When Mark Millar wants to try for something big, he’ll let you know about it.
While the big projects for the Scottish comics scribe in 2011 involved launching his latest creator-owned titles in “Superior” and “Nemesis” along with his own comics convention with London’s Kapow! and a piece of one of the most talked about Marvel stories of the year with his half of “Death of Spider-Man,” the writer has shifted gears to get ready for 2012. And next year, it’s all about Millarworld.
The overall branding for comics created by the writer and a slew of his favorite artistic collaborators, the Millarworld brand has brought titles to Marvel’s Icon imprint and Image Comics as well as his own U.K. newsstand magazine “CLiNT.” But as part and parcel of Kapow!, Millar promised some even more ambitious comics work, and now that his best-selling “Kick-Ass 2” series with John Romita, Jr. appears back on track, he’s ready to lay his cards down for when fans will see the next set of new titles.
“We’ve got ‘Superior’ coming back in October, and we’re double-shipping in the same month to help get it back on track,” the writer told CBR News. “Lenil [Francis Yu] had to go and do ‘Death of Spider-Man’ for six issues, but now he’s back full-time on the book, and the first story finishes with a double-sized issue seven in November. Then, he’s jumping straight on to ‘Supercrooks,’ which launches in January and kicks off a pretty amazing year in the Millarworld plan. This is where I go full time with my own books and this is all the stuff I’m beavering away on at the moment. So in January, we’re launching ‘Supercrooks,’ which is my super-villain heist book. It’s a big, fun book about a gang of ex-con super-villains who wonder why everybody is always going up against Batman and Spider-Man every month, and so they head for Europe where the only comic book heroes are bloody Lucky Luke or Asterix. It’s ‘Ocean’s 11’ meets the X-Men, like I said before, and I’ve just finished the screenplay with the brilliant Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo. Nacho stayed here for a while as we worked on it together, and now we’re moving onto the next stage. The studio had virtually no notes, which was incredibly exciting, and we’re just fine-tuning a little over the next couple of weeks before we get into a formal pre-production.
“At the same time, we’re launching the book I’ve waited my entire life to do. This is a project with Dave Gibbons and it’s got the potential to be the biggest of the lot. Basically, I wrote to Dave when I was at school and begged to work with him. Now, that wish has been granted and we’re both working hard on it. The main character was something Matthew Vaughn and I came up with — and he’s going to be making this into a movie, as he explained on the X-Men press junket. Usually, I’m the one who spills the beans, and we were both sworn to secrecy on this, but Matthew must have been drunk or something as he gave away a chunk of info that mercifully didn’t all make it to the internet. But it’s really, really exciting. I’m off to Italy for a short break and then we’re getting together to block out the screenplay once I get back home. I don’t want to get specific about the project or even the genre, but we’re going to announce everything in October. Both ‘Supercrooks’ and the Gibbons project launch at the same time, so all the real promos will be happening then, too.”
Of course, Millar is well aware of his own reputation in comics as the #1 page-to-Hollywood hypeman, and he says that despite his detractors, he’s more than happy to drum up as much mainstream interest in his comics as possible. “The model established with ‘Wanted’ and ‘Kick-Ass’ has worked really well for us, and I want to take full advantage of that, here,” Millar explained. “Publishing new characters in a carnivorous climate means you need to keep your wits about you, but the ‘Kick-Ass’ hardcover sold more than any other book from the Big Two in 2010, and I want to do the same thing with all the Millarworld books, using the movies as enormous ads for our comics. I’ve seen guys bitching about this, but I’m not in the business of writing books I don’t want people to read. Our forefathers, like Lee and Kirby and Siegel and Shuster, would have killed for the opportunities we have now as creators and to be able to hang onto our rights at the same time. There’s really never been a better time to be doing creator-owned stuff. As a reader and as a writer, I’m genuinely buzzing about what’s happening now.”
The projects that may have fans talking more than any others are the ones that have no names yet, but the writer promised that all the details of his next major launches will be on the net early next year. “2012 has Dave Gibbons, John Romita Jr and Leinil Yu all doing big Millarworld projects. In April, I’ve got my superhero magnum opus coming out with Frank Quitely, and in September, we’ve got ‘Nemesis 2’ coming out with Steve McNiven. Gibbons, Quitely, McNiven, Leinil and Romita all doing major books under one umbrella is just nuts.
