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AICN COMICS Q&@: Russ Sheath talks with writer Mark Millar about his new series STARLIGHT (in stores today)!

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Q’s by Russ Sheath!

@’s by STARLIGHT Writer
Mark Millar!!!

Russ Sheath here and I was fortunate enough to sit down with Mr KICK ASS himself, Mark Millar to discuss his new comic series from Image, STARLIGHT. Millar needs little introduction - achieving comics superstardom alongside artist Bryan Hitch with Marvel’s THE ULTIMATES - the contemporary interpretation of Marvel’s THE AVENGERS and arguably the single most recognisable influence on Marvel’s cinematic universe. Marvel’s CIVIL WAR followed as Millar scored the biggest selling comic book of the last decade, which he followed with stellar runs on FANTASTIC FOUR and a return to the ‘Ultimate’ Universe he helped create in a run which continues to be influential across the comics industry to this day.

'Millarworld’ followed as Millar embarked on a line of creator owned titles. WANTED was adapted for the big screen starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie and the smash hit series KICK ASS become a movie (which spawned a sequel) starring Nicholas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Johnson. Further creator owned titles included AMERICAN JESUS, WAR HEROES, NEMESIS, SUPERIOR, SUPER CROOKS and THE SECRET SERVICE (with Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons) bringing us bang up to date with the currently running JUPITER’S LEGACY with artist Frank Quietly. Outside of comics Millar had been equally busy, lending his patronage to the KAPOW! comic convention, being honoured by Her Majesty The Queen with an MBE for services to literature and acting as Fox’s ‘creative consultant’ on their THE X-MEN franchise and the highly anticipated reboot of FANTASTIC FOUR.

This week Millar takes us into the tenth year of Millarworld with STARLIGHT teaming with artist Goran Parlov (THE PUNISHER, FURY MAX) in a tale of high adventure set against an intergalactic backdrop. I spoke with the Scottish scribe about STARLIGHT and his plans for an expanded Millarverse of books.

RUSS SHEATH (RS): Mark, thanks for talking to AICN. Can you tell us about STARLIGHT the book and its origins?

MARK MILLAR (MM): STARLIGHT is UNFORGIVEN meets 'Buzz Lightyear'. It's about an old guy called Duke McQueen who was one of those classic, old school, pre-Han Solo sci-fi heroes when he was young and now he's just an old widower living alone and fixing up cars in his semi-retirement. I've always dug those old hero stories whether it's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or TRUE GRIT or UNFORGIVEN.

Even as a sixteen year old the notion of a 55 year old Batman was very exciting to me. There's something cool about seeing someone your own age, like Kick-Ass or Spider-Man, being a hero. But there's something equally exciting about seeing someone come out of retirement and reminding us how fantastic he was before the grey hair started sprinkling in. The ending to UNFORGIVEN still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I love seeing Rooster Cogburn riding that horse with the reins in his mouth, firing off two guns. So I've applied that archetype to a science fiction setting here and done one of those heroes we really haven't seen very often since Harrison Ford appeared and wowed us all with his laid back, cool. Duke's now old and was never quite believed when he came back to Earth and told everyone what he'd done and so it's all very exciting when this visitor from that world appears and asks him to come back again and help one final time.

RS: You seem to be entering something of a ‘sci-fi’ era of your career, firstly with JUPITER’S LEGACY and now with STARLIGHT. Have you always wanted to dabble in ‘sic-fi’ for a while now?

MM: It’s funny. You don't really notice trends until later, but yeah I've been veering away from superhero a little, even JUPITER’S LEGACY feels more like a sci-fi book than a superhero book, but I like to play around with different genres. I love Buck Rogers as much as I love Batman. I love Commando Cody maybe most of all.

My Dad had a thing called KING OF THE ROCKET MEN on cine-film when I was a kid and we used to watch this about twice a month. I even made the helmet. So those old serials were as big a part of my childhood as Spider-Man and Superman in a weird way and I was always drawing the characters. STARLIGHT I guess is my homage to all that stuff, though Goran and I have subverted it somewhat.

RS: There’s more than a little ‘old school sic-fi’ in STARLIGHT, particularly in the visuals. Was that a starting point for you?

MM: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I've had this idea for a couple of years and had thought about a couple of different artists but I had quite a specific look in mind and I wanted someone who could capture that 1930s idea of what an alien world would look like, but at the same time give it a modern vibe. The only influences I could really cite were Moebius and Bilal and a lot of the great European artists, but there are not a lot of people in mainstream comics who tap into that.

Goran Parlov is a guy I'd been talking to for two or three years and I loved the books he was doing with Garth like THE PUNISHER and FURY MAX. We'd talked about doing something when he had an opening and when I suggested this he got really excited because, like me, he's a huge fan of Jean Giraud and wanted to splice that with other influences like Alex Toth and other brilliant American cartoonists.

RS: Are you able to discuss how STARLIGHT fits into the wider Millarverse?

