This week, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Mark Millar about his upcoming graphic novel Supercrooks, which hits retail shelves on October 24th. We also talked about the Kick-Ass film sequel and a certain deal he has with a major Hollywood studio.
Before we get into the interview, I’d like to urge you all to go buy Supercrooks as soon as it’s out, because it’s simply fantastic. In typical Millar fashion, he twists and turns the reader at every opportunity – if you enjoyed Kick-Ass you’ll love this and like me, you’ll be dying to see the movie adaptation.
WC: First off, I’ve read Supercrooks and I think it’s absolutely fantastic. What was your inspiration for the book, it seems almost like an anti-Kick Ass, did you want to show the flip side of that universe?
MM: Thanks very much, I like to flip things around, I think turning things on their head is always interesting – you always see the super hero story, but what about the guys they bust and put in prison, I always loved the idea of a super villain heist. It seemed like a logical story that had never been told. It’s the same as with Red Son, the Superman book I did – I flipped it around and made him Russian. It’s quite good to mess around with pre-conceptions of stuff.
WC: We see the typical superhero story all the time, but we rarely if ever see the super villain side of it.
MM: They’ve been doing it in cinema for 80 years, just look at Scarface back in the ’30′s where they had the protagonist be a ‘bad guy,’ it’s quite interesting but in comics they tend to never really show that perspective, it’s a very old thing in cinema, but quite a new thing in comics.
WC: Off the top of my head, I don’t think I’ve seen it in comics before, it was something very fresh to read, and as a fan I think it’s really nice to read something so different.
MM: I couldn’t be happier, it’s really caught on very well, people seem to like it and everything so my plan is to do 5 of these books. I can’t wait, it’s like I’m being completely spoiled, I’m working on Kick-Ass 3 at the moment while we’re shooting Kick-Ass 2. I’m desperate to get back into Supercrooks but it’ll be years before my schedule will let me get back into it. I’ve been kind of spoiled by starting up a bunch of things that I like and I haven’t got enough hours in the day. It’ll probably take a couple of years before I can get back into it which is quite annoying.
WC: It’s great to hear how passionate you are about it all, and how much you can’t wait to get into the next project.
MM: I love it. I get up in the morning, and as annoying as this sounds, I cannot wait to switch on the computer. I have breakfast at about half past 10 because I’ll already have done a couple of hours work.
WC: The character I found most interesting in the book was Gladiator, where did you find the inspiration for his particular story arc?
MM: I wanted him to be the ultimate bad-ass kind of guy. I think gay characters in particular can be quite stereotypical in comic books, they can be quite set. I remember the first gay character I saw was in a book called Global Champions, and he had giant hoop earrings , I remember thinking, even as a kid, this is outrageous. I just thought ‘why not have a gay character who’s the ultimate bad-ass.’ I wanted somebody who was just cool and I liked the idea of a superhero who was being blackmailed, I thought it was quite cool to have a good guy who was being forced by the bad guys into helping them because he had a secret, but it had to pay off at the end, I didn’t want him to be this negative character, I wanted him to be quite positive.
WC: I think it’s good to have that balance, we see him all the way through as this big bad-ass, but you did a really good job, I think, of exploiting his weaknesses.
MM: I really like that kind of European approach, you know? It started with Alan Moore back in the 80′s, I think we’ve always had a slightly different perspective to the American’s on these things, and I think sexual blackmail is such a European approach to superheroes. I had so much fun writing that character, and he is still is a bad-ass, and he has such a great arc.
WC: In the back of Supercrooks, you have a few pieces of concept art for a potential movie, is that something we’re likely to see sometime soon?
MM: Absolutely, Nacho Vigalondo, a friend of mine who I actually co-plotted the book with has already got a screenplay, he’s a big director over in Spain and he seemed like a perfect fit for it. I said to Universal, who produced Wanted, that I wanted to do this as a movie and I was seeing Nacho in a couple of days at a convention in London, they agreed that he’d be perfect for this, he was actually nominated for an OSCAR about six years ago for one of his Spanish movies. They thought it would be great. And it’s actually the next movie he’s going to be working on.
WC: Do you see it being similar in style to Kick-Ass, or will it have a completely unique vision, much like Kick-Ass did back in 2010?
MM: I think everything has to have it’s own feel. My plan is to do what Stan did back in the 60′s and build these individual franchises and each one should have it’s own unique feel – the way Daredevil feels different from Fantastic Four and that feels different from X-Men. I want Supercrooks to feel like it’s in its own universe, I think it’ll feel very different from Kick-Ass in the way it’s shot.
WC: I love the way that as soon as a book comes out, you’re looking to adapt that straight away – to the point where development was almost simultaneous with Kick-Ass.
MM: Exactly. I’d sold the movie rights by the time I’d finished the first four issues of Kick-Ass, and I’d given Matthew the plot for the remaining four issues, but you HAVE to do that because we live in the internet age, it’s such a cannibalistic environment and there’s always 10 guys waiting to rip you off. I’d prefer to sell it as a movie rather than somebody else selling it as a movie and not having any ownership of it. To give you an example, I came up with Supercrooks and announced it for launch in February I think, earlier this year and someone rushed out an imitation comic and tried to sell it as a movie before I could sell it. Luckily they managed to knock it on the head but that’s why you need to move so quick to get a movie deal, but they don’t get it, because if you don’t, someone’s going to steal your idea. It’s not like the old days when something could lie for 40 years because everyone’s so desperate for comic book adaptations people are just pooling your ideas as you’re thinking of them.
