When it comes to the world of comic books there is one modern icon who stands tall above all through his use of satire and fearlessness in the face of controversy. That icon is Mark Millar aka He Who Created Hit-Girl.
Most picturegoers will be familiar with Millar via the screen adaptations of his comic book series Wanted and Kick-Ass but this man’s influence stretches much further back than that. From the early 90s Millar established himself as a bold and unabashed comic book writer and creator. Not only did he co-produce the infamous 2000 AD character Big Dave [narratives included characters such as Saddam Hussein and Terry Waite, given the political climate at the time this was a courageous step to say the least] but over the course of his career he has also worked on comic projects such as Marvel Knights Spiderman, Wolverine and, perhaps most poignantly for today, Ultimate Avengers. Ever-ambitious Millar announced in 2010 that he was launching a monthly comic book magazine CLiNT, but he, very graciously, took five minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to us about heroes, villains, Avengers and more…
Helen: Hi Mark, the first thing we want to know is: what first drew you to the world of comics, heroes and villains?
Mark Millar: I honestly can’t remember NOT being obsessed with them. Like breakfast cereal and television, comics is just one of those things that always seemed to have been a part of my life and no matter how hard I strain, how hard I try to think back, I can’t remember not seeing one lying around. My first was a black and white Spider-Man reprint from 1976, but my older brothers always read them and so they tended to be part of the furniture at home. My Spider-Man comic, by the way, had Spidey’s girlfriend accidentally killed by Spidey himself, Spidey murdering his best friend’s father, being shot at and chased by the police and then going home to find his friend out of his face on LSD. Obviously, even at six, I was completely hooked. I loved Superman and Batman too. When I was four Superman cartoons were on Wednesdays and Batman on Mondays and I’d watch this prostrate from our coffee table where I’d pretend to fly the whole time. So naturally it made sense that this is what I’d end up doing for a living.”
Helen: Why do you think ensemble comic pieces like The Avengers are so well-received, and so highly-anticipated, by fans?
Mark Millar: Actually, cinematically, it’s never been tried before. This is the first time we’ve ever seen a superhero ensemble in cinemas. Marvel told me years back this is the movie they didn’t think they could do, but they’ve prepared it all very cleverly and that sensory overload six or eight different, very distinct characters with their own unique back-story coming together would have ben very, very difficult without all the prep. But these things have averaged around 400 million each theatrically so the mainstream world is pretty well versed in super-soldiers and Asgardian Gods so seeing them all come together feels as natural as Magnolia now. It’s not so much confusing for people as incredibly exciting, all these things they like in one movie. As a kid I liked Avengers and Justice League because it was all these heroes for the price of one and for the public I guess that resonates too. This is like getting James Bond, Harry Potter and Spider-Man teaming up.
Helen: What is it like working on The Ultimates and what inspired the project?
Mark Millar: The Ultimates was the book I wanted to write when I started at Marvel eleven years ago, but the Avengers characters were regarded by management as less commercial than the X-Men and so they offered me Ultimate X-Men instead. The idea was to re-invent their characters for a modern audience and X-Men launched at number one so they trusted me with the Avengers revamp. Even so, they still tried to talk me into a Wolverine book instead as Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk were all, in the company’s eyes, a little less cool.
But I always loved them and used what capital I had at the company to push this through and Editor In Chief Joe Quesada was very supportive of me. I told him I wanted Bryan Hitch on art, even though Bryan had just signed with another company, and they moved Heaven and Earth to get him on the project. We really just took all the elements that made The Avengers hard for a mainstream audience to accept and streamlined all the characters into a single book, bringing them under the command of Nick Fury to pull the whole thing together. I’d wanted more ethnically diverse characters in the line and made Nick Fury black, but it was Bryan who came up with the genius idea of Samuel L Jackson to be the face of the character’s reinvention.
Our first storyline was basically Independence Day with superheroes and we took the Chitauri aliens from the David Icke books and made them the bad guys, Loki being the the villain from our second book. Kevin Fiege (who runs Marvel Studios) was a big fan of the books and told us it made him realise an Avengers movie could actually be a lot simpler than they’d thought and so they used book one and the ending to book two as the template for the movie, which is enormously flattering. People have suggested we should feel ripped off, but we don’t own these characters. All we did was give them a lick of paint and come up with a story and the visuals. These are Marvel-owned characters and I have my own little empire with Millarworld so I’m genuinely just pleased to see all this on the big screen and wish them nothing but the best with it.
Helen: What can you tell us about Kick Ass 2 that nobody else knows yet?
Mark Millar: I literally just got a hard copy of the screenplay delivered this morning. What can I tell you that nobody knows? Actually, not a lot if you’d read the book because it’s a very close adaptation. I can tell you that Chloe’s a lot taller. Her brother’s about 6’5 or something so I’m hoping she stops growing soon as we’re planning a third one too.
Helen: Everyone asks the “what super power would you want” question so what we want to know is: if you were a comic book villain what would be your evil ploy to take over the world?
Mark: I’m already working on that (laughs).