With Further Ado #98: The Comics Prisoner with David Miller

Passion is a funny thing. And being passionate about things often leads to sharing and teaching. Sometimes it forces us to become a guide, or a Sherpa, and then we can learn new things and drag other people with us along the way. That’s kind of what this column is all about, when I think of it.

David Miller is a professional with great success in several fields, including inking for comics.  He started out on things like one series in the Teen Titans family of titles at DC Comics, several books at Defiant Comics and went on from there.  But after even the briefest of conversations with Miller, it is very clear he’s a person who just loves the medium.

He’s also very thoughtful. One of the big “Ah-hah’s” that he recently had was that comics, unlike movies, can be experienced in many different ways. To experience a movie, you really must experience it one way: you sit and watch the film as the creators intended.

But comics are different. When you’re young, you might enjoy following the characters. Then you might graduate to understanding long-running and inter-connected stories. Another way to enjoy this medium is to read a comic because you enjoy one particular artist, or writer…or even an inker or a colorist.  With even more understanding, you might enjoy a comic as part of one particular time period.

That’s where Miller’s clever new YouTube show, The Comics Prisoner, comes in. The premise is simple: he’s stuck inside his favorite comics pages …but is allowed to talk about them with us!  It’s a fascinating way to experience, re-experience, ruminate or learn about comics pages.

Beyond a purely analytical approach, Miller has been able to get artists to come onto his show and discuss the pages with him. Thus far, he’s featured artists such as Bob Mcleod, Joe Sinnott, Bob Layton, Klaus Janson and more.  I tell you what, even if you had an original page of artwork with you at a comic–convention (and I’m confident we’ll have them again soon) it would be unlikely you’d be able to have a discussion with the artist as robust as the chats on The Comics Prisoner.

”I see the show working as an art review show, Inside the Actors Studio for cartoonists ,and as an episode of Bob Ross for comics,” said Miller.

These are fun to watch and fun for Miller to create too. One of the side benefits, for example,, is that by doing this YouTube show, Miller gets to re-experience so many of his favorite bits of comic art.

”I hope to make a community where people will send me their drawings to ink,” noted Miller. “Not like I’m a teacher. Just for us to do things together as fellow fans.”

I was eager to catch-up with David Miller and learn more about his time behind bars as… The Comics Prisoner!

Ed Catto: What was the spark that started the idea behind The Comics Prisoner, and when did you realize you can keep at it?

David Miller: I’ve always wanted to do a show where I share my thoughts on comic art that had an impact on me growing up, and I thought were great achievements of comics illustration. As technology evolved over the years, it finally became doable that I could produce such a show single-handedly.  However, I knew that I could be a little “dry” when analyzing said art. So, I know it needed a hook to make it fun. It needed a fun character or a host like a Mr. Wizard. And when I discovered an app that could super-easily convert me into an animated drawing, I knew I had that hook, and that the time had come to do that show.

EC: There have been so many talented artists that we love who have passed away. If you could pick an artist who is no longer with us and you could have him or her on your show…who would it be and what would you talk about? What would the conversation be like?

DM: Oh, wow. That is a loaded question. “Young Dave” would answer that question much differently than “Mature Dave” would. Because one of the hard lessons I’ve learned in in this life is “don’t meet your heroes.” They can often be not what you expected. If I’m going to have an extended conversation with someone, I want to enjoy their company. So, with that in mind, I know from a history standpoint I should pick someone like Hal Foster or Alex Raymond. From a ground-breaking standpoint it should be a Jack Kirby or a Steve Ditko or a Stan Lee. From a fan standpoint, it would have to be Dave Cockrum. But from a personal standpoint, I think I’d like to have a dinner with Vinnie Colletta. Because of the sheer volume of work he generated.  Because of a long, storied career. Because of the varied roles he played in the comics industry (Including a term as art director at DC Comics).  Because of the many jobs he saved. And, based on his writings, I’m sure a fun personality. I think he we would be the most interesting personality to have on the show, and as such it would definitely have be a live show where people could ask questions in the comments fields.

EC: Wow – an unexpectedly but decidedly thoughtful, answer, David. Now let’s look ahead. I’d like to ask: What big things do you have planned for the near future?

DM: Fortunately, a lot of the artists that were involved with the creative process on these pieces of art are still with us, and I’m working to get some to appear on the show to talk about the art and the times it was created in. I also want to do some inking to involve the audience to make the show and interactive experience. I’d love for the viewers to submit their drawings on the show’s Facebook pages so I could share it on The Comics Prisoner. I’m investigating how to do live shows so that we could have some back and forth with the audience, and of course, we’ll continue to feature great pieces of art that have graced the printed page. Fortunately, there is so much good art out there that I could do this show forever.

EC: I agree and I hope you do, David! Thanks for your time.

For more information – check out The Comics Prisoner!