Introduction -- I had no idea what to expect when Mark Millar inherited my then-favourite superhero series The Authority from the scary-talented team of Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura Depuy back around the turn of the century. He and artist Frank Quitely made a dynamic debut and made the series a bonafide smash before they were forced to ride the title down into the depths of managerial fuckery on the part of DC. In my ignorance at the time, I suppose I blamed Millar to a small extent for the way the title went down in flames, but as time has passed I've learned more and more about what happened behind the scenes, and the fanboy in me mourns what could have been if DC's higher-ups had left Millar and The Authority alone.
Millar has developed a loyal audience with former Authority artist Bryan Hitch on The Ultimates, and in this exclusive interview Millar reveals that he and Hitch have signed new, exclusive contracts with Marvel Comics, despite a concerted effort by DC Comics to woo the team away with promises of increased paychecks and a hands-off approach from DC head honcho Paul Levitz.
Millar also discusses the long-awaited new Ultimate Marvel title, revealing for the first time that he and Brian Michael Bendis and Adam Kubert and Andy Kubert will launch Ultimate Fantastic Four later this year.
I interviewed Mark Millar over a couple of days during the past week and whatever you think of his work and its sometimes shocking characteristics, I can tell you that he is one of the most courteous, helpful and professional comics pros I've ever dealt with. Interviewing him was a genuine pleasure and I hope you get a sense of that, and of the man himself, in this wide-ranging discussion of his work, his upcoming projects, and more.
-- Alan David Doane
The past few years have been extremely busy for you, as you transitioned from The Authority to The Ultimates. Your Authority had the early indications of being as much of a modern-day classic as the Ellis/Hitch run until a number of problems pretty much destroyed the franchise. How do you look back on that time?
It was equally fantastic and frustrating at the same time. It was frustrating because the powers-that-be hated the book and wanted us off it from the second issue, but it was fantastic because we got away with ninety percent of what we wanted to do for the first nine issues. It won us so many awards, got us Wizard's book of the year, best scene of the year and all that kind of stuff and, of course, springboarded my career from being the guy who wrote top 500 books to the guy they gave top 5 books. It would be idiotic of me to say that The Authority was anything less than the best thing that ever happened to me. It's annoying, yes, that we never got to finish our story. It was frustrating, sure, to have a hot book we'd managed to apply even MORE heat to getting the cold shoulder. But that's business. We were just doing the wrong book at the wrong company at the wrong time. It was the antithesis of what the New York office wanted and I respect that. It's their call. Jim and Scott and especially John Layman went to bat for us many, many times and I'll always appreciate that. My understanding of The Authority is that this was the superhero title that started where others drew the line. This wasn't what DC wanted. They wanted the heat, yeah. The wanted the sales, yeah. But their vision was always more of a kind of Extreme JLA as far as I was concerned and that didn't interest me one iota. So I moved on. It's really all in the past now, but I understand why people are still talking about it.
As far as I'm concerned, we got to do material that no-one had ever really done before. We broke new ground and that doesn't happen very often. It really pleases me to see how much it's influenced some other books. Sometimes I'm quite taken aback by how many times even their particular sex and drug fest at the end of #13 has even been repeated in other Wildstorm books.
Obviously you experienced a pretty heavy editorial hand at DC/Wildstorm. How valuable do you think editorial input is to the creative process? Has it ever improved your work?
Again, I'll stress that the problems weren't from editorial. This was all coming from management and quite within their rights. It was frustrating at the time and I was letting people know because my name was on the work and I didn't like to see it compromised, but a little distance has taught me that you can only walk away in a situation like that and this is what I've done. Put up a fight, sure, but if it looks like you're going to be waging a monthly battle then the smart thing to do is go elsewhere and make the competition more money. Editorial was never a problem and never really has been for me. I've had plenty of editors and have really liked 99% of them. Comic people tend to get along pretty well because we're such a small, insular sect within society with the same refined tastes in comics, books, cinema, etc. It's almost impossible NOT to get along. I've had a couple of nut-case editors, but they're just the same people everyone else found insane. Any advice given to me by someone I respect (and I try to make sure my editors are people I respect) is always appreciated.
