Giddy as school girls going to a Sadie Hawkins Dance, Bub and myself were able to submit a gander of questions to Comic Royalty Mr. Mark Millar. Deep in the highlands of Scotland, surrounded by a helipad, Bond girls, and a pet Tiger; Mr. Millar took time from after a successful fencing dual with Richard Branson to answer our humble questions. We are eternally grateful!
Ok, so it’s a bit more humble than that…but we can fantasize right?
Anyways, hope you enjoy them as much as we did thinking them up!
(oh Bub is responsible for all the smart questions, or is it the other way around?)
SJP: A majority of your stories feature graphic violence and intense hard edge stories (which we love!). How do you respond to people who argue that violence portrayed in media/art (comic books and movies in this case) directly correlates with violence in real life? You also tackle tough issues like class warfare, drug addictions, social justice… why do some creator shy away from it? and does your faith have any influence?
MM: It’s funny, but Catholics do tend to have a fascination with violence, in cinema and in comics, and I think it’s maybe no coincidence that we were exposed to very frightening imagery at a young age, with things like the crucifixion or the Stations of the Cross or whatever. I hadn’t really considered that until someone mentioned it, but there’s something more peaceful about the Protestant cross compared to the Catholic crucifix. But in my experience I think there’s no correlation at all between violence in the media and violence in real life. The facts are very simple… if I were to talk to the drunks arrested in a police cell on a Friday or Saturday night I doubt a single one of them read comic books. Conversely, if you had to gather together 1000 of my readers I would suggest that they’re much smarter than the average person, much better-read, much more articulate and far less likely to have any kind of criminal record than the average person on the street. On the whole, comic-readers (and movie-goers) tend to be very nice, very intelligent and extremely non-violent, certainly in my experience. I think guns, drugs, alcohol and bad parenting are more responsible for violent crime than any issue of the Punisher (laughs).
MM: It’s impossible to say. You’re too close to your own work to judge anything. Generally, though, I prefer to write for an all-ages market. I’ve written around 600 stories and most have a PG rating. It’s interesting to try new things, but as a writer with a commercial instinct it’s always nice to go for the widest audience possible. That said, cutting loose and having a little fun with a very cartoony couple of characters like Big Daddy and Hit-Girl was tremendous fun. I like Tarantino and Spielberg in equal measure so it’s nice to have both options, I suppose.
SJP: Mark Millar is a name that holds a high standard amongst the comic world. You are responsible for some of the most beloved stories in recent comic history. Do you ever find it overwhelming to live up to that when writing a new story?
MM: It’s funny to me that there are people reading the books or watching the movies around the world. I just treat it like a job. I get up with the kids pretty early, start work around 8am and then clock off around 4pm when LA wakes up. I live in Scotland so the eight hour time difference means that’s when my calls start and I talk to my agent, my lawyer, various studio execs and maybe marketing people if we’re in a movie window in those two hours. I don’t answer the phone at all between 8 and 4, although Matthew Vaughn usually calls around lunch-time and we chat for an hour or so most days. He lives in the UK too. And that’s really it. It’s not a glamourous lifestyle by any means. It’s just a job, one I happen to love, but you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground. So when you start page one of a story you never think about your legacy or what your other books have achieved. You just switch on your computer, make a cup of tea and do your best. I massively appreciate my hit-rate, but at the same time am never beholden to it. I make odd choices sometimes (who would have imagined a story about a 62 year old space hero would be interesting to people besides myself?), but each project is just approached with enthusiasm. I pick things that excite me personally.
SJP: You have worked with the best of best when it comes to comic artists. Does working with certain artists influence how you approach or structure a story?
MM: Oh, yeah. Definitely. It’s like casting a movie. Not so much when I’m writing, but when I’m picking someone for a project. There can be a lot of chat and shuffling around, an artist who’s been waiting in the wings for just the right thing. I’d thought about Dave Gibbons for Superior for example and Leinil for Nemesis, but I felt it would be a mistake to do superheroes with Dave as he’d already done one of the greatest superhero comics ever put together with Watchmen. I’d thought about Jupiter’s Legacy with Sean Murphy for a moment, but he’s a big petrol-head and loves history so Chrononauts seemed the perfect place for period imagery and machinery. So I really think all that through.
