WE COVER THE GEEK CULTURE YOU LOVE.
BY THE GEEKS FOR THE GEEKS.
RM: I’ve got just one final question for you and it’s a bit random, if you could pick any two superheroes, from any brand, any franchise and do a buddy cop style story for them, who would they be and why?
MM: Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. I think Batman and Hitgirl because I think she would totally respect Batman and Batman would be intrigued by her. And I also think it would mean that the Hitgirl movie makes a billion dollars. Haha.
RM: If you franchise that, I want a mention!
MM: Hahaha. You know, that would be pretty cool actually, wouldn’t it. Can you imagine? It would be awesome.
RM: It'd be awesome to see! That’s basically all my questions there for you Mark, but again I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me and go through this.
MM: Oh, not at all. Thanks for the interest, All the best.
RM: That's fantastic! Would you say that was the last kind of geek out moment you had?
MM: No, no, I have them quite a lot, actually. I was talking about two, like literally, two different ones today. One was phoning up Mark Hamill, because back in 2010 or 2011, just before Secret Service, the comic, came out, I'd actually done the comic but I hadn't asked Mark's permission to put him in it. I didn't know him at all and I actually had a mutual friend, just by a stroke of luck. The day before it was going to the printers, I phoned him up and he couldn't have been nicer, but I must have sounded like a mental person!
The other one, actually, that was another geek out moment for me was when I was in New York about two years ago and I was in a bar and I looked along the other end of the bar and I saw Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man), Gil Gerrad (Buck Rogers) and Adam West (Batman) just having a drink. They were obviously at the New York Comic Con and I was there too. And I remember, actually, just thinking 'Oh my God' and I said to Lucy (Mark's partner) 'Do you realise who that is?' and she was like 'Oh, you're a guest at the show too, you should go up and say hello!' And I was like, 'No, you don't understand. You don't just interrupt that conversation!' That's like adding your own face to the end of Mount Rushmore!
RM: With your work on like on Red Sun, I mean, do you think, you know, was there ever a direction you want it to go back to the character maybe and take it?
MM: I get ideas for it all the time, the other day I had an idea, a really good idea for a Batman/Joker story, so things like that happen all the time because you can’t help what comes into your brain and here’s the thing with being a writer, wherever ideas come from, you know, they seep in and I came up with a really good, last year, Green Lantern, big Green Lantern story and I jotted it down. I had a Justice League story last year as well. I keep getting Justice League stories. I think it’s because I’ve done all the Marvel characters that I’m interested in for now, I had a good few years there and I’ve done Wolverine, I’ve done the Ultimates, I’ve done Spider-Man, there’s almost nothing left to really do. I got to do Cap' and so on and Iron Man and the Ultimates. So the idea of doing DC stuff is quite exciting but, again, like I say, I’m more into the idea of creating these new franchises. I’m on franchise number twelve or something now and I want to create twenty-five of them.
FIRST PUBLISHED 09.09.2015 (EDITED 02.02.2016)
RM: That’s amazing. Do you find that when you write Hollywood influences you, or do you find that it’s just a case of you write now for you, and if Hollywood takes it on, then happy days?
MM: Exactly. I think you see people doing it, trying to do something that Hollywood is going to like. It’s really impossible to do it, you know? If you go in thinking of Hollywood, you’ll fail, without question. If you go in and say something like, what’s the last two huge movies? Fast and Furious 7 and Minions? So if you say, right imagine two minions and they’re stealing cars and they’re like the Fast and the Furious? It will fail. I see comics like this that come out and you can tell that they’re definitely trying to get a movie deal but, in my experience, if you actually look at like the last forty or fifty comic book movies, the sort of ones that have come out over the last fifteen years, they’ve all been quite unique and personal projects. They’ve all been things, that just, the writer’s are into. And if you think of Hellboy or something, you know, like, how the hell do you put something like Hellboy to a studio, or Ghost World or anything like that. Even Kickass is a weird one you know? Matthew Vaughn is a massively decisive director. He and Jane had written the best screenplay i'd ever read and popped it round the studios and nine studios rejected them. That’s why Matthew self-financed.
But the sort of point is that if you try and aim something at Hollywood, Hollywood will fish you out, you know. I just wrote something for myself and then if you love something, it’s weird, it’s contagious and somebody just ends up loving it as well. That’s what happened with Matthew and Kickass, he just fell for it and wanted to make a project. So, that’s what I tend to do, I just write something that I’m into and what does happen now, and what is interesting, is that I get phone calls a couple of times a week from different studio heads and they’ll say, what you up to? what you working on? Because they want to kind of get in there before somebody else does. So my agent will try and get me to fly out to the States and I’m like, no way, I only go once a year, I go every Autumn, for one week, and that’s it. And he’s like, but these guys want to talk to you about doing something, and I’m like, look, I’m just doing my comics, I’ll send them the first issue once its drawn, I’ll send them a pdf, a little preview of it, and then they tend to just buy it. So, something like that happens, so there’s never really any brilliant strategy or anything like that. I just do my stuff.
