With some iconic figures already to his name, bestselling comic writer Mark Millar tells Henry Northmore about finally realising a childhood dream
Despite being one of the most successful writers of comics ever, Mark Millar still resides in Coatbridge. Like most UK writers he earned his stripes on 2000AD.
‘The older guys like Grant Morrison, Pete Milligan, Alan Grant and John Wagner had all been poached en masse by the Americans,’ Millar explains in his fast-paced Glaswegian patter. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum and they needed me just because I could fill a page. The good side of it was that I learned how to write comics but the downside was that every single thing I wrote was rubbish.’
Millar himself was ‘poached by the Americans’ to co-write Swamp Thing with Grant Morrison at DC. However it was with The Authority (a subversive take on the Justice League of America) that he first realised his potential. ‘To me March 2000 with The Authority was the first page of my career.’ It’s also where he perfected his take on ‘widescreen comics’, vast action set pieces grounded with a dark intelligence and pitch black humour. It was a move to Marvel launching Ultimate X-Men, followed by The Ultimates, that saw his career go stratospheric. ‘I just instantly felt at home at Marvel, particularly with the two guys that run the place, Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas. They said: “The company is just coming out of bankruptcy; we’ll maybe get another 18 months so let’s just do something nuts.” So they took somebody like me, who was an incredible risk, and put me on their most valuable franchise. It could have gone absolutely belly-up but it was a big hit.’
It was a massive hit that, alongside Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, helped save Marvel from the brink of destruction. Then there was the gigantic Civil War, a crossover that effected the entire Marvel universe. ‘It was actually the most difficult assignment I’ve ever had. It’s the bestselling comic of the last 15 years, yet when I see it sitting on my shelf I actually feel a bit sick. I just think of how much time it took up and how much re-writing I had to do just to co-ordinate everything with the other writers.’ And we shouldn’t forget Millarworld, a series of creator-owned comics that are more extreme than his mainstream superheroics, including The Unfunnies, Chosen, the forthcoming Kick-Ass and of course Wanted, which hits the big screens this June starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman.
Now he’s getting his hands on Fantastic Four. ‘I’m doing FF because it’s a childhood dream, it’s as simple as that,’ he explains. ‘You’ve got to remember that this was a book created in 1961 and yet had co-habiting superheroes, superheroes without masks, superheroes getting married, shagging, having babies; it was unheard of, nobody did anything like that. What I wanted to do was try and bring back the radicalism of those first ten years and do a 21st century version of it. Cloverfield is pretty much a Fantastic Four story for me; it’s all about a giant menace attacking New York and that can be as cheesy as Godzilla or it can be as cool and frightening as Cloverfield. My big thing is not to make it retro, but to make it awesome.’
Fantastic Four issue 554 is published by Marvel on Thu 14 Feb.