Since signing on as creative consultant for 20th Century Fox’s Marvel movies, writer Mark Millar hasn’t been playing coy. Whether it’s teasing an appearance by the Sentinels in director Bryan Singer’s upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or discussing early plans for “Chronicle” director Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” reboot, Millar has been up front about his involvement in the long term life of the two big franchises owned by the studio.
But when Comic Book Resources spoke with the writer earlier this week, Millar made it clear for the first time how he and studio executives were working to bring all the working pieces for the film universe together over the coming years. “My role is more of an overseer,” he said. “It’s not a consultant in the sense that I check continuity. What I’m doing is building a plan kind of like what Joss [Whedon] is doing with the Avengers movies. It’s more of a writerly/producer kind of role where I look at possible directors we can use or possible writers we can bring in to work out a broad, overall strategy for what Fox Marvel can do to feel like Disney Marvel where they’ve done such a nice job of building a world where these characters can live together. They’ll have a momentum that exist outside the structure of any one movie with little cliffhangers and things to tie them together. Disney Marvel has done a wonderful job with that, and I think there’s something we can all learn from them.
“I’ve started to see the Marvel Universe as broken down quite neatly between Disney Marvel and Fox Marvel with Sony doing the Spider-Man movies as well. People keep saying that they want to see all of the Marvel Universe in one place, but what I try to explain to them is that if Marvel Studios had the rights to all the stuff set up at other studios, they wouldn’t have the money to make all the other movies they’re making. You wouldn’t be getting ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ or ‘Ant-Man’ because those slots would be filled up with a Wolverine movie or a Fantastic Four movie. There’s only a finite amount of movies they can make.”
Millar compared the breakup of rights between studios to Marvel history itself, explaining, “I feel like this is like in the ’90s at Marvel where all the dditors had their own little kingdoms. You had the X-books under Bob Harras and the more hardcore books or the Spider-Man books all under different teams. I see it kind of like that where these can all coexist in a big Marvel Universe while still being in their own kingdoms. To be honest, I don’t want to see a Spider-Man movie where Silver Samurai shows up. I think that would get a little confusing. I think the more subtle crossovers are far more interesting.”
Of course, next up on the Fox Marvel slate is “The Wolverine” — director James Mangold’s adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic that takes the man called Logan to Japan. While the film starring Hugh Jackman has been in production for months, Millar promised that it would play a pivotal role in the long term Marvel game plan. “I didn’t work on ‘The Wolverine’ in a direct sense. There were about two months of ‘Wolverine’ shooting done when I got this job, but I’ve got a couple of ideas from it. The only guy I don’t really know yet is James Mangold, and I wasn’t involved in that screenplay — though I read it and loved it. But the thing is, I felt like ‘Iron Man’ was really the beginning of something for the Marvel Studios movies, and ‘The Wolverine’ will be a similar starting point to build a lot off of for the Fox movies.”
That idea will roll into “X-Men: Days of Future Past” when it starts production next year, and the writer said the change in roles behind the scenes for original “X-Men” director Singer and “X-Men: First Class” helmer/Millar friend Matthew Vaughn would allow for some fun twists to the formula. “Bryan’s worked as a producer even on the X-Men movies that he didn’t direct — he was a producer on ‘First Class.’ So when Matthew decided he wasn’t going to do the sequel, they just switched places with Matthew producing and Bryan coming on to direct. That’s got nothing to do with me, but I’m delighted that Bryan and I will get to work together over the next few years. I’ve been working with Josh Trank on ‘Fantastic Four,’ and I have a lot of ideas of other places we can go with the characters Fox has the rights to.”
Asked if there were any specific characters from the X-Men world that he’d like to get on the screen sooner rather than later, Millar did play a little shy, though he noted some obvious picks for longtime fans. “That’s such a hard question to answer because all the characters I’d want to use, we’re already planning on using in some way,” he said. “I flew out to LA and talked to Fox, having a days worth of meetings to hammer out ideas. There’s an amazing amount of potential in the X-Men universe. It’s almost a Marvel Universe in itself in that you can build up to so many great stories and so many great characters. I hesitate to name names, but let’s say that all the ones you like and everyone you’d expect, we’ll have them. It’s insane to have the crown jewel and not expect to wear them.
“You have to remember that Fox grabbed the X-Men back in the ’90s because it was the biggest franchise in the world. So X-Force or Cable or Deadpool — all these amazing characters are things we haven’t really gotten to yet. ‘X-Force’ #1 was the second biggest book of all time behind Jim Lee’s ‘X-Men’ #1, so there’s an immediate brand recognition to that stuff and a build in fanbase. You go to any convention in the world, and you’ll see 20 people dressed as Deadpool. In a lot of ways, these are Marvel’s coolest characters, so I want to remind people of that and build on what we already have. I think there’s a great foundation, and just from basic conversations, we’ve come up with ten movies we could do. These things cost $150 million each to make, so we have to pick and choose what we want to do.”
Meanwhile, Millar is continuing to develop many of his creator-owned comics projects — branded in total as his Millarworld line of books — as film properties, and aside from the currently filming “Kick-Ass 2” and Vaughn’s promised adaptation of Millar and Dave Gibbons’ “The Secret Service,” he explained that he has more potential deals waiting in the wings. “The idea is to finish Kick-Ass 2 in December and start production on ‘Secret Service’ a few months later, and we have a few others that will be filming around the same time,” he said. “I can’t tell you the titles, but they’re books that are already up and running. One is being written now, and the other just finished the screenplay. And ‘Nemesis’ was bought by Fox in 2010 with plans for Tony Scott to direct, though that didn’t work out as Tony passed away, but now it’s been passed on to a friend of mine named Joe Carnahan who was mentored by Tony. He’s done a lot of work with Scott Free Productions like ‘The Grey’ this year. So Joe and his brother Matt are working on the screenplay for ‘Nemesis’ looking to shoot towards the end of next summer, and we’ve got some cast in mind for it. And there’s one other project that’s been sold to Fox that will likely be announced as ‘Untitled Mark Millar Project’ because we don’t want to give too much away.”
But there is one project fans won’t be hearing anything about in Hollywood terms for a long while to come. “It’s weird that all these Millarworld projects have been sold as films already, but the one I want to hold onto is ‘Jupiter’s Children,’” he explained of the book currently in production with artist Frank Quitely for Image Comics. “That book and ‘Nemesis 2’ will come out around March or April next year, and I’m not going to let ‘Jupiter’s Children’ be sold as a film until I’ve finished the last issue. I’m going to write the entire ten to twelve-issue series before that. I’m on issue #4 at the moment, and I’ll not allow anyone to consider putting in an offer. We’ve had people getting in touch about the rights, but I’ve told my agent not to look at any offers at all. This is probably my most commercial project ever, and it’ll probably be the biggest seller. I’m very protective of how I want this to be done. I just want it complete, so I can hand it over and tell them to be very faithful with a movie adaptation.”