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Comics Crusader 

Frank Miller gives positive ink to superheroes on film.

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Sure, Spider-Man helped break a decade-long dearth of successful comic-book-based films last year. But X-Men led the rebirth two years before that, grossing $157 million domestically. Its highly anticipated sequel, X2: X-Men United (in theaters everywhere this Friday), should keep the comics-to-movies synergy rolling.

"We suffuse popular culture right now," says artist and writer Frank Miller, the man responsible for many of modern comics' greatest hits, including Batman and Daredevil. He's also a former illustrator of the X-Men fave Wolverine, who gets a beefier role in X2 -- a more action-detailed and CGI-heavy version of its predecessor. (This time around, the team of oddly outfitted mutants -- played by a heavyweight cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, and Halle Berry -- gets caught up in a presidential assassination, a world-threatening plot, and cool new villains.)

And X2 isn't the only comics-derived film clogging up the multiplexes this summer: America's oldest form of pop art is all over the schedule, with The Hulk, The Matrix Reloaded, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen all on the way. "There's no reason we shouldn't own a piece of it right now," says Miller. "[We shouldn't] have to beg Hollywood to please come and accept us. I'd rather say, 'We've got the Ferrari you want, and now you've got to pay the rent.'"

Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 graphic novel that recast Batman as a modern-day vigilante, proved to be a savior to both comics and comics on film. It was the direct source of the 1989 film Batman, a blockbuster that revitalized superheroes on the big screen. Miller recently published DK2: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, a sequel that explores the human being behind the mask and the cost of being a very public crime fighter.

"Superheroes are our mythology," he says. "There will always be a need for these stories and these characters. They'll be around for as long as we're alive."

Speaking of Highlights

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