Frank Miller (comics)

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Frank Miller

Miller at the 2008 Comic-Con
Born January 27, 1957 (1957-01-27) (age 52)
Olney, Maryland, U.S.
Nationality American
Area(s) Writer
Film director
Notable works Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: Year One
Sin City
Daredevil: Born Again
Give Me Liberty

Frank Miller (born January 27, 1957) is an American writer, artist and film director best known for his dark, film noir-style comic book stories and graphic novels for Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, and Marvel Comics.


[edit] Life and career

[edit] Early career

Frank Miller was born in Olney, Maryland,[1] and raised in Montpelier, Vermont,[1] the fifth of seven children of a nurse mother and a carpenter/electrician father.[2] Setting out to become an artist, he eventually received his first published work in Gold Key Comics' licensed TV-series comic book The Twilight Zone #84 (June 1978), drawing the story "Royal Feast", and issue #85 (July 1978), drawing "Endless Cloud".[3] This was followed by various pencilling jobs for anthology titles from DC Comics[citation needed] and his first work for Marvel Comics, penciling the 17-page story "The Master Assassin of Mars, Part 3" in John Carter: Warlord of Mars #18 (Nov. 1978).

At Marvel, Miller would settle in as a regular fill-in and cover artist, working on a variety of titles. One of these jobs was drawing Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #27–28 (Feb.–March 1979), which guest-starred Daredevil. At the time, sales of the Daredevil title were poor; however, Miller saw something in the character he liked and asked editor-in-chief Jim Shooter if he could work on Daredevil's regular title. Shooter agreed and made Miller the new penciller on the title. As Miller recalled in 2008,

When I first showed up in New York, I showed up with a bunch of comics, a bunch of samples, of guys in trench coats and old cars and such. And [comics editors] said, 'Where are the guys in tights?' And I had to learn how to do it. But as soon as a title came along, when [Daredevil signature artist] Gene Colan left Daredevil, I realized it was my secret in to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it".[2]

[edit] Daredevil and the early 1980s

Daredevil #168 (Jan. 1981), Elektra's debut. Cover art by Miller and Klaus Janson.

Daredevil #158 (May 1979), Miller's debut on that title, was the finale of an ongoing story written by Roger McKenzie. Although still conforming to traditional comic book styles, Miller infused this first issue with his own film noir style.[citation needed] After this issue, Miller became one of Marvel's rising stars, and began plotting additional stories with McKenzie. Learning from Neal Adams,[citation needed] Miller would sit for hours sketching the roofs of New York in an attempt to give his Daredevil art an authentic feel not commonly seen in superhero comics at the time. Miller was so successful with the title that Marvel began publishing the Daredevil comic monthly (as opposed to its previous bimonthly publication period). With issue #168 (Jan. 1981), Miller took over full duties as writer and penciller, with Klaus Janson as inker. Issue #168 saw the first appearance of the ninja mercenary Elektra, who despite being an assassin-for-hire would become Daredevil's love-interest. Miller would write and draw a solo Elektra story in Bizarre Adventures #28 (Oct. 1981).

With his creation of Elektra, Miller's work on Daredevil became characterized by darker themes and stories. This peaked when in #181 (April 1982) he had the assassin Bullseye kill Elektra. Although deaths of supporting characters are not uncommon in comics, the death of a major, costumed character such as Elektra was not. Miller made it clear[citation needed] with the next few issues that he intended Elektra to remain dead, but nonetheless she was revived during his time as writer.[citation needed] Miller finished his Daredevil run with issue #191 (Feb. 1983); in his time he had transformed a second-tier character into one of Marvel's most popular.

Additionally, Miller in 1980 drew a short Batman Christmas story for a DC Comics Christmas special. This was his first encounter with a character with which, like Daredevil, he would become closely associated.

As penciler and co-plotter, Miller, together with writer Chris Claremont, produced the miniseries Wolverine #1-4 (Sept.-Dec. 1982), inked by Josef Rubinstein and spinning off from the popular X-Men title. Miller used this miniseries to expand on Wolverine's character while featuring more manga-influenced art.[citation needed] The series was a critical success and further cemented Miller's place as an industry star.