SJP: MPH is excellent story and showcases Detroit as it is: Thrashed but very much alive. Why was it important for you to set MPH in Detroit? Was MPH sprung from your idea for some characters, or the issues surrounding the crisis in Detroit and elsewhere?
MM:It was a lot of different things. One, I was bored of seeing everything set on the coasts. Two, I’d seen the city and thought it was interesting, as it was unlike any portrayal of America I’d ever seen in movies or on TV. Three, I liked the idea of a book about speed being set in a place called Motor City. Four, I’d been to see Iron Man and Batman shortly before and for the first time in my life wondered why ordinary people in an audience were worried about billionaires, the kind of guys who they probably worked for much further up the chain and who, post 2008, had probably been responsible for laying a sizeable amount of them off. I thought it would be nice to create some heroes who didn’t have everything going for them. Who weren’t rich and who didn’t defend the capital infrastructure. I love superheroes, but it did occur to me some time ago that they wear uniforms and throw people in jail for trying to put bread on the table sometimes (laughs).
SJP: Did you ever receive a response to your letter to the President and other politicians?
MM: Ha. Sadly, I didn’t get a single reply from any of them. I guess I’m useless if I’m not a voter.
SJP: Is it easier writing about American’s from an objective outsider view, almost like a journalist, than say being part of it.
MM: Maybe. I feel kind of American though. I grew up in love with the idea of it and obsessed with the pop culture. I liked European stuff like Asterix and Tintin, but Superman and Batman were like Gods to me and they lived in America so it was a place I felt I had to go. It’s no accident it’s where I’ve worked my entire adult life. But yeah, maybe being outside it makes me see it in a slightly different light. It seems quite militarised when I visit, like visible guns on cops and soldiers in places I wouldn’t see them in Scotland. There’s a lot of guys with badges and I’ve been asked to show ID more in my brief visits to America more than the rest of my life combined at home or in other places. This was actually quite a surprise to me as the image is somewhere very free. But no country is without its problems and tensions. I think on the whole it’s a great place to live. I’ve seen a lot worse on my travels. I think we’re generally pretty lucky growing up where we have. We at least have some semblance of democracy.
SJP: The comic industry has defiantly shaped the film industry. What effect has it, if any (the film industry) played on the way comics are created?
MM: I think there’s a nice symbiosis between the industries. In the past if you did personal work you often lost money on a passion project and supplemented with Marvel or DC income. Now a six issue creator-pwned book can make you more money than 10 years at DC or Marvel, which is just incredibly liberating and something I think the industry has just woken up to in the past few years. That Image deal is incredible and the scope for stories is endless. Hollywood kick-started this because books like Sin City and Wanted showed that indie guys could have just as big a presence as the Big 2. We’re so incredibly lucky to be part of this generation as all these projects out there would have been owned by corporations 30 years ago. I sometimes wonder what Ditko, Kirby and Stan Lee would be like if they were starting in this environment. They’d be kings!
SJP: You create so many diverse stories each year, are you ever concerned with the well going dry? and what do you do to ensure the creative tank is full?
MM: I never do too much. My career really kicked off around 2000 and since then I’ve never done more than about 18 books a year, even when the average writer tackles between 30 and 40. I put a lot into every issue. I never just rattle through it and onto the next one. I take breaks and really think things over, only working on stuff I love with artists I’m into.
SJP: Chrononauts, another great new series of yours at Image…what adventures can we expect Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly to conquer ?
MM: Time and space is a brilliant canvas. This series is about 110 pages long and the trick was to squeeze as much in. Everything I wanted to write about in history. It’s all there. Sean’s amazing. The best artist I’ve ever worked with.
SJP: If there is only piece from your library that could be called the “Definitive Mark Millar Book” what title would it be?
MM: The next one. Always 🙂
Millar’s highly praised Detroit based MPH comes out in tradeback later this April, make sure to pick it up! Also if you’re not reading Chrononauts, what’s wrong with you!
Thanks to Jennifer at Image Comics for setting this up!