When you took over The Authority that was the first exposure to your writing for a lot of readers -- yet you'd been around in the industry for a few years before that. I know you're proud of your Swamp Thing run, particularly. Tell me a little about how you feel about that work and any other standouts from your earlier work.
I kind of split my career into Before Authority and After Authority, but I'm happy with quite a lot of that stuff. Swamp Thing worked well, several storylines working very well. Superman Adventures was almost entirely what I wanted it to be. Besides that, nothing else really stands out except as a useful part of the learning process or a nice one-off or whatever. I was happy with the JLA issue I wrote, the Wonder Woman issue, the Legends of the Dark Knight I did with Steve Yeowell. A favourite from the dim and distant past was a series for 2000AD Grant Morrison and I co-wrote called Big Dave for the brilliant Steve Parkhouse. It really was shockingly offensive, completely anti-gay, anti-foreign, anti-everyone and ranks as one of the best things either of us has done. If you can track that down in the back-issue bins it's definitely worth your 40 cents.
Your work on The Ultimates seems to have proven that lightning can strike twice -- you and artist Bryan Hitch had separate, successful runs on The Authority. How did you get teamed up on the Ultimate version of Marvel's The Avengers?
I just knew it had to be Bryan and made everyone's life a misery until I got him. Joe (Quesada) had several guys lined up for the book, but I just knew it had to be Bryan for the kind of super-realism I wanted on the book. Everyone else would have made it look like a TV show or an old comic book. Bryan made it look a hundred amd fifty million dollars. It was tricky, as you might know, because he had committed to something else, but I just kept pushing until we got him because I knew he'd perfectly capture the Thomas/Buscema period of The Avengers that had been such a major influence on me. I needed someone who could make it look real when these guys were lounging around an apartment in their casualwear and surprisingly few people can pull this off. Someone who can do this AND capture the magnificance of what a superhero is supposed to be and you're lucky if you can name five artists. Of course, this is where a million people go online and rhyme off their ten favourite artists who can do this perfectly, but I speak for myself here.
Why isn't the book called The Ultimate Avengers, anyway?
It's funny, but Bryan and I were BEGGING them to call the book Ultimate Avengers. We were saying it was a huge mistake not to, but Bill and Joe have better, less fanboy instincts when it comes to this stuff and they were absolutely right. You have to remember that, although this book is at the top of the charts in the comic stores, this is only where a fraction of the sales come from. Like the rest of the Ultimate line, it's aimed at casual readers and the mainstream and, to the mainstream, The Avengers is a bad, bad movie with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman looking like a heroin addict in a catsuit. Ultimate Avengers means nothing to people who don't know who The Avengers are. Also, as I had to admit to myself, The Avengers never made much sense as a team. The Defenders were defending. The Justice League where a league that represented justice in America, but The Avengers? Who were they avenging? Batman's parents? Like everyone else, I'm a major fanboy. You must remember I write this stuff because I love it so much I'd rather do it than any other job and it's hard to curtail those instincts sometimes, but the Ultimate line has been good for making me think a little differently. Instead of thinking it's time to bring back the Red Skull because we haven't seen THAT cool guy in six months you're starting from scratch and forced to think outside the box a little. You don't have the crutches to fall back on that would make writing a Marvel Universe book, for example, much easier for me.
So who ARE your ten favourite artists?
OK, here's the opposite of how to make friends and influence people, but my ten favourite artists are Bryan Hitch, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Frank Quitely, Terry Dodson, Carlos Pacheco, John Cassaday, John Romita Junior, Moebius and ARTIST X. This final artist is a space reserved for whichever pal appears and chins me in Chicago for not including me in this list.