His first creator-owned title was DC Comics' six-issue miniseries Ronin (1983-1984). Here Miller not only refined his own art and storytelling techniques, but also helped change how creator rights were viewed,[citation needed] After Ronin, Miller's only published work in 1985 was Daredevil #219, inspired by the film High Plains Drifter.[citation needed]

[edit] Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and the late 1980s

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (Feb. 1986). Cover art by Miller.

In 1986, DC Comics released writer-penciler Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a four-issue miniseries printed in what the publisher called "prestige format" — a squarebound, rather than stapled; on heavy-stock paper rather than newsprint, and with cardstock rather than glossy-paper covers. It was inked by Klaus Janson and colored by Lynn Varley.

The story tells how Batman retired after the death of the second Robin, and at age 55 returns to fight crime in a dark and violent future. Miller created a tough, gritty portrayal of Batman, who is often referred to as "the Dark Knight." Released the same year as Alan Moore's DC miniseries Watchmen, it showcased a new form of more adult-oriented storytelling to both comics fans and a crossover mainstream audience. Miller received much media attention for redefining Batman in the mainstream mind, which to some extent retained the campy image of the 1960s Batman television series.[citation needed] The Dark Knight Returns influenced the comic-book industry by heralding a new wave of darker characters, and along with Batman: The Killing Joke[citation needed] The trade paperback collection proved to be a big seller for DC and remains in print 20 years after first being published.

By this time, Miller had returned as the writer of Daredevil. Following his self-contained story "Badlands", penciled by John Buscema, in #219 (June 1985), he co-wrote #226 (Jan. 1986) with departing writer Dennis O'Neil. Then, with artist David Mazzucchelli, he a crafted a seven-issue story arc that, like The Dark Knight Returns, similarly redefined and reinvigorated its main character. The storyline, "Daredevil: Born Again" , in #227-233 (Feb.-Aug. 1986) chronicled the hero's Catholic background, and the destruction and rebirth of his real-life identity, Manhattan attorney Matt Murdock, at the hands of Daredevil's archnemesis, the crime lord Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin.

Miller and artist Bill Sienkiewicz produced the graphic novel Daredevil: Love and War in 1986. Featuring the character of the Kingpin, it indirectly bridges Miller's first run on Daredevil and Born Again by explaining the change in the Kingpin's attitude toward Daredevil. Miller and Sienkiewicz also produced the eight-issue miniseries Elektra: Assassin for Epic Comics. Set outside regular Marvel continuity, it featured a wild tale of cyborgs and ninjas, while expanding further on Elektra's background. Both of these projects were well-received critically. Elektra: Assassin was praised for its bold storytelling, but neither it nor Daredevil: Love and War had the influence or reached as many readers as Dark Knight Returns or Born Again.

Miller's final major story in this period was in Batman issues 404-407 in 1987, another collaboration with Mazzuchelli. Titled Batman: Year One, this was Miller's version of the origin of Batman in which he retconned many details and adapted the story to fit his Dark Knight continuity. Proving to be hugely popular, this was as influential as Miller's previous work and a trade paperback released in 1988 remains in print and is one of DC's best selling books.

Miller had also drawn the covers for the first twelve issues of First Comics English language reprints of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima's Lone Wolf and Cub. This helped bring Japanese manga to a wider Western audience.

During this time, Miller (along with Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore and Howard Chaykin) had been in dispute with DC Comics over a proposed ratings system for comics. Disagreeing with what he saw as censorship, Miller refused to do any further work for DC, and he would take his future projects to the independent publisher Dark Horse Comics. From then on Miller would be a major supporter of creator rights and be a major voice against censorship in comics.

[edit] Sin City and the 1990s

Sin City: Marv walking through the rain. Cover art by Miller.

