Mark Millar could never have imagined comics would have him rubbing shoulders with Hollywood A-listers, but if his life work has taught us anything it’s not all heroes wear capes.
In the spirit of duality and the double-lives his fictitious heroes lead, he’s just as likely to be talking to fans or enjoying a cold pint with his childhood friends. In Glasgow, wonder webbing is for keeping your hem up and phone booth happenings are best left unsaid.
The legendary comic writer was an early Christmas present for a large working-class family on a Coatbridge council estate, born on 24th December 1969.
Five older siblings – between 14 and 22 years his senior – doted on him. When his brother Bobby was a student, he pretended aloud to buy Mark comics, but secretly he was purchasing them for himself, to be passed on to a grateful Mark the following day.
He treats the memory of his comic with deep adoration: The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which he flicked through while still learning to read.
As time moved on, Millar became influenced by iconic writers Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City).
An 18-year-old Millar loved drawing and writing equally, but a fanzine interview with writer Grant Morrison (Animal Man) convinced him to choose only one career path and stick to his guns.
His transition from Glasgow to Gotham was taking shape in the 90s, contributing to the Legends of The Dark Knight series, but 2000s saw Millar’s career dreams realised.
After working on his first US comic, Swamp Thing by industry giants DC Comics, he worked on 2000 AD, The Flash, Superman: Red Son, Ultimate X-Men, The Avengers, Marvel Knights, Fantastic Four and Iron Man to name but a few.
Today, Millar’s storylines have taken $2.5 billion at the box office, with a sequel to the popular Kingsman film out in June. Mark Two Kick-Ass films, Angelina Jolie in Wanted, Wolverine as Logan and the $1billion-topping Captain America Civil War all owe much to the writer from Coatbridge.
Everyone the Glaswegian comes into contact with sings his praises – including the fans loyal to his writing, films and the wider Scottish community.
Gafin Austin, manager of Edinburgh’s only independent comic shop, Dead Head Comics, was similarly struck by the soft-spoken writer.
“He helps out comic shops as well,” explains Gafin, “by giving you free adverts in the back of his comics. If he’s at a convention, he’ll buy you a pint – he’s one of the boys at the end of the day.”
“He was taught by one of the greatest comic writers in history, Grant Morrison – he was co-writing with him on a book called The Authority.
“His story writing was very adult… very complex characters with flaws of their own. That’s how his stories transpired into movies.”
As Gafin reiterates, Millar knows his lifestyle is all down to the support of his fanbase and he’s known to stay late at conventions to sign autographs and take selfies with every fan who’s come out to see him.
Millar isn’t the only Scot to have made it big among the heroes and villains of the comic book world. Renowned artist Vincent Deighan (aka Frank Quitely) made a name for himself inking Superman from his Glasgow city centre studio.
“In almost every aspect of comics; DC, Marvel, independents, Scotland has such a vast array of talents,” says Gafin.
“It started back in the 70s with 2000 AD and John Wagner and Alan Grant. Together, they started writing Judge Dredd.”
“From them, so many other artists and writers were inspired to step into the profession. I don’t know what it is about the Scots, but we’re great storytellers, aren’t we? We know how to tell a tale.”
Dead Head’s owner reveals that it’s not unusual for Scottish comic book artists to ink inconspicuous secrets into their work – inside jokes that only fellow Scots would understand.
“Vincent (Deighan) in particular was always cheeky about sneaking things into the background,” Gafin says with a laugh.
“Of course, he started in small press doing a humour magazine called The Greens – instead of ‘The Broons’, of course – and his work was hysterical. He was always sneaking in a nod-of-the-hat to Oor Wullie and what have you.”
“Other artists will even bring the characters to an Edinburgh or Glasgow reimagined in ink, or draw iconic landmarks in the background to see who’ll pick up on it.”
- Mark’s newest film Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle is out this September. Find our more at Millarworld.tv
- If you can’t wait until September, you can get better acquainted with Millar’s work and many more comics on Dead Head Comics’ website or visiting them in their Edinburgh store on West Nicolson Street.