Mark Millar has a whole world in his hands. And with the size it’s growing, he’ll soon need a few more hands to help out.
Yesterday, the writer unveiled the latest details of his next Millarworld comic series with Goran Parlov, “Starlight,” and today Millar shows off the rest of his scheme to expand his creator-owned label beyond stand alone books and into a cohesive universe of characters. This April, his massively successful collaboration with John Romita, Jr., “Kick-Ass 3,” will wrap its run and complete the saga of Dave Lizewski, but in its final pages the story will also open up the gates to his working class teen superhero book “MPH” with Duncan Fegredo. And even as “MPH” and “Starlight” begin their respective runs, Millar already has his next two Millarworld books lined up as he teases CBR News that the series will be drawn by “The Wake” artist Sean Gordon Murphy and his “Ultimates” collaborator Bryan Hitch.
CBR News caught up with Millar on the wide scope of Millarworld’s next phase, and the writer not only gave an inside look at how the end of the Kick-Ass saga means the beginning of many more stories, he also shared the nine-comic plan he has for the line and showed off exclusive art from “MPH” and more.
CBR News: With the next phase of Millarworld books, we’re looking at a few big changes to how you’re doing your books: a new world, new collaborators and even a new logo. Is there a unifying creative factor to what all these new series will do? In other words, is there one big idea driving why these are the next books you’re bringing out?
Mark Millar: Very simply, I think it’s all just opening up and getting bigger. The first wave of the books with “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass,” “Jupiter’s Legacy” and and so on have all been big books we’ve sold in lots of different mediums, but at the same time they’ve been largely self-contained with only the most oblique references to one another. This is a vast Marvel Universe kind of structure where the stories are all self-contained like the early Spider-Man or Fantastic Four stories, but at the same time characters and concepts are going to be popping up in each other’s books. For example, there’s a scientist who disappears in the backstory of “MPH,” just dropping out of society and going missing, who shows up in another title a year later. There’s a secret society in the Sean Gordon Murphy books that ties into Goran’s “Starlight” book and the origins of this planet.
Stan [Lee], Jack [Kirby] and Steve [Ditko] managed to create the Marvel Universe inside two or three years and establish everything and I have the next three years planned out similarly with a number of amazing artists as my partners. What’s nice is we don’t have to break our backs doing 12 books a year for each title. We just do what feels natural — maybe four or six or eight-issue stories — and the whole thing is interconnected like the Marvel movies, the most popular ones maybe getting sequels if the story lends itself to it. It’s actually a nice, relaxed way of working, and I’ve got nine new titles planned over the next three years in total.
In terms of collaborators, how do the folks drawing these series impact how the rollout is going? I get the impression you cast a wide net in terms of recruiting artists for projects, but does their availability impact what titles come out when?
Oh, I go after very specific artists and write to their strengths. Nobody else could have drawn “Jupiter’s Legacy.” Nobody else could have drawn “Kick-Ass.” Likewise, I wanted a Jean Giraud/Moebius sensibility for “Starlight,” and it really had to be a European artist so it’s not simply looking at a list of top ten artists and selecting who’s going to sell most copies. It’s all about finding the right partner and who’s going to bring out the best in you, who’s going to serve the story well. I’m lucky that all these guys have huge fan followings. We’ve got [Frank] Quitely, Romita, Goran and Duncan Fegredo delivering pages every week at the moment and Bryan Hitch and Sean Murphy up next as Frank Quitely prepares volume two of “Jupiter’s Legacy.”
But I have pretty much all my guys lined up now. I’ve got maybe two spots left out of the nine. It’s incredibly heartening to see all the best guys just saying yes when I drop them a line. We’ve got a great track record on sales at Millarworld and probably the highest proportion of books to movies in the business with “Wanted” and “Kick-Ass” already out as franchises and having made half a billion dollars between the three of them, “Secret Service” Book One just wrapping at the moment, “Nemesis” ready to go into pre-production, “Starlight,” “Superior” and “Kindergarten Heroes” all being written and on a fast-track at Fox and a first draft of “War Heroes” just handed in over at Universal. I haven’t allowed anyone to look at “Jupiter’s Legacy” or “MPH” yet and we have secret plans for both “American Jesus” and “Supercrooks,” so it’s a really exciting company to jump into. The profit-share is down the middle so as each of these movies from comics and screen to toys and other merchandise. It can be a life-changing thing for an artist to be doing, which is nice as you can often live check to check in this business.
“Kick-Ass 3” #8 is the big finale issue not just for this series but for your original planned trilogy of stories featuring these characters. Since the new universe will spin from this book, does that mean the issue is less of a goodbye to Dave, Mindy and crew than you originally thought, or is this issue still a little bittersweet?
Oh yeah. “Kick-Ass 3” wraps the whole story up. One of the three main characters survives and will thus be out there, possibly appearing at some point in another book, but I have no plans to write a “Kick-Ass 4” or anything like that. Dave’s story very much concludes here as was always the plan. It’s tempting to keep it going as it’s been great for us and Johnny and I love doing it, but the nice thing about creator-owned is that you’re masters of your own destiny and ending it where we originally planned to is actually really satisfying. It’s a really good ending. I’ve been writing these characters since 2006, and they’ve been out there since 2008 so I wanted it to have a really good, impactful sense of closure. But yeah, Kick-Ass provides the foundation everything else is built on. I’ll explain this in a little more detail in May once the last issue’s out and you get a better sense of what’s going on. But Kick-Ass was the world’s first superhero, and everything that comes after comes after his story.