The biggest complaint about The Ultimates has been that it's way behind schedule -- we're just now getting to the end of the "first year" of your story over two years after the title launched. I personally would rather have the book come out bi-monthly or even less often and have it be as terrific a read as it has been than have a fill-in arc by, say, Chuck Austen and Keron Grant. How do you feel about the lateness of the book? Any chance it will catch up to something resembling a regular schedule soon?
We started off monthly for the first four issues. I don't think any of them were late, but issue five was six weeks later than planned. Issues six and seven weren't too bad, but then the chronic lateness started up again and we were on something close to a bi-monthly schedule before long. Bi-monthly isn't too bad, especially when you consider that instead of the usual 21 pages the average Ultimates has 24, 25 or even 26 pages of original art. Over the course of a year, this is at least one extra issue for free so that's my small, pathetic excuse for the lateness. Still, a quick look at my calender shows 11 issues in 19 months and that isn't grossly bad, especially when you consider that Hitch has gone from single jack-the-lad to father-of-three in the last year and all the readjustments this entails. Also, most importantly, art this good just takes time. I've been happy to work on side-projects to complete the 24 issues a year I've committed to Marvel. I don't mind the book being a little late because the artwork is the best I've ever been associated with. Again, I know a million people will now name their favourite artist and say that they can handle eighteen books a year, but Hitch is MY favourite artist. I think he's a genius and so do many, many people. I'd rather he take a little longer than produce something he wasn't happy with. Also, he's speeding up. He's doing maybe four to five pages a week at the moment as his life gets back to normal so I think our second volume will be much, much closer to a monthly schedule. We'd actually like to use the remaining months of bi-monthly schedule to stock-up a little for 2004 and get these books out here with rapid-fire succession.
While there are thematic and visual similarities to The Authority, I find the tone of The Ultimates to be different, and to my mind better and more personal. Is there a difference in how you approached both titles?
Absolutely. A lazy hypothesis is that we're just doing Marvel's Authority and yes, it's a team book, yes it has an Authority writer and an Authority artist, but the similarities end there. The Authority was a book about seven radical thinkers who wanted to change the world from their lofty, automonous position of authority. The Ultimates are a military force who do what they're told by a conservative administration or else they get fired. They're actually polar-opposites and this was always the attraction for me. In terms of tonality, the Authority is different because it was more about the big idea and the kick-ass moment whereas The Ultimates is again at the opposite extreme where personality and quiet moments are really the stand-outs for us. We had three fights in the first nine issues or something. Writing The Ultimates uses another portion of what's left of our brains entirely.
Your most recent #1 issue was the somewhat controversial title Trouble. What's your goal for this book, and who do you think the ideal reader is?
Marvel came to me with the idea for Trouble when I was in New York last Christmas and their brief was amazing. One aspect of this brief is still unknown, but you'll find out about it quite soon. The other hook, for me, was if I'd be interested in writing the story of Aunt May losing her virginity. What gent could refuse? Marvel's bookstore readership is growing enormously. Much, much faster than any other part of the industry and it's significant that a large number of these readers are young girls lured in by Tobey Maguire or whomever. We've had kewl romance. We've had adult romance. We've had Vertigo romance. However, these things are aimed at a more cultish demographic in the same way that cult movies are aimed at a smaller audience than the kind of people who can see Swinfan or Bring It On or whatever. What they asked me to do was write a very mainstream romance book, set in the past, for a twelve year old mainstream audience and so I watched every one of these movies, read far too many YA books and basically just channelled it all into one project. I really, really had a good time with this. It's so unlike anything I've ever done before or probably will again. I think, as a single piece of work, it reads really well and the artwork is just beautiful. They even got one of the most popular YA people to do the covers so that it'd look like a Mary Kate and Ashley novel or whatever when it hits the bookstores. The idea was to do something that could act as a catylist between YA novels and graphic novels and the plan is to have this stocked somewhere between the two or even in both when the collection comes out.