INTERVIEW: MARK MILLAR
RM: With the Marvel characters especially, I remember we chatted on Twitter a while back and I was asking you about Black Widow, because for me that’s one that could make a great spy franchise. I’m addicted to James Bond films and I loved your work on Kingsmen: The Secret Service, but I would love to see Marvel do a Black Widow movie. Do you think that’s a genre that Marvel could pursue with Black Widow?
MM: Oh my god, yes. The thing that I love about Black Widow actually is they’ve got the potential to do something that doesn’t feel like any other Marvel movie. Spy, espionage, they’re things that they haven’t really done, which in itself makes it exciting because the beauty of the Marvel Universe is it’s very diverse. So just as people get fed up of movies, maybe, how a billionaire has an iron suit, you know, then you have Thor movies which are fantasy and if you get bored with that then you’ve got Captain America a war movie type thing. So, I like the idea of the Marvel Universe being a very diverse group of genres and I think that’s what’s going to keep it fresh, when one genre tires a little then another one comes in and can ascend, which is what happened with Guardians (Guardians of the Galaxy). I think just as people were getting a little sick with some things, maybe the more traditional superhero starting to look a little tired, they can segway neatly into something like Guardians or Dr Strange or whatever, you know. And Black Widow I think would fit perfectly with that. Plus the marketability of someone like Scarlett Johansson, look at the number on Lucy, you put Scarlett Johansson in an action movie and then add the Marvel brand to it then you’re making $600 million!
RM: Your work, especially, just seems to be snapped up by Hollywood so much. Have you ever thought that one day you might step into directing shoes? Maybe with one of your own pieces of work from your Millarworld brand?
MM: It's a very different thing, you know, but I mean, I was going to do a very low budget film a few years back and it ended up not working out, weirdly the idea I had, someone had done one year previously. Haha. So I remember thinking, this is genius and all that, and then I find out that somebody else had done a handheld superhero movie. I was in the process of making it, and it came out in 2012 - Chronicle, you know?
RM: Yeah by Josh Trank...
MM: Yeah, that had actually been made I think about a year before I was starting mine. So mine would have looked like a kind of even cheaper version of a handheld movie. I was planning to make mine for about $30,000 or something this one was $12 million. It was such a good movie, I mean Josh Trank done a brilliant job on that film so I'm kind of glad mine didn't get made and come out. I did three days’ work on it and then I realised what was happening. But it is fun, I love doing comics and I get asked to do Hollywood stuff all the time. I would say I probably get asked to do ten things a year and I literally turn everything down, everything, without exception. And my agent, I've had my agent for ten years, and he phones me up every time and says, 'listen, are you interested in this?' and I’m like 'No, I've told you, I’m a comic guy!'
It's weird, because people assume that you see it as graduation, or something like that, but I don't, I didn't get into comics to get out of comics so it was never a stepping stone for me. So I continue to doing comics and if somebody wants to turn that into a lunchbox, fantastic, it's amazing! If somebody wants to turn it into a movie or a game or whatever, even better!
RM: I love that because, for me, I've grown up as a comic book fan, so seeing it in Hollywood, it's brilliant because I think it kind of brings people to the comic books and go, you know, this is where it's at, come join us over here!
MM: Exactly! Having worked in Hollywood now for 9 years I can see the advantages of comics. I love film it’s my second favourite medium but I know you can be distracted by budget. I’ll give you an example, the opening sequence of the Secret Service (Kingsmen: the Secret Service) when it was a comic book I was able to have that sequence with Mark Hamill and the secret agent going over the cliff. When Matthew and Jane sat down to do the screenplay they were sort of looking at the comic and said, they had a really good way of expanding this and adding in a snowmobile ploughing through trees and everything, but they just couldn't afford to do it. It would literally be another million or two if we did the scene big, so let’s just keep it all inside the chalet. And you know, to me that’s a perfect example of how comics are more fun than film because whatever you can think of you can draw. It costs as much to have two people talking as a space station exploding.
RM: Yeah, exactly, I think that’s, you know, you’re always going to get that joy out of comics, because you’re always going to get that character walk in and not worry about having some kind of rights to another film.
MM: Yeah, exactly.
