Comics Creepshow 3: Mark Millar Interview

COMICS CREEPSHOW VOL. 3: An Interview with Comics and Hollywood Superstar, Mark Millar, With A Brief Review of His Horror Comics

Who is Mark Millar? Well, right now he is one of the most popular writers in the world of comics. He is the co-creator of the ULTIMATE UNIVERSE, which was made to help refresh classic Marvel characters, such as Spider-man, THE X-MEN and THE AVENGERS, by starting each of their stories, anew, in the twenty first century. The Ultimate line brought back thousands of fans, including yours truly, who had lost their interest during the time period that many comics fans consider to be the dark ages, the Nineties.

Millar’s creator-owned comics such as CHOSEN, KICK ASS, and his newest, WAR HEROES, have been reprinted multiple times to meet fan demands and have each been optioned for major films.

So, what the hell does he have to do with Horror?
Well, I had a chance to interview Millar at a signing he did, this past Saturday at Midtown Comics, in Manhattan. When I told him I write two columns, one about turning people who are curious about comics into full-blown fans, and the other about Horror comics, he mentioned how he had written two horror based stories throughout his twenty-year career.

My immediate reaction was ‘Oh Crap’, since I thought the only horror comic he had written was CHOSEN. It turns out he worked on the grand daddy of all modern horror comics - SWAMP THING. Since Millar is regarded as one of the top five best comic writers out there, I thought it would be helpful if I did a review of the two times he crossed over to the horror side.

SWAMP THING (Issues #144-#171)


For those of you who have never seen either of the cult classic SWAMP THING films, or watched the cable tv show, here is a little rundown on the character: The character of SWAMP THING was created by Len Wien and Berni Wrightson (Wrightson is a famous Horror artist, whose work can be seen in movie posters, such as Creepshow and in Stephen King Books). SWAMP TING was once a scientist named Alec Holland, who had been caught in an explosion within his laboratory. With the help of some mutagenic materials, he fused with the various types of plant life of the nearby swamp.

Presto Chango! And you have the big Green protector of the marsh, Swamp Thing.

Believe me, there is a lot that happens to Swamp Thing past that point, especially when Alan Moore (V FOR VENDETTA, LEAGE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, WATCHMEN) started writing the book, but I will have to save that for another review.

Millar took over at issue #144, long after Moore left the book. There was some seriously disturbing stuff that I found while going through Millar’s run on SWAMP THING. In one of Millar’s first issues, he sends Swamp Thing (in human form) off to Amsterdam. Swampy believes his long dead wife, Linda, might still be alive. In a turn that can both pull out your heart and make you lose your appetite, Linda is working as a prostitute in the red light district, where her specialty is to be murdered by her clients. Because of a curse, she can be killed and brought back to life again moments later. This causes Swamp Thing to go off, seeking heavy narcotics. The reader might be inclined to do the same.

Another issue brings us to The Black Forest in Germany. A dark sorcerer has gathered every citizen from the local town, for a ritual. You begin to ask yourself, “where is he going with this?” when the Sorcerer starts giving instructions to the mesmerized towns people, all who appear to be brandishing sharp objects. Then he tells them all to slit their throats at once. Just to make sure we are thoroughly sickened, the Sorcerer throws in the little detail that parents should help their children first.

Either we are lucky, or not, (depends on how you take it) because of the fact that we don’t have to witness the actual mass suicide. We just see the reaction on the face of the sorcerer’s niece, as she watches everyone dying at once. In the panel, behind her, we she a huge SQUELCH sound effect, in red letters, dripping.

In one story arc that is bursting with imagination (literally), Swamp Thing follows a woman throughout the worlds she created in a book of her short stories. This brings Swampy to a world that many of us could only see in our nightmares. It is a world where the Nazi’s won World War II, and every race besides the “Master Race” has been exterminated. Adolf Hitler’s son is the President of the United States, and he is married to Norma Jean Baker, known in our world as Marilyn Monroe.

This is where Millar brings his A-game. Millar, like his former mentor and sometimes co-writer, Grant Morrison, specializes in showing us the dark side of humanity. We see the dark side of humanity all throughout Millar’s run, in little snippets, mostly dealing with people who either turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, or have no care whatsoever.

