The Dark Knight III: The Master Race's Frank Miller and Klaus Janson on playing in DC's toy box

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Dec 3, 2015

Even at the age of 58, Frank Miller still likes to stir things up.

Blastr had a chance to talk with the legendary comic-book writer-artist, and inker Klaus Janson, about the debut of Dark Knight III: The Master Race (the first issue is in comics shops now). During the interview, Miller once again referenced his plans to write a fourth "Dark Knight" story. The news of a fourth DK chapter is somewhat of a surprise, given that DC Comics promoted DKIII as the "epic conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy."

But then again, Miller has always relished rocking the boat.

“If I didn’t get people … um, a little bit annoyed, I wouldn’t be doing my job,” said Miller, who is billed as co-writer of the eight-issue limited series along with Brian Azzarello.

He certainly did with the title. ‘The Master Race” ignited instant controversy when the title was revealed, generating comparisons to Hitler’s Nazi Ideology. But it was all a misdirection. ‘The Master Race,’ as was revealed in that surprise panel in the first issue, refers to the trapped citizens of the bottled city of Kandor.

“What would 10 million supermen constitute in our world,” Miller asks during the interview. “What would you call it? Would it be a master race? What would happen if Kryptonians were let loose on Earth? What would we become in comparison?”

That last part is what Miller refers to as the thrust of the story. He says that, unlike the first two Dark Knight stories, this one is as much about the universe the Dark Knight inhabits as it is about Batman himself.

“The whole intention of The Dark Knight (Returns) from the beginning was to play with all their (DC’s) toys,” Miller said. “In the first Dark Knight, I very carefully introduced Superman. And then the floodgates opened. We were kids in a candy store.”

That iteration of Superman in that landmark 1986 series was less than flattering. Over the years, Miller hasn’t really tried all that hard to change the perception that he’s no fan of the Man of Steel.  And then the cover to the first mini-comic that will be part of DKIII was revealed, showing an angry Superman with quite the ... ahem, exaggerated anatomy.  But Miller, tongue firmly in cheek, insists he doesn’t have it out for Kal-El.

“I love Superman. Doesn’t it show?” he insists. “In three Dark Knights, the character of Superman is entirely sympathetic. What books have you read?”

Miller brushes off the criticism that erupted on social media over the somewhat cartoonish depiction of Superman and the Atom, saying, “Who’s better to belong in a mini-comic than the Atom? If we do a tabloid-size book, we can use Colossal Boy.”

Miller did write that mini-comic -- each issue of The Master Race will have a 16-page mini-book inside -- but as far as the DKIII main story, it appears that Azzarello is the main writer, with Miller lending a guiding hand. The two would meet in person at Miller’s Hell's Kitchen studio while the book was coming together and tackle the plot points, but when you ask him about any potential surprise revelations in the series, he defers to his credited co-writer.

“That’s up to Brian to reveal,” Miller points out. “It’s his story.” Miller then pauses before blurting out, “I’m not saying anything about the shocking appearance of Brother Power the Geek!”

Turning serious for a moment, Miller described working with Azzarello as “easy and delightful. Brian and I were a good mesh,” before adding, “And we have very similar takes on this character.”

Janson, who inked Miller’s pencils on The Dark Knight Returns and teamed up with him on a legendary run on Marvel’s Daredevil, was itching for a chance to work with his old partner again.

“I have always harbored a desire to do a third project with Frank,” Janson says. “I thought Daredevil was amazing, I thought The Dark Knight Returns was amazing. I just felt two projects didn’t ring as well as three. The opportunity to do a third project with Frank is ... something I can cross off my bucket list. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

“OK, Klaus, you’re on,” Miller interrupts. “Come on over, and we’ll start on (DK) number four tomorrow.”

On working with penciller Andy Kubert on the art for DKIII, Janson talked about maintaining the familiar patina of the Dark Knight world. “Part of the goal was ... to ensure it was recognizably the Dark Knight Universe. Also, Andy and I have never worked together. I am my own worst critic, but there is a couple pages in the second issue where it’s clicking. It’s starting to come together.”

Of course, whenever any artist revits their masterwork, the risk is there of failing to live up to massive expectations. Miller is quite familiar with this experience, having gone through it already with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Did he have any reservations about going back to the Dark Knight well again?

“Not in the slightest. You don’t think I’d be intimidated by my own past work, do you?”

Dark Knight III: The Master Race hit comics shops Nov. 25, and the second issue will arrive on store shelves Dec. 23. Are you planning to read the series? Are you excited about it? And what do you think about Miller’s plans to write a fourth installment?

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