To say that Mark Millar has fans would be an understatement. His fan base is so huge that when he lost his iPad at the airport, it ended up being returned to him because a fan immediately recognized it as his and gave it back. Millar’s biggest worry wasn’t that his ideas would be lost, though. “I was so relieved, my wife would’ve killed me because there were photos of the new baby in the iPad that hadn’t been transferred yet!”
By 10 a.m. last Sunday, the lines at National Book Store’s signing event featuring “Super Crooks” writer Mark Millar, artist Leinil Yu, inker Gerry Alanguilan—both Pinoys—and colorist Sunny Gho were already showing signs of an epic audience gathering. “We’ve been trying to get Mark to come here for two years, and when he tweeted about the competition, we knew it may be our only chance to get him here,” says NBS Marketing director Miguel Ramos. This was a big event for comic geeks in Manila, and a first of its kind for Millar. “The four of us are going to be in one place for the first time ever for the signing, and the chances of us being in one room again are quite slim and it was lovely to get together with these guys,” says Mark.
Check out Super’s conversation with Mark Millar, and how we learned more about his new baby venture, his Twitter addiction, flat chests, and which DC character he’d want to be revealed gay.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get them everywhere, but sometimes I don’t even realize that I’m getting them. I’ll maybe use something from my life or my family’s or friend’s life, and it just appears in comics and it’s only two years later that I go back and (gasps), “That’s that big thing that happened to my brother!” and I didn’t even think about it. I think it’s coming from inside my head but sometimes it’s from real life. Whenever I do, I give it a little twist, a comic book twist. Kick-Ass for example has lots of things from my real life when I was a teenager, but I made him a superhero instead because it would be kind of boring reading about a kid in Scotland so I made it New York and added a superhero costume. There were lots of things from real life and I think that’s what makes the stories a little bit more interesting to people ’cause if it happened to you maybe it happened to them, too and you feel a lot better about the connection, I think.
Kick-Ass was bullied, were you bullied a lot in Scotland?
No, I was actually planning on being the bully (laughs). My plan was to be a superhero when I was fifteen. I was reading a lot of comic books, which were really cool, my friends were as well. Myself and my friend Paul had plans to be superheroes. We went to gym, made costumes and the plan was to go out and fight crime, and the thing is we lived in a nice part of Scotland (Coatbridge), there wasn’t really any crime! (Laughs) But we were so lucky because if we had to fight crime we would’ve been killed on the first day probably, ’cause we didn’t have any superpowers. That’s where Kick-Ass came from, the story of what would’ve happened if I had lived in New York, and done it properly.
So you really went out and bought fabric for costumes?
Yeah! And designed it and all. It didn’t look like the Kick-Ass costume, mine was just like a trench coat and a mask and a hat (laughs). But we never actually went out to fight, we were planning on doing it and then we went, “Hang on, I think we are going mad, this is ridiculous!”
What was the first comic book you read as a kid?
I can tell you exactly, I remember it was one of two, I can’t remember which came first, but there was one where Superman lost his superpowers and I think it was Superman no. 297, I think it might be. It was either that or Spiderman. I was only a little kid, I was four, but I thought it was the greatest thing I have ever seen.
It must’ve been a dream come true, reading Superman as a child and then writing a story arc about him as an adult.
Yeah, yeah! It’s crazy, the way some kids wanted to be an astronaut I wanted to be a comic book writer, that was my absolute ambition. To get to do it is a bit like playing football for your country, there’s nothing I wanted to do more than this, it’s great, yeah. I’m living my dream, which is really rare.
Most characters have different story arcs, did you wish there was an arc that was still ongoing?
As a reader, you mean? Yeah, I think quite early I started following writers. I became very aware of credits, Stan Lee was the first name I kept seeing, and I liked his stuff, I liked his stories every time I’d see them. The same with TV shows, I’d watch Hill Street Blues and realized that the episodes I liked were written by Steven Bochco. I noticed guys like Alan Moore, Frank Miller. When I was really young I loved their stories and I would follow them, so when one finished on Daredevil or Swamp Thing, they would move on to Watchmen or Dark Knight. I didn’t so much love the characters as the people who made the stories, they were the guys to follow.
You were more into the writers even then.
Very much yeah. I met Alan Moore when I was thirteen, and that was very inspirational, to find out that you could do that as a job, because he was a guy who lived in the same country as me and was working in America, and thought, “Hmm, I could do that, maybe.” It’s the same here, there’s an amazing amount of Filipino artists, so many Filipino comic book artists. Guys I thought were Spanish I’d later find out were Filipino. The Philippines has an enormous amount of talent, DC and Marvel came looking in the 70’s and got some great guys, like Alfredo Alcala. They inspired a whole generation of guys. Today the biggest of them is Leinil Yu, who I’ve been very lucky enough to work with on three projects now. But then Leinil knows ten guys who are really good, too, there’s a never-ending bunch of Filipino artists, which is brilliant.
