Comics Anonymous talks to Mark Millar

Mark Millar

Next week sees the release of Chrononauts #1 from Mark Millar as he teams-up with Sean Gordon Murphy to bring us this much-hyped new title through Image Comics.  I got the chance to catch-up with Mark and see what we should expect from this and the other comics/movies that he has in the works.

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Chrononauts has already been billed as a “Time-Travel Epic” but was time travel always something you wanted to explore?

Yeah, I kinda liked the really simple powers and even though time travel isn’t essentially a power like speed or flight it’s an idea that anyone can understand.  I wanted to strip things down to its simplest form and with so many superhero or sci-fi comics being confusing at times I wanted to do a really good time travel story that kids could get as well because that’s what got me into comics when I was wee.  Being a massive fan of time travel stories myself I wanted to take similar ideas that I’d grew up with and turn them into a comic.

Time travel opens up a whole host of possibilities – do you already have more plotted out for the title?

The amazing thing about looking at time travel was that there were no limits – no continuity to hold to.  The scope let me come up with anything I could think of ranging from the origin of the universe to present day and this first story takes place in the past with the next story already worked out to be a different.

Was Sean Murphy always someone you wanted to work with?

Sean and I have worked intensely on this and every time he sends me new pages for this I get really excited about what he’s sent through and ended up sending it around my pals to give them a look….even those who aren’t into comics all that much.  I almost can’t imagine this without him and after working with some amazing guys like John Romita Jr., Frank Quitely, Goran Parlov, etc and he’s definitely someone who’s work excites as his next 5-pages come through and he’ll work on each of the 4 or 5 issue stories.

I’ve read a few of Sean’s interviews about the title and he says you’ve stepped away from the typical violence we may well expect and more into comedy – was that something you were aiming for?

I think I’ve always had a mix of themes in my work and it’s maybe because the darker, more violent elements are bigger or have an impact that those parts are picked out.  With Kick-Ass, Wanted & Nemesis but with things like The Ultimates, most people don’t realize that it was aimed at a younger audience where certain words like “hell” or “damn” or similar minor swear words weren’t allowed but I’m quite comfortable with that kind of discipline as it keeps you away from aiming for a sensational or controversial element for the sake of it.

Chrononauts is the first Millarworld release for 2015 with Jupiter’s Circle in April but what else can we expect from you this year?

Jupiters Circle #1What’s going to be nice with these is that they’re all going to be out on time as there’s nothing more bleak than a story you’ve written taking months to be drawn before release – so for 2015 will see these come out monthly.  Buying the artwork ahead of time, stockpiling it and then releasing it with a regular schedule. We’re ahead with Jupiter’s Circle & I’m already about halfway through book 2 but we’ll have Chrononauts be out in March/April/May, there will be 6 issues of Jupiter’s Circle from April then a month break and the next book of Jupiter’s Circle.  There will then be 2 new series with 2 GIGANTIC artists & the next Jupiter’s Legacy series near the end of the year with us already stockpiling the artwork for those now.

When you’re writing a story do you have an artist in mind for your titles, is it word of mouth or even just by chance?

Sometimes but I think I’ve always been good at matching who suits particular stories.  I knew with Kick-Ass I needed someone really gritty & urban and that WAS John Romita Jr and with Jupiter’s Legacy I knew we needed someone who could do a vast, operatic scope with a large cast of characters & that was Frank Quitely.  When it came to Starlight I just felt that Goran Parlov was perfect for it because even though Buck Rogers and the old pulp serials from the 30’s were American it was still in my mind that it needed a far more European vibe.  Then with Sean – we’d agreed to work on something before and it just became a matter of time and the right project to come along that suits him – especially as he’s such a petrol-head and Chrononauts suited him as it’s got alot of machinery & car chases.

The likes of The Ultimates, Kick-Ass, Starlight & all your other titles always seem to tie-in to pop culture in a fairly big way – is that intentional & does it make it easier to write?

I think because I’m most influenced by the world around me than old stories then I feel I know how those other stories work and that tying into continuity is far less exciting than creating a new world.  Sometimes that ties in with recognized characters like Spider-Man or Superman and others it’s my own creations but I think the interesting thing about having that tie to pop culture and the real world means that my titles are more accessible to non-comic fans.  I think what I do is refer to politics, music or films rather than previous stories or continuity….referring to Pierce Brosnan for example, would be something most people could get but Spider-Man issue one hundred and something is less recognizable.

The Kingsman movie had a massive opening weekend in the US and in other countries & just passed £250 Million – did that come as a surprise?

It kind of did but Matthew (Vaughn) & Jane (Goldman) are so brilliant and (while I wouldn’t say it to his face) he’s one of the best Directors in the business and similarly Jane is one of the best screenwriters too.  With them on Kingsmans and the likes of Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson & great newcomers, then it did have a lot of potential and it is lovely to see how well people respond to it in the same way we did in the edit room.  It’s funny with the opening weekend because there’s a very accurate formula for working out how you’re Global run will go based on the first day……and it made the opening all the more interesting.

Are you hands-off when it comes to your titles being converted to film or is there anything you’d change about the releases so far?

It depends but with Matthew he’s a fantastic collaborator and he takes on everyone’s opinion and he’ll be on the phone with you all the time to talk things through.  Right up to the last-minute he’ll be asking someone in the office what they think and he’ll take on-board whatever they’ve got to say.

So does Matthew Vaughn get first dibs on the next movie?

Well we’re pals anyway and we start most days with an hour-long call slagging each other off but we’re into all the same kind of things, roughly the same age & even though we grew up with very different lifestyles, the things we have in common means we have lots to talk about and we can finish one project and he’ll ask “What else have you got?” which gives us a great momentum.  It’s fun working with Matt but I’m also lucky enough to be working with Ridley Scott & others as producers on some other projects which haven’t been announced yet.

Does this pave the way for the next Millarworld movie or do you already know which movies are most likely to hit the big screen next?

I kind of know – what usually happens is you sell a few things at the same time and your creations get optioned.  Some things pick up pace quickly and go from option, to screenplay to start the movie while others can take a few years.  The success of Kingsman can help some of those projects but there are two or three which should hopefully be filming within the next year or so……two before Christmas and then one shortly after.

You tweeted recently that you started work on American Jesus Volume 2 – will we see more from other titles like Nemesis or War Heroes?

Definitely, I mean Nemesis Returns has been plotted for years and wrote the first issue ages ago but Steve (McNiven) is under contract with Marvel but we may bring someone else in to draw and while Steve still owns it he’ll do covers.  The same with Jupiter’s Circle with Wilfredo Torres is working from Frank (Quitely)’s designs with Frank on covers too.  American Jesus is a project that I’ve felt is my biggest project & it’s one of those weird stories where it’s not your classic/traditional story that your typical comic reader would go nuts for but everyone knows who Jesus is so it has a mainstream appeal.  The story feels very timely and it’s been completely plotted out for years but I sat down & started writing the script again and it’s been a total joy to write as it’s been so close to my heart.  Peter Gross is busy through until July so hopefully we’ll get him going after that and get it out later this year or early next.

Chrononauts is another of Millar’s titles I’ll be getting hold of – as much to see how that comedy element works from Mark as it is for Sean’s amazing artwork we’ve already seen teased.

Keep tabs on the latest updates for all Mark’s projects over on the Millarworld website.


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