After announcing he intended to release his work only via the independent publisher Dark Horse Comics, Miller completed one final project for Epic Comics, the mature-audience imprint of Marvel Comics. Elektra Lives Again was a fully painted graphic novel written and drawn by Miller and colored by longtime partner Lynn Varley. Telling the story of the resurrection of Elektra from the dead and Daredevil's quest to find her, it was the first example of a new style in Miller's art,[citation needed] as well as showing Miller's willingness to experiment with new storytelling techniques.[citation needed]

1990 saw Miller and artist Geof Darrow start work on Hard Boiled, a three-issue miniseries which suffered from long delays between issues.[citation needed] The title, a mix of violence and satire, was praised[citation needed] for Darrow's highly detailed art and Miller's writing. At the same time Miller and artist Dave Gibbons produced Give Me Liberty, a four-issue miniseries for Dark Horse. A mixture of action and political satire, the title sold well[citation needed] and cemented Miller's reputation as a writer of mature-audience comics. Give Me Liberty was followed by sequel miniseries and specials expanding on the story of protagonist Martha Washington, an African-American woman in modern-day and near-future America, all of which were written by Miller and drawn by Gibbons.

Miller also wrote the scripts for the science fiction films RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, about a police cyborg. Neither was critically well-received.[citation needed] Afterward, Miller stated[citation needed] he would never allow Hollywood to make movie adaptations of his comics, being disgusted with what he characterized as studio interference with his scriptwriting. Miller would come into contact with the fictional cyborg once more, however, writing the comic-book minieries, RoboCop vs. The Terminator, with art by Walter Simonson. In 2003, Miller's screenplay for RoboCop 2 was eventually adapted by Steven Grant for Avatar Press's Pulsaar imprint. Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, the series is called Frank Miller's RoboCop and contains plot elements that were divided between RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3.

In 1991 Miller started work on his first Sin City story. Serialized in Dark Horse Presents #51-62, this was Miller's first completely solo work, as he wrote and drew the story in black and white to emphasize its film noir origins. Proving to be another success, the story was released in a trade paperback. This first Sin City "yarn" was re-released in 2005 under the name The Hard Goodbye. Sin City proved to be Miller's main project for much of the remainder of the decade, as Miller told more Sin City stories within this noir world of his creation, in the process helping to revitalize the crime comics genre.[citation needed] Sin City proved artistically auspicious for Miller and again brought his work to a wider audience outside of comics.

Daredevil: Man Without Fear was a mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 1993 based on an earlier film script.[citation needed] In this Miller and artist John Romita Jr. told Daredevil's origins differently than in the comics. Miller also returned to superheroes by writing issue #11 of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, as well as the Spawn/Batman crossover for Image Comics.

In 1995, Miller and Darrow collaborated again on Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot — a homage to Godzilla movies, Astro Boy and patriotic American films from World War II. The series was published as a two-part mini-series from Dark Horse Comics. In 1999 it became an animated series on Fox Kids. During this period, Miller became one of the founding members of the comic imprint Legend, under which many of his Sin City works were released, via Dark Horse. Also, it was during the 1990s that Miller did cover art for many titles in the Comics Greatest World/Dark Horse Heroes line.

Written and illustrated by Frank Miller with painted colors by Varley, 300 was a 1998 comic-book miniseries, released as a hardcover collection in 1999, retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to it from the perspective of Leonidas of Sparta. 300 was particularly inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, a movie that Miller watched as a young boy. In 2007, 300 was adapted by director Zack Snyder into a highly successful film.

[edit] 2000s

Miller started the new millennium off with the long awaited sequel to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns for DC Comics after Miller had put aside past differences with DC. Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again was initially released as a three issue series. Miller has also returned to writing Batman in 2005, taking on the writing duties of All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, a series set outside of the normal DC continuity and drawn by Jim Lee. Miller has been vocally opposed to recent comic art attempting to give the cosmetic appearance of what some say is more realism. In an interview on the documentary Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman, Miller said, "People are attempting to bring a superficial reality to superheroes which is rather stupid. They work best as the flamboyant fantasies they are. I mean, these are characters that are broad and big. I don't need to see sweat patches under Superman's arms. I want to see him fly."

