Come April of next year, Mark Millar will be expanding his brand of home grown comics outreach.
The writer announced this morning that from April 9 to 10, 2011 he’ll hold the Kapow! Comic Con at the London Business Design Centre in the heart of England’s capital. The show comes on the heels of the Scottish scribe’s UK-based “CLiNT” magazine and already boasts a lineup of local talent that includes creators Dave Gibbons, Frank Quitely, Paul Cornell and more. Aside from comics and film programming, which is promised to take full shape in the new year, Kapow! will host the first ever Stan Lee Awards, covering comics categories from best writer and artist to Man or Woman of the Year, all of which fans will be able to vote for online.
For a full explanation of how and why Millar has moved from creator to con organizer, an early tease at what big media plans he has and some of the broader plans and ideas in place for making the show the San Diego of the UK, CBR News spoke to the writer in his first full interview.
CBR News: Well, Mark, I think my first question has to be, what exactly is Kapow! Comic Con, and what are its origins?
Mark Millar: The idea behind Kapow! is to bring the San Diego experience to Central London. I love going out to SDCC, but it’s so far away for Brits and this is something Matthew Vaughn and I were complaining about last year as we trekked all those thousands of miles to California for a single afternoon of “Kick-Ass” promotion. All the studios have a massive presence here in the UK, dozens of the world’s biggest comic creators are here and most of the comic-book movie adaptations are being filmed just up the road. I’m fortunate to have friends in both industries, and when I started making calls, everybody got really excited. The studios here were delighted because it gives them a base for their European campaigns for 2011, and the comic-book guys are delighted because it means we’re all going to be in the same place for the first time in well over a decade. The London Business and Design Centre is also an incredible location. It’s elegant enough that the movie studios knew we meant business and central enough that you can pay a couple of quid to get there on the bus instead of chartering a flight to California. There’s never been anything this ambitious in the UK before in terms of content, all the studios and comic book companies really getting behind this.
Tell me a bit about what you guys are hoping to do to make this convention stand out. I know that there are a number of other shows each year in the UK, but with the San Diego comparison, it seems you’re looking to stretch out and embrace the movie and media aspects of something like this in a big way.
We’re basically just using San Diego as the template because it’s such a brilliant show. They sell 150,000 tickets and there’s a countdown to the tickets going on sale as they sell out so fast. Anybody who goes know they’re just going to have a good time. I remember being there last year and seeing Jim Cameron and the “Twilight” people all just standing around back-stage, waiting to go on and impress the fans. As a fan myself, I found this incredibly interesting because these guys genuinely looked nervous. They knew how important it was to reach the hardcore demographic, and we’d like Kapow! to have that same level of importance within the industry.
The capacity for this place is over 5,000 people per day, which means a footfall of around 12,000 people over the weekend. This is obviously huge numbers or people, but what’s exciting the comic companies and the movie studios, the gaming people and the television networks is that the comic fans coming here are very savvy and if they like what they see they’re reaching hundreds of thousands of people on the social networking sites. For people like you and me, this is going to be a kind of geek Glastonbury where fans can come and see the biggest comic book and movie acts in the world in an exclusive setting. For the studios, this is a very exciting way of getting the ball rolling on their summer line-up. San Diego has the disadvantage of coming out two or three months into the summer season, but we’re in a nice spot for the 2011 promotion as we’re happening in the weeks before “Thor,” the first of the big summer releases. A good buzz from Kapow! for “Thor” or “Green Lantern” or “X-Men” or “Cap” or any of the Marvel and DC big summer tent-pole comics is a great start in terms of advance online excitement.
In the past year, you’ve launched a number of new comic serials and the UK mag “CLiNT.” Why expand your work into conventions now?
