All week on CBR, readers have learned about the brand new steps Mark Millar is taking with his Millarworld Comics label in the new year from the birth of “The Secret Service” with Dave Gibbons to the unveiling of “Jupiter’s Children” with Frank Quitely and beyond. But today, the final installment of our special Millarworld Week presents the next phase of the writer’s plans for two of his biggest franchises: the villain-centric action of he and Steve McNiven’s “Nemesis” and the real world twists coming in the “Kick-Ass” spinoff “Hit-Girl” with John Romita, Jr., both of which are published through Marvel Comics’ Icon imprint.
This September, “Nemesis 2” will ship to comic shops, and as Millar tells it, the story both picks right up from the first volume and reinvents the concept. “The sequel is an entirely different beast from the first story,” he said. “It opens up the world and expands upon everything we’ve seen before with new leads and an entirely new set-up. ‘Nemesis’ was always intended to be a 12-issue story with three four-issue series. Each one is interlinked and builds, but they’re also quite self-contained and work as stories in their own right. The only character who returns from the first volume is the old guy on the beach on the last page of the last issue. You realize that the Nemesis idea, this concept of dressing up and being a super-villain, is basically a holiday for rich guys. A few times a year, these guys take a few weeks away from their multi-national companies and spend a bunch of money to feast upon the poor. It’s the 1% having fun messing up the lives of the 99%.
“In historical context, we’re similar to where we were in the Victorian Age where the masses feared the aristocracy, these men who seemed above the law and who, in some cases, determined how their workers were even going to vote. These fears emerged in pop culture with books like ‘Dracula’ — the idea of a count feasting on the poor, a blood-sucker in the most literal way, and this reflected the revolutionary vibe sweeping across Europe and Russia in particular at the time. In a similar way, I think that attitude has returned now with the gap between rich and poor being wider than it has been for generations. After 80 or 90 years of benevolent capitalism where people like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark would be viewed as heroes, we now regard these guys a little more suspiciously. How exactly did they make this money and how do they sleep at night in their massive homes when people are sleeping rough on the other side of their electric fence? Can they justify importing 500 designer cowls from Japan when some people can’t feed their families in the neighborhoods they’re protecting? In reality, they probably wouldn’t be very nice at all. Nemesis is taking that idea to a logical conclusion and just being honest about it. This is about rich men putting on masks and capes and getting a kick out of beating up poor people.”
Within the pages of the new comic, the legacy of the very first man to carry the super-villain mantle will be explored as well as its inheritors. “I’ve alluded to the fact that the first Nemesis was an electronics billionaire, and the opening scene of ‘Nemesis 2’ is a funeral,” Millar said. “The funeral is of a world-famous computer genius. He was one of the world’s richest men, he was the original Nemesis. We have a little fun with that, dropping hints on who he really might have been and how his death was covered up. At the service, all these other billionaires are around talking about who’s going to be next in the costume. Who gets the next shot at this in their little secret society? We get a new storyline from that about a father and a twenty-something son, but the story of ‘Nemesis 2’ comes at the concept from a different perspective. The first one was all about people having to deal with a billionaire monster who was terrorizing them. In part two, we flip it around so people can see the inside of this club and how they train for all this to go out and have fun. And part three will be out in 2013, wrapping the whole thing up.”
And just as the writer has carried over collaborators through his Millarworld projects, Steve McNiven will continue to draw “Nemesis 2” and the third volume after that. “Marvel has been very accommodating about the Millarworld artists taking a break and doing their own things,” Millar noted. “It’s actually worked out well for everybody. The guys have it written into their contracts that they can do these books, and once they get made into movies, it brings a certain amount of heat back to the creators when they have a new Marvel book like ‘Avengers’ or whatever. Johnny Romita, for example is the co-creator and producer of ‘Kick-Ass,’ so that’s a nice headline when they’re promoting his next Marvel gig and obviously it was nice for us to be described as the Wolverine team when we were promoting ‘Kick-Ass’ #1. Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that we’re doing what we’re doing now, but jumping between the comics and the movies has worked out really well for both. It’s the same with the Marvel movies, too. It creates a nice synergy. The writer, Joe Carnahan, is coming over here to Scotland in a couple of weeks so we can really get our teeth into the ‘Nemesis’ movie, which is very exciting as I’m a huge fan of his stuff. There’s been misreports online, as Joe tried to say, that the deal got killed at Fox, but this is nonsense as we only finished the paperwork and got paid about 12 weeks ago. Some blogger just saw tweets between Joe and I where Joe was talking about the draft of a treatment he’d done with his brother not being used, but it was more of a miscommunication, the exec who was in charge having moved from the company a few months back. Everything is exactly where it was a few weeks ago.”