Miller's stance against movie adaptations was to change after Robert Rodriguez made a short film from one of Miller's Sin City short stories. Rodriguez showed this short film to Miller, who was so pleased with the result that he approved a full-length film, Sin City. This would be Miller's second experience with the movie world, after becoming disenchanted years earlier with his experiences with RoboCop 2 and 3. The movie was released in the US on April 1, 2005, using Miller's original comics panels as storyboards. Miller and Rodriguez are credited as co-directors, which Rodriguez insisted upon (and had allegedly promised to Miller).[citation needed] Directors Guild of America rules permit only one person or "legitimate" directorial team (such as the Coen brothers) being listed as the director of a film. As a result, Rodriguez elected to resign from the Guild. The film's success brought renewed attention to Miller and to Sin City. And the 300 film did the same for 300.

In 2006, Miller announced that his next Batman project would be Holy Terror, Batman!. In the story, Batman defends Gotham City against attacks by real-life terrorist group Al-Qaeda. In a July 2008 New York Times interview, Miller mentioned that the story was evolving: "As I worked on it, it became something that was no longer Batman. It’s somewhere past that, and I decided it’s going to be part of a new series that I'm starting".[1] However, in December 2008, he told Newsday that Holy Terror, Batman was a single graphic novel "about 40 pages from finished now; it's 122 pages. [Batman is] fighting al-Qaida".[4]

At the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that Miller would direct a film version of Will Eisner's The Spirit.[5] A sequel to the film Sin City is in progress as of 2009, provisionally entitled Sin City 2.[citation needed]

[edit] Political stance

Miller at The X-Files: I Want to Believe premiere

On January 24, 2007, in an interview with American radio network National Public Radio, Frank Miller talked about his political views. On the issue of the second Iraq war, he said:

Nobody questions why we, after Pearl Harbor, attacked Nazi Germany. It was because we were taking on a form of global fascism, we're doing the same thing now ... It seems to me quite obvious that our country and the entire Western World is up against an existential foe that knows exactly what it wants.... For some reason, nobody seems to be talking about who we're up against, and the sixth-century barbarism that they actually represent. These people saw people's heads off. They enslave women, they genitally mutilate their daughters, they do not behave by any cultural norms that are sensible to us. I’m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture, and I'm living in a city where 3000 of my neighbors were killed by thieves of airplanes they never could have built".[6][7]

[edit] Critical reactions

Alan Moore praised Miller's Daredevil in the article "The Art of Being Frank" in The Daredevils #1, and spoofed him in #8 ("Grit!").

In the 2000s, much of Miller's work, particularly regarding Batman, has been the subject of controversy. Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again met with less positive reviews than its predecessor. The graphic novel Holy Terror, Batman!, still in production as of December 2008 and which Miller has described as "a piece of propaganda",[8] has been criticized by Grant Morrison, who said that "cheering on a fictional character battling fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence" and suggested that Miller join the army and actually fight.[9]

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder in particular has been met with harsh criticism. William Gatevackes of PopMatters said that "All Star Batman and Robin should be avoided at all costs".[10] Comics journalist Cliff Biggers of Comic Shop News called the series "one of the biggest train wrecks in comics history."[11] Iann Robinson called All Star Batman and Robin "a comic series that just spirals deeper and deeper into the abyss of unreadable", and that, "Miller has erased all the good he did for Batman with The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One".[12]

Entertainment Weekly criticized Miller's RoboCop comic for its "tired story" and lack of "interesting action".[13]

Some of Miller's works have been accused of lacking humanity,[14] particularly in regard to the overabundance of prostitutes portrayed in Sin City.[15]

[edit] Influences

His cartoonist influences include Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, Joe Kubert, Dick Sprang, Jack Kirby, Jordi Bernet, Jim Steranko, Johnny Craig, Milton Caniff, Wally Wood, Hugo Pratt, Frank Robbins, Will Eisner, William Gaines, and James Kochalka.

