MILLER: You know, Will, I have a confession to make: I just wrote & drew a Spirit story.
EISNER: Oh, really?
MILLER: Yes. I’ve felt for a long time that I’m the only one who could possibly do it right. Would you like to see the pages?
[Eisner inspects the pages for a few moments in silence.]
EISNER: Umm… Why is he bouncing up and down on telephone wires like Daredevil?
MILLER: What… the Spirit never did that?
MILLER: Well, he should have.
EISNER: And is he wearing Chuck Taylors?
MILLER: Yeah. They’re badass. Dwight from Sin City wears them. They’re much more practical for telephone wire-jumping.
EISNER: Which the Spirit doesn’t do.
EISNER: [Sighing, continuing to read] …“My city screams”?
MILLER: Good title, huh?
EISNER: Um… yeah, it’s… okay. Wait… “This city is my mother. She is my lover”? What does that even MEAN?
MILLER: Well, he comes from the city. He cares about it.
EISNER: Okay. So you DON’T actually mean that he’s having an incestuous relationship with Central City? ‘Cause that’s what it sounds like.
MILLER: No no no. He belongs to the city. He belongs to the night.
EISNER: Isn’t that a Glenn Frey song?
MILLER: No, that bastard stole it from me.
EISNER: [Turning to the next page] So what’s going on here?
MILLER: The Spirit is having a big confrontation with his archenemy, the Octopus.
EISNER: Which one of these characters is the Octopus?
MILLER: That one there, in the Nazi uniform.
EISNER: [Deep breath, almost afraid to ask] …And why is he dressed as a Nazi?
MILLER: I don’t understand the question.
EISNER: I mean, what is the REASON he’s dressed like a Nazi? How does it relate to the story?
MILLER: Oh, no reason. I just like drawin’ em. Remember the swastika-shaped throwing stars I gave Miho in Sin City? Or the gay Nazis I used in Give Me Liberty? Or the villainess in Dark Knight with swastikas on her tits and ass?
EISNER: Yes, I particularly liked the panel where you misdrew the swastika and your wife had to correct it in the coloring.
EISNER: Um, Frank, I can’t help but notice that in addition to dressing him in a Nazi uniform, you’ve drawn the Octopus to look just like Samuel L. Jackson.
MILLER: Yep! That’s what he looks like.
EISNER: Actually no, that’s not what he looks like. Nobody knows what the Octopus looks like. That’s the basic schtick I used with the character. Every once in a while you’d see one character or another as the Octopus, but he’d always leave a mask behind, so you never knew what his face REALLY looked like.
MILLER: Oh, well, that’s YOUR interpretation. This is my interpretation of your characters. In my version, the Octopus looks just like Samuel L. Jackson.
EISNER: I see. And when you change my characters around this radically, what exactly about it is mine?
MILLER: The names. I didn’t change those.
EISNER: I’m starting to wish you did.
MILLER: Of course, I had to do a lot of work on Ellen.
EISNER: What do you mean by that?
MILLER: Well, Will, with all due respect, Ellen Dolan is a pretty lousy character. She’s so mousy, she’s the boss’s daughter, and she worries about the Spirit all the time. She makes Donna Reed look like Angelina Jolie.
EISNER: Well, if by “lousy” you mean she’s not a ninja hooker assassin, I guess I see your point.
MILLER: Thanks. Anyway, that’s why I made her a surgeon.
EISNER: Excuse me, what?
MILLER: A surgeon. You see, now she knows more about Denny Colt’s unusual powers of recuperation than any other doctor on Earth.
EISNER: His unusual powers of recuperation?
MILLER: Well, the Spirit gets into lots of fights, right? And in his origin story he comes back from the dead. So I figure he has to have some sort of healing factor, like Wolverine.
EISNER: Riiiiiiight. Look, kid, I just had him coming back from the dead as a way to get the series started. I never meant to imply that he had some sort of superhuman powers. I hate that stuff.
MILLER: But he gets into all these fights and he’s always better by the next story!
EISNER: Bruises can heal in a week, you know. The whole point is that the Spirit is a vulnerable human being, not that he’s super-powered.
MILLER: Well, anyway, it made sense to me that he’d need a doctor to patch him up.
EISNER: Uh-huh. And exactly what, if anything, makes you think that Ellen Dolan is a surgeon?
MILLER: Umm… I think you drew her putting a bandage on the Spirit’s arm once.
EISNER: Of course. I can’t argue with that kind of deductive reasoning. I hesitate to even ask this, but… what did you do with Ebony?
MILLER: Ebony’s not in the story.
EISNER: Wait a minute… you didn’t use Ebony? You’ve got to; he’s a vital element of the strip.
MILLER: But… but you’ve said yourself that Ebony was a racist caricature that wouldn’t work in today’s world.
EISNER: That doesn’t mean I think the character should be eliminated completely, you fucknut. He’s the hero’s sidekick, best friend and one of strip’s major sources of comic relief. All you have to do is just present him in a way that’s appropriate to today’s audiences. Hell, it’s mostly just in the way you draw him and write his dialogue. He just has to look like a real kid instead of Steppin’ Fetchit. Besides, if Ebony isn’t there, who is the Spirit going to talk to?
MILLER: See these captions? I thought I’d just give the Spirit some hard-boiled first person narration, like in a Mike Hammer story.
EISNER: Uh-huh. And were you inspired to do this by all the hundreds of stories I did where I didn’t have the Spirit narrate?
MILLER: Well, you obviously meant to. I thought it’d make a nice juxtaposition where I drew the Spirit bounding across the rooftops in that trademark black suit of his.
EISNER: Hang on. The Spirit’s suit is blue.
MILLER: No, I don’t think so. It’s all black, including the shirt. Sometimes with the sleeves rolled up.
EISNER: No, it’s blue. He’s supposed to look like a normal guy with a mask, not like a gay gaucho or something.
MILLER: I defy you to show me anything that proves he wears a blue suit instead of a black one.
EISNER: I don’t know… how about the TWELVE YEARS OF STORIES I did where the suit is colored blue?
MILLER: That’s just the limitation of 1940s pre-digital printing. They used blue to indicate black, like with Superman’s blue hair. You didn’t have the sophisticated coloring and printing technologies of today. I’m just showing it how you really meant it to look.
EISNER: What are you, dense? Are you retarded or something? It’s a goddamn blue suit. It’s always been a blue suit. If I wanted it to be a BLACK suit, I would have made it a black suit. We had India Ink in 1940, you know.
MILLER: Look old man, don’t get in my face about this. I’m badass. I grew up on the mean streets of Vermont. I’m the Goddamn Frank Miller. I don’t have to take this guff from you. Don’t think that just because you’re old I won’t lay you out.
EISNER: Any time you think you’re man enough, just go ahead. Give me your best shot.
MILLER: I’m going to kill you like Bullseye killed Elektra.
EISNER: Oh, great. Guess that means I’ll get resurrected by ninja magic ten issues later. Bring it on, punk.
[Miller lunges at Eisner like Marv from Sin City. Unfortunately, since Miller is not actually IN Sin City, he’s subject to the laws of physics and folds like a cheap lawn chair when Eisner slugs him in the kisser.]
EISNER: Word of advice, Frank. If you want to do a Sin City story, just DO a Sin City story. Don’t bastardize someone else’s characters to do it.
MILLER: [Crawling away, clutching his crumpled Spirit pages in one hand and his bleeding nose with the other] You’ll see. Someday, somehow, I’ll get to do MY Spirit story. And then you’ll see how it REALLY should’ve been done.
EISNER: Ha! Over my dead body…