Monday, August 18, 2008

Mark Millar interview and...

War Heroes is a new Mark Millar production (Authority, Ultimates, Wanted, Superman Red Son, Chosen, Kick Ass, 1985, and too many more to list) with artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) published by Image. The scenario behind War Heroes is that the goverment is giving people who sign up for the military superpowers and we the readers get to watch the wackiness that ensues from there. The image accompanying this entry is by local artist Thomas Thomey who won the contest for an upcoming cover for War Heroes!

Mark Millar and Tony Harris will be at Comic Oasis this Thursday (details at the end of this post). Rumour is that Millar and Harris will be at a Drink & Draw event later that night at On The Rocks so call Comic Oasis for more info. Reprinted here with permission is an interview that Jarret Keene did with the crazy (but fun) Scottish writer, Mark Millar (this interview is in this week's CityLife coming out Wednesday evening):


Comics scribe Mark Millar envisions enhanced recruitment techniques

By Jarret Keene

Like the best literary writers — George Orwell to name one — comics author Mark Millar envisions a dark world nearly upon us. The Glaswegian is among today’s hottest writers, especially in light of summer blockbuster Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and based on Millar’s 2003 graphic novel. Following a string of successes for Marvel Comics (The Ultimates) and DC Comics (Superman: Red Son), he now unveils War Heroes under the Image banner. The concept is simple: With America’s War on Terror growing bloodier, the U.S devises a new recruitment enhancer: injecting enlistees with super-soldier serum (shades of Captain America’s origin). Ad slogan: “Be the Weapon.”

Too bad the folks wishing to be transformed into WMDs are so messed up, physically and mentally. Take, for instance, wheelchair-bound Ohioan Sam Wollenberg, whose family berates him for earning his college education only to throw it away by … walking again. Oh, and risking his life as a soldier. It’s a powerful offer: If you were handicapped and could be transformed into a superhero by enlisting, would you?

“Fuck, yes,” says Millar during a recent interview. “Are you kidding me? I would pimp my sister for superpowers. Give me powers, Uncle Sam, and I’ll fight any war you want!”

Millar is no bloodthirsty neocon. Still, judging from the first issue of War Heroes, the story perpetuates the notion that Arabs armed with nukes and chemicals are dreaming of ways to kill Americans.

Millar shrugs off the criticism.

“All my previous work suggests I make Tim Robbins look like Dick Cheney,” he counters. “Do you really think I’d write a book like that? Re-read the opening, and you'll be able to see the subtext of what’s really going on here.”

He’s right. War Heroes chronicles an effort by seven friends to scam the government by signing up for superpowers — and then doing something awful. The political situation is background, the story itself simply entertaining.

“And what could be more entertaining than seeing superpowered Arabs slicing through fighter jets with their swords?”

Not much, which explains why Millar is a sought-after talent: He loves to write ripping-good yarns. Having cut his teeth on British comics, Millar admits he was inspired to enter the industry after meeting Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) at a convention in the ’80s. Pretty rad for a preteen.

“Insane, I know,” he says, looking back on it. “Sending a kid to a hotel filled with sweaty, single men in their 40s seemed like a bad move on paper, but I was mercifully unmolested.”

Millar says he was more into the American products, mainly because “Americans seem glamorous when you’re growing up in Scotland.”

“You people had cars, homes, jobs and all your own teeth,” he jokes. “But I did read a lot of British comics when I was very young. The stuff was weird in hindsight — a football strip called ‘Billy’s Boots,’ about a young lad possessed by a dead footballer whenever he tied up the laces on his old boots.”

It was British comics giant Grant Morrison (The Invisibles) who served as mentor. (Millar claims they spent much of the ’90s drunk.) Millar was just out of school and Morrison had just cemented his reputation at DC.

“My career pretty much didn’t start until 2000,” Millar admits with humility. “I wasted 10 years, but had a laugh.”

His work has always been considered extremely violent, but lately Millar’s stories border on the nihilistic with Wanted and Kick-Ass. Again, he makes no apologies.

“If I said it was a commentary on violence, I’d be sniggering at the same time because, let’s face it, when you write a scene about a bullet taking four panels to pass through a human head, you aren’t thinking about the social commentary. You just think it looks fucking cool. Real violence is obviously horrible, but these are comic characters or highly paid actors. It’s great watching bad shit happen to them.”

And if his old idol Moore still complains that superhero comics are too dark, Millar doesn’t care. Make them darker, he says.

“Moore said all that after finding his greatest success with Watchmen, one of the darkest books of his generation. There’s a certain guilt that seems to hit creators after taking these characters to the max, but the weird truth is that the greatest sales and greatest excitement comes from the dark stuff. My own experience is that the darker you make the material the more popular it is, both creatively and commercially. Who am I but a humble writer? I can’t argue with the readers.”

Millar is currently touring the U.S with War Heroes artist Tony Harris, making an Aug, 21 stop at Las Vegas specialty shop Comic Oasis, so you may want to have Millar sign a copy of another high-profile project he’s simultaneously toiling on: Old Man Logan, a post-apocalyptic take on X-Man character Wolverine. In it, supervillains have killed off the strongest superheroes, and Vegas, now controlled by Kingpin, has been re-named Hammer Falls, because, well, that’s where The Mighty Thor was vanquished.

“I am going to Vegas now for the first time in my life,” concedes Millar. “My only training for this is a lifetime of alcohol abuse. I can’t wait. This is how Catholics see Rome and Buddhists see Tibet. I am finally coming home.”

Mark Millar and Tony Harris sign War Heroes
Thu., Aug. 21, 4-7 p.m.
Comic Oasis
3121 N. Rainbow Blvd.
212-8885
Free

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