How was it working with Leinil Yu?
Amazing. I’ve wanted to work with Leinil since 1999. I saw his stuff thirteen years ago, I was like “Wow!” I can tell instantly when someone’s good, I look at one panel and know they’re great and I saw his stuff and I thought, “This guy’s amazing,” and when I went to Marvel, one of the reasons was to work with him and he just left the company! I don’t know if it was because I was coming, and he went over to DC, and stayed there for seven years. We would e-mail once a week, I’d ask him when he was coming back to Marvel, so when he came back, I pounced on him. I was desperate to work with him.
Fanboys have been known to be a tenacious bunch. What was the funniest or creepiest encounter you’ve had?
99.99 % of the people you meet are really nice guys, no one lines up for two or three hours to tell you they hate you, except for one guy. I remember there was a huge line in London, I was signing book after book and I could see this guy looking kind of grumpy in the line and he comes up to me and says, “I just waited in line to say that I really don’t like your stuff.” I love the fact that he waited in line and didn’t just shout it. Only in England would you get someone that polite. There was this one guy who got me to draw a picture on his leg and asked me to draw Wolverine, signed my name underneath. He came back the next day and he had my drawing tattooed on his leg, but I felt bad because it wasn’t a good drawing. If I knew he was going to have it for the rest of his life I would’ve spent more time on it, but I did a slap dash drawing, and it sorta looked like Wolverine had had a stroke, his face was drooping.
So you draw, too?
I was an artist before I was a writer as well, but it’s really hard to do both, somebody gave me very good advice: Focus on one or the other. When I was starting out, I had no money to buy pencils and paper and things, and being a writer seemed cheaper (laughs).
Are you on Twitter?
All the time! Too much. I’m actually on Twitter all the time, the first thing I do when I wake up is go on Twitter and I’ll tweet “Waking up,” or something (laughs). It’s ridiculous.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but DC is planning to revel a semi-famous superhero to be gay, who do you think it is? Or who would you want it to be?
I’d like it to be Wonder Woman so you can see her kissing another girl.
Just Wonder Woman?
And maybe Supergirl so they could kiss each other.
Now that we’re on the subject of comic book women, I have to ask, has there been a flat-chested female character in the comic book world… at least below a double D?
Hit Girl? Hit Girl’s flat-chested ’cause she’s only ten (laughs). But it’s interesting, I’d say Hit Girl is the most successful superhero of the last ten years who’s a woman. In Halloween I see people dress up as Hit Girl and she’s the star of the Kick-Ass movie and the Kick-Ass comic sold crazy numbers this year. She’s the breakout star of the comic and it’s quite interesting that she doesn’t wear a micro-skirt, she’s not in high heels and she doesn’t have huge breasts, so I wonder if there’s a message there, maybe we should try something a little different to appeal to our female readers, other than make everyone look like a porn star (laughs).
Huffington Post called you the “Nicholas Sparks” of the comic world.
Yeah. Who’s Nicholas Sparks?
Which actors would you want to see taking up the role of Johnny Bolt in Super Crooks?
We’re looking at approaching Bradley Cooper for the lead, who would be great. I think he’d be great as a super villain, a likable super villain con man kind of guy, Ryan Gosling and Jon Hamm, we really like him, too and Mark Strong maybe, they’re our dream choices but you just never know because sometimes somebody’s busy but some we’re going to approach certainly.
Have you ever considered writing a full-length novel?
I’ve been asked to write one a couple of times and I might do something in the spring, I’ve already written a children’s book, it comes out in spring, it’s all done and drawn. I did it secretly a few months ago, it’s a thing for the under-sevens, and it’s funny to do something like Kick-Ass and go and do something for 5-year-olds. I just had another baby recently, I wonder if that’s why I did a young children’s book ’cause it’s gonna be 18 years before I let the new baby see Kick-Ass, so just so she knows what Dad’s doing up in the office upstairs (laughs).
Tell us about your new children’s book.
It’s called “Kindergarten Heroes,” kind of like “The X-Men” for 5-year-olds, where the superheroes leave their kids while they’re fighting crime and they need someone to look after their 3-year-olds and regular nurseries can’t cope, so what they all do is leave their little 3- or 4-year-olds with this special teacher. It’s drawn in this really cute manga style. I put an ad up on my website looking for someone who can do a specific style, and I saw this guy, Curtis Tiegs. I was so blown away, and he’s drawn the whole thing, it looks so good. It’s so cute.
How long do you see yourself writing comic books?
Forever. That’s my job. I never saw it as a stepping stone to something else, and I got offered things all the time, I got offered movies, every week I’m offered something, and I always turn it down. Writing comics is the best job in the world, why would I want to do something else?