This I Believe: A Miller Little Pieces

NPR’s “This I Believe” series aired a piece for the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by comic book writer and artist Frank Miller. He begins his story thus:

I was just a boy in the 1960s. My adolescence wasn’t infused with the civil rights struggle or the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, but with their aftermath.

My high school teachers were ex-hippies and Vietnam vets. People who protested the war and people who served as soldiers. I was taught more about John Lennon than I was about Thomas Jefferson.

Miller goes on with a story about how he rebelled against his teachers and WWII veteran parents, didn’t swallow the “flower-child twaddle” and thought patriotism was just “some quaint relic” (wow, didn’t he read Captain America?) Now, though, he knows “how it feels to face an existential menace” and he waves his flag. Oh, and buy the new Batman graphic novel when it comes out! Batman fights the enemy! That’s original.

There was just one little problem for me. Miller’s Dark Knight version of Batman applied the CPR to the franchise that made it viable for a series of movies. Tim Burton’s movie came out in 1989. And Miller had made his name at Marvel with Daredevil prior to his work on Batman. The first issue he did for that series came out in 1980. Which would seem to make Miller at least as old as I was, since I used to sell those comics at the bookstore I worked at starting my senior year in high school. Something didn’t seem like it was adding up.

According to Miller’s Wikipedia entry, he was born in January 1957. Now, typically, adolescence is considered to be the years between puberty and majority: roughly 13 to 18. For Miller, that would have been the period between early 1970 and early 1975. While that is after the major civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and one would hope that he was a bit young to have to worry about the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War was still in full force throughout that period. The fall of Cambodia, the My Lai massacre, and the Kent State shootings all took place within a couple months after Miller’s 13th birthday. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on Miller’s 16th birthday. Later that year, the draft — which Miller would have been eligible for in 1975 — was abolished. Miller was already 18 when Saigon fell.

Depending on when he entered school and how he progressed, Miller may have graduated at 17 in the spring of 1974, 18 in 1975, or 19 in 1976. He would have entered high school in the fall of 1970, 1971, or 1972. Now, it’s possible that “ex-hippies” and vets who’d been involved in their respective scenes at early points might have jumped right into college, got their teaching certificates, and found jobs at Miller’s high school, but you do have to wonder what happened to the rest of the faculty. Even by Miller’s senior year of high school, certainly some of the old guard should have been around to teach him about Jefferson.

In any case, Miller’s not being entirely truthful when he says that his adolescence was shaped by the aftermath of Vietnam, because that didn’t even start until Miller was an adult. Unless, of course, reading comic books stretches adolescence past the age of 18. I certainly know I was still immature at that point.

Then again, the segment’s called “This I Believe”, not “This Bears Some Resemblance to Reality”. As we’ve seen with ABC, belief may be all that’s needed these days.