Mark Millar, comic-book hero
The 38-year-old Scot is storming Hollywood with his iconoclastic graphic novels, reports Richard Bath
When Wanted, a $110m film billed as 'Fight Club meets The Matrix' and starring Angelina Jolie (right), Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy opens at cinemas this spring, it will mark the beginning of one man's efforts to single-handedly redefine the relationship between the comic book genre and Hollywood.
So far, the highly lucrative conversion of graphic novels to the screen has been limited to existing superheroes such as Batman, Spiderman, Judge Dredd, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk. Wanted marks a sea-change. The film is based upon a wickedly amoral contemporary story by Scotsman Mark Millar, the chief writer for Marvel Comics and the enfant terrible of the graphic novel.
Wanted is the tale of downtrodden white-collar wage slave Wesley Gibson, who finds he is the son of a notorious assassin and joins a posse of super-villains who hunt down the world's superheroes and take control of earth amid a welter of gore and violence. There is none of the schmaltzy moralising of the traditional superhero plots: Wesley views power and violence as ends in themselves.
Millar enjoys a huge and fanatical fanbase - his previous series The Ultimates sold a total of 4m copies - which means Wanted may be his first film but it will not be his last. His 'sequel to the Bible', The Chosen, in which he imagines Jesus born into America's Bible Belt, is already in production. A deal to turn his next novel Kick-Ass, a hymn to neo-conservatism, into a film was signed before the book was published.
Millar's profile - he has a bevy of celebrity friends including Michael Moore and Samuel L Jackson, who wrote the foreword for The Ultimates – and his role as the leading light of comic book counterculture has enabled him to break out of the ghetto. In a highly polarising career characterised by over-the-top polemic and outrageous storylines, he has taken a wrecking ball to comic-book convention and become the most talked-about and best-selling comic creator since Stan Lee. Last year's epic Civil War remains the biggest selling comic of recent times.
The garrulous Scot's storylines are extreme. He has depicted a gay Batman, reinvented Superman as a Soviet superhero, and devised a plot in which Saddam Hussein attempts to subvert the West by turning its inhabitants into 'poofs'.
Millar is riding a boom in the popularity of comic books, one which is being fuelled by Hollywood’s obsession with the art form (Millar claims there are 150 comic books currently being made into films). Although Millar describes himself as "the ultimate mercenary", he has an evangelical passion for comics which springs from his background.
Growing up in the working-class, staunchly Catholic town of Coatbridge, his father was a committed trade unionist. Yet when both his parents died in his early teens, Millar was left with so little money that "the cat ate one day, I ate the next".
The experience left him with a ferocious work ethic plus a curious mix of the left-leaning anti- establishment stance of West of Scotland man, a fierce faith (he worked for five years as an Eucharistic minister) and a fascination with guns, violence and those who live lives of wanton amorality. It is proving to be a winning combination. ·
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