WC: You must have to be pretty quick on your feet.
MM: Yeah, it’s good for the book as well – Kick-Ass has sold over a million copies over the hardback and trade paper back all over the world, and it’s because of the movie. I’ve got no illusions, it would’ve sold maybe forty thousand copies without the movie and we’ve sold over a million because of the movie, and that’s my plan – I’m competing with Spider-Man comics and Hulk comics so I need to make sure that I’ve got the same kind of buying power they have by having all these movies to tie in with my books.
WC: Well it seems like you picked a good partner in Matthew Vaughn, you’re working on a new collaboration with him, The Secret Service, how’s that going?
MM: The comic of that’s running just now and Matthew and I are working on the X-Men sequel at the moment – Days Of Future Past, we’re working on that and then as soon as Matthew’s finished with that, in about a year and half, then we’ll jump into The Secret Service movie. Already there’s two imitations of The Secret Service that’ve been bought as movies already though.
WC: You mentioned the X-Men sequel, and I’m going to have to ask, is there anything at all you can share with us on that?
MM: (laughs) I could, but I can’t if you know what I mean. You can tell from the title what it’s all about and everything, it’s pretty easy to guess. I mean, I loved X-Men: First Class and this just looks ten times better, it’s so ambitious as you can imagine, I’m not giving anything away but it’s based on the comic that you’ve probably read.
WC: It must be great for you to be working with Matthew again on a project of that size, with characters that you probably used to and still do love.
MM: I’m used to writing comics, so to be able to control those characters in another medium like this, it’s like, well, it’s every fan’s dream. I find myself sitting in a meeting thinking ‘I’m getting paid for this.’ My wife’ll say things to me like, we’ve just had a new baby as well, she’ll say ‘That was a fourteen hour meeting, are you not exhausted?’ And I’m like ‘No, I can’t wait for another fourteen hours!’ It’s amazing just having conversations about who’s going to play Mr. Fantastic and putting names on the table, it’s just such fun.
WC: Like you say, it must be a dream come true to have a say in bringing your favourite characters to life on the big screen.
MM: There’s a lot of responsibility as well, obviously you don’t want to mess them up but if you do it right, you’ve won. I’m surrounded by the right people – I’ve got Matthew Vaughn in charge of X-Men, Josh Trank in charge of FF and Mangold on Wolverine – and with the plans we’ve got beyond that it’s just impossible to have a bad day at the office – it has to be great! Even as a fan, I cannot wait to be sitting in Cineworld and watching.
WC: I love how, even for characters outside of your own universe, you’re still so passionate about it, is that something you’ve always had?
MM: God yes, I think the hardest decision I ever made was leaving Marvel. I mean, Marvel paid more than I’d ever seen in my life when I was working there and I was writing characters that I love and to actually leave and go and do Millarworld was such a wrench. It was when I wrote Wanted in 2004, it came out in 2008 but it actually took me until 2010 before I stopped working there because I just loved it so much. They offered a lot more money, but there was a lot more opportunity to go and do my own stuff – The film companies, for an option, would pay more than I was making in a year when I was staffing. I just happened to leave, but I still loved it – I’d worked at Marvel for 10 years, just because that was the summit of my ambition at the time. How could you NOT want to write Captain America?
WC: Do you think you’ll ever head back to one of the major publishers, perhaps just for one more run?
MM: Definitely! I do think, the minute you don’t feel love for Spider-Man or Superman or Batman or The Hulk is the minute you should get another career. I grew up worshipping these characters and even though business-wise it makes more sense for me to stay in my world all the time, I definitely could see a couple of years down the line doing a 6 issue run on Superman or an 8 issue run on Batman or something, just a couple of different projects, you know? To go in with somebody like Bryan Hitch or Leinil Yu or John Romita on Batman or something would just be such a cool thing, you know?
WC: It would be pretty cool for the fans as well, I can’t think I’m alone in saying that.
MM: I hope so!
WC: I’ve only got one last question, I know you probably have to keep quiet on this, but how’s Kick-Ass 2 going?
MM: (laughs) It’s funny, ’cause if you’d asked a week ago I could’ve told you, I’ve done interviews on Kick-Ass 2 for two years where I’ve told everybody everything but I wasn’t under embargo then – some people know we’ve been planning this movie for two years, I didn’t realise I was supposed to keep quiet about these things and Matthew would phone me up after an interview saying ‘Shut up!! We’re supposed to be building anticipation!’ I mean, Jeff Wadlow who’s doing it got hired almost two years ago now and he started writing the screenplay a year ago, so much preparation goes into these things and they go through the drafts and all that and we’ve been planning this for a long time. I’ve just been telling people the truth and then I’ve got people saying to me ‘Shut up, that was a massive secret!’ I’ve got a terrible habit of just answering the question.
WC: It must be great for you to finally see it going into production?
MM: We’ve just been quietly working on it because the first one only cost 28 million, and it ended up making 100 million in box office and then another 140-150 million on DVD and Blu-Ray so the return was just phenomenal based on what it cost, and the next one’s only 30 million as well so it’s kind of a no-brainer that it was going to happen, but we just had to wait until everybody’s contract aligned. Chloe was busy, she’s Carrie and she’s done a few movies and to just get everybody in one place was difficult, you know, my career, Matthew’s career, the actor’s careers all sort of blew up a little after Kick-Ass and a lot was happening – I love it!
Kick-Ass opens 28th June in the US and 19th July in the UK
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