Miller has stated that his influences include the writings of James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Raymond Chandler and Thomas Jefferson.

Outside of the comic and political circuit, his influences include art historian Kenneth Clark, and the animations by Fleischer Studios.

[edit] Cameo appearances

Frank Miller has appeared in five films in small roles, dying in each.

  • In RoboCop 2 (1990), he plays "Frank, the chemist" and dies in an explosion in the drug lab.
  • In Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey (1994), he is killed by vampires in front of Marvel Comics' Stan Lee, who compares his killers to "angels".
  • In Daredevil (2003), he appears as a corpse with a pen in his head, thrown by Bullseye, who steals his motorcycle. The credits list Frank Miller as "Man with Pen in Head".
  • In Sin City (2005), he plays the priest killed by Marv in the confessional.
  • In The Spirit (2008), which was written and directed by Miller, he appears as "Liebowitz", the officer whose head is ripped off by the Octopus and thrown at the Spirit. The name alludes to Jack Liebowitz, a co-founder of what would become DC Comics.[16]

Frank Miller also appeared in an episode of the television series Moonlighting as a customer at a box office.[citation needed]

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] As artist only

  • Twilight Zone #84, 85 (1978) ("Royal Feast" and "Endless Cloud") (Gold Key Comics)
  • "Deliver Me From D-Day" short story in Weird War Tales #64 (1978) (co-art: Wyatt Gwyon) (writer: Wyatt Gwyon) (DC Comics)
  • "The Greatest Story Never Told" short story (writer: Paul Kupperberg) and "The Day After Doomsday" short story (wr: Roger McKenzie) both in Weird War Tales #68 (1978) (DC Comics)
  • "The Edge of History" short story in Unknown Soldier #219 (1978) (co-art: Danny Bulanadi) (writer: Elliot S. Maggin) (DC Comics)
  • John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18 (1978) (writer: Chris Claremont) (Marvel Comics)
  • Spectacular Spider-Man #27–28 (1979) (writer: Bill Mantlo) (Marvel Comics)
  • Marvel Two-in-One #51 (1979) (writer: Peter Gillis) (Marvel Comics)
  • Daredevil #158-161, 163-167 (1979-1980) (Marvel Comics)
  • Marvel Spotlight Vol. 2 #8 (1980) (writer: Mike Barr) (Marvel Comics)
  • Marvel Team-Up #100 (1980) (writer: Chris Claremont) (Marvel Comics)
  • Super Star Holiday Special (1980) (writer: Denny O'Neil) (DC Comics)
  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14 (1980) (writer: Denny O'Neil) (Marvel Comics)
  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981) (writer: Denny O'Neil) (Marvel Comics)
  • Power Man and Iron Fist #76 (1981) (writers: Chris Claremont and Mike Barr) (Marvel Comics)
  • Unus story in Incredible Hulk Annual #11 (1982) (writer: Mary Jo Duffy) (Marvel Comics)
  • Bizarre Adventures #31 (1982) (writer: Denny O'Neil) (Marvel Comics)
  • Wolverine (1982) (writer: Chris Claremont) (Marvel Comics)
  • "Tales of the New Gods" in Orion #3 (2000) (writer: Walt Simonson) (DC Comics)
  • He illustrated the front cover for a reprint of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow[17]

[edit] As writer/artist

Miller at the 1982 Comic-Con

Marvel Comics

DC Comics

Dark Horse Comics

Sin City:


[edit] As writer only

Marvel Comics

DC Comics

Dark Horse Comics


Other Publishers

For film

300 was adapted shot for shot into a feature film in 2007. The 2003 film version of Daredevil predominantly use the tone and stories written and established by Frank Miller. Miller was a producer for 300. Miller did not have any direct creative input into Daredevil.

