The t-shirt should have tipped you right off. Although it may have been when he was described as Scottish.Mark Millar
is a prominent Scottish writer of comic books. Millar has written for many a character, particularly those within the Marvel Universe
, as well his own creations in the form of Wanted
and so forth.
Millar's writing style is known for pretty much taking the concept of Darker and Edgier
and letting it off the leash.
His stories involving popular superheroes are sometimes cynical, forcing heroes to deal with darker moral themes than usual.
On the other hand, some of Millar's earlier super-hero work (on Superman Adventures
) and even some of his more recent projects like 1985 are more optimistic in tone.
He also runs his own little slice of the internet known as MillarWorld, a comic news/forum where he's more than happy to dole out his opinion on whatever, and has been involved with charity work for children with disabilities.
Similar to other comic book writers and artists known for dark and gritty subject matter, he's got a significant Hatedom
, with many resenting his writing for its sociopathic take on characters and often focusing on their worst character traits, as well as his tendency to mock and insult his audience
. He's got a Misaimed Fandom
as well, with folks who cherish characters Word of God says are meant to be seen as completely insane.
Despite that, there's a number of fans who enjoy his grittier take on superheroes and darker subject matter, and his comics frequently sell very, very well.
Not to be confused with Frank Miller
or Mark Miller
Mark Millar's works contain examples of:
- Better Than a Bare Bulb
- Canon Welding:
- This article suggests that all of his later Marvel works (1985, Fantastic Four, Kick-Ass, and Old Man Logan) is all interconnected. (Three of those are automatically canon to each other anyway, of course, but Kick Ass is more of a surprise.)
- Even earlier he estabilished connections between three comics published by different companies - Wanted, Chosen and The Unfunnies. The reason why at the end of the Chosen media doesn't report Antichrist's miracles is that they're controlled by supervillains from Wanted. And Troy Hicks from Unfunnies helped Satan rape Antichrist. Never published Run! was supposed to be set in that world too.
- Captain Ersatz:
- Zauriel was created by him and Grant Morrison as a stand-in for Hawkman, who had been retconned so badly that he was unusable. Morrison made it a point to lampshade this so readers would get the point, too. The first time he sees Zauriel, Aquaman momentarily mistakes him for Hawkman. Later on, Superman invites him to join, saying, "there's always room in the Justice League for, well...a big guy with wings like you."
- Wanted. Originally it was a Legion of Doom Reboot and got shut down. So he made it Darker and Edgier and changed the names. It's really obvious who most of the characters are supposed to be.
- The Authority faced off against Ersatzes of classic Marvel heroes in his inaugural arc. The Americans were obviously Avengers pastiches with named ones being the Commander (Captain America), Tank Man (Iron Man), Hornet (Wasp) and Titan (Giant Man) while the rest were clearly based on Thor, Hulk, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and the Vision. Later, they took down unnamed Ersatz teams resembling the X-Men, The Inhumans, Fantastic Four (with additional Silver Surfer, Galactus, Watcher and H.E.R.B.I.E. knock-offs, all of which are most famously associated with the FF) and the Howling Commandos while other Wildstorm heroes fought Ersatzes of Spider-Man, The Punisher, Daredevil, Elektra, Doctor Strange, Namor and others. The story's Big Bad, Jacob Krigstein, was an evil ersatz Jack Kirby.
- Big Daddy from Kick-Ass, is one of The Punisher, minus the skull. And tragic backstory, it turns out.
- Crapsack World: The setting of Wanted plays with this: the villains who finally beat the heroes changed reality to make it a Crapsack World... in other words, ours.
- Except it's worse than our world, because it's our world secretly ruled by a conspiracy of supervillains, who can do everything they want, we have no power to change the situation and it wasn't always this way. At least our world isn't (I hope)
- And even worse, Wanted shares the world with two other comics - Chosen and The Unfunnies. So it means that The president of the United States is an Anti Christ and Satan is very real and actively trying to bring the Apocalypse and that people can enter the worlds they wrote by switching places with their characters, exposing completely innocent beings to general crappiness of their world.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids:
- The toy maker in Wanted had his wife and daughters fooled he was a regular and even Sickeningly Sweet and fastidiously proper toymaker and not a supervillain. Interestingly, he enjoyed the services of hookers in other dimensions.