Who came up with the idea for Trouble?
Bill and Joe came up with the basic high concept and asked me if I was interested. I generally don't like working that way, but this seemed like a fun experiment.
You seem to relish shocking the audience. Do you think that has an impact on your reputation? Do you care? Ever worry about respect, from peers or critics?
I don't look for respect any more than anyone else, but am pleased when I read an interview and find Alex Ross or Joss Whedon or Tom DeSanto or Neil Gaiman or whomever saying that they're enjoying what I'm writing. I'm still a huge fan at heart and so, for example, when Alan Moore passes a message along or, as happened last week, I get an email from Frank Miller I can't help but find it very hard to delete it from my inbox. Being known as a shock-meister or whatever doesn't bother me at all and doesn't impact my rep, as far as I'm aware. It's what I'm intentionally doing, of course, because it's what interests me as a reader. My all-time favourite opening sequence is Marshall Law #5 or thereabouts where we open up the book and see a guy who looks like Superman sitting on a shitty toilet and trying to find a vein to shoot up. THAT makes me turn the page. The Wasp fearing that The Vision has been kidnapped by Baron Zemo does not. The market's a big wide place and there's room for both kind of comics, but the stuff that interests me is the stuff I find visually and thematically exciting. It's like dialogue. Pete Milligan and Pat Mills are my two biggest influences in dialogue. Nobody talks like Pete writes, but it works really well. It's like the scene in Authority #14 where the Giant Man character is sitting with his lower legs blown off. Saying that this hurts more than it looks is amusing to read and sticks in your head. Saying AAAAAAGGGHHHHHH!! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! is what you WOULD say in that situation, but just wouldn't be that interesting to me. I'd rather be shocked than bored as a reader and this applies to my working day too. Give me Piss Christ over Constable any day of the week.
You mention the scene in The Authority where a Giant Man analogue has had his legs sliced off...which was a very memorable scene, and very much in keeping with the style you and Frank Quitely chose to work in. What was the initial DC reaction to scenes like that? How did the eventual managerial interference in the series develop over time? When did you know you'd had enough of it?
Issue thirteen slipped out with an OH SHIT, Bill Clinton and various other little nuggets without anyone noticing because nobody cared. However, some retailer called up DC and complained and they started looking at us very carefully. #14 was toned down a little, but the intrusions were kept to a minimum thanks to the sterling efforts of the Wildstorm guys. They kind of gave up on us when Frank made a bolt for Marvel. I think they felt slighted that he left after everything they'd been through so, instead of protecting us from DC, they kind of turned their guns on us a little too. They'd just lost the appetite for the fight. I wouldn't say things became unbearable until the final arc and this, coupled with the fact that I was seriously ill at the time, made the period just appalling for me. It was horrible and Marvel and improved health just all came as a blessed relief.
Speaking of no respect, you're working with Rob Liefeld on Youngblood: Bloodsport. Why did you agree to write the book?
Again, I like surprising people. I'd commit suicide if I thought I'd just be writing the same story for the rest of my life and I see people doing it. The idea of the same tone, mood set-up, etc, forever is my idea of Hell. I just like to shake things up for myself when I see I'm getting too comfortable and nothing was a bigger surprise to my friends when I said I was working with Rob. It's funny because Rob's reputation makes this sound like such a risk and yet we're talking about someone who's sold more comics than anyone besides Jack Kirby in the last forty years. However, making 20 million in a single year when you're still in your early twenties opens you up to a lot of criticism and makes you a lot of enemies. Rob was lambasted like nothing I've ever seen and that playground mentality bugs the shit out of me. Why does the industry need a whipping boy? He asked me to do what Tarantino did for Travolta and that's what I've done. I've created a Rob book that pretty much everybody likes because it's, well, fun. It's a parody of the Image years and just about everybody else in the industry. And Rob gets the joke. He's sending himself up and that's great.
