Exclusive Mark Millar Interview

[Date: April 27, 1999]

Mark Millar is a writer for DC Comics, writing the popular Superman Adventures comic books, and also co-writer with Stuart Immonen on Action Comics (one of the regular Superman comic books).

The Superman Homepage would like to thank Mark for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.

This interview is Copyright © 1999 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.


Q: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Mark Millar. I'm handsome, Scottish and twenty nine years old; the same age as Superman. No matter what they tell you, Superman is 29. The only guys who want him to be thirty five are friends of mine who are dangerously on the wrong side of thirty. I'm a script-writer and, more specifically, a comics script-writer. Movies and TV are starting to play a big role in my life, but comics are my own true love. Superman comics in particular. Superman is the reason I got into this business and suddenly finding myself as the most prolific writer of Superman material is something I still can't quite fit into my head.

Q: When did you become a Superman fan and what got you into Superman (the comics, radio shows, television shows, movies)?

Mark Waid told me to tell you this... It's actually fairly embarrassing and, as Mark so brilliantly put it, "on the razor edge of PATHETIC", but I believed in Superman as a REAL PERSON until the age of around six or seven. My brother told me he fought during the war and disappeared shortly afterwards with the other heroes and I had no reason to disbelieve him. We didn't get the George Reeves show over here until 1989, but I found a photograph of Reeves in an old school encyclopedia on American pop culture. I was six or seven at the time and the photo said nothing about a TV show. As far as I was aware, this WAS Superman. Who WOULDN'T believe in him?

Q: What do you think of the Superman Homepage?

Brilliant. Pros always lie and say they don't check out the reviews, but we scan every single one on the message-boards, homepages, Usenet, etc. The Superman Homepage always gives me a fair review, which probably makes me a little biased, but it's my favourite web page on the Internet... aside from the Jenny McCarthy one.

Q: Who would you like to see play Superman on the big screen in another Superman movie?

Don't laugh, but I thought Nic Cage was an interesting idea. I hated Dean Cain so much and thought he looked, acted and sounded more unlike Superman than Teri Hatcher. Compared to Cain, Cage actually IS Superman and the fact that he's an Oscar-winning actor would, I think, bring some much-needed dignity after the TV show. He doesn't look like Superman, granted, but ANYONE can look like a superhero with the right wig, make-up, special effects, etc.

If I could choose anyone, I think I'd opt for Daniel Day-Lewis. The last rumour I heard from a friend in Hollywood was that he was being seriously considered. Being Irish shouldn't prevent him from tackling such an all-American role. I mean, Superman's from Krypton, isn't he?

Q: In 1998, Warner Bros. celebrated their 75th Anniversary by rereleasing movies from every decade, including Superman from in the 1970s movie section. Did you see Superman when it was rereleased? If so, where, and what did you think seeing the movie 20 years later again on the big screen? How did it make you feel?

It made me feel angry because we didn't GET the 20th Anniversary screening over here. I was really pissed off about that, especially when all my pro pals in the USA rubbed it in. Originally, I saw the movie in the ABC cinema in Glasgow. I was nine years old when it was released and actually threw up with excitement whilst waiting in the queue. One of my four older brothers took me and, as I've said to him countless times, it changed my life forever. I'm writing comics thanks to that movie. It's still my all-time favourite.

Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to write comic books?

As soon as I saw my first one. I can't remember if it was an issue of Tec with Batman on a white horse or Superman #297. Either way, I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do, despite being four years old.

Q: Where did you go to college?

Several places. I trained to be a priest for a bit at Blairs College in Aberdeen, but discovered girls and left. I went to a regular comprehensive and eventually to Paisley University. However, my parents both died when I was in my teens and I had absolutely no money. I had to quit my degree in the final months due to mounting debts and find a job. Cue comics!

Q: How do you go about becoming a comic book writer?