- Subverted in Kick-Ass by Damon MacCready, a.k.a. Big Daddy, who despite looking like Ned Flanders, raises his little girl to be a ruthlessly efficient vigilante in order to exact revenge on John Genovese not really revenge, he was just bored with his life and wanted his daughter to have an interesting life.
- I Just Want to Be Badass:
- In Kick-Ass, two characters become superheroes: the title character because he wants to help people... and in a straighter version of this trope, Big Daddy because he was frustrated with his marriage and thought his life was boring. He even creates a fake Back Story to enhance his new identity.
- This is the basic idea of Wanted, both the original comic and the movie adaptation. The protagonist is a loser guy who becomes a Bad Ass when he finds out he has a badass gene inherited from a father he never knew. The comic book (but not the movie) also attempts to deconstruct this trope by scolding the reader for identifying with the main character, who's essentially a violent sociopath.
- Lampshade Hanging:
- In The Ultimates Issue 4, Nick Fury is asked who he would expect to play him in a movie featuring the Ultimates. His response is; "Why, Mister Samuel L. Jackson, of course. That's not even open for debate."
- He did this to death when he was writing Ultimate X-Men. Every time a plot device didn't make sense (the U.S. Army sending robots to fight Magneto, the Brotherhood goons not recognizing Cyclops, Professor X not noticing that the Hellfire Club was plotting against him, etc.), someone in the cast would point this out. You almost got the impression that he was simply trying to apologize for creating so many plot holes.
- Kick-Ass, at one point, tries to traverse the New York City skyline, but finds that the buildings are too far apart, and notes that, in comics, said buildings seem to be much closer and less high...
- Politically Incorrect Villain:
- Close to all of the villains in Wanted are this. The Future is definitely the worst though, as he is an unapologetic Nazi and misogynist.
- In The Secret Service, James Arnold gives horribly offensive nicknames for his disabled henchmen. For example his Dragon with leg prosthesis is nicknamed Gazelle.
- The Problem with Pen Island: He deliberately invoked this trope with his British comics magazine CLiNT, launched in September 2010.
- Reality Ensues:
- He also had fun Deconstructing street-level heroes in an issue of The Ultimates. Batman clone Nighthawk tries to stop a gang of teenagers, only to break his ankle during his Dynamic Entrance and end up beaten to a bloody pulp.
In the same issue it even deconstructs the concept of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits by showing how badly a group of people (The Defenders), inexperienced at superheroing, with the exception of one, performs during their first outing as superheroes.
- Old Man Logan essentially shows the realistic outcome of what a Legion of Doom team could accomplish were it not for Status Quo Is God. Once they ditch the goofy gimmicks and campy schemes, they realize that by sheer numbers they completely outnumber the world's heroes, and make short work of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men.
- A teenager with no powers or special training decides to become a superhero. Especially when Kick-Ass fights crime for the first time he ends up getting stabbed by one of the thugs.
- Then subverted by...most of the comic after that point. To start with, getting stabbed and hit by a car gave him just enough, very specific nerve damage to stop feeling almost any pain.
- Unlike other Tykebomb-turned-superheroes in other media, Mindy is clearly damaged by her upbringing as Hit-Girl, escalating into disturbing hallucinations of her Father still giving her orders and advice.
- Dave's pretending to be gay in order to get close to the girl he likes works out improbably well for him in the film once he reveals that he's actually straight. Here, though, she is extremely pissed off to have been lied to and manipulated by what she thought was her Gay Best Friend, has her boyfriend beat the crap out of Dave in retaliation, and then later taunts him with pictures of the two of them having sex.
- The second issue of Superior has a kid testing out the superpowers of his favorite Superman Expy. He attempts to use his "super-breath" to put out a house fire, only to demolish the house and spread the fire over a much larger area.
- Shout-Out: Early in his career, he did a stint writing Sonic the Comic. He credited this gig with helping to pay for his wedding, and thus there are references to Sonic in several of his works, including Secret History of the Authority and Wanted mini-series.
- Signature Style:
- He has powers of ten show up a lot. Someone will be ten times smarter than someone else or something will be calculated to the tenth decimal point or will be miscalculated by misplacing the decimal.
- He also had a tendency to use Nazis repeatedly in his works until someone called him out on it with The Ultimates. He hadn't even realized he was doing it.
- When writing Ultimate X-Men, he would often have his characters pointing out obvious Plot Holes and Fridge Logic. It's unclear if he did this as a sort of Self-Deprecation, or as a way of apologizing for his own mistakes.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: He is a very cynical comic book author.
