Black and white: Day two

Frank Miller's Sin City.

Two of my favourite comic books artists excel in black and white illustration, the first, Frank Miller is better known for his work on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and more recently, Sin City. The second, whose work I'll look at next, is a lesser known artist and writer by the name of Paul Chadwick. His character, Concrete, remains one of my all-time favourites.

Frank Miller

Frank Miller first gained attention after he 'pencilled' two issues of Peter Parker for Marvel comics. In the years that followed, his work on Daredevil and Elektra and the massively acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight returns took him to the top of his profession. Miller's work was a bold departure from the 'do gooding' superhero conventions of mainstream comic books. The tone of his work is often dark and brutal and his reinvention of the Batman in The Dark Knight and Batman: Year One, breathed new life into the character. But I think that it is in his darkest creation, Sin City, that Miller's talents as a cinematic illustrator are shown at their best.

And guess what... Sin City is in black and white.

Sin City

Sin City draws inspiration from both film noir and pulp detective fiction including Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler. In Sin City, the tone is bleak and Miller's black and white illustrations serve to darken the mood even further. The lack of colour creates tension and forces the artist to convey the action only through composition. The result is dark and claustrophobic.

2005 will see the release of the film version of Sin City starring Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke. Frank Miller also makes his directors' debut alongside Once Upon a Time in Mexico's Robert Rodriguez.

If you haven't yet read any Sin City, there is plenty available at Amazon. Go buy some, I promise you won't regret it for a minute.


  1. #1 On December 13, 2004 01:41 AM Kevin Tamura said:

    I love Sin City, and for that matter most of Frank Millers work. When Sin City hit it was just amazing and while others have tried to ape his style, no one has really come close.

  2. #2 On December 13, 2004 02:06 AM Pete said:

    Agreed, Frank miller is awesome! The black and white treatment of Sin City blew my mind when I first saw it and totally opened my mind to the concept of less is more. It also led to an interest in printmaking as I was inspired to create something similar out of lino cut. Suffice to say, I'll never be Frank Miller.

    There is a chinese comic, I think its called Agent K, that uses a similar solid black treatment. I have been trying to track it down for ages but can find nothing about it, has any one head of this title?

  3. #3 On December 13, 2004 02:37 AM Chris Lienert said:

    I always loved The Phantom for being in black and white and as a long time reader, considered other comics to be a bit strange for using colour.

  4. #4 On December 13, 2004 04:55 PM Ted Drake said:

    I know where you are going and I had a similar epiphany this weekend while scanning some of my black and white negatives. I have been planning to redo my Creating Killer Web Sites-era portfolio site: with something more appropriate and have been bouncing around design ideas. And so it hit me that a rich black and white site could be a great avenue. I typically split tone my prints to get some variations of black tones, from brownish to purplish and a site with these subtle tonalities would be nice.
    So, I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this series, thanks for the discussions.

  5. #5 On December 14, 2004 01:43 AM Chris Mcdougall said:

    If you want to be technical, _Sin City_ does feature color from time to time. However, it's often a spot yellow or red that's very tastefully done to provide emphasis.