Meet Mark Millar, the 43-year-old Scot whose Kick-Ass comics went from scrappy sketchbooks to Hollywood cinema screens. FHM asks him how he did it.
One of my brothers convinced me that I’d develop super powers on my seventh birthday. From then on, I only ever wanted to be a superhero.
I took karate and weight-lifting lessons with a friend just so we could fight crime as a teenage dynamic duo. That was my inspiration for Kick-Ass, actually.
My family was really poor when I was growing up. We had no money at all, but my parents were still hugely aspirational. They made sure we were just the same.
I once earned a wage by spotting peed-on raspberries at a canning factory. People used to urinate on the fruit they’d picked to make it all slightly heavier, as they got paid by the pound. I just had to look for any that seemed especially mushy and take them out. I haven’t eaten canned fruit since.
There was absolutely no work around in Scotland when I dropped out of uni. I had to look at what skills I had and use them to make money. I knew a lot about superheroes, and something in that line of work seemed like the only way for me.
Failure was just not an option when I started to make comics. I had access to a typewriter at uni and spent the last of my money on stamps to post submissions.
Being pushy isn’t a bad thing. It opens doors.
I’d love to do what Stan Lee did back in the ’60s. He created a wave of ?comic-book characters that people read and saw for years to come.
Porn stars love comics. I have a huge number of porn-star readers. I guess between takes they’re after something fast and easy to read. Actually, there’s already a porn version of Kick-Ass online. You know you’ve made it when you’ve got a porno parody.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. That’s very important in business.
The first comic I owned was a reprint of The Night Gwen Stacy Died from Spider-Man in 1976. It’s quite a cool first comic as Spider-Man accidentally kills his girlfriend, accidentally murders his best friend’s dad and then comes home to find said best friend on LSD. As a kid I was baffled by it all but also enchanted, so I kept reading.
I make sure that all my films get premiered in Scotland. Watching them with friends and family makes me really proud.
I used to dress up in a Superman costume. I made it myself and I’d lie on the coffee table as if I was flying.
Make your work free online if you want to get noticed. A lot of comic work is found that way these days.
My elderly aunts are my biggest critics. When they saw Kick-Ass for the first time, one of them said it definitely didn’t need as much swearing, let alone the c-word, or violence in it. I told her the film would have been about seven minutes long without it.
Robert Downey Jr crashed my first Hollywood meeting disguised as an Arab terrorist. He was wearing sunglasses, had a scarf tied around his face and was carrying a real-looking machine gun. He shouted, “Where the fuck is the infidel [Iron Man director] Jon Favreau?” I was so scared, I jumped into another room.
I still love walking on to a film set and seeing things that I’ve sketched six months before made into real-life props. It’s as if I’ve stumbled into my own head, a bit like in Being John Malkovich.
Try to get on with your colleagues, and make sure they always value what you’re doing. It just makes everything fun, y’know?
My agent thinks I’m crazy because I put a lot of pressure on myself. That’s the biggest stress in what I do.
I’d say at least a third of Americans can’t understand my Scottish accent. I once told a guy I was working with I’d be late because of a funeral. He replied, “Ha ha, hilarious – that’s really cool.” Turns out for three years he’d never understood me.
Words: Russell Sheath
Photography: Scott McAulay
Cover pictures from Comic Vine
With thanks to Sharps Barbers
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