Some creators have accused Liefeld of financial fuckery, for lack of a better term. It's obviously none of my business, but are you happy with how the financial end of your deal with Rob has worked out?
It was my biggest concern going into the deal. I didn't know Rob from Rob Lowe and all I knew was what I'd read in the press and I said this to him. He countered this by paying me up-front, which I think was quite an honourable thing to do. Every creator has a problem with at least one company. It's the nature of the business. Rob has more enemies than most, but so do Marvel, DC, Top Cow or whomever. You can only really go on personal experience and I like him.
What's Rob been like to work with?
He's been a treat. He's a lovely, lovely guy and I've had nothing but good fun, enthusiasm and really great, over-the-top artwork from him. He knows he doesn't draw photo-realistic art like Bryan or Alex. But neither does Kev O'Neill and I think that's how people have to accept Rob's stuff. I've given you a story that's as cartoony and silly and fun as Rob's art and I think people are appreciating it in a different way now. It's like when I asked Curt Swan to draw the most appalling issue of Swamp Thing I'd ever done. Juxtaposing the safety of that Norman Rockwell inspired art with a depraved script created a very interesting result. I think we've done the same with Youngblood. I'm very happy with how the book has developed. Issue two is just insane.
How does Marvel feel about Youngblood: Bloodsport's cover that uses the Marvel Ultimate cover design? Whose idea was that?
I honestly don't know. I haven't seen this yet, except online. They'd probably just laugh about it since it's the kind of stunt they'd pull themselves.
How do you feel about the online distribution of the series? Do you wish it had been shipped in a more traditional manner?
I think nothing happens by accident. I'm a great believer in fate and Rob phoned to tell me last week that he'd already sold 20,000 copies of this book inside a couple of weeks HIMSELF. That's a $3.99 book plus packaging taking it up to ten bucks and he personally sold over 1,000 copies a day at his San Diego booth. Arcade's estimates are that we're going to end up doing around 60,000 copies of each issue when we're done and that made me smile quite a bit. Selling each issue in stages like this is a lot like what happened with Superman: Red Son in that something became hot and collectible and ended up as a much sought after book. This thing's already costing stupid money on eBay and I find that quite amusing.
Were you one of a group of creators approached by DC recently and made an offer of better pay than you're getting at Marvel? Rich Johnston is now claiming that the news of this DC campaign may have been planted by Marvel. Is that true, or did DC make you a serious offer? What can you tell me about it?
This is a perfect example of how stupid the Internet can make us all sometimes. DC score a few fine scalps from Marvel and then news that they're after a few more becomes a suspected plant from Marvel to, God help us, make DC's REAL announcement seem all the flatter. Jesus Christ! I'm pretty close with Marvel and know the kind of stunts they pull, but this is the most stupid, convoluted rumour I've ever heard and takes fifteen times as much free time as anyone actually has to spread them. Yes, DC came looking for some big creators at Marvel and elsewhere. Bryan's still under contract, but they came looking. My relationship with DC is frozen until Levitz goes, but a small faction within the company explored the possibility of me going over there even though they knew they'd have a battle on their hands. I will go to DC but it won't be until 2006 or thereabouts because things will be ready then. Their hands are still tied too much and there's still a few old faces they need to get rid of at the moment. DC is glorious to me. It's where I grew up and it's where I want to grow old, but it's still a bit like Chicago under Capone at the moment and Dan Didio has a huge task ahead of him in terms of cleaning up all the bad habits and petty behaviour. Even this Superman revamp is happening at the wrong time because they're not letting the guys change anything. Lois is still married to Clark and all the mistakes made over the last fifteen years are still in place. These creators are all guys I respect a lot, but I'm told they don't have the necessary lattitude they're going to need if they're going to pull Superman out of the gutter. I love Superman more than any other concept in this business and I have my own ideas and my own plans. But it's too soon. Relax. We'll get there eventually.
You say you won't work with DC again until Paul Levitz is gone from the company. Is that the only requirement you have in mind, or would other changes be needed?