On the opposite side of the Millarworld spinoff fence comes “Hit-Girl” whose May debut bridges ideas from the two previous volumes of “Kick-Ass.” “How does Hit-Girl take center stage? It’s very, very simple actually. Dave just breaks a few fingers,” Millar said while sharing early pages from the final issue of “Kick-Ass 2.” “If you go out and pretend to be a superhero and actually get in a fight, well if you punched someone and broke your hand you’d be useless as a superhero for a while. I had a friends at school who broke his hand with a single punch, so it’s a real thing that happens every once in a while. It’s not like Batman where you can take a lot of hits and just show up next night and be exactly as cool as you were the night before. So I thought it’d be funny if Kick-Ass punched someone and broke his hand, and he was just out of action for eight weeks. It’s as simple as that and what would really happen sometimes.
“In the story, Kick-Ass breaks his hand on a mission, and Hit-Girl is out on her own,” he said, digging into the plot and its creative history. “This story takes place between ‘Kick-Ass 1’ and ‘Kick-Ass 2.’ There were loads of ideas I had that didn’t fit in either book, so this was actually planned to come out last year because initially we were going to use a different artist for it and have this running at the same time. We got a great artist called Leandro Fernandez, who I’m a huge fan of. He drew one page, and when the page came in, it was so beautiful, but because it wasn’t drawn by Johnny Romita, I felt it was strange. It’s different if you’re drawing Spider-Man or Superman because those guys have been though so many writers and artists. But if something’s creator-owned and you see it drawn by someone else, it feels weird. And I said to Leandro, ‘Don’t be offended or anything, but how would you feel if we went back to Johnny?’ And he said, ‘Don’t worry. I feel as if I’d taken his gig off him anyway.’ And Johnny is a total gentleman because he said, ‘To be honest, I was disappointed I wasn’t doing it because I love these characters, but I didn’t want to say.’ So they were both absolutely brilliant and Johnny came back to the project, Leandro moving on with no hard feelings and totally understanding. Leandro and I are going to get together in the future and do something, and Johnny gets to do this story between the two books, which is great because I can do all the stories I didn’t have room for. There’s plans for two Hit-Girl volumes and these take place between the individual Kick-Ass chapters”
Another big appeal to the spinoff comic was the chance to further explore the rise of Red Mist as he goes from angry nerd of the first volume to the so-called Motherfucker of book two. “Just as Dave Lizewski was the first real life superhero going out and getting caught on camera, I wanted to show the first super crime in the Hit-Girl series,” Millar explained. “I thought Red Mist going out and doing the first super crime caught on tape would be quite interesting. That then inspires all his super-villain followers, but they’re all really rubbish at first and it’s almost more like pranks, everything just going wrong. The Kick-Ass sequel is very dark, which is something Matthew and I had talked about extending into the movie, making this ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ but the Hit-Girl mini is much lighter and all the stuff with Red Mist is still pretty funny at this stage before he’s spirited away from the United States. I like the idea of Red Mist going out and training with Mother Russia and this all leads into ‘Kick-Ass 2,’ but the main story revolves around Hit-Girl and her attempts to have a normal family life and a normal schooling after all these years in a bubble with her fanboy father and this odd, almost ’80s movie view of the world.
“She’s never lived with a woman before and that’s interesting, a female influence in her life almost entirely upset until this point, and she has a tough time trying to relate to girls her own age. She was such a breakout in the first story, but I thought she needed more room to breath and I’ve had a great time with this. The fun of her in ‘Kick-Ass 2’ is that she’s in that ‘Unforgiven’ mode when she won’t pick up a gun. But here we get to see her cut loose between 1 and 2 before her step father catches her and tells her to stop. It’s been an absolute blast to write and I’ve managed to get a flashback or two back to her Big Daddy days, which I absolutely love writing. Their relationship is such a lot of fun.”
Of course, fans are waiting to hear the particulars of the next film in the “Kick-Ass” franchise, and Millar said that this new series will creatively inform how that movie hits. “When we do the ‘Kick-Ass 2’ movie the plot will combine ‘Hit-Girl’ and the ‘Kick-Ass 2’ comic. That was always the plan,” he said. “There wasn’t room to do the whole sequel in a single comic series because it would have been a weighty 12 or 13 issues or something. The first act was always going to be the Hit-Girl comic, which is five issues long and takes place between the two volumes of the book. This series is maybe the first 20-30 pages of the next movie and of course ‘Kick-Ass 2’ ends as a comic in February with a big surprise. Of course, it sets up the final part of the trilogy, but I think people will be surprised where this goes. We’re all really pleased with it. Matthew’s producing and overseeing the whole thing, doing what Lucas did on ‘Empire’ and bringing in a trusted writer and director. He knows what he’s doing and we’re excited about what’s being planned here. As to when we go public with what’s happening I have no idea. I know what the schedule is they’re talking about, but ultimately, it’s up to him and the studio.”
Stay tuned over the course of 2012 for more news from Millarworld