Comics writer Mark Millar is quick to recall that he started his career as a fan trolling the floor of a comic convention.
Now from April 9 to 10, 2011 at his incoming Kapow! Comic Con at the London Business Design Centre in the heart of England’s capital, he’ll be looking for young folks of similar persuasion. The show looks to combine hype for everything from the Scottish scribe’s UK-based “CLiNT” magazine to 2000AD’s incoming “Dredd” movie while also serving as a San Diego Comic-Con-like media event for fans as creators including Dave Gibbons, Frank Quitely, Paul Cornell and more tag along.
After a wave of announcements including the Stan Lee Awards ceremony and a live game show featuring his friend and “Turf” writer Jonathan Ross, CBR News caught back up with Millar to explain the personal dimension that the show holds for him, how he’ll be selecting one aspiring artist on the floor of Kapow! to collaborate with him directly, what the UK comics community can expect from the event and what’s next in store for the show’s Hollywood announcements.
CBR News: So Mark, since we first spoke on this show, there have been a flurry of announcements and pre-announcements about what’s coming at Kapow! I wanted to start by asking who you think the core audience for this show is going to be. Will the event generally have its programming and exhibitors focused on the hardcore collector, or are you going for a more general nerd audience vibe?
Mark Millar: We’re aiming at exactly the people who go to San Diego and that’s a nice mix. On the one hand, you’ll have people like me who know their Curt Swan from their Kurt Schaffenberger, and there’s going to be people there just because they enjoyed, I don’t know, “Walking Dead” or the “Spider-Man” movies or “Kick-Ass.” We’ve worked really hard on this program to make sure that the guest list is as wide-ranging as possible and so the panels and previews and announcements all have mass appeal, but at heart it’s being put together by fans for fans. On a purely selfish level, it’s a chance for me and all my mates to get together again. All the mainstream British pros used to get together every September for UKCAC [the United Kingdom Comic Art Convention], and that was an amazing thing for a young guy like me starting out. I’d eavesdrop on guys like Dave Gibbons and Kev O’Neill and various editors and writers I’d only ever seen in a credit box, and it was a brilliant experience for somebody just out of high school. I’d love it if a new generation of creators came through as a result of this, getting to meet people who could help them make that jump from drawing in their bedrooms to getting published.
I know that one thing some folks were talking about early in the discussion around the show was how creators could tap in to the goings on. You’ve already got a robust core guest list on the site, but will the show have a traditional artist’s alley or an outlet for other comic pros to take part?
Sure, there’s a big artists alley and exhibitor area in the place. This isn’t a small press convention (there’s a very good one happening the same weekend in New York) and we’re focusing on the big name comic people as well as the big name movies. But there will be a presence there for the small press and that’s a good opportunity for anyone hoping to get picked up by a mainstream publisher or one of the Hollywood agents who are coming over for a look around.
On that front, I know that you’ve got a special announcement this week concerning aspiring creators. What’s the plan for finding new talent at Kapow! and who’s involved?
Well, the reason I started going to cons was to get work. I went down to UKCAC when I was 18 on the overnight bus from Glasgow. It costs me 20 quid each way, and I crashed on someone’s floor to save me the price of a hotel. But it was a great experience, let me put some faces to names, and I went home with a bunch of business cards, and I’d given photo-copies of all my hand-made comics to all the bigwigs at Marvel, DC, 2000AD and any other publication around at that point. It was incredibly exciting, and as much as this is a superhero comic and movie con where the publishers and the studios can pimp their wares, I’d also like it to be a place where a young, aspiring pro can come along and show their work to the editor of, say, “2000AD.”
There’s a dozen of us going to be doing portfolio reviews here and, wearing my editorial hat, I’m going to be reviewing portfolios for “CLiNT.” Pretty much all the big companies will be taking part in this new talent search, but on Sunday afternoon “CLiNT” will be giving the best artist there their first professional gig. We’re going to make the announcement live at the con, and I’ll be writing a short script for them to appear in an issue of “CLiNT” a couple of months later.
You’ve had releases about some of the movie components of the show, including a panel focusing on 2000AD’s incoming “Dredd” film and this mystery “Movie X” which everyone is assuming will be one of the incoming summer blockbusters getting a full-on first look preview. What’s your expectation for how this will impact the show?
I love building excitement. We want this to be a real event. I do it for the Millarworld books and I want to do the same here, teasing it all out slowly and driving people into a frenzy. Sure, we could tell you what Movie X is now, but I like the idea of people speculating even at the convention and nobody knowing until the lights go down and everyone has a big smile on their face. Likewise, how cool is it that the 2000AD panel has Andrew MacDonald (the Dredd movie producer) coming along to do a Q and A about 2000AD’s greatest character? I’m lucky that I have an unusual address book and friends at the top of both industry’s so we were able to make a lot of calls and really spice everything up. By the way, could I just clarify that Andrew will at best have STILLS from the movie and not actual scenes? The movie will still be shooting at this stage and they won’t have anything edited.
So noted! The other fun bit of news is this “Pros Vs. Fans” quiz show you’ve roped Jonathan Ross into hosting. How can fans prepare to make the talent look silly here, and generally what do you expect out of Ross on the weekend that a lot of folks might not expect?
This was Jonathan’s idea, actually… the idea of doing a comic book game show live on-stage and we can stream the thing online. We’ve got a show here called “Never Mind The Buzzcocks,” and the idea of doing a comic book version with Jonathan hosting is just great. The little twist is that we have fans versus pros and that’s going to really up the tension (laughs). What’s going to be alarming for the fans is that we, the pros, are super-fans when you think about it. We don’t just think about this stuff on weekends and evenings. This is 24/seven for us so I have a suspicion the pros are going to walk this. [Laughs]
So…comics talent, Hollywood debuts, celebs and book announcements. Are there any other categories you’re trying to hit with this show that folks haven’t heard about yet? Anything we can expect between now and the full, final round of talent announcements on February 14?
What’s exciting is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We only announced this 14 days ago and in that time you’ve seen the first wave of comic-book talent plus The Stan Lee Awards, a comic-book game show hosted by the biggest media figure in the country, a panel where the nation’s biggest comedian (Frankie Boyle) is going to be taking part and so on. But this is just the beginning. There’s a steady wave of news coming between now and February 14 when we hit you with how the studios are going to be involved in all this. The excitement is clearly infectious because we’ve sold over half the tickets in the first two weeks. I guess the appetite for this was bigger than we even hoped and that’s very heartening in a time when there isn’t a huge deal of money around. We want this to be exclusive, a kind of comic-
book Glastonbury, where the tickets go fast every year, but you get a chance to see the kind of names you would normally never expect to see in real life. It’s ambitious in the sense that we’re bringing the best the industry has to offer and we’re having it in a country that isn’t necessarily associated with superheroes. But it’s working and we’re very pleased and we expect to be sold out long before the con itself launches. No matter what, tickets won’t be available on the door. When
they’re gone they’re gone, but the website should be up and running a short while later to buy passes for the following year.