Of course, “MPH” is the next brand new book coming out, which we’re getting a first look at today. Has writing it been any different now that you’re conceiving of these as part of a larger whole?
Kind of, actually. The story works in and of itself, but I love the way the Marvel movies have these little references to each other and the post-credit sequences. That something I’m doing here with “Kick-Ass 3” teasing “MPH,” “Starlight” setting up the Sean Gordon Murphy project, “MPH” leading into the Hitch project and Sean’s project leading into a book with the biggest artist in the industry at the moment in 2015. It’s great fun.
The idea behind “MPH” is about four of the most disenfranchised people in America, these teenagers in Detroit, being empowered. It’s always fascinated me as someone who’s watched from overseas and always thinking of America as a place that’s very prosperous to see the problems America has faced over the past five or six years since the big crash. No place has felt that more than Detroit. It feels so weird to me because I’ve always thought of America as a place of opportunity, and to see a city bankrupt like that is quite terrifying. To hear that half the street-lights don’t work now or schools have closed or some areas couldn’t afford to keep their police stations open… It’s the opposite of the American Dream. I just thought it was interesting that since the superheroes were created in the Depression this could be an ideal setting for a 21st Century comic. A story about empowerment, but done in a very different way where these four kids take a street drug that seems to have appeared and allows them to move at the speed of light for a week. I’ve had lots of ideas for years about new ways of doing super-speed and I’ve absolutely loved playing with this visually. Duncan’s taken this to the next level. He really is astonishing and just pulled off imagery I could never have imagined. But the backdrop being a place where cars were made and that business forgot as those jobs were outsourced being the first place in the world to get super-powers just seemed very exciting to me. I like the idea of the guys who had nothing getting super-powers for a week and this kind of Bonnie and Clyde idea that the wealthy are afraid because the tables have been turned, the power shifting as soon as these four kids pop those pills. There’s a lot more to it than this, but that’s the very basic backstory. The book’s out in May so I’ll elaborate a little more in April about what this is and what we’re doing with it.
On the mystery project front, you’re teasing a new project with Sean Gordon Murphy. That’s a guy who’s really stuck to creator-owned projects of late across a wide variety of genres. Considering that background, what kind of project did you want to make with him?
“Starlight” and “MPH” fall into sci-fi and a new kind of superhero comic. The Hitchy and Sean Murphy projects fall into superhero and horror, but I’m not saying who does what. The horror book will have fantasy elements. It’s not especially gory, but tonally I’d say horror is the best description for it. I’m putting it together at the moment and loving it, not having really written horror since “American Jesus” and before that “Swamp Thing.” I find horror comics with entrails and so on a little dull. I don’t enjoy those kind of horror movies either. I’m not into gore. But I’ve got about 150 pages of notes on this thing and it feels very fresh. I love the fact that we’re working in a market now where we can move beyond superheroes and books like Saga or Walking Dead can outsell big Marvel and DC franchises. As a creator, the market’s in a really terrific place right now because it seems to find an audience for almost every genre. The other book is another semi-superhero title. I like to do superheroes now maybe every other book, but again it’s as different from “MPH” as “MPH” was from “Jupiter’s Legacy.” I love finding new quirks in the superhero tropes and this is a good one. Sean and Hitchy will be doing these two. I’m a huge fan of both. Sean and I met in New York a few months back and had lunch with Scott Snyder and our families and they’re such a great couple of guys. I’m a really huge fan of Sean’s, and I feel he’s just a guy who’s going to explode. He can do anything. I literally send scans of his work to friends of mine who don’t even read comics.
You have the Bryan Hitch book set for 2015. I know it’s early yet, but people are going to be assuming some of the particular style of this book based on “Ultimates.” Are you leaning into those expectations or trying to turn against them in some ways?
Bryan and I talk on the phone or have online chats with each other every day. We have done [this] since we started “Ultimates” #1 and in the half a decade since we last worked together we still talk every day. We just instantly became great friends and have been planning to work together pretty much since we stopped. He’s just amazing. From Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury to the Triskelion to pretty much every costume to just the cinematography, you can see his paw-prints all over the best Marvel movies. He visually redefined how to do a superhero comic and everybody’s been playing catch-up with the guy ever since. I really want to push it into the next stage with him when we team up and do something career-defining for both of us. The expectations will be high. Sean’s project launches at Christmas, Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely in Spring for “Jupiter’s Legacy” volume two and Bryan’s project… leading up to the enormous 2015 project with the artist I teased earlier. So yeah, I feel very spoiled. I’m like a frog kissing some quite wonderful princesses here.
All in all, if you could sum up this next phase of projects in one sentence, what would it be?
Abibliophobic. That’s the medical term for someone who fears running out of good reading material. I’m essentially just doing my bit to help this people and, er, getting abibliophobia in the headlines!
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on all of the upcoming Millarworld titles.