I broke in at an easier time, but still spent six months writing one six page script every day and sending it in to a British comic called 2000AD. I worked nine to five, five days a week for six months for no money. More than anything, a writer needs dedication and, if you're good, you'll be hired. It's as simple as that. No conspiracy exists to keep out good writers.

Q: Would you recommend that others join the comic industry?

It's very tough at the moment, especially for new guys. That said, you'll be hired if you're at least as good as the people they're currently using. However, the writers have actually improved a lot lately. 90% of comics used to be unreadable. Now I'd say it's about 50/50.

Q: In your opinion, is the comic industry still a strong business?

No, but I think it will improve thanks to the efforts of the creators. Good comics builds enthusiasm and enthusiasm builds a recovery. Right now, the biggest problem is getting the books to people. The collapse of the direct market means that so many people I know can't even FIND comics to spend their dollars on.

Q: Who's your favorite comic book hero?

Come on. Do you even need to ask? Although, I must admit, I like Batman too.

Q: What version of Superman is your personal favorite?

Mark and Alex pinned him down perfectly in Kingdom Come. This, to me, is the best DC Comics have ever been and should be suspended above the keyboard and drawing-board of every freelancer. I'm also a massive fan of the mid-70s Maggin/Bates/Swan stuff. Kingdom Come appealed to me because it evoked this period which inspired me so much.

Q: Which do you think of when writing a Superman story?

Somewhere between Curt Swan and Alex Ross. These two Supermen look nothing alike, but both seem to be channeling the real guy... wherever he is out there.

Q: Can you let us in on any future/up-coming Superman projects you are working on or will soon be working on?

Well, I'm writing Superman Adventures until Christmas and have a lot of good stuff coming up there. The one I'm writing at the moment features The Parasite draining Mr Mxyzptlk's powers and going on a rampage through space and time. These are the kind of stories you couldn't get away with in the regular books and I've had a ball over the last eighteen months writing this stuff.

Also out soon is Team Superman with the brilliant Georges Jeanty. The idea behind this story features Superman being responsible for the accidental deaths of three hundred people and exiling himself from Earth... or so it appears!

Superman: Red Son is the biggie. This is Superman's "Dark Knight" and is a three issue, prestige format Elseworlds series which Wildcats' Dave Johnson has been drawing for three years. It's incredible and, hopefully, will be out by the end of this year. The basic premise is Superman's rocket landing in the Soviet Union in 1938 and Superman growing up in a triumphant USSR. Truth, Justice and the American Way? No thanks, Comrade!

Q: What is it like now that you are part of the DCU Superman team?

Groovy.

Q: How did the position come about for you? Who contacted you?

Maureen McTigue and Joey Cavalieri contacted me, but Stuart Immonen was the man who recommended me. I really love Stuart. He's a very gracious collaborator, a solid ideas man and one of the three best artists in the business. I owe my position on this book to him.

A few "off topic" questions:

Q: Do you have any bad habits?

Like all Scotsmen, I like a drink and can often end up in fights... even at conventions!

Q: What is the best advice anybody ever gave you?

Grant Morrison, 1988: "Forget being an artist, be a writer!"

Q: Who would you most like to sit next to on a long airplane flight?

Grant Morrison and I are best pals and always travel to Cons together so he's the one I'm most likely to spend eighteen hours with on the trek from Glasgow to San Diego. We always get drunk and snigger the entire trip. Everyone sitting near us HATES us.

Q: Who would you least like to sit next to on an airplane flight?

Hard to say, really. I wouldn't mind sitting next to someone I dislike because it would give me the chance to bug them for eighteen hours. Forrest Whittaker maybe... I don't know why, but he's the actor I hate more than any other on Earth.

Q: What is the one thing you can't live without?

Everything.

Q: If you were down to your last $10 how would you spend it?

An issue of Superman Adventures for me and another four for my big brothers. I'd spend the remaining five cents on candy!

Thanks for allowing me to interview you!

Thank you.