Frank Miller’s Batman vs. Al Qaeda Comic ‘Holy Terror’ Out in September (Without Batman)
Back in 2006, legendary comic book creator Frank Miller announced that he would be writing and drawing a story called Holy Terror, Batman!, a self-described piece of propaganda that would feature the Dark Knight taking on Osama bin Laden and “kick[ing] Al Qaeda’s a**” after a terrorist attack on Gotham City. Five years later, the project is no longer a Batman story, and in fact, it’s no longer being published by DC. But it actually looks like we’re on the verge of seeing it in print in its final form as an original graphic novel.
According to iFanboy, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is scheduled to ship in September.To say that Miller’s “Batman vs. Al-Qaeda” story has been controversial from the start is underselling things quite a bit. The premise alone raised eyebrows from the moment it was announced, and the involvement of Miller, whose work on The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300 was famously filled with gloriously over-the-top tough guy moments, sparked discussion of just what on Earth this thing could possibly turn out to be.
Grant Morrison, who was taking over as the lead writer of the Batman books at the time Holy Terror was originally announced, was extremely vocal in criticizing the very idea of the book in an interview with Newsarama:
“Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! Or how about the sinister Al Qaeda mastermind up against a hungry Hannibal Lecter! For all the good it’s likely to do. Cheering on a fictional character as he beats up fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence when real terrorists are killing real people in the real world. I’d be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb ‘vs’ Al Qaeda.”
Miller, however, raised what I have to admit is a good point:
“Superman punched out Hitler. So did Captain America. That’s one of the things they’re there for.”
And he’s right. When Jack Kirby and Joe Simon set out to create a hero who stood for America, they didn’t pit him against a stand-in for the country’s enemies, or even a generic comic book Nazi. They had him punching Adolf Hitler in the face, and they did it nine months before America had even entered the War.
But that said, there is a difference between that and what Miller was doing with Holy Terror, and a lot of it is rooted in the idea of immediacy. Miller has made no secret of the fact that Holy Terror is largely a response to Al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks, and while there’s certainly an ongoing conflict here in the real world that’s a direct result of those, the fact that it wasn’t even announced until five years after — and isn’t slated for release until another five years after — would seem to indicate that this is something that’s been building in Miller for years. And since it’s a project that’s been described in glowingly violent terms, it’s not hard to make the leap to thinking that it’s been building with a large amount of anger behind it.
The changes would seem to reflect that, too. When the book comes out from Legendary Comics, the comic book publishing branch of Legendary Pictures — which is apparently something that exists — it’s not going to be about Batman. As Miller said, the story has gone beyond Batman and will now feature a new character called The Fixer:
“The hero is much closer to ‘Dirty Harry’ than Batman.”
If the difference between those two characters is any indication, then it sounds like one of the things that necessitated the change was that the hero of Holy Terror is going to be killing people — and based on Miller’s previous work, I’m going to go ahead and say it’s safe to assume that he’ll be killing a lot of people.
It all adds up to something that sounds like a revenge fantasy that’s been building for ten years, and while Miller’s track record has certainly earned him the right to make whatever comics he wants to make, I have to wonder if there’s a lot of value to be found there, especially when it’s described by the creator as “a piece of propaganda” and done with all the subtlety of the guy who wrote this in All Star Batman and Robin:
Maybe he sees it as a way to stir up patriotism by rallying people around a story where a man in a mask punches thirteen teeth out of a terrorist’s head on the cover. Or maybe it’s a catharsis that’s been building for a decade. Obviously the public reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s recent death has proved that there are still plenty of emotions inextricably tied to 9/11, and rightfully so. But at the same time, is there any possible way for the story of a super-hero hunting Bin Laden down to have the same impact now that soldiers in the real world have done exactly that without the Fixer’s help, even when it’s released on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11?
Looks like we’ll find out in September.