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GFF 2012 - Mark Millar interview

The comic book creator of Kick-Ass and Wanted tells us about his role at the Glasgow Film Festival

GFF 2012 - Mark Millar interview

Mark Millar has written some of the biggest comics of the last 20 years. He’s tackled the X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman and Fantastic Four alongside his own Millarworld line that gave us The Unfunnies, Nemesis and Superior as well as Kick-Ass and Wanted which were both adapted for the big screen. We ask him about his role at the Glasgow Film Festival, his new comics project with Frank Quitely and his favourite comic book movies

Could you tell us about your involvement with the Glasgow Film Festival?
The festival asked me to return as ambassador for the GFF and curate the comic book strand [Kapow!]. It went down really well last year, we had Superman 2 and Danger: Diabolik and all these things I love. Just because I love something doesn’t always mean everyone will be into it but we were really lucky and there was a real buzz about it, so this year we’re expanding it and there’s more comic book guests and more comic book movies. We’ve got some great stuff this year, we managed to get some great movies, just as a fan I can’t wait to see some of this stuff, and the beauty is I get in for nothing [laughs].

What are you looking forward to seeing at Kapow?
Almost everything. There’s a special cut of Superman the Movie which has never been shown before, even I don’t know what it is, so I’ really keen to see that myself. The Crow, which I’ve never seen but have always wanted to see; and my own personal pick is Flash Gordon. I haven’t seen it on the big screen since I was 10, it’ll be like the Rocky Horror Show for sci-fi fans. Everybody knows every line, the minute Brian Blessed says ‘Gordon’s Alive’ the place will go nuts. I can’t wait.

You’re also appearing at the GFF yourself, giving a talk alongside artist Frank Quitely, could you tell us more about that?
Frank Quitely and I have this big project. I’ve had this project in my mind since I was a kid practically and I’ve been piecing it together a lot in the last couple of years. The idea is I’ve always wanted to do a Star Wars-style thing about superheroes. I love the epicness of Star Wars, the fact it’s on different planets, there’s hundreds of different characters, a vast history and a really rich universe. In comics we get events like Civil War or Final Crisis with Marvel or DC characters, but I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have something anybody can read, you don’t already have to be a fan. Create a world, work out all the mythology and just write a big epic crossover style storyline with all new characters in the way Tolkein created his own mythology. So that’s what I’ve done and it’s called Jupiter’s Children and it covers centuries, it covers alien planets, it’s got everything superheroes, aliens, robots, it’s like a big fantasy but it’s also really tragic. It’s about the children of the superheroes growing up and realising they will never be their parents, and their parents realising the limitations of their children so it has a sad Shakespearean feel to it.

There are two Scottish movies screening at Kapow!, Electric Man and Night is Day – have you had a chance to see them?
I haven’t seen them yet, the guys who are doing them are relatively new and I just think what a brilliant opportunity to see your work with an audience. It’s really hard for indie filmmakers to get that first big break and you never know who’s going to be in that audience and they’ll get reviews and hopefully reach the mainstream. It looks like Glasgow is finally doing superhero movies.

What stage have you reached with your own Glasgow-based directorial debut Miracle Park?
I’ve actually been so busy I haven’t touched it. I shot 20 minutes of it a year ago and since then I’m now literally juggling seven big Hollywood films, so this micro-budget thing just had to be put on hold. I can’t say too much about some of them but … [Millar then tells us off the record about his up-coming projects, including two big sequels – while we can’t spill the beans, lets just say it’s time to get very excited] … four this year and three next year, so just too busy to get round to my own thing.

Were you trying to show the breadth of topics covered in comic books movies by including titles like A History of Violence and Tatsumi alongside more traditional films like The Crow and Superman?
Definitely, traditionally comic book movies in the 80s or 90s meant 'something a bit like Batman’. They’d do The Phantom or The Shadow and when a couple of them failed comic book movies failed. Then what we’ve seen over the last decade is Ghost World was a comic, A History of Violence was a comic, Road to Perdition was a comic in the same way Superman and Batman were comics. You realise comics are a medium not a genre, it’s just a way of telling stories and in that sense it will never go away in Hollywood. Perhaps superhero movies in five years time could become unfashionable but then they’ll just look to horror comics or sci-fi comics and turn them into movies. So it’s great as a comic book creator.