RM: I did read once that like me you’re a bit of a Superman geek?
MM: Oh my god, yes. It’s my absolute favourite thing in the world, I mean, I couldn’t be more into Superman. It’s funny because my brothers trained me up in the ways of loving superman and you know, my three year old especially, utterly obsessed with him. She’s actually also into Adam West’s Batman and Wonderwoman. But I would say going back since she was two, a good year, a good twelve months, she’s watched one of the Christopher Reed movies pretty much every day, or Supergirl. To the point where actually, I’m getting a tiny bit sick of them, you know, because I’ve seen them so much. But she’ll watch everything, she watches the sixties cartoon shows, she watches the Superfriends, she watches anything with Superman in it and that is kind of what I was like as a kid, if Superman appeared on the front of a magazine I would buy that magazine, even if I didn’t have the money for my school lunch or something, I would set aside that cash and I would buy it!…if Superman was guest starring in something, even if I didn’t want to read it and I had money for you know a packet of crisps and a sandwich, I would get myself something like a burger or something for lunch, you know, then spend the rest of the money on the Superman comic!
RM: Haha! That’s how your priorities should be!
RM: The Disney Expo just recently went by and personally I'm a massive Captain America fan so, with everyone, I was just waiting for the footage to drop! I was wondering how much input you'd had, if any, with Marvel over Civil War?
MM: Nothing, really, no. I mean, I left Marvel years back, I think I left probably four years ago, or something, or five years ago, just to focus on Millarworld , I keep in touch with the guys personally, because they're my pals but, professionally, I don't do anything with Marvel or DC. I mean, I don't go to New York without hanging out with those guys because they've been like best friends for ten years and everything, so we talk shop all the time and all the gossip and everything but in terms of work, I'm sort of focused on my own stuff. And because it's kind of work for hire, Marvel can adapt anything they want. I mean, they obviously used a lot of Ultimates in the first Avengers movie certainly and Cap in Winter Soldier, and all that kind of stuff. And that's fine, I see it all as very flattering. I mean all that stuff I did work for hire, so it's available, to do anything they want.
RM: Hi Mark, how are you?
MM: Aye, not too bad.
RM: I just wanted to say, thank you so much for taking the time out to speak to me today.
MM: Ah not at all. To be honest, it's a relief actually. I would normally be helping out around the house. So, it's quite nice having an excuse, you know, to skive off!
RM: Haha. Ah ok. I'm glad I've saved you from any housework. When I was looking up on things to discuss with you today, I did notice that you once interviewed Stan Lee and prior to calling him you were quite nervous, so at least you know how I feel a bit.
MM: Haha, but do you know, honestly, it was like phoning Galactus, I think that's what I said, and it was true. It was like having a code for a fictional character, you know, like you can just phone up Reed Richards. I shouldn't even be able to connect with this guy but he was so lovely actually, it was great.
Published by Richard Marshall.
Geek Guardians very own Richey Marshall was lucky to recently spend some time with Mark Millar and talk about his amazing career so far! For the uninitiated, Mark Millar is the man responsible for numberous graphic novel classics such as Marvel's Civil War, Kickass & Kickass 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wanted and Ultimate Avengers! It's fair to say when he picks up a pen, Hollywood waits with bated breath.....
RM: How does that feel when you do work on, for example, Civil War and Ultimates, then it transitions over to film? Are there bits in it that you think should have been done differently?
MM: No not at all. I feel quite separate from it, because it's not my characters, you know I've been hired to do a job and you know, Avengers, in particular there are obviously a lot of scenes and you know, even the second Captain America movie, the jumping out the plane without a parachute....get the hostages and everything, I just sort of smile when I'm watching it and think, ah, that's that little thing, because you know, it's like a decade ago, so I can barely even remember it, you know? So yeah, I think it's always just fun. I mean, I'm a huge fan boy so I see it as a huge compliment when I see that stuff on screen.
RM: It must be quite insane to it up on the big screen like that?
MM: It's fun. It doesn't compare remotely with doing your own stuff though, I mean, not only do you own your own stuff and you get paid, which is really nice, but like also there's just something lovely about something that didn't exist until you made it. It is a bit like having a baby, you know? I've said it many times but, seeing people dressed in Kickass and Hitgirl costumes, just at Halloween in Glasgow; I've seen that a few times now and it's crazy.
RM: Does it still give you a buzz?
MM: Yeah it's amazing! Going and seeing someone dressed as Nemesis or characters from Jupiter's Legacy, I love that! As much as I grew up with my favourite characters like Captain America and Iron Man they'll never be mine. So you do feel that slight step away. As much as you love them, you never quite love them like you love your own stuff.
