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STUDIO TOURS: Writer Mark Millar

by  in Comic News Comment
STUDIO TOURS: Writer Mark Millar

Just like your weekly comic purchases, we know you always look forward to CBR News’ STUDIO TOUR features and this time we’re back with the man of the hour: Mark Millar. The scribe has drawn acclaim for his work on “The Authority,” “Ultimates,” “Spider-Man” and the biggest comic event of the year, Marvel Comics’ “Civil War.” If that weren’t enough, one of his projects, “Wanted,” is on its way to becoming a major motion picture.


With the release of “Civil War” #7, Millar is the scribe on everyone’s mind and he was happy to offer fans a look at where he wrote the mini-series, as well as a number of other big projects.

By Mark Millar


When CBR first asked me to take part in this feature, my wife begged me to hold off for a few weeks and finish decorating the office. But given that we’ve lived here about eighteen months and I’ve been promising this since day one, it really was just wishful thinking on her part. Her next move was to get me to at least tidy up, but again I felt this was dishonest as my office generally isn’t very tidy and what you’re going to see over the coming sixteen pictures really is how it generally looks. An office is an extension of the creative mind and my own was once described by a friend as the kind of hole where police would kick in a door and find a missing child. And so all I can do is assure you that this is merely the third floor of the house and everywhere else is very spick and span. We bought this place because it had three rooms up here in the brain of the house and the deal was I could mess it up as much as I liked provided I kept paying the bills.

This is one of the capes worn by Christopher Reeve in the Superman movies. I bought it on eBay in a moment of madness with the insane excuse that it matches the carpet and saves us buying a picture for the top of the stairs. It’s actually a little more eerie than I expected, like I’ve killed Superman himself and snatched his cape as a trophy. My daughter is a little freaked out by it and admitted just last week that she “wishes we didn’t have that dead guy’s cape in the hall.” Nevertheless, here it hangs as we walk up the stairs from the level where everybody sleeps to the place where I do all my typing and scribbling.

This is the view from the top floor. It looks like a Bernie Krigstein panel and hurts my head even looking at it sober. When we bought this place, my brother bet me ten pounds that I would come in drunk one night and take a tumble down all these stairs within five years. Eighteen months have passed and so far I’ve been very lucky. This top floor leads into three rooms where I do all my work and reading.

This is the main office where I spend most of my day. Look at all the books on the left hand side if you want to see how clever I am. Here you’ll find high-brow tomes such as Wizard and my “Ultimate X-Men” graphic novels. Sadly, these are in no order whatsoever and only account for maybe 1/4 of my books and comics. The rest are stored in another room up here and anytime I need to lay my hands on, for example, “Action Comics” #884 to check a fact I literally waste a day doing so. Sometime soon I will hire a Polish immigrant to come in and arrange all these books into some kind of order and pay them less than fifty pence for their troubles.

This is my beloved desk without which my computer and tea-cups would literally be sitting on the floor and writing would be impossible. Thus, I owe this desk everything. Please note the nine cups and mugs lying around between the assorted bottles, tissues (don’t ask), pens and note-pads. I scribble loose drawings of every comic I do and pretty much everything I’ve done in the last few years exists here in caveman form. A bottle of Vanish stain remover can be seen on the desk if you look very closely. This is because I’m training a new dog at the moment and she escaped up here and peed just the other day. One day I will take this stain remover back downstairs for the family, but for now it is mine. Also note the Paddington Bear stuff lying around. There’s a small, vintage pinball machine here and a little Paddington case, but my most treasured possession is my Paddington pencil top as his hat really does come off. He sits here and judges me as I write, always goading me to be better. There’s a fan on the corner of the desk, which is ironic, as I’ve had it five years and it’s never once been warm enough in this country to switch it on. Is this an example of our dry British humour?

Perched on the desk, one day to be hung, are several of the first Marvel comics I ever read. Most of these come from around 1975 to 1976 and are black and white reprints of comics Americans read some years before. Even now when I see colour interiors it seems like something from the future because Spidey, the FF and all the Marvel greats were in glorious black and white for me, the only hints at costume colours seen on the covers. I don’t keep any modern comics around (even my own) because they’re too distracting. This stuff powers me up as the stories seem so weird and faraway now. These comics are the secret origin of my enthusiasm today and a constant reminder I’m lucky to be living out my five-year old fantasy.

Some underpants and socks scattered around the floor with the ever-present Fed Ex envelopes and other bits of crap that arrive every day. I have no idea how this underwear gets here, but it’s a semi-permanent feature on my floor and, as I type, I see two pairs of jeans and a shirt on the sofa behind me. Where does this all come from? I know it’s mine, but I don’t remember undressing here anytime recently. The blue bubble is from my kickboxing personal trainer. I stand on this for twenty minutes every day to get my balance right before he shows up and kicks the shit out of me. What a great job!