Why do you think superheroes are so popular at the moment? 2012 is going to be a massive year for comic book adaptations.
Just when people think it’s starting to tail off it just gets bigger. Superheroes are always big in times of social and economic crisis. They were created in the depression and World War II, they were huge during the Cold War/Nuclear era when all the Marvel characters were created, they were basically the safe version of nuclear energy so it made you feel better about radiation because the Hulk and Spider-Man were irradiated. Every time there’s been a superhero boom it always comes around the same time as something terrible happening in the world, it’s great for us but terrible for everyone else, weirdly superheroes tail off when things are good. You find in the 1950s when things were pretty sweet both side of the Atlantic you couldn’t sell a superhero comic it was a disaster. It happens periodically the 90s were a golden age economically but terrible for comics, sales were down to about 25% of what they had been just a couple of years before between '94–'96. Good times are bad for us but bad times unfortunately are really good for us. September the 11th was a real turning point and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that people in America since then have craved a bit of escapism and there’s nothing more black and white than the good guy verses the bad guy of superheroes. This year looks like the biggest of the lot, Green Lantern was a dud last year but I think that was just through mismanagement, it was a shit film that did badly so it was no surprise. But this year, my god – The Avengers, Spider-Man and Batman rebooted – this is going to be the biggest of the lot.

Finally what is your favourite comic book adaptation? And you can’t choose one of your own
The funny thing is my own are my favourites now, they just feel like your kids, you feel so paternal about them. When I see someone dressed up as Kick-Ass or Hit Girl for Halloween or something, I’m delighted. It has to be the first Superman film, but there have been so many good ones, there’s been some real contenders over the last 10 years: Matthew Vaughan’s X-Men: First Class was great, Brian Singer’s X-Men was great, I loved the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, even the one everyone hates, the third one. I never got the problem with it, I think it sometimes becomes fashionable to mock them, I even thought X-Men: The Last Stand was alright, well, not as bad as everyone said.

The Crow

  • 1994
  • US
  • 101 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Alex Proyas
  • Cast: Brandon Lee

Infamous as the film on which martial arts star Bruce Lee's son Brandon was killed by a defective stunt gun, this is the most consistent attempt yet to create on film the distinctive feel of the graphic novel. The characterisation and plot development may be slight – a rock star comes back from the dead to wreak revenge…

A History of Violence

  • 2005
  • US
  • 95 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: David Cronenberg
  • Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt

Tom Stall (Mortensen) owns a café and has an idyllic life with his lawyer wife (Bello) and their two children in the small town of MillBrook. That life changes the day Tom kills two criminals who are causing trouble in his restaurant. A masterpiece of sorts.

Flash Gordon

  • 4 stars
  • 1980
  • USA/UK
  • 106 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Mike Hodges
  • Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr/Michael Allin
  • Cast: Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Max von Sydow, Ornella Muti, Brian Blessed
  • UK release: 5 December 1980

A colourful, camp adventure starring Flash! ('aaah, saviour of the universe', as the memorable Queen soundtrack has it).


  • 2011
  • Singapore
  • 94 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Eric Khoo
  • Cast: Tetsuya Bessho, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
  • UK release: 13 January 2012

A film based on the life and short stories of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, renowned for his gekiga style of manga.

Electric Man

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • Scotland
  • 98 min
  • Directed by: David Barras
  • Written by: David Barras, Scott MacKay
  • Cast: Toby Manley, Mark McKirdy, Jennifer Ewing

Impoverished comic shop employees Jason (Manley) and Wolf (McKirdy) accidentally acquire a rare and valuable comic, not knowing that others are hunting it too. This light-hearted love-letter to the graphic novel has an unnecessarily convoluted plot and some clunky editing but plenty of shining moments, and Edinburgh has…

Mark Millar and Frank Quitely

Writer Mark Millar and superstar DC and Marvel artist Frank Quitely talk about their first collaboration together in ten years, taking us through the step-by-step process of an idea becoming a script, a comic book and eventually a big budget movie. Both living and working in Glasgow, they explain how geography is no…

Night is Day

  • 2011
  • UK
  • 103 min
  • Directed by: Fraser Coull
  • Cast: Chris Summers, John Gaffney, Steven McEwan, Kirsty Anderson

Jason was just a normal twenty-something Glaswegian until, one day, supernatural powers were bestowed upon him. Since then he's been hiding in the shadows, protecting the city in secret, while Police Superintendent Sloan attempts to silence all tales of the real-life superhero vigilante. But now a new danger is…


  • 4 stars
  • 1978
  • UK
  • 143 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Richard Donner
  • Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton
  • Cast: Marlon Brando, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman

Enjoyable but now very dated first outing for Reeve as Superman. This franchise did get better before it got worse but this is still great fun.

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