RM: So right now you’re working on your own kind franchises through your brand, Millarworld, your latest work with Chrononauts, looks destined for Hollywood already!
MM: Well, it’s funny because, I remember I was doing the Ultimates, that was exactly the same style that I had, you know, to think of something very grounded and sort of the realistic approach to it. I don’t mean realistic, maybe even so much as the mainstream entry point for an audience that doesn’t do comic books. I like to really ground things, and sort of think, alright ok, how does this work and strip it right back to basics. And I do that with everything, that approach. So, it’s weird because what that does lends itself then very well to movies. Because a cinematic version of a story is one that anyone can understand, I think. Whereas, sometimes comics can be very obtuse, I remember so many comics I’ve loved in the past that I’ve handed to friends and they’re like, I’ve no idea what’s happening here at all. And so I guess, maybe the reason is there’s a progression to Hollywood with my stuff is that anyone can kind of get it.
RM: I mean, this story especially, with Chrononauts, is focusing on time travel, did you have a particular approach you wanted to take to make it stand out from other time travel stories?
MM: Yeah, it’s funny actually, you talk about directing, and I actually got offered something about three years ago. Ridley Scott was developing ten short sci-fi movies. Just very short ones, they were just going to be, I think, ten minutes long each and he asked me if I wanted to direct one, and he had a bunch of people who were experienced directors who were doing it and it was just going to be these fun little things. I can’t remember who it was being sponsored by, a computer company or something like that, and they were going to be released online. And this was about maybe three years ago and I came up with the idea, I came up with Chrononauts then. And can you imagine, I mean, if you’ve read the comic, just the incredible expense of the sets, jumping around time. It would be nuts! I was going to try and make it for I think $200,000. This was the naivety of being being a newbie director. I worked out my plot for it and everything and I had a very, very simple version of it which was really just about the first ten pages of the comic, the satellite being blasted back in time and everything.
So, what I was doing was I had a very simple realistic cheap version of a time travel story, with the satellite being sent back in time and man’s first mission in time. And I had a little ten minute version of Chrononauts and then the funding I think didn’t happen for that and it ended up just not happening. So, the story was always there in the back of my mind and I mentioned it to the guy who was the head of Universal, last summer when I was out there, and he was like 'I love this, you should do it as a feature.' So, I came back home and I wanted to work with Shaun Murphy and it all sort of grew organically from there. And I said to him 'Look I’m not a movie guy, I’m a comic guy!' I had the thing worked out, a synopsis, I was thinking of writing the screenplay, and I said 'You know what, I’m just going to do it as a comic, this is what I want to do' and he said 'Ok. Yeah, well, we’ll buy it as a movie' and I was like, even better, great. So, I just wrote it as a comic and then adapted it as a movie.
RM: Yeah, it sells itself, doesn’t it. I mean, the spy genre for me is great, I grew up watching James Bond films, so you know, that for me was perfect so I loved Kingsman: The Secret Service, it's a brilliant take on a spy genre!
MM: Well, that was the plan. Just a love letter to that stuff.
RM: You very rarely walk out of a cinema buzzing about a film. That was one that I actually did, it reminded me of older Bond films where you had the action sequences and there was a cheeky little nod here and there. I’ve got to admit I loved it.
MM: Ah, cool, thanks. I think what people responded to was maybe the fun as well. I think Guardians of the Galaxy tapped into that really well too, you know. Like, there’s so many movies you go and see now, especially movies that should be fun that actually feel quite bleak and you come out of it thinking, ahh. And there was something quite nice, I think, Kingsman just tapped into something where people just wanted to have a good night out, and come out with a smile on their face. I try and do that with all of my things now, everything’s kind of got that feel good factor by the end of it.
RM: Do you think that Kingsman is one that you’re going to step into again, do you see yourself progressing that story more?
MM: To be honest, no, like, I did the first book about four years ago and the movie I thought would do well, but I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did, you know. So, I was quite unprepared for the fact it made $410 million. We were saying we’d be really happy if it was $180-190! Then suddenly it made an absolute fortune and like I’d already, I mean, I know what I’m writing for the next three years, I’ve got the next three years completely planned out, because some of them are big series with a lot of issues and everything, so, weirdly, I actually don’t have time, so Matthew and Jane have gone ahead and written an original I think. Kind of like what happened with Hellboy, you know. That followed an original screenplay for the second Hellboy movie and Matthew and Jane are doing the same. I speak to Matthew on the phone everyday while the two of them are writing it, but like i'll read it once its completed, a first draft, which I think they’re three quarters of the way through just now.[As of September 2015.]