“Getting Frank Quitely to do the book I’m writing right now is especially exciting. He and I worked together in 2000 doing ‘The Authority,’ and that was my first big break, after years of really struggling and never really being able to establish myself. So there are a lot of nice connotations to working with Frank. He’s got an amazing track record. All the best stuff from DC is the stuff he’s put out over the last few years with Grant Morrison — ‘All-Star Superman’ and ‘Batman & Robin.’ So getting him to do a creator-owned book is a fantastic coup. That’s a big, 12-issue epic mini and basically everything I’ve ever wanted to say or do with superheroes. I’ve never attempted a superhero story on this kind of scale before. I decided that if I’ve got somebody as good as Frank, I want to make sure that the book is filled with the kinds of things I want to see him draw, and I’m doing a superhero story on a scale that no one’s ever tried before. This is the superhero ‘Lord of the Rings,’ with a massive cast of characters. It’s a superhero event book like ‘Civil War’ or ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths,’ but creator-owned with all-new characters. Like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Lord of the Rings,’ you go into it fresh, but this is a world that’s been around for a long time when you pick up issue #1 and there’s an entire mythology you’re going to become immersed in.”
And as “Supercrooks” is already working its way onto Yu’s art board, Millar explained that the movie is also on a fast track thanks to Vigalondo being a big fan of the writer’s earlier works. “It was crazy. I’m very fortunate that all my creator-owned stuff is in various stages of movie development because it creates a lot of heat around the books. We had Timur on ‘Wanted,’ Matthew on ‘Kick-Ass’ and last year, Tony Scott bought ‘Nemesis’ to direct, himself. Nacho Vigalondo and I had been talking about working together for a while. he was nominated for Oscar a few years back and I’m a huge fan of his Time-Crimes movie. We met back in 2008 for lunch, but he couldn’t speak English much at all. And I can barely speak English either so that made it twice as hard! But he’s learned it slowly and he’s pretty good now, like E.T. learning with the Speak N’ Spell. Eventually, we worked out enough common language so we could get some kind of conversation going. Then the ‘Supercrooks’ comic got bought very quickly as a movie, and when they said ‘Well, who will direct it?’ I thought, ‘Actually, there’s a guy I’m meeting in the pub tonight and we’d been talking about shooting this in Europe outside the studio system.’ We were going to make it independently maybe a year down the line, but then the studio said they’d give us a bunch of money to make it as big summer picture. So we went off to write a screenplay for them, and I’d never written a proper Hollywood screenplay before, but I figured I’d give it a shot.
“So Nacho came over and lived with us for a week. It could have been an absolute disaster, but his English was great by that point. We had a brilliant week, and it was kind of sad to see him go. It was kind of like adopting a Spanish child for a week, and when he left, we were all quite teary. But Nacho and I wrote the rest of the screenplay afterwards, just firing it back and forth, and we got it into the studio just last Friday. It’s all been very pain-free. The comic is out in January and, all going well, the movie should be filming shortly afterwards.”
While late books have been par for the course as Millar has continued to create new comics with big name artists who are also under contract at Marvel, the writer said that as he’s gone full-time on Millarworld books, he’s build a schedule to bring his collaborators up to speed as well. “The delays on ‘Kick-Ass’ have made me paranoid. I’m keen to make sure the artists don’t have too much on their plate. On the Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely projects, what’s made it quite nice about working with them is that they don’t have contracts or other books anywhere else. Frank Quitely will be working exclusively on the big superhero project at Image that I’m doing with him, and Dave Gibbons will be working exclusively on the project we’re doing together. All of that is exciting to me because I know it’s going to come out on a regular schedule because it’s those guys’ full-time jobs. Johnny is such an important guy to Marvel, I know why he had so much on, but they know our schedule now and everything has been resolved. Getting ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘Hit-Girl’ out every six weeks is like a dream come true for me. It outsells everything, five printings on issue one alone, so not having it out there was like owning a Porsche and the garage being locked.
“I’m very lucky that the Millarworld books do so well and we’ve had a lot of good luck with the movies. I’d say it’s because of the big artists. I’m really lucky. I’ve got a list of about four or five guys I can’t even talk about yet who are just waiting to get started on big projects and are looking one or two years down the line. I was at a convention a couple of months ago, and a couple of the guys who are A++ guys were saying, “Put me down for the next Millarworld book.” So it’s ended up nuts.
“I compare it to this friend of mine who’s a very average-looking man, but he only goes out with beautiful girls. He tends to go out with models and actresses. And he said, because he always goes out with models and actresses, the beautiful girls assume there’s something cool about him. That’s my philosophy with the artists as well. Because they only see me working with the big guys, they all go, ‘I should get in on that somehow.'”