Changing the head of a company changes everything. It changes overnight, like a Presidential administration. It's happened before at other companies and it'll happen at DC. I'm a history buff. I like to follow the trends and make predictions and, believe me, DC will be a very different company by 2005/ 2006. I think comics will be unrecognizable by that point. We're at the beginning of a huge period of transition. I think you'll find the next two years will be quite shocking, sometimes bad, but sometimes very good.
Do you have a plan in mind for how you'd reset Superman to where he should be creatively, getting rid of his marriage to Lois, whatever? What else bothers you about the last 15 years of continuity?
I hate seeing creators swan in and start bitching about other guys' work. It's a shitty thing to do and I wouldn't like it if someone did this about my stuff. All I'll say is that, over the last fifteen years mistakes have been made and it's mostly came from management. The big, stupid decisions like Lois and Clark getting married came from above and the creators just did their best with hands tied. I think the Berganza era, on the other hand, has produced some of the best creators and creative material since the Byrne revamp. Guys like Loeb, Casey, Kelly, etc, have done some very good work in a period when they were definitely frustrated by being forced to operate in certain parameters so I'm not criticising them in any way. Likewise, the new teams are some of the best people in comics so I wish them the best. They're just too early. They're still having to work inside a mouldy building instead of knocking it down and building something fresh. I'm afraid Hitchy and the other people I've spoken to will be keeping Mum for now because we're very serious about doing this when the time is right. We also want to be at the peak of our powers when we do Superman and we're not ready yet. This has to be radical and the best work of our careers. I'm excited, but this is honestly my last word on the subject until, a couple of years down the line, we make our announcement.
Why is Superman such an appealing character to you?
That's impossible to answer. It's like asking why yellow is my favourite colour. Superman is the first superhero I was ever exposed to, which might be a factor, but it's struck a chord with me as far back as I remember. I've recounted endlessly how I thought he was an historical figure as opposed to a pop culture icon. I thought that until I was seven so that's probably quite important. Some of this is explored a little in WANTED, which hopefully rationalised a little of why I thought this.
You're obviously a major subject for comics "news" sites like The Pulse and Newsarama, not to mention gossip columns like Lying in the Gutters and All the Rage. The ascension of these sites as a force in the industry coincides with your own popularity...tell me what you think of the state of online comics journalism and what it means to you.
Online journalism is, on the whole, of a high standard. Consider that the internet is basically an international megaphone where literally hundreds of thousands of readers can shout about anything they like and it's surprisingly courteous and sensible. Of course, you do get idiots. You get crazed mentally ill bastards who exist for nothing more than winding up the creator of their choice, but they're mercifully few because I think comics tend to attract fairly decent, smart people. Anyone who reads tends to be smarter than Joe Public and people who read comics even moreso. I think criticism is healthy because it keeps you honest. You can't afford two bad issues in a row and I think this is why books tend to be of a higher standard than they were ten years ago. It also breed neuroses though. Myself and most people I know waste at least an hour every morning reading reviews or whatever before they actually start working and that can become a part-time job if you aren't careful.
Who do you think the good online comics reporters, reviewers and columnists are? What about their work do you enjoy? Is there anything you think is missing from the online comics community?
