Frank Miller Sues Comics Publisher’s Widow Over Artwork Return

Comic book writer and artist Frank Miller is suing the widow and estate of a comic book magazine founder over two pieces of promotional art he created that she was trying to sell at auction. The art, which appeared on the covers of David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview magazine in the 1980s, includes an early depiction of Batman and a female Robin, from 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns series, and is potentially a valuable artifact. of collection.

The suit seeks the return of the Batman piece, which was used on the cover of Comics Interview No. 31 in 1986, as well as art depicting the title character from Miller’s 1983 Ronin series. He had sent both to Kraft for its use in the publication; Ronin’s artwork was used as the cover for Comics Interview No. 2 in 1983. Miller contended in court documents that he and Kraft agreed they were on loan, citing “customs and usage in the trade at the time”, and that made repeated requests for a refund.

But Kraft’s widow, Jennifer Bush-Kraft, disagreed with Miller’s claims. “My husband kept all his correspondence,” she said in a telephone interview. “When I say everything, I don’t know if you can understand the level of thoroughness. He bound all this correspondence by year, by name, and in alphabetical order by company.”

When the question was raised about demands before 2022 to return the artwork, she said, she searched her husband’s files and found no such requests.

Silenn Thomas, CEO of Frank Miller Ink, said in an email that Miller would not comment on the ongoing legal matter. The lawsuit, which was first reported by Law360, was filed Monday in the Gainesville division of the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Bush-Kraft said he believed Miller had given the art to Kraft. “If it hadn’t been given, David would have returned it,” he said. (Another Miller promotional piece, for his Sin City comic, was used by Kraft in the 1990s and was returned, he said in the lawsuit.)

“He wouldn’t have ruined a relationship with someone he would potentially work with in the future,” he continued. “It certainly wouldn’t have ruined his relationship” with DC Comics, which published The Dark Knight Returns and Ronin. The art was created for promotional use, he said, and it was common practice for Kraft to keep such pieces.

The dispute began in the spring, and in May, an attorney for Miller sent a cease and desist letter after Miller learned of a possible sale of the works on Comic Connect, an online auction house dedicated to comics and comics. the pop culture memorabilia, saying he had given them to Kraft on loan and expected their return after a period of time.

An attorney representing Metropolis Collectibles, a sister company to Comic Connect, wrote in response that “the ‘real and relevant custom in the trade at the time’ was that comic book artists would give, not lend, artwork to Mr. Kraft and other comics publishers. in the hope that publishers like Mr. Kraft will use the artwork in their publications and thereby provide publicity and exposure to the artist and his work.” The attorney also wrote that because Miller was only now demanding that the artwork be returned decades later, his request may be ill-timed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations and according to other theories.

But Miller, in the court filing, wrote that he and his publisher had sought the works’ return directly and indirectly since the 1980s and that they believed the works were lost. Miller is seeking damages for the value of the works “in an amount greater than $75,000, to be determined at trial.”

Selling the artwork could be lucrative: In June, the cover of The Dark Knight Returns #1 was auctioned off for $2.4 million. In 2011, a page from issue #3 of the series showing the old Batman and Carrie Kelley—then a new female Robin—jumping over the Gotham City skyline sold for $448,125.

“I can’t afford to go to court and I can’t afford not to go to court,” Bush-Kraft said. “I am just one person. I’m not Frank Miller. I don’t have a company.

Neither Miller nor Bush-Kraft are currently in possession of the art; Bush-Kraft had given it to Comic Connect ahead of the auction, which was scheduled for June. (Both works were withdrawn from the auction before it began.)

“We will let the court decide who owns the pieces, and we will retain possession in the meantime,” said Stephen Fishler, CEO of Comic Connect and Metropolis Collectibles.

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