[edit] Cover artist

  • Amazing Spider-Man #203, 1980
  • Amazing Spider-Man #218, 1981
  • Amazing Spider-Man #219, 1981
  • Marvel Team-Up #95, 99, 100, 102, 106 (1980, 1981)
  • Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-man #46, 48, 50-52, 54-57, 60 (1980, 1981)
  • Spider-Man and Daredevil Special edition (1984)
  • Bone #38, (2000)

[edit] Collections

  • Daredevil Visionaries – Frank Miller Vol.1 (includes Daredevil #158-161, #163-167) (trade paperback)
  • Daredevil Visionaries – Frank Miller Vol.2 (includes Daredevil #168-182) (trade paperback ISBN 0-7851-0771-1)
  • Daredevil Visionaries – Frank Miller Vol.3 (includes Daredevil #183-191, What If...? #28, What If...? #35, Bizarre Adventures #28) (trade paperback ISBN 0-7851-0802-5)
  • Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man (includes PPTSSM #27-28, ASM Annual #14-15, MTU #100, Annual #4 and all his covers for MTU, PPTSSM and ASM) (trade paperback ISBN 0-7851-0899-8)

[edit] Awards

Eisner Awards

Best Short Story - 1995

Best Finite Series/Limited Series - 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999

Best Graphic Album: New - 1991

Best Graphic Album: Reprint - 1993, 1998

Best Writer/Artist - 1991, 1993, 1999

Best Artist/Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team - 1993

Kirby Awards

Best Single Issue - 1986, 1987

Best Graphic Album, 1987

Best Writer/Artist (single or team) - 1986

Best Art Team - 1987

Harvey Awards

Best Continuing or Limited Series - 1996, 1999

Best Graphic Album of Original Work - 1998

Best Domestic Reprint Project - 1997

Cannes Film Festival

Palme D'Or - 2005 (nominated)

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Webster, Andy. "Artist-Director Seeks the Spirit of 'The Spirit'" The New York Times, July 20, 2008
  2. ^ a b Lovece, Frank. "Spirit guide: Frank Miller adapts Will Eisner's cult comic",, December 22, 2008
  3. ^ The Complete Frank Miller: The Twilight Zone
  4. ^ Lovece, Frank, "Fast Chat: Frank Miller", Newsday, December 21, 2008
  5. ^ "Spirit" comic comes to life on big screen, 2006-07-19
  6. ^ "Writers, Artists Describe State of the Union". NPR's Talk of the Nation. January 24, 2007.
  7. ^ Zader, Joshua. "NPR Interview with 300’s Frank Miller". The Atlasphere. March 10, 2007.
  8. ^ Harry Mount (February 15, 2006). "Holy propaganda! Batman is tackling Osama bin Laden". Daily Telegraph. 
  9. ^ "Morrison in the Cave: Grant Morrison Talks Batman". Newsarama. 2006-08-23. Archived from the original on 2007-07-05. Retrieved on 2006-12-27. 
  10. ^ ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN #1-3 William Gatevackes, PopMatters 2006-02-10
  11. ^ Comic Shop News #1064 November 7, 2007
  12. ^ Review by Iann Robinson, Crave Online
  13. ^ Review by Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 2003
  14. ^ Scott, A. O. "The Unreal Road From Toontown to 'Sin City'". New York Times. April 24, 2005.
  15. ^ Dargis, Manohla. "A Savage and Sexy City of Pulp Fiction Regulars". New York Times. April 1, 2005.
  16. ^ Lovece, sidebar: "The Annotated Spirit: A Guide to the Movie's In-joke References"
  17. ^ Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition): Thomas Pynchon, Frank Miller: Books

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Jim Shooter
Daredevil writer
(with Roger McKenzie)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Roger McKenzie
Daredevil writer
Succeeded by
Dennis O'Neil
Preceded by
Gene Colan
Daredevil artist
Succeeded by
Klaus Janson
Preceded by
Dennis O'Neil
Daredevil writer
Succeeded by
Ann Nocenti

NAME Miller, Frank
SHORT DESCRIPTION American writer, artist, film director
DATE OF BIRTH January 27, 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH Olney, Maryland, United States
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