Mark Millar: Here Comes Kapow! 19-20 May
In the frenzied fanboy fever that is the run up to this year's Kapow! Comic Convention, I catch up with co-creator and comic book power-house Mark Millar to find out how the convention is shaping up, and his thoughts on the current state of the industry.
Kapow! is just around the corner, what are you most looking forward to?
It’s crazy, we have Marvel chief Joe Quesada and other big people from the comic book industry there but also, because the films are coming out, we have the guys from the movies too. There will also be a lot of TV tie-ins. I almost wish I didn’t have to work there so that I could just hang out! I get to see Frankie Boyle on stage talking about comics, so it is just a perfect geek weekend.
You will of course be talking about your own works at Kapow! What are you most looking forward to on the horizon, and do you have a favourite current project, like a favourite child?
I love them all in their own way. I'm sitting writing Supercrooks just now and I am genuinely loving it. I can always tell I'm having a good time if it's going quickly but Supercrooks has been going so fast now that I can't wait to perfect it. But then there's Secret Service, something [X-Men: First Class director] Matthew Vaughn is going to direct, and I get to work on the book with Dave Gibbons, who is a childhood hero of mine. There is always something to be getting on with, a contract you signed, a promise you made or something going less well than others. The next couple of years will be quite big and I feel like I have a new lease on life.
You have been a champion of creator owned, independent works – both film and comics. Do you think there is an expiration date on the established characters of Marvel and DC – can they be rebooted and retooled indefinitely?
I think they never die. There is not so much an expiration date as they need to go into hibernation. Who would have guessed that after Batman and Robin, Batman would have bounced back as big as it did? And, likewise, Spider-Man, for a lot of people that was a lame 1970s TV show, but then it comes back as a billion-dollar family movie. I think we are not at the end of it yet. This year is going to be a monster year for superheroes.
The comic book thing, a lot of people think, how long can it last? We're now in about the thirteenth year of it and it just gets bigger and bigger. Out of the 30 or so comic book movies made, about 27 have made a really good return. It has a really high hit rate and I think The Dark Knight Rises is going to make a billion dollars. The Spider-Man reboot [The Amazing Spider-Man] is going to be huge as well, but I think after that, when we get to Thor 2 and the Batman franchise being rebooted again, we might be struggling a bit.
That's why I'm quite lucky, I guess, as I try to do the Stan Lee thing of creating a whole wave of new characters and the studios are picking all these up, which is hard not to like because it makes all the books sell really well too. So they feed off each other.
Is that the goal for Millarworld? Do you take, say, Image comics as an inspiration in your quest to be a genuine contender against the big two, Marvel and DC?
Oh yes, very much so. I mean, what Image did in 1992, where the biggest guys who worked for Marvel went off to do their own thing, that's what I am trying to do with Millarworld. Me and my friends, like [Kick-Ass artist] John Romita Jnr., own the thing 50-50 and every single penny we get is shared between us. There are about six of us [at Millarworld]. We all left Marvel last year and it took a bold step to do this. But the sales of these titles have been better than the average Marvel or DC book, so it's been kicking along quite nicely.
Do you have a competitive side or do you hope other people will see what you have done and other artists and writers will band together to form independent companies away from Marvel and DC?
To be honest, I think it’s all good. I never regret the time I had at Marvel. I never saw it as a waste of time and would never tell anyone to stop doing what they where doing. I say do what you enjoy, you know. Even the days when I was at 2000AD and was overdrawn and being read by a lot less readers, it was still great fun and exactly what I wanted to be doing. So, never think if you've done Superman that you have sold out. I think it's all valid and I enjoyed it all.
When you sit down to create and write your own series, do you have an end in sight? With Marvel and DC characters going on and never dying, do you like the control you have over your own creation?
It's very interesting that you said that because I interviewed Stan Lee a few years ago as part of a series of people interviewing past masters in their business. It was one of the most open conversations I have had in my life – it was like career advice as Stan is an absolute hero of mine. I asked him: 'How do you feel about people writing Spider-Man after you?' And he said he would have loved it if it was just him. I asked, what did he mean, and he said, he didn't own those characters and as the creator it was always hard to see the comic go through a rough patch. As a creator, I'd never really thought about that. It was really interesting: Stan said he would have loved to have been able to write them all. And that’s the beauty of the creator-owned series, once I’ve written the last of Kick-Ass no one can come in and fuck it up... except me!
So when I started writing Kick-Ass I knew how it was going to end. It was always going to be three volumes, I know how the last one will be and I know how it is all going to end. And I love the fact that that is it, you can close the book on that. It's kind of like a novel: no one comes in and does a sequel to a classic novel.
Finally, you must be asked to sign a lot of items by fans at conventions – what is the most unusual item or request you ever had?
It's funny because [the comic scene] is quite a lot cooler than it used to be. When I was originally into it everyone was as uncool as I am! It was all bearded guys in Star Trek t-shirts. And when the movie boom happened at the end of the last decade there was an influx of attractive women. Whereas before it used to be a 2-3% female audience, now there is a 30% female audience. It's become more like a rock concert and with conventions you do find yourself signing things like breasts. From reading comics as a seven-year-old you never imagined that one day you would be signing someone’s breasts. I love that aspect of it, but the weirdest thing I did was to draw a picture of Wolverine on someone’s calf, and then sign it. They came back the next day and with the drawing tattooed over. I was very flattered on the one hand, but on the other I thought it wasn't a very good drawing and wished I had done a better one.