At the Kapow Comic Convention, you’re — appropriately enough — never more than four feet away from Mark Millar or one of his creations, with the writer’s presence in modern comics never more apparent than during his Millarworld panel discussions. In front of a receptive crowd, Millar focused on the forthcoming releases from his creator-owned brand and the various movie adaptations thereof.
Taking the stage alone, Millar began by giving each of his collaborators a “rock-star” introduction, starting with Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, Scottish artist Frank Quitely and English writer/artist Dave Gibbons.
After displaying a selection of covers from “Jupiter’s Children,” the forthcoming series drawn by Quitely, Millar showed covers and interiors from his and artist John Romita Jr.’s “Hit-Girl” limited series, a story that fits chronologically between “Kick-Ass” and “Kick-Ass 2”. Millar also re-iterated that under new director Jeff Wadlow, the Hit-Girl series will form the first act for the Kick-Ass sequel movie with “Kick-Ass 2” forming the second two acts of the film.
To end his short presentation, Millar showed images from the next issue of “The Secret Service” and confirmed that “Nemesis 2” was already being worked on by artist Steve McNiven with a planned September launch.
Beginning the audience Q&A portion of the panel, Millar was in typically irreverent form, making a few jokes about Spain’s current financial troubles to director Vigalondo and comparing audience members to various pop-culture icons when inviting them to deliver their questions. Answers were given quickly and candidly, allowing for a wide variety of topics to be covered.
Asked about movie adaptations, Millar denied pitching all but a handful of his comics as movies, claiming that studios “can smell desperation.” “We almost never pitch,” Millar said. “Don’t look too eager. If you let them come to you, you’re more likely to get a film made. You only have to look at Alan Moore. He hates films being made of his books and yet they’ve almost all been done.”
He repeatedly asserted, however, that movies weren’t the end goal of his career, stating that he doesn’t intentionally write for cinema adaptations, though his style does seem to be naturally cinematic. At one point, Millar made sure to emphasize “there is no greater thing for [a comic book’s] sales than a movie.” It was something Dave Gibbons would later agree with, saying that the Watchmen movie “was a fantastic trailer for the comic” and that the graphic novel sold as many copies in the 3 months after the film than its entire lifespan before.
One of the more extended discussions concerned why the panel believed big companies like Marvel and DC historically seem to struggle to turn movies into comic sales when indie comics manage it. Gibbons felt that complexity was the problem, asking “where do you start” with a series like the X-Men or Batman. Quitely saw the problem as one of structure, saying that he mostly read trades and that the strong continuity of ongoing series makes chapters hard to sell in isolation. Vigalondo, himself a comics fan in his youth, thought the problem lay in an audience that cares more about characters than creators.
In any case, Millar specifically praised the likes of “Scott Pilgrim” and “The Walking Dead” for turning mainstream exposure into comic sales, saying that it proved that this was “the creator-owned decade.”
Discussing the adaptation of “Supercrooks,” a comic which was co-plotted with director Vigalondo, the talk turned to casting the movie. Highlighting that this was just a wish-list rather than any concrete casting decisions, Millar and Vigalondo named Bradley Cooper, John Hamm and Ryan Gosling as members of their dream cast.
One questioner wanted to know more about the origins of “Kick-Ass,” and Millar assured him that it was “autobiographical,” in that he and a friend once tried to become superheroes when they were teenagers. Perhaps sensing some parallels, Gibbons remarked that “Frank Miller used to wear a Superboy costume to school under his clothes” to surprised exclamations of “Really?!” from the rest of the panel.
On the subject of bad language and curse words, Millar admitted that he has been trying to cut down on the swearing recently, saying that too much might sound natural but drastically reduces the impact of the words — a point Gibbons agreed with. At present, Millar plans to complete “Jupiter’s Children” without any cursing at all (but reserved the right to go back on that).
Asked if there was any chance of a “Wanted” sequel, Millar said he wasn’t particularly interested, because he didn’t want to bring back his version and disappoint those expecting a sequel to the movie incarnation. He did say he didn’t have a problem with changes made to the material in translation because “the comic’s unfilmable!” with too many in-jokes and a lead character who is a rapist.
Similarly, Millar claims he has a story for a “Superior” sequel, but he’s so pleased with the original’s ending that he’s “scared to touch it”.
Discussing Millar’s magazine, “CLiNT” — which relaunched at Kapow — one audience member asked what the point of the magazine was if you could get the stories earlier, elsewhere. Millar defended the magazine as being cheaper than the originals and in a bigger print size, saying it’s “like buying the DVD.” When someone pointed out that buying trade collections was more like that, he joked that in that case, buying “CLiNT” was “like getting it on pirate.”
After the previous movie talk, Millar was asked how he felt about the relationship between TV and comics. He admitted that he thought the idea of doing a Saturday morning cartoon was “great,” but that he couldn’t use existing properties and would “hate” to see a Kick-Ass get “sanitized”. Gibbons did say that the modern “Dickensian” narratives of TV series like “The Wire” are maybe a better match for comics, acknowledging (if not outright endorsing) the argument that a 12-part TV series would probably have been a better fit for “Watchmen” than a movie.
Perhaps inevitably, one fan asked for an update on the status of Millar’s long-delayed series “War Heroes,” to which Millar simply said that “Tony [Harris] is still drawing it. I’ve written issue #4. He’s a genius, so he can take as long as he wants. I’m looking forward to reading it eventually.”