Christ! This is more dangerous than the artists question. Okay, who do I like to read? Well, first port of call is always Newsarama. That's invaluable. I check that five times a day for updates or whatever. I like CBR too. Rich is hilarious and is probably the most important figure in the net community because he keeps everyone relatively honest. He's a cock, of course, but I love him for it and he actually has more integrity than you would imagine. Steven Grant is great too. Hardly anyone actually writes this kind of column anymore so it stands out quite a bit and I look forward to it. Um, I don't know. I read Augie, miss Gail's column, read a lot on Silver Bullets. They've got too many columnists, but there's some really good ones in there too. Markisan's been great. Likewise Brandon. I really like Jason so that's another site I always check. Ditto Fourth Rail. I actually get nervous when I log on first thing on Mondays, but enjoy seeing them pan people I don't like. I wish they'd admit how much they like superhero comics, though. I saw some pricks mocking them for their enthusiasm a while ago and noticed a change in their tone maybe six months back. I love those guys and their enthusiasm is infectious so please don't feel you have to compete with the Journal, Don and Randy. Sequential Tart is such a brilliant idea, but they seem to have moved away from comics quite substantially to the point where they don't even review them as of this month. That's a real shame because I love Tart. I'm sure it's intentional because their interests seem to lie elsewhere now, but it's still a shame because I think they were such a unique voice. Christ, who else? The Pulse is good. I love Heidi's Beat thing. Loads of stuff. I spend too much time online reading this stuff, to be honest.
You have a great number of new titles coming out in the months ahead, including some very popular artists in the creative lineups. Tell me what you've got cooking.
Again, it would have been easy for me to coast and just do Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men forever. X-Men was a bumper payday and everyone said I was insane to stop, but I only had a couple of years in me and I just really wanted to do good things. A cheque arrived three weeks ago for some royalties for a collection and my wife pointed out that this one cheque was more than I'd made for an entire year's work at DC. Even SHE questioned giving up a book like this, but you have to follow your guts. My plan is to balance Marvel work (which I love) with more personal, creator-owned material that isn't restricted by taste or decency. Essentially, I want to have my cake and eat it and so my line-up looks a little like this. Superman: Red Son, Trouble and The Ultimates Volume One all conclude over the next two or three months. December starts a whole new chapter in my career with the launch of the Millarworld line of books and the various publishers who have gotten behind this initiative. We've got WANTED with JG Jones at Top Cow, CHOSEN with Peter Gross at Dark Horse, THE UNFUNNIES with Anthony Williams at Avatar and several Image one-shots by pals like John Cassaday, Frank Quitely, Ashley Wood and others. These are the books I've been itching to write for the last two or three years and I've been working on them for some time. December also features the launch of Ultimate Fantastic Four [by Millar, Bendis, Adam Kubert and Andy Kubert] and, very shortly afterwards, The Ultimates Volume Two where we hopefully return to something more like a monthly schedule. My creator-owned material should be completed by late Spring and it's then that I'm dipping my toes into the Marvel Universe for the first time and taking on my first big monthly. I'm very very excited about this and have already started putting the first issue together. I can't talk about it yet, but I'm making a huge commitment to Marvel over the next couple of years.
Tell me how Millarworld came together as a multi-company line of comics-- where'd the idea come from, and how did you get the publishers to play ball? Will there be a unified trade dress or logos to link the titles across the board?
Yeah, every comic will carry the Millarworld logo and web address so it'll be an intercompany crossover of sorts on a massive scale. The covers will all have a uniform design too. I had a great offer from one company to do them all there and the money would certainly have been better. I'm doing some of these books for free, as are the artists, but it's because I believe in this big, silly idea of all the companies working together in a fairly formal way like this. It's weird reading a couple of people saying online that Millar doesn't care about the industry, just himself, etc., because it's not true. I could have continued doing what I was doing and made a very good living for these months when I've taken a kind of break from paying work, but I'm not. I'm taking a huge loss to do this stuff because I absolutely believe in it. Similarly, it's not even that I wanted a slice of the pie because Top Cow, for example, offered to buy ALL the books and pay us very, very good money for doing so, but I drove all my artists insane by begging them to stick with the original plan. This isn't for the cash. It'll be nice to do something I own and hopefully that'll pay off some day, but this is more of me paying my dues to where I came from. Whatever heat I have attached to my name that, thank God, tends to sell a lot of books shouldn't just be confined to companies like Marvel and DC who sell well anyway. I think it's good for us creatively to try new things and, as an industry, feel that top ten creators need to do smaller projects from time to time to keep the blood pumping around the companies that might need a little help sometimes. It's good for everyone. Nobody's ever tried anything this big before. I might fall flat on my face, but I don't think so.
