Mark Millar interview (March 2008)

 height=(WoW MAR 08)

Mark Millar is the popular writer who has written such books as DC/WildStorm's Authority, Image's Wanted, and Marvel's Civil War and Ultimates. Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Mark about his latest book from Marvel, Marvel 1985.

To link to this interview, use this link (right click and copy)

Westfield: What can you tell us about the development of Marvel 1985?

 height=Mark Millar: It's actually a project I've wanted to do for a few years. I've always had this idea of a super-hero comic with characters that we know and grew up with coming to our world. I've had that idea since I was a kid. I love the idea of that. The villains of the Marvel Universe like Dr. Doom and the Red Skull and Magneto and these guys all finding a way here. We have New York, we've got London, we've got Tokyo and all these cities they know, but we don't have Captain America, Reed Richards or the X-Men to protect us. I always felt there was a story there. That's really the genesis of the whole thing.

Westfield: Why 1985?

Millar: I wanted to do a story that focused on the time when I was probably at my most obsessive as a fanboy. It's something we all share. Everyone who works in comics, especially in their teens, had their obsessiveness with  height=this stuff, yet I don't think there's been a mainstream comic dealing with that. We've seen things in the undergrounds about that, but nothing from Marvel or DC that focuses on how much people love Marvel and DC stuff growing up. That seemed like something I could actually combine it with and for me, that period of 84 to about 86 were the golden years. You had Secret Wars, Crisis, all that kind of stuff. The revamp of DC and Marvel essentially. Frank Miller on Daredevil and Dark Knight Returns. That's a very exciting period. I wanted to do something also that spun out of Secret Wars because that was the very first crossover. We're very used to these things now, but back then it was so rare. I wanted to do this story set immediately after that first big event because it had such an impact on the medium at the time. It's set when I was about 15 and I made the main character about my age, so it's kinda of semi-autobiographical except I never actually met any super-heroes. It's not the only difference, but it's kind of a big one. [laughter]

Westfield: Is there anything else about the story or about the characters involved that you can tell us?

 height=Millar: Yeah, sure. Another thing I wanted to do was do a creepy little horror story too. On the one hand, there's a Marvel event because it's all the heroes, all the villains, everybody fighting. Then, on the other hand, I wanted to do a horror story because I actually think a lot of these characters have fantastic horror potential. Somebody like Dr. Doom or Magneto just walking through New York, what they could do on our world is frightening. The story begins in a small town community, somewhere in middle America. What would local cops, who've maybe never even read a Marvel comic, how would they react to somebody like that walking down the street? It's on quite a grand scale because all of these characters have all come through. I like the idea of that, just normal people up against something with no super-heroes to protect them. That's the dilemma, the situation, the protagonist finds himself in. He's a little teenage kid. He and his friends are really into Marvel Comics, who find out that all these villains they've been reading about for years are real and here they are. They've come through a doorway from the Marvel Universe. In a way, it's like a little geek fantasy too because the only people who know how to protect their friends and family from these guys are the geeks who've been reading the comics because they know their weaknesses and so on.

Westfield: How much thought went into such things as how will these character's powers work in our world?

 height=Millar: That was actually very easy to do. We've got an entire lifetime of familiarity with these characters. We're so used to seeing comics where they throw punches and people get knocked through walls and so on, but we never really quite see the ramifications of it. Even a minor powered guy like Stilt Man would be genuinely terrifying. Cops would not be able to deal with it. We can barely deal with guys with a gun, so with a guy with super-extendable stilts, we'd have no chance. And then to go up against Dr. Doom. Dr. Doom could take down the entire United States Army. Suddenly it became quite frightening and quite real. Once you let it go from there, the story almost wrote itself.

Westfield: You're working with artist Tommy Lee Edwards on the book. What do you think he brings to it? Are you enjoying working with him?

 height=Millar: It's amazing. He was actually chosen for me by the Marvel office and it was such a perfect choice because I wanted somebody who had a real naturalism, a semi-photorealistic style, because this had to be set in the real world itself. Seeing it look like a traditional Marvel Comic would have been off. It just wouldn't have felt right. There's a darkness, and a realism, and a gloominess sometimes to his stuff that's just amazing. It's that feeling you got when you saw Alex Ross draw the Marvel Universe. It was perspectives you hadn't really seen before. That's what I love about this. He brought something to it that I couldn't even see in my head.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Millar: Yeah, sure. There's the new Fantastic Four, which just came out, with Brian Hitch. We've worked together for five years on Ultimates. We're just having a little breather now on Fantastic Four and really enjoying it. That crosses over with 1985 to some extent. They both crossover with Wolverine. Fantastic Four and Wolverine crossover quite substantially once it takes off. Civil War artist Steve McNiven and I are working on Wolverine. That launches round about June or July, I think.

The other thing I'm doing is some creator owned projects as well. I'm doing a book called Kick-Ass. It's coming out from Icon Comics. The other creator owned book I'm doing is called War Heroes and it's coming out from Image in the summer. So quite a busy year. Last year I only had four individual issues out; two from Marvel and two little indy ones. This year I've got about 40 books out or something, so it's quite a lot.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Millar: It's nice to be back after my little year off. I'm back with massive, renewed enthusiasm. I took about six months off and I spent about six months stock piling stuff for this year. It's just lovely to see it coming out because I've been working on it for quite a long time. It's nice to see it coming together well.