengeance upon the individual who murdered her after only 1 day of knowing her.
Even though she was a prostitute – he doesn’t seem to care.
The very last panel in Episode 2 shows Marv swimming to the surface after crashing a car off a pier and I noticed immediately in that image that Marv is wearing a cross on his neck. This is most certainly a deliberate choice by Frank Miller and meant to show that as barbaric as Marv can be, he is a man with a certain baseline of ethics, morals, and vigilante worth rooting for.
As horrific as his actions throughout this story, he is still a God-fearing man.
Dark Horse Presents #52 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 3
In Episode 3 we meet Lucille, Marv’s parole officer, who despite being responsible for sending Marv back to prison should he get out of line, genuinely appears to care for him. Their relationship is personal, and she does not flinch or freak out over the fact that Marv broke into her place in search of medication that helps tame his insanity. Lucille gives him some pills to calm him down and he is on his way.
However, that’s not what’s interesting about this episode.
What is interesting is there is an entire scene that Marv has with his mother that was completely left out of the film.
He goes back home to a bedroom his mom has kept the same since his childhood. The room has toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and Marv wakes her trying to sneak into his home. This was never shown in the movie, and I personally feel this was a huge mistake.
It gives more depth to the character and their conversation not only shows more of his sensitivity but also gives a bit more background as to potential reasons for his psychological issues.
Dark Horse Presents #53 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 4
In Episode 4 we get shown Kadies, a strip club Marv frequents, and one in which he never has to pay for drinks due to some dirty work he’s done for the owner. While there he finds a lowlife that he tells to go spread word that he is there, drunk and crying over Goldie, so that the men looking for him eventually find out and come looking for him. Again, the cross around his neck, in several panels is always visible and prominent. Amazing how Frank makes that cross glow in a comic that is entirely drawn in black and white.
Dark Horse Presents #54 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 5
Sure enough, hitmen come looking for Marv after he released the lowlife into the wild. Ultimately, they try to take him into an alley out back, but Marv gets the drop on them and kills them both, not without first obtaining some information on where to head next.
Again, the cross prominently pops while he’s torturing the second hitman.
I’m just loving that imagery… Good verses evil, heaven verses hell.
Gods’ wrath manifesting itself in the form of the biggest, baddest motherf*cker on the planet, Marv.
Dark Horse Presents #55 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 6
Episode 6 shows Marv working his way up the food chain of evil before being led to a church where he finally gets the name of the man responsible for Goldie’s death: Roark. Cardinal Roark is a powerful man and religious figure within the realm of Sin City and Marv doesn’t believe what the priest is telling him.
The priest tells Marv to go to a farm at North Cross and Lennox to go see for himself, right before Marv blows his head off with a 1911.
I’m loving the religious references throughout the entire story; the cross being worn by Marv as a representation of justice prevailing over evil, and the religious figures themselves whom are more a representation of Satan than God even though they are priests and cardinals.
Dark Horse Presents #56 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 7
Again, with the religious theme and influence, the first lines in Episode 7 starts with:
“There isn’t much better in life than a smoke when you haven’t had one in a while. Like after a movie, or after church… I just murdered a priest…”Dark Horse Presents Issue #56
Absolutely brutal! Love that line!
Anyways, the story takes a quick turn when Marv attempts to take the priests car but before he gets a chance, he gets run over multiple times by a Goldie look-a-like. He has trouble comprehending whether it’s her or not because he knows Goldie is dead, but then attribute’s his “hallucination” to the fact that he has a serious condition and forgot to take his medication.
We come to find out later that the woman driving the car is Goldie’s twin sister.
Dark Horse Presents #57 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 8
Episode 8 starts with Marv’s monologue as he is walking through the woods towards the farm, and we learn that he fears the woods at night; interesting, as up until this point Marv never appeared to fear anything.
It does portray him in a more relatable fashion; that he is just a human being, like you and me.
Ultimately, the man who killed Goldie sneaks up on Marv and gets the best of him and the Episode ends with Marv getting his ass kicked.
Dark Horse Presents #58 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 9
I must admit that the shots in the movie, in some instances, directly correlate to the panels in the comics. It’s quite impressive, and you can tell Frank Miller worked on the filmography, even down to the shot of the killer named Kevin running away from the prison Marv and Lucille are held within.
