For enthusiasts, the name itself is enough to evoke what we popularly know as the fangasm. For the uninitiated, Millar is one of the most celebrated figures in the realm of superhero comics, Mark Millar is the man who introduced to the world Ultimate Fantastic Four, Civil War and Kick-Ass.
As he conversed with fans via Skype at the Bangalore Comic Con, we decided to reach out to him and have a little conversation with him about the world of comics, his journey so far and some fond memories. Here are some excerpts from our conversation with him.
What are the best things about being a comic creator?
When I was five years old, I remember my teacher asking us what we wanted to do for a living. My friends said astronaut or cowboy or professional footballer. I said comic-book writer. As an adult, I got my wish and in a world where we almost never grow up to do what we always dreamed of, I treasure that every day. I get to make up stories for a living. I get to share ideas with millions of people and get paid for it. There’s no better feeling.
What are the worst?
I think the hardest thing about being a writer is that we’re always very tough on ourselves. If we do a great story we just use it as a bar to clear and want to make the next one better. We put our heart and souls into these books and movies because it means a lot to us and that can be tiring or frustrating sometimes, but it’s also a healthy thing because it means we never get complacent.
In your experience, what superpowers does one need to not just survive in the comics industry? And why?
An old editor at DC Comics years ago used to say that a freelancer writer needed three qualities. They needed to be good at their job, they needed to be punctual with their work and they needed to be fun to deal with. One out of three and you might get the occasional gig. Two out of three and you would make a steady living. Three out of three and you would be famous. Not many people are all three, but we strive for it.
What is more important in comics, writing or art? And why?
It’s impossible to say. It’s like a hamburger without the bun. Remove one and it becomes a different thing. But if I had to say what sells more books, I think I’d have to admit it’s the art. We’re in a very visual medium and art will always catch your eye before a good twist at the end of a story. I’ve seen a lot of good stories ruined by terrible art, but a brilliant artist can elevate even a mediocre story.
What are your fondest memories of being a comic book creator?
There’s been a lot of great moments so far. I remember meeting Stan Lee when I was a teenager and just starting out in the biz. I remember seeing Downey Jr when he first walked onto the Iron Man set to look around just as a meeting I had with Jon Favreau was ending. Walking into the Marvel offices for the first time was amazing as was walking onto the set of something I’d created, like Wanted or Kick-Ass, and seeing famous actors dressed up and pretending to be my characters. But I think my favourite experience so far was going to Manila and a thousand people waiting in line all day to get their books signed.
It was so incredibly nice and it made me realise how many people were excited about comics beyond places you’d expect like America. I grew up thousands of miles away in Scotland and was just as obsessed as a kid in New York or Chicago. Likewise, a kid in Jakarta or Malaysia didn’t love Spider-Man any less, but it’s so far away that not a lot of writers and artists really get a chance to go and visit.
I made a vow to come back to Asia as much as possible as I had a great time and appreciated every single person who waited. I want to do Russia and India next year too and hope to get to Bangalore Con if possible.