PW: You're a big crime fiction fan. Who were the writers who inspired Sin City?
Frank Miller: I can't avoid mentioning the obvious ones, like Hammett, Chandler, Spillane. It's like a bottomless treasure trove when you really get into this stuff, when you go from that tier to the Jim Thompsons and Carl Hiaasens. Just recently, I read the extraordinary work of a writer named Dorothy Hughes, particularly In a Lonely Place. It's utterly chilling, and I think she's in the top tier of these writers. But that was just a plug—she didn't really influence Sin City. Mostly, it was from those writers and long nights living alone in Manhattan and discovering the black-and-white movies by people like Sam Fuller.
PW:What do you think is the appeal of noir and this kind of dark, revenge-driven fiction?
FM: It's going to sound odd, but I think it's the romance. Every Sin Citystory is a romance of some sort. They're very dark, and the consequences are bad and they're usually futile, but I think that's at the heart of it. You can't have virtue without sin. And what I'm interested in is having my characters' virtues defined by how they operate in a very sinful environment.
PW: Are there heroes in Sin City?
FM: Yes, I would say that each story has a hero. There might be flaws. They might be disturbed, but if you look at it, ultimately their motives are pure. These aren't Jim Thompson and James M. Cain stories. Dwight wants to keep the girls from getting killed. Hartigan does everything for Little Nancy and throws his whole life away for her. Marv goes on a quest that ends up destroying a lot of evil people. So I consider these people heroes. If you go by Chandler's definition in The Simple Art of Murder, they're what I'd like to call "knights in dirty armor."
PW: Why do you think Hollywood is so in love with comics right now?
FM: Comic books don't cost much money to produce, so people can create more freely. There just isn't that much bureaucracy, and so things that are fresh and vital come out. We produce things that are more fresh than they would be produced in a Hollywood board room, where they're more worried about spending $150 million.
PW: How does it feel to see your drawings being brought to life?
FM: At first I was terrified by the whole process. I was nervous the first week or so. I didn't even know what a director really did. But then I had a sketchbook and was coming up with shots, because you need more shots than you get in a comic. It was a fascinating process. Once I got over the jitters, I came running into work.
PW: You've always said you had a few more Sin City stories up your sleeve.
FM: I've got more stories and I'm planning them, but the Sin City stories take a long time to plot. They're very emotionally intense. I have a story about Nancy Callahan that I think will break your heart. But it's not ready yet. I think what I'm going to do is a run of short stories with different characters for each one. Right now it's percolating.
PW: Working on the Sin City movie was obviously a dream project, so what's your new dream project?
FM: I'm finishing my big Batman book [Holy Terror, Batman] and I want to do some more Sin City. But my next dream project is a new series I'm developing that will be my Corto Maltese [an renowned adventure series created by the late Italian comics artist Hugo Pratt].