The shot of him running to the car is identical to how Elijah Wood ran to the vehicle in the movie.
To summarize, we learn here that the killer named Kevin is a cannibal that eats his victims while making them watch. Once he is done, he hangs their heads up on the wall of his prison cell like trophy’s.
Some sick twisted shit!
Marv is still alive and so is Lucille, but Lucille lost her hand to the cannibal already and is trapped in the prison with Marv. She was already captured prior to Marv getting caught.
Dark Horse Presents #59 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 10
Marv finally breaks free of his prison cell and as he is doing so, the corrupt police land in their helicopter. Most likely sent to “clean up” after Kevin left the scene. Lucille tries to knock Marv out to prevent him from fighting the cops, and tries turn him in. Unfortunately, it costs her life as she is naive to the level of corruption they are dealing with.
The cop shoots her without flinching.
Marv wakes up from his concussion, takes a hatchet and goes to work in typical Marv fashion, eliminating the police one by one until there are none left.
Dark Horse Presents #60 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 11
Marv gets confirmation from the cop he killed in the previous episode that Cardinal Roark is the guy responsible for Goldie’s death and he cannot believe it. Roark is the most powerful man in the state, and he knows that he is as good as dead for pursuing him, regardless of whether he is successful in killing him or not. Further, Lucille is dead and the provider of his medication, so he knows that no one would believe him if he were to try and come clean anyways.
He still struggles with discerning the difference between reality and hallucinations, given his prior run in with “Goldie.” Because of this he wants to be sure he knows the truth before killing Roark. So, he heads to Old Town, an area where all the prostitutes hang out, to get more information. On his way he gets attacked by the “Goldie” look-a-like again, Goldie’s twin sister.
Dark Horse Presents #61 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 12
In this episode of Frank Millers Sin City, we learn that Marv is finally told that the woman he thinks is Goldie is her twin sister Wendy. Wendy has Marv tied to a chair and is beating him because she thinks he was responsible for Goldie’s death. Eventually he convinces Wendy, Goldie’s twin sister, that he didn’t kill Goldie, but knows who did and intends to go kill them.
He took the pistol whipping while they thought he was tied up, but his hands were untied the entire time and he was free.
He suffered the beating voluntarily and showed them he broke free from the cuffs he was in while getting beaten – earning Wendy’s trust that he wasn’t Goldie’s killer.
Dark Horse Presents #62 – The Hard Goodbye Episode 13
The entire issue of DHP #62 is final part of The Hard Goodbye story. Up until this point only a small part of the issue was devoted to Sin City, as Dark Horse Presents would generally include 3 short stories per issue. However, #62 included the final chapter of The Hard Goodbye, and the entire issue is the final chapter of the story line.
It ends with Marv capturing Kevin the cannibal, sawing off his limbs and tying them off with rubber ties, before feeding him to a pack of wolves in the woods.
The killer doesn’t scream while he is eaten alive.
He then goes and kills Cardinal Roark before getting captured.
Ultimately, he is tried for the murder of Cardinal Roark and blamed for the cannibalism of the prostitutes committed by Kevin.
They put it all on him as he predicted from the beginning, and he is sentenced to death by the electric chair.
The story ends with him being electrocuted to death.
When I first started writing this article, I didn’t intend for it to be an issue-by-issue overview of a specific story line within the Sin City Universe, but I felt that I needed to read the comics myself, panel by panel before truly sharing my feelings on the books and I’m glad I did.
Frank Miller’s storytelling flows so easily. He knows how to leave cliffhangers at the end of each episode to make you crave learning more about the story. It makes you want to continue reading.
The artwork is amazing, sometimes extremely easy to see and other times requiring more effort, it is a black and white masterpiece which uses negative space almost perfectly.
I can go on and on, but I think I said what I had to say.
Be sure to be on the lookout for my thoughts on other Sin City story lines such as A Dame to Kill For, That Yellow Bastard, and Hell and Back. I’ll probably write articles on all the story lines but will start with the ones I have first.
Stay tuned for more comic book articles!