You've decided to stay exclusive with Marvel, a fact that is being announced this weekend at Wizard World. Tell me what you can about the details of your new deal, how it affects The Ultimates and your other Marvel work, and whether you entertained any other offers?
It's reasonably well known that Bryan and I have a contract that runs until the end of Summer 2003 with Marvel. We mentioned this in our individual comments when we signed with them and, like all contracts, this one has finite lifespan. Other companies knew this and made a play for us. People at DC spoke to me privately, people at Marvel spoke to me about extending the contract and one other company who wanted me to do two books a month for them offered me a surprisingly large amount of cash to jump over there. Some serious money was discussed here and we're just ordinary guys. We're not millionaires like some people are in the industry. We don't do four or five books a month or have income coming from movies, books or TV or whatever. This is how we feed our families and, in my own case, I'm the sole earner in the house so finance is definitely a consideration. We have a second-hand car, we go on one holiday a year and my daughter will be attending a regular school, but I'm cool with that. We make enough money that we don't have to worry about anything and I love what I do so I'm changing nothing.
The interest from elsewhere meant that we were able to up our Marvel contracts quite substantially for the next three years. It's not as much as we could have made if we'd jumped, but we genuinely love what we're doing and we really like the guys we're working with. Bill and Joe have been brilliant with us. Bendis and I were just talking last week about how we'll never have it this good again. I grew up with DC, but I really LOVE working at Marvel. If Joe left it could change in a heartbeat. I'm under no illusion that this environment and the slack we're cut is down to two or three people, but as long as they're there I'M there. Hitch and I have both just agreed to extending out contracts for another three years and we're so relieved about this because we've spent the last two years putting notes together for Ultimates Volume Two and a new #1 shortly after Christmas. This also means we can continue with the secret work Bendis, Kubert and I have doing on Ultimate Fantastic Four without any means of interruption and, best of all, the Marvel comic I've wanted to write my entire life will be in my hands as soon as I've finished the creator-owned stuff. We're looking at a late Spring release date for this book, but I'm not sure when we're allowed to formally announce what the title is going tobe yet.
Are there any comics you find yourself reading these days? Do you have the time? If there are any, which ones and what do you enjoy about them?
I'm actually reading very little at the moment, which is annoying because there's a lot of good books coming out. I read the first two issues of Global Frequency, Filth and Y: The Last Man, but haven't been near a comic store since and so will finish them all with the collections. That's pretty much all I'm reading at DC. In terms of Marvel I'm reading Amazing Spider-Man, The Punisher, Ultimate Spidey, The Hulk and a couple of other things I'll remember later, but I put most of them by and keep meaning to catch up on what I've been missing. I've started reading New X-Men again with the Riot At Xavier's story. I just read that last week and thought it was brilliant. I'd stopped around Imperial, but I really liked Riot so I'm going to go back and read the other issues now. Same with X-Statix. There's a huge pile of those I want to read, but I need some time off to lie around the house or sit in the pub and catch up.
With all you've done and all you have coming up, is there any story you have inside you that you have yet to tackle? Any unfulfilled ambitions?
Life's an unfulfilled ambition. The minute it ceases to be you just wither up and die. I've got several projects I'm itching to do at Marvel. John Cassaday and I have been talking about something big. Likewise me and Carlos Pacheco have something in mind for 2004 or 2005. I've got more creator-owned things planned, but the next wave of Millarworld books will be a little down the line because I only want to do this stuff with the best artists available and I'm not the fastest of writers. I'm also finishing up a children's book I might be speaking about shortly. It's been great, again using the other side of my brain and giving me a chance to write something my five year old kid might actually enjoy. She doesn't dig that superheroes shooting up shit I kind of like myself.
Special thanks to Chris Allen, Brian Lynch and Derek Martinez
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