Meanwhile, all of his titles, as well as several from his U.K. media friends, will continue to serialize in “CLiNT,” which Millar explained is definitely on for a second year of publishing at newsstands through Titan Publishing. “It’s gone great. The thing about launching a magazine here on the newsstands right now is that they almost never make it to issue #2 or 3. It’s just wreckage when you look around the British publishing scene. After a few issues, everyone seems to run out of readers and run out of money. But what we’ve got in the model for ‘CLiNT’ is that we’ve managed to keep it relatively inexpensive. We’re piggybacking on a massive distribution network of Titan Publishing, which is great. All the problems most people have when starting a magazine, we don’t have.
“And we’ve got a certain reputation with the caliber of people on the mag — people who maybe aren’t very well-known in the U.S. like Jonathan Ross and Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr. But they have a massive, massive presence in the U.K. So it’s gone really good. We’re continuing to publish with issue #10 out in two weeks time. We’ll have eleven issues out in the first year, which is pretty good.
“I’ve found the evolution of the magazine pretty interesting,” Millar continued, comparing “CLiNT” to another famous British comics serial. “I remember when ‘2000AD’ first came out, and Judge Dredd wasn’t even on the cover. The star of it was going to be Dan Dare, and they’d have Future Shocks on the cover and things instead of the established characters. So you make it up as you go along because you’ve got to have a plan, but you’re stupid if you don’t change things up when you need to. Our plan originally was to get it on the magazine shelves away from where they traditionally stock the comics. Our big thing is, ‘Don’t preach to the converted.’ We wanted to get it into the hands of people who never read comics but who liked movies or ‘Empire’ magazine but never read comics before. So we purposefully put things on the front to make it look like a British lad mag. We did that for about five months, and the people stocking the shelves started putting it between the lads mags and the movie mags. And now that they’re used to doing that, we’re changing up the content. Our idea was always to have weird features on like the Loch Ness Monster and stuff, but we just found that people liked that less and wanted to read Garth Ennis. And if you don’t listen to your readers, you’re mad. So we’ve stared shifting the interiors of the magazine, and we’ve made it more comic focused.
“And there’s a gap in that coverage in the U.K., too. If you want to read about Brian Bendis’ ‘Powers’ TV show, we’ve got it before ‘SFX’ and ‘Empire’ get to do it because all the comic guys are our pals. In the world of show business, here and in comics, we’ve got a lot of pals who have helped us out. So it’s nice that in the first year, we’ve made enough money that year two looks assured. We know what we’re doing in the next 12 months. And what’s good for me is that the Millarworld books, because they’ve got my full attention now, won’t be reprinted as choppily. They’ll be coming out on a regular basis. In a way, this is crazy of me, but a couple of months after they’ve been out in the U.S., they’re going to be reprinted much cheaper in ‘CLiNT.’ So for Â£3.99, you’re going to be getting Â£10 worth of comics. Every issue is 100 page of comics on really quality paper for Â£3.99. It’s a cracking deal.”
Overall, Millar emphasizes that now is the perfect time for him to finally make the full leap to creator-owned comics, and he takes the responsibility of rolling solo seriously. “We have a schedule now, thank God. Millarworld is our full time job and getting together with these artists feels as exciting as 1992 must have felt when Todd and Jim and Rob and the guys all got together and carried their mainstream success over into their own company. Something they owned and could pass along to their children. The guys and I have been working away in the background, and between now and Christmas, there’s some sensational announcements. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to do things by half. I really, genuinely want to make this the Big Three instead of the Big Two. I think the plan laid down in 2012 is going to surprise a lot of people with the scale of the ambition.
“This is the first step towards some huge plans I have over the next 36 months. It’s like Damian in ‘The Final Conflict,'” Millar laughed. “But it’s nice that I’ve been able to leave Marvel on such wonderful terms. They’re all close friends and I have no doubt I’ll do special projects for other publishers at various points in the future. You always get that itch. But to walk away after 10 years and not go under a cloud is nice. Normally when someone leaves a job, it’s ‘Fuck you’ from at least one party. But it’s actually great to leave and still be friends with everyone. But for the next couple of years, I’m doing exclusively the Millarworld stuff. And it’s actually amazing. I even love doing the adverts. I just sat down today with some paper and started drawing up the ads that we’re going to have in the back of the books and writing little notes for what month they’ll be out and what the Millarworld checklist is. It’s my little library!”