MM: Sure. This is the starting point for the books integrating a little. I do like the idea of the characters all assembling on the same page at some point, but for now it's going to be really subtle stuff like Marvel did in the first couple of years. You get little hints of NEMESIS and MPH in the final KICK-ASS and references to an old test pilot called Duke McQueen popping up in other books. STARLIGHT has the same aliens we see in JUPITER’S LEGACY #4 (out on the same day as STARLIGHT #1). But it's all part of a big mystery that ties everything back all the way to WANTED #1, the first Millarworld book. Even AMERICAN JESUS ties into this.

It really does all fit together, but the important thing is that they can all utterly be read individually. I hate forced crossovers so STARLIGHT is the beginning of the integration, but if it's the only Millarworld book you ever read you'll still completely understand 100% of it.

RS: Several of your books focus on the protagonist, the choices they make and the personal impact of ‘being a hero’ on their lives. I guess it could be argued that any character driven piece is about those things, but what is it that interests you in exploring the ‘human side’ to being a super hero?

MM: I remember as a kid Stan talking about the difference between Marvel and DC characters being that Marvel characters had flaws. They didn't always do the right thing. They were sometimes motivated for the wrong reasons. Sometimes they just screwed up. Spider-Man accidentally killed his girlfriend while trying to save her and that's something Superman would never have done back then. Whether it's heart problems in IRON MAN or blindness in DAREDEVIL, I always like the idea that the Marvel guys weren't perfect and I've tried to do this with the Millarworld titles too. The characters have real problems, both physical and emotional. Dave Lizewski dresses up as Kick-Ass because he doesn't have a very nice time being Dave Lizewski. Simon in SUPERIOR makes his deal with a demon because he hates being in his wheel-chair. I try to apply real life stuff to classic genre tropes and the idea of an old space hero just being retired and lonely, sitting in his den and looking at his old uniform, just felt like I was onto something. That's the first image I drew and I kind of grew the whole series around this.

RS: t wouldn’t be a Millar project without talking about movie possibilities. Did you have a ‘cast’ in mind when creating the characters? Any teases, perhaps, as to who might be a perfect fit for the roles when you were writing the book?

MM: Fox bought this the week before Christmas, the brilliant Simon Kinberg is producing and he's talking to directors at the moment. I can't give away any private chat, but a few different producers and studios wanted this when my agent sent them the series and I was blown away by Simon's enthusiasm. He just got it and he was so excited about it the idea of it going anywhere else just felt kind of wrong. Simon's been on the Marvel movies at Fox for the last eight or nine years and so I got to know him really well when I signed that 4 year deal back in September 2012 to consult on these pictures. So I knew what it was like to be in a room with the guy and how great he is at his job. The writers and directors he's been putting together with Aditya, his producing partner, is mouth-watering. We'll hopefully have some news on this soon, but I know Fox is very excited and want to get this together soon. The deal is done now and I'm finishing the final issue next week so the screen-writer can get cracking on it before hopefully too long.

RS: You’ve got some pretty great cover artists lined up for STARLIGHT. Can you tease a few names for us?

MM: Oh, yeah. We've got Goran, of course, doing a cover for each issue, but I also liked the idea of a different guy I love doing a variant. We start and end with John Cassaday and we've got the unbelievably brilliant Travis Charest in there and Bill Sienkiewicz, who's one of my heroes. Loads of cool guys. I'm a bit of an art snob. I'd rather just lie around and read or watch a film than write a script for an artist I wasn't obsessed with. I've got Frank Quitely on JUPITER’S LEGACY, Johnny Romita finishing KICK-ASS 3, Duncan Fegredo on MPH and Goran on this. It's nuts. I should be done with all these books in about six weeks time (KICK-ASS finishes with #8 and JUPITER’S LEGACY Volume 1 wraps with #5) and I'm starting to plan out the books launching in 2015 now.

The artists can be very slow, but I've got a new system where I'm having almost the entire series in the bank before anything actually launches. I've tried this in the past, giving people a 12 months lead, but they often eat it up and takes 11 months off (laughs). But everything's actually going to plan right now. I'm loving the art coming in and guys like Goran can do 12 books a year so it's lovely seeing them coming in with such regularity.

RS: Is STARLIGHT planned as an ongoing story or do you have a ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ all mapped out?

MM: Oh, it's self-contained for me. Six issues. The ending is very tight and it works well, though it's open to a second series if things go nuts with it. I could see a situation where I write one book and they do further movies because there's a whole universe to explore here. The trouble is I write a maximum of eighteen books in a given year and I have the next three years planned out already.

RS: Looking back on the last 10 years of Millarworld can you sum it up in just three words?

MM: Pretty. Bloody. Lucky.

RS: Mark, thanks for talking to AICN today. STARLIGHT by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov from Image Comics is out this week in all good comic stores!

Check out Millar’s website and message boards ‘Millarworld’ here.

Follow Mark on Twitter here @mrmarkmillar

And, be sure to check out, possibly the oldest Mark Millar fan alive (on Twitter @grannycomics2)

Follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and @russellsheath on Twitter.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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