There’s a fight going down in comic land, as London hosts the battle of the Comic Cons. But with the older, more established London MCM Expo drawing an audience of over 45,000, and Kapow! Comic Con, the new kid on the block, fitting only 3000, why are the big boys so worried?
The answer lies with who is running the young competitor: Mark Millar, creator of Kick-Ass, master of hype. By attacking the larger convention and loudly announcing that Kapow! will offer everything London MCM Expo never has (erm, not really true), he has garnered huge interest in his event and encouraged the opposition to up their game, snagging the upcoming Green Lantern movie as their official sponsor. For the comic fan, it’s a win-win situation.
For the Glasgow man, it’s a chance to share his Hollywood success with his pals, and his celebrity writers from his comic magazine CLiNT will also be in attendance. The event will be yet another entry in Millar’s preposterously long CV, which spans from writer, to film producer, to magazine editor, to film director. In fact, he does all these jobs at the same time, which must make him one of the busiest guys in the industry. Love him or hate him, interest in Millar and his work is at an all time high.
Stepping out at the Glasgow Film Festival last week gave us the chance to catch up with the man, and Millar pointed to his success to illustrate his belief that location doesn’t matter these days if you have the talent to succeed. “Geography is history”, he laughs, and given that Millar has never moved out of the city, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
After acting as producer on previous movie adaptations of his comics, the writer has turned his hand to a spot of directing with his new film, Miracle Park. Backtracking on an earlier description of it as “X-Men meets Trainspotting”, Millar says he is fed up of Scotland being portrayed as a miserable country full of suicidal junkies. “In Paris, they don’t make films about how shit Paris is”, he points out, but found himself being suckered into the typical description of Scottish output.
The film, which is shooting in, you guessed it, Glasgow, is shrouded in secrecy, and Millar couldn’t be tempted to give much away. Rumour has it that footage of some kind will première at Kapow! in April, although we’re still waiting on the trailer that was promised back in January. Millar has teasingly described Miracle Park as “chilling, violent and a totally new experience in cinema”, with the plot centering on a group of animal rights activists who break into a research lab and, of course, find more than they bargained for.
Talking about the differences in production between those previous adaptations (Wanted, Kick-Ass) and Miracle Park, Millar states that they could not be more different, with the cost of the entire micro-budget film being approximate to the cost of lunch for a Hollywood crew. In the US, whole streets could be shut down for filming, but in Glasgow such a request was met with outright derision. The experience, it seems, has been enjoyably grounding for the writer.
Millar was determined “to prove it was possible to make a big genre movie in an unusual location like Scotland”, but the typical Scottish weather has not been kind to the filming schedule: snow has delayed filming by weeks, which is why a trailer has yet to materialise. What we have seen so far, looks a little like Misfits, and certainly intriguing.
If Miracle Park is a success, Millar hopes to direct again but stresses that comic writing is his main focus. “I didn’t get into comics to get out of them”, he says, holding aloft one his many notebooks that he scribbles his ideas down into. This one holds the plot points of his new top secret collaboration with Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, The Originals), but sadly we cannot make out the green scribbles. Even with squinting.
The Hollywood interest has rocketed Millar to the top of the pay league, and it’s this spotlight he hopes to share with his fellow writers and artists at Kapow!. His comics magazine CLiNT also uses this celebrity factor to boost the profile of comics in the mainstream, with regular writers including Frankie Boyle and Jonathan Ross, which helped elevate the magazine up the shelves to share space with the film magazines like Empire. We’d be remiss not to mention that the title (think about it) also places it with other lads mags, and that this “for the men!” focus is also reflected in the all male line up at Kapow!.
Despite his mastery of exploiting the celebrity factor and the tremendous success of both Wanted and Kick-Ass at the box office, Millar is dismissive of claims that he writes comics solely with Hollywood in mind, pointing to the fact that Kick-Ass starts with the hero masturbating which was hardly a great sell to the US studios. An adaptation of his recent comic Nemesis is now well into production, and with the source comic being far ruder and cruder than Kick-Ass, it will be interesting to see how the film handles the more outrageous plot points (a pregnant teenage girl with a booby trapped womb anyone?).
Asked about censorship though, Millar says he’s been lucky. When writing Nemesis he initially had an Obama-a-like President being beheaded, and Marvel went absolutely bananas. After some rather heated chats, Millar was able to have a non-decapitated generic President, and avoided a run in with Homeland Security. Otherwise Millar reckons he has got off lightly, in The Ultimates writing an incestuous relationship between Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and, he relishes, having the Hulk “doing a poo”. We’re not sure whether Bryan Hitch would like to draw that again, but he is in the Kapow! line up and there’s no harm in asking.
While Millar says he can’t understand writers who are too precious about film adaptations of their comics, he does warn that it is hugely important to protect your work. After the success of Kick-Ass he was inundated with offers from directors wanting to jump on Nemesis before the comic even hit the shelves. Fortunately, Millar was advised by Matthew Vaughn (director of Kick-Ass) to hold out for better talent and managed to land the great Tony Scott (True Romance, Unstoppable). Millar says that Vaughn’s verdict on the original five directors who wanted Nemesis was fantastic: “they’re all cunts – four of them are talentless cunts, and the other one’s just a cunt”!
A trailer for Miracle Park is rumoured to be slated for release in the next few weeks, tickets are still available for Kapow! in April, he has several comic projects on the go, and Millar is currently in talks over the movie adaptation of Superior, his latest comic. Oh and the collected edition of Kick-Ass 2 hits the comic shelves later this year. Anything else Mark?