MILLARWORLD EXCLUSIVE: Inside "The Secret Service"

For Mark Millar, the comics project that will finally team him with artist Dave Gibbons -- a collaboration the writer has been planning since he was 16 -- came about as a series of coincidences, realizations and ideas that involved the team-up. The first one happened a few years ago as Millar was working on his first self-produced film adaptation.

"This all started when Matthew Vaughn and I were talking about 'Casino Royale' a couple of years back in the pub between breaks on 'Kick-Ass,'" the writer told CBR. "We loved the movie, but wondered why they didn't do all the stuff where he learned how to be James Bond. We've both got a couple of friends in special forces, both here and in the US, and even the real life training, without any artistic license, is really incredible set-piece stuff. If you ramp it up a little, it makes for some incredible scenes in a comic and in a movie. 'The Secret Service' is about a number of things, but one of the central thrusts is about a young, wayward hoodie kid from North London learning how to be James Bond. There's a great story about Terence Young, the director of 'Dr. No' and the guy who really established the tone and look of the movie Bond we all understand. He liked Connery, but felt he was a bit crumpled and rough around the edges and so took him under his wing and turned him into the gentleman he needed for the role. He took him to his tailor, his barber, casinos and all the best restaurants. He taught him how to order the best wine and how to engage in the kind of well-read chatter James Bond would be able to handle as an ex (well, expelled) Etonian. I guess it was like 'My Fair Lady' in a way, but mixing this together with counter-terrorism training really seemed fun to us and become the spine of this project."

Of course, now that those ideas have rolled into a specific story, Millar is beginning to realize just how potent the team-up at the heart of "Secret Service" is for him. "When I looked at the art and saw this very distinguished older guy taking a very rough around the edges younger guy under his wing and turning him into something cool, I realized it looked like me and Dave in a strange way," he laughed. "The older, dark haired guy trying to make something of this kid and trying to turn him into something decent.

"This education of a 21st Century super-spy forms the structure of the story. I can't give too much away because Matthew Vaughn and I co-conceived the thing with Dave, and Vaughn is literally right now writing the screenplay of the movie, so we're on a non-disclosure agreement for a little while yet. But basically, if I had to say anything else about it, I would say that this is our version of S.H.I.E.L.D. or U.N.C.L.E. or any of those brilliant super-spy concepts, but seen through that skewed perspective we brought to superheroes in 'Kick-Ass.' It feels very, very fresh. I don't think there's ever been a comic like this and all three of us are very excited about it. I've wanted to work with Dave since I was sixteen (the letter I sent him was published on CBR, recently), so it had to be something big"

Millar also said Gibbons' style on the project -- which readers can see in the exclusive color art and pages below -- has grown from some of the more iconic works they may associate with the artist. "What he has done, which has amazed Bryan Hitch, Leinil Yu and I who have seen his pages is that he's gotten even better," the writer said. "He's one of these guys who you know is a master of his craft, and with 'Watchmen,' he's got one of the three greatest books of all time. You can't imagine doing better than that, but he's just growing as an artist. John Romita, Jr. is a guy like that, who every now and then just takes a big jump up, and I feel like Dave does that. What keeps him young-looking is that he never stands still. He's always thinking, 'What can I do next?' Just look at how 'Martha Washington' was so different from 'Watchmen,' visually, and then he did 'The Originals,' which I think is his best-drawn book so far. But it's absolutely different from those other two. He doesn't allow himself to get fat and do the same stuff all the time.

"In 'Secret Service,' he's pushed himself again. Hitch phoned me up when Dave finished the first issue a couple of months back, and he said, 'I've never seen Dave's pencils look this good. It's even better than I expected.' It's exciting. I feel like he's super-charged by it all, and I must admit that every time I get an e-mail from him, I look first to see if there's an attachment, and I genuinely get excited -- just to see Dave's pencils and his inks. They're so uniquely Dave. But, then, seeing Dave's lettering on top of that? It's brilliant! I feel like I'm 16 again and reading 'Watchmen.'"

Check out Gibbons' work now, and return tomorrow for more exclusive reveals as part of MILLARWORLD WEEK on CBR!

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