The darkness of Millar’s comics, doesn’t always translate easy into the films they inspire. One example of this is the movie Wanted, which created such a stir when it came out that it even influenced conversations on this site’s message boards and on the Bloody Good Horror Podcast. I asked Millar if he was satisfied with how Wanted brought over to the big screen. He felt it was necessary for the changes that were made:

“Even where they made changes, I can understand why they did, because my book was so dark, a mainstream audience couldn’t accept (it). I mean I had the protagonist as a rapist, and there is all this stuff a mainstream audience of a hundred million dollar movie just wouldn’t accept. So, I thought the subtle changes they made really worked brilliantly.”

According to Millar the success of Wanted has gone far further than he could have expected : “So far, it has made about three hundred million dollars and it will make another two hundred million on DVD, it has given us {comic book creators} incredible power in Hollywood as well, so now, the next books we do, we will have much more control over. Like Kick Ass, it has just been shot, page for page, like the comic. I am a producer on that as well. The new book I am doing, War Heroes, we are going to do the same thing with that. I was very lucky to have a hit the first time out. It is life changing, really.”
This success has led to the green lighting of another film inspired by a Millar comic. This time it will be a horror film

CHOSEN


CHOSEN was a real departure from any Millar story I had read previously, since it was set in the real world and had such a strong focus on religion. I asked Millar what made him want to write something that was both horrific and filled with strong religious concepts.

“Do you know the honest thing?” He replied “Mel Gibson had just done this Jesus movie, and I was thinking I wouldn’t mind some of those Jesus dollars. They are making Spider-man 2 and Spider-man 3, but where is the Passion 2 and the Passion 3? I had written a story a couple of years ago, I had come up with an idea that was a sequel to the Bible. The very first thing I ever sold was a sequel to the Bible, and I called it Bible 2. It was my plan. I just thought wouldn’t it be nice, then we could ask ‘what would happen next?’”

In my opinion, Chosen isn’t so much a sequel to the Bible, as it is the story of Jesus set in the modern world. The story takes place in our modern times, where a man named Jodie Christianson is having a meeting with his closest followers, before he is about to hop on a plane to Jerusalem. He tells them his story, which we see as a series of flashbacks to sometime in the Eighties. Jodie is twelve, in the flashbacks and things are about to become very New Testament for him.

That is one of the reasons to read the book, first off, because of all the great Eighties movie and tv references, like T.J Hooker, "Indiana Jones" and Commodore 64.

In the first issue, Jodie and a few of his preteen friends are traveling through the woods so they can find a place where one of them left a porno magazine. Millar is really good at capturing the feeling of being a twelve year old in suburbia, and it shows in the dialogue between Jodie and his friends, and in the mischief they get into. Suddenly and quite literally, there world comes crashing down, when a truck falls from a nearby overpass lands on them.
Jodie survives, and without a scratch on him. This causes a stir throughout his town, and warrants a visit from one of the local priests, Father O’Higgins. O’Higgins is your typical horror story priest, who has lost his faith in God, and sort of serves as Jodie’s conscience as the twelve year old boy begins to realize he has Christ like powers.

There are many times, throughout the story that you get the feeling you are reading a sort of reverse Rosemary’s Baby, especially after you find that Jodie’s birth was planned by a secret cult, based in his hometown.

CHOSEN is only three issues long, but it tells a complete story.. What makes it all work is the tweest at the end, but there is no way I am spoiling that for you. It will be some time before CHOSEN hits theaters, however. It turns out Millar has a lot on his plate to go through beforehand :“ KICK ASS (ed note: One of Millar’s newest comics) starts filming in three weeks. The final edit of it will be completed by April next year. Then we go into production on CHOSEN.”

For more of my interview with Mark Millar, click here!

Pete

Contributor

I was brought up an only child/only grandchild in a family obsessed with horror films. I am really good at creating terrifying scenarios in my head, which can sometimes lead to dissapointment while watching scary movies. I am a comic book writer, and my love for comics only slightly surpases my love for horror movies.

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