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Arts & Culture

You are in: Edinburgh, Fife and East Scotland > People & Places > Arts & Culture > An interview with Mark Millar

Mark Millar

Mark Millar

An interview with Mark Millar

The comic and graphic novel medium is one the fastest growing areas of print. Scotland is currently enjoying a wealth of successful comic writers and artists. We spoke with perhaps the most famous Scottish comic book writer, Mark Millar.

The audio is an edited highlight of the interview at the Edinburgh International Book Festival which you can read in full here.

What got you into comics and writing?

'As a kid I loved comics and I loved films and it sort of struck me when I was about 11 or 12 that somebody must be writing and drawing these books which I'm enjoying so much and it just seemed a wee bit more attainable than playing for Celtic. I crashed out of university because I knew that this is what I wanted to do, I didn't want the safety net of a degree. If you really love what you're doing like that you don't want the safety net. It must be how priests feel when they look up and see a crucifix, that's how I felt when I saw Superman.'

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What would you say is your biggest success?

'I measure it in so many different ways. The time I least enjoyed working was couple of years ago which was my biggest commercial success, a book called Marvel Civil War. It went down a bomb and sold an insane amount of copies. It was great because it established me for the decade at the company. It was my J.K. Rowling moment but it was less fun to do than maybe smaller projects that are a bit more personal. My favourite book is Kick-Ass that we've just turned into a movie. I literally wrote it for free. We took a gamble because we loved it and we really believed in it.'

That ties in with Millarworld and Creator-Owned comics. What inspired you to do that?

'It was a sense of history of what had happened to other comic book creators. Like the people who created Superman. One went blind and was living on welfare cheques by the time he was in his 60s and the other guy was eking out a living with no pension from the comic company as an insurance clerk. I just thought that’s a multi-billion dollar character and these guys never had the rewards of their labour. So my generation can look back and really see what happened. And the deals that can be structured now are such that we can own the material and license it to publishers. We get to keep the copyright and keep control. It’s the democratisation of your material which is fantastic.'

I suppose you can write to a bigger scope without the constraints of a studio?

'Yeah, exactly and this is why people always say to me now that Hollywood have picked up a lot of my stuff. People always say are you just going to go do films now. No. I didn't get into comics to get out of comics. I see films and video games as nice extras. It’s amazing to have your material reach millions of people rather than thousands. But you just can't beat you and your computer and a guy drawing it. It’s the last pirate medium really because nobody is telling you what to write. Other than writing a prose novel it’s the most autonomous form of writing.'

More of the Book Festival

Edinburgh Book Festival

What do you think is the reason behind this literary respect that’s starting to happen for comics and graphic novels?

'I think it’s entirely down to sales. The fastest growing things in the book stores are the comics and graphic novels. To be honest the respect means nothing to me. I've got such respect for my own medium that I don't really care that much about the respect. I don't find it that exciting that we are suddenly becoming respected. I think we are the mainstream and really nobody cares about books that sell 5,000 copies. I see comics as the one they should be striving for.'

Are there any characters you are wary of writing for?

'No actually. There’s a great writer called Alan Moore and he is the kind of god of comics. He reinvented the comics medium back in the 80s. I remember a great line he said once which was ‘There’s no such thing as bad characters, just bad writers.’ And it’s a great point. So no, there is nothing I would be in awe of.'

If you had to name a favourite character who would it be?

'Probably for me it would be Superman just because as a kid that’s the thing I was so into. There’s these things that resonate with most 30-something men. Superman was probably the biggest for me. I even bought Christopher Reeve's cape when I saw it was up for auction. For me when I have written Superman in the past it’s quite magical. It must be how Daniel Craig feels when he puts his bow tie on and holds his Walther PPK or when David Tennant puts his big coat on and plays Doctor Who.'

What is it that makes your stories so popular?

'I think it’s an unashamed love of the mainstream. If a building is coming down in a film I want to go see it. I've always loved the mainstream.  I'm very lucky that maybe I appeal to the lowest common denominator but that’s what I like.'

Do you have any major regrets in your career?

People enjoying an evening at the Book Festival.

People enjoying an evening at the Book Festival

'No not really. If we learned anything from Back To The Future it's that if we go back in time and mess with it, you're going to cause problems. So the way I look at it is that I like where my life is so if I go back and take out some rubbish things I've written or something then that might fall apart, and Biff would be president or something.'

Can you tell me anything about future things you've got coming out?

'Wanted was my first thing that got made into a film and that’s quite unusual that then becomes a big hit. What I was expecting was a few rubbish things and then maybe a hit. So I was very lucky that I went from no foot in Hollywood to suddenly a very big foot. So they just started auctioning all my things into movies. Kick-Ass looks like this is going to be even bigger and Wanted has meant Wanted 2 happens. And now War Heroes and American Jesus are being turned into movies. My future career depends on how well they all do really.'

Some people could view American Jesus as controversial. Is that something you set out to do?

'No it’s funny, I remember seeing solicitations in trade magazines saying ‘Oh Millar’s going to take on Christianity’. No, I'm a practicing Catholic. I think me and Frank Skinner are the only two people in the media who actually go to church. To actually slap people who turn the other cheek has to be the most cowardly thing for a writer to do. To me you had the Old Testament and the New Testament and I always saw it as a trilogy. As a kid I remember thinking, so when’s the book of Revelation coming out? Jesus coming back, fighting the Anti-Christ, it’s a bit like the Omen. I thought this is going to be brilliant but nobody wrote it. So I wanted to write the third book of the Bible essentially. But to make it as reverential as the first two books. And although its got controversial things in it you have to remember the Bible is completely filled with things that are reasonably controversial. I just see it as part of that great tradition.'

last updated: 03/09/2009 at 17:16
created: 03/09/2009

You are in: Edinburgh, Fife and East Scotland > People & Places > Arts & Culture > An interview with Mark Millar



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