- Kick-Ass is about as cynical as it gets, even more so than Watchmen. Dave is a loser, Big Daddy is a complete fraud, Hit Girl is lied to by her father about her mother dying, and not allowed to have a normal childhood, and everyone else except for maybe Dave's father is a scumbag of one sort or the other (Katie is a shallow bitch, Red Mist is completely unsympathetic unlike in the film, his father is a evil, etc). Despite all this, it's incredibly funny. Many people preferred the movie adaptation since it toned down the utter bleakness of the comic book, but taken on its own terms, the comic is a great Black Comedy.
- His other most famous work was Wanted which also falls in the far end of the Cynical side as well as The Authority.
- Probably the one book he did that falls squarely on the idealistic side is Superior, a book about a 12-year-old boy suffering from multiple sclerosis who gets super powers, loses them, and in the process, learns to come to terms with his disability.
- Firmly on the idealistic side is Starlight, the story of a Flash Gordon expy returning to the world he liberated forty years to save it from an even greater evil. The protagonist is shown to be heroic, kind, and totally selfless, preferring to live a quite life on Earth rather than become king of an entire world. Decency and kindness are highly valued, villainy punished, and there is isn't a hint of cynicism in sight.
- Stealth Parody: Some people view his works (i.e. Wanted, The Unfunnies, Kick-Ass) as being satirical mockeries of the use of Extreme Violence, Vulgar Humor, and Shock Value to sell comic books. The same people also see them as mocking people who buy comic books for those reasons. Millar's open disdain toward his audience, definitely adds credibility to this.
- Take That:
- He hated Bill Clinton, and so in his run on The Authority and the Jenny Sparks mini-series had several jabs against him. One of the issues of the mini-series even goes so far as to implicitly compare Clinton to Adolf Hitler.
- One of the supporting characters in Marvel 1985 is an obnoxious Hipster who keeps talking about how stupid people who like superhero comics are, and how the only good comics are indie fare like Cerebus and Love And Rockets. Accordingly, you can imagine how humiliated he is when Iron Man saves his ass near the end of the book.
- After he left Ultimate Comics, a continuation of his title The Ultimates was given to Jeph Loeb, who created the terrible Ultimates 3 and the even worse Ultimatum. After that he returned to writing comics in Ultimate Universe. The very first page of his Ultimate Comics Avengers starts with Nick Fury looking at the mess caused by Ultimatum and saying "What the #$%^&? I leave for ten minutes and everything goes to hell." He gives another one towards Loeb (and possibly towards mainstream Marvel) in issue four of Ultimate Avengers vs New Ultimates. Tony Stark gives ten million dollars to charity in exchange for Thor promising to talk like a normal person again. He started using the whole "Faux Shakespearean" thing during Loeb's run.
- This Loser Is You:
- Wanted has Wesley Gibson, an Eminem look-a-like who is saddled with a dead end job, and an annoying, cheating girlfriend, bullied by assorted townfolk, and in general is shown to be practically spineless in regards to his life. Of course, afterward he breaks the fourth wall to tell you that you suck even more than he does. The idea is that Gibson is one of the people making life actively worse for anyone who isn't a super-villain - and yet the structure of the story encourages you to root for him as the underdog hero. He's reminding you, metatextually, that he's the bad guy.
- Kick-Ass is not subtle about this. The story is about a pathetic, sometimes egotistical, American comic book nerd trying to be a superhero, and follows as he starts off getting his ass kicked, constantly humiliates himself and only manages by sheer luck and the intervention of the more successful heroes, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. His crush only pays attention to him because she thinks he's gay, and when she finds out he's not, she tosses him aside, after he gets beat up by her boyfriend and left with a picture of her going down on said boyfriend for him to wake up to. The story is designed as a deconstruction on the teen superhero concept, but it crosses into this in how mean spirited it is in making the Dave as 'normal' as it can. His friends, who're also comic fans, aren't shown any better, and even Big Daddy, revealed to be a comic book fan himself instead of being an ex cop, is depicted as a pathetic loser who decided to become a superhero and train his daughter to be one after his marriage broke down.
- Vulgar Humour: He gets this on occasion.
- You Bastard: He likes this trope almost as much as he hates his readers, whom he's argued use comic-book violence as a substitute for the emptiness and meaninglessness of their lives. Wanted is particularly explicit about this.