You’ve seen my framed Marvel books and these are my first DC comics. Again, they’re all from around 1975 and 1976. I was just learning to read at the time and often just looked at the pictures. This made many of the stories confusing, the symbolic covers with Superman and Clark Kent appearing together making me think Kent was part of the supporting cast with Lois, Perry and Jimmy. As eagle-eyed readers will note (apologies to my blind readers) there’s a lot of covers here where people are either pulling on or pulling off masks. I have no idea why, but a glance around the comics of that period showed this creepy idea used every other month. Perhaps my all-time favourite Superman comic is featured here; a Neal Adams “Action Comics” cover where Luthor decides he can’t beat the superheroes as adults and so turns them all into six-year olds and literally just beats them to death. The tiny Batman are Flash are lying here dead on the cover, Superbaby getting a super-spanking from Lex (who even builds himself a power-glove to make it more painful). God bless the Comics Code. No zombies, but super-infanticide is just dandy.

This is a Queen calendar I have hanging on my door without a hint of irony. And I don’t just love Queen, I hate every other band. Every other band actually angers me whereas Queen never fail to bring a smile to my face. I remember swapping the Sheer Heart Attack album with someone in school when a guy I liked snorted, saying that Freddie Mercury was gay. I was so incensed that I punched him in the stomach and a huge fight erupted. It was one of maybe four fights I’ve been in my entire life, but I felt, aged 13, that I had to defend Freddie’s honour. Imagine my surprise when my physics teacher said he was gay and “he doesn’t wear those tights for the ladies, Millar. He wears them for the gentlemen.”

This is the second of the three rooms I work in upstairs and referred to by the family as the chill-out room. This is where I do my sketching, lay-outs and story ideas. I try to keep it as comic-free as possible so my head is clearer and less influenced by the other books (hence the TV and movie posters which go right around the room). This is also where I tend to paint and draw, 99% of which people in the industry have never seen. Some people have asked me why I never try to sell this stuff, but not everything we do should be for money. This is my hobby and so different from the day job – it’s very relaxing. The phone pictured here is where I take all my calls, the one I keep in the office usually switched off for when I’m writing.

Over in the corner of the chill out room there’s a little place behind a curtain that winds backwards and away from us. This is where I keep loads and loads of DVDs, CDs and videos. There’s also a small door here that’s a bit spooky and leads to a secret passage wrapping right around the house and into a store-room. I only edged along this once, as a dare, and it was terrifying. It’s not on the plan of the house and has no real function. Note: two of the Bratz who are riding past here in their convertible.

I’m not really big on autographs. It’s genuinely a bit baffling to me and seems like a trick from the Middle Ages where you own a little piece of someone’s soul because you managed to acquire their mark. Are we supposed to impress others with these scribbles? Still, when I was tracking down a “Superman” one-sheet I found this one signed by Brando, Reeve, Kidder, John Williams, Donner, etc, and felt it was such a one-off I had to nab it. If you enlarge the picture you should be able to make out all thirteen autographs. I like to think Brando signed his for the price of one BK Whopper tossed over the wall of his house. Actually, as I type, I’m starting to worry about the authenticity of this thing. This poster looked pretty new and Reeve was paralysed for a decade. Bastards!

This room is also where the family watch our movies and where all the computer game stuff can be found. But please don’t assume I’m a gamester or whatever these freaks like to be called. I loathe computer games and this PS2, which my dear wife bought me two years ago, has been played maybe once. I don’t trust adults who play computer games. It smells too much like Internet Grooming (“Hey, 12-year old! I’m into all the stuff you’re into!!”). That said, I do like retro gaming and am often found playing Tetris or Pitfall or any of the old Atari stuff. But I’m not a pervert like the rest of them. Please believe me!

This is the third and final room connected to my office. It’s where I store all the books and comics (mostly in boxes) and where I keep the piano. Don’t be impressed at a secret skill. Were I any good I’d carry one around with me. All I can play is the ’60s Batman theme and I play this most days before I start working.

Do not be alarmed at the Black and White Minstrel music I’m trying to learn at the moment. This man isn’t a white guy blacked up in the offensive style of Mister Al Jolson. This poor bugger suffers from a rare genetic disorder and was actually born with this face. Pray for him.

These are some of the top-notch original art pages friends have given me over the years. Some lovely stuff here from Quitely, McNiven, Chaykin, Kubert and a galaxy of stars. The best bit? I got ’em all for free, the suckers! The plan is to decorate my office with these one day and also all the walls in the hall so those 38 stairs become a kind of gallery. I’m a firm believer in keeping your awards in a box. Having them on display is meaningless and like framing your exam results for people to see. But tip-top artwork from artists you’ve worked with is a nice reminder of the good stuff you’ve done. Please note: Among these thirty-odd framed pieces there is yet to be one from Mister B Hitch of Sussex, England. And they say the Scots are cheap!!!

This is my favourite picture in the world. My daughter, aged just six at the time, painted this for me on New Year’s Day as a surprise. It’s a shot of her teddy bear dressed up as Superman which she described as a combination of something she’s really into and something I’m really into. If my house were on fire this would be the first thing I’d grab along with my Paddington pencil-top. Of course, I’d brave the flames a second time and grab the family, too.

Thanks to you Mark for such an intimate look into his home. You can discuss the story with fellow fans on CBR’s Community Forum.


NEXT WEEK: Mike Allred!

And be sure to check out any of our previous STUDIO TOURS you may have missed:

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