It’s something lots of British pros and filmmakers had been chatting about for years. Why not have a British San Diego? Half the bloody talent’s here, after all. But it took my missus, who runs a big management and events company, to have the organizational skills to really put it together. She’s got a huge background and experience in film and television marketing so between her contacts and my contacts and the efforts of the people in her company we’ve ended up with this stellar line-up. I’ve been sitting in some of these meetings and, even as a fan, I’m excited by some of the stuff planned here. There’s really only a couple of cities in the world that could pull off something like this, just because of the studio presence and the accessibility, and London is one of them. I love the fact that all these comic-book movies are just getting made up the road. People just need to jump in a cab to come along and talk about them, as opposed to travelling halfway across the world. The notion that you could pay Â£15 and your bus fare, but catch a preview of the biggest movie of 2011 is just insane. Why shouldn’t Britain have something like this?
What’s your initial lineup looking like in terms of talent and publishers who will be on hand?
First and foremost, this is a celebration of comic books and the movies, TV shows and games they inspire. It’s happening in April, so we’re rolling out the information over a few months and the first wave of guests is announced in the webpage right now. Here you’re going to see the biggest comic book creators in the world under one roof and all signing autographs for free. You’ve got my “Kick-Ass” co-creator John Romita Jr, Frank Quitely, Leinil Yu, Pat Mills, Kev O’Neill, Bryan Hitch, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and pretty much every big-selling comic book writer and artist living in the UK. Marvel, DC, 2000AD and Image Comics will have an editorial presence here and portfolio reviews for anyone aspiring to work in the industry, but I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is the “CLiNT” panel. For anyone who doesn’t know, “CLiNT” is the comic I launched a few months back for the UK newsstands with “Kick-Ass 2,” “Nemesis” and strips by Franki Boyle and Jonathan Ross, plus an upcoming series by Jimmy Carr. A panel with Frankie Boyle on it is worth the ticket price alone. We were working out the schedule for the con and every panel just looks fantastic. Come back on February 14th to see the movie guests we have coming.
Well, on that front, will you be roping in any of your celebrity chums from your various film projects to make appearances?
Are you kidding me? We’ve both worked in this industry for a while and I think we’ve got everyone we ever met coming. But what’s nice is that the thing took on a momentum all of its own, and within a couple of days, people we’d never even have imagined were calling up and wanting to be a part of this. Like I said, the location is everything and I think a lot of people liked the idea that they lived 20 minutes away. Plus, all the studios and comic people saw their friends and rivals going and thought there’s no way they’re going to miss the opportunity. This is something we plan to do every year, now, and the people behind the 2012 line-up are already scheduling their spots. We’ve got a great 2011 with “X-Men: First Class,” “Captain America,” “Green Lantern” and “Thor,” but 2012 already has the Spider-Man and Superman reboots plus “Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” and at least one film of my own.
One last big element to all this is that you guys are launching a new comics award – the Stan Lee Awards -Â as part and parcel of the show. I’m kind of shocked that no one’s named an award after Stan yet, really. So what are the Stan Lee Awards?
The Stan Lee Awards are a tribute to a man who, along with Jack Kirby, is the most significant and influential comic book creator the world has ever known. We’ve got awards ceremonies for less well known guys, but Stan is our Walt Disney. He’s the brand name pretty much anyone knows and we wanted to honor him with a big international ceremony. This is the comic book Oscars, and the nominations for this are being put together by a huge team of judges from comics, movies, television, magazine publishing and retailing. The public will allowed to vote online this coming January and the ceremony itself will be streamed live all over the world. It’s going to be great and there’s nobody who deserves this more. Stan is my absolute hero, the reason we work in this business and, in many ways, the reason it’s the massive success it is today. Can you imagine cinema from the last ten years minus the characters he and Kirby and Ditko created?
To wrap, who are you trying to draw in with Kapow! Comic Con, and what else about the show do you think will get people excited?
Anyone is welcome. And, of course, feel free to dress as a superhero. There will be a big costume contest for anyone who’s interested and lots of other treats you can read about on the website. Can I just add that my own directorial debut, “Miracle Park,” will be closing out the weekend? Anyone at the convention on the later hours of Sunday get an advance screening in our main auditorium. Yeah, it’s cheeky to mention this in the same breath as all the $150 million movies out next year, but I’m not going to miss an opportunity like this.
Kapow! Comic Con kicks off April 9 – 10, 2011. For more info, visit KapowComiccon.com