Interview: Mark Millar Talks CHRONONAUTS, JUPITER’S CIRCLE & More

Mark Millar has been one of the biggest names in the comic book industry since the dawn of the new millennium, and his Millarworld imprint is one of the most successful entities in the business. Not one to rest on his laurels, Millar has continued to recruit some of the most talented artists currently working, and over the past year he has turned out some of his most impressive work to date. With Kingsman: The Secret Service proving to be a hit movie, his runs on Starlight, and MPH recently coming to an end, and countless behind the scenes maneuverings, Millar is one of the busiest men around. With two new Millarworld books in Chrononauts and Jupiter’s Circle being released over the next month, the man behind Millarworld took some time to talk about these new projects with Comicosity’s own John Ernenputsch.

John Ernenputsch: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk today. Speaking of busy, the end of 2014 and start of 2015 have been insane (in a very good way) for Millarworld. We have seen the Kingsman movie open successfully around the world, the news of Gary Whitta leaving the Star Wars spinoff to get going on the Starlight screenplay, and both Starlight and M.P.H. wrapping up their comc runs as you prepare to launch Chrononauts and Jupiter’s Circle. Just saying all of that made me tired. Where do you find the time in the day? And before we get into the new books can you discuss what the past few months have been like on your end?

Chrononauts01_CoverMark Millar: It’s been a bit mad, but in a nice way. I get up around six with the kids and start working around 8am, logging off from writing around 4pm and doing American calls for a couple of hours. That sounds intense, but I work from home so there’s no commute and I don’t even switch on the computer at weekends so I don’t really work any harder than any of my neighbours. Living in Scotland gives me a nice detachment from it all and even though I’m on the phone to LA at 5pm hearing Kingsman has passed 38 million in South Korea normal life resumes when I hang up the phone and I have to put the children to bed or feed them dinner. I never really get stressed about it. One of the lovely things about doing creator-owned is our world is very small. It’s just me, the artist, our editor Nicole (whom we hire and thus like and respect) plus the agents. I’m only in the States a couple of years and we really just run this as a wee family business in Scotland. Lucy takes care of the business side, she has three people on her team handling all that, and I sit and make up stories. It’s not too bad as long as the kids sleep through the night.

JE: Chrononauts launched this past week, and the praise has been near universal (including the review by Comicosity’s own Aaron Long). The hype has made it one of the most anticipated launches of 2015. For the readers that haven’t heard much about the series can you give a quick introduction to the series, and talk a little bit about the protagonists Doctor Corbin Quinn and Doctor Danny Reilly?

MM: It’s the moon-landings with the whole world watching like 1969, except NASA aren’t exploring space. They’ve sent a probe through time and now doing the first manned mission, a global audience to see two doctors step back through the time-stream to 1492 and secretly record from the trees as Columbus sets foot in America. Of course, it all goes horribly long and it’s just a big adventure after that. All time and space is a canvas with this storyline and I love that. I needed an art-partner who could deliver and make that work and Sean just surpassed by wildest dreams. His emails coming through with new pages give my day a Christmas feel every morning. I absolutely love the guy.

Chrononauts01_Page1JE: Time travel is a staple of the science-fiction genre. How do you feel Chrononauts will stand out among the many stories that have dealt with the topic?

MM: HG Wells is often credits as the first to tackle the genre, but Mark Twain actually got their first with his Yankee in King Arthur’s Court story. That’s why I called the probe in the third scene Mark Twain One, as a little nod. We’ve seen really amazing TV shows with time-travel plots like Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever in Star Trek and of course Back to the Future and movies like Source Code and what’s interesting is that they’re all very different. Completely different. I guess it’s the scope. You can do anything. And I wanted to do something which is a common fantasy, but as far as I know has never been done before… which is a story ABOUT someone being irresponsible and succumbing to the temptation of using it for themselves. The idea that they will know the lottery numbers or stocks and shares or winning sides in historical events. I know it’s a very simple idea, but like Kick-Ass I think it’s one of those quite simple things that nobody has really done. At least as far as I’m aware. It’s touched on with Biff in BTTF2, but this is much bigger and wider isn’t malevolent. we still really like these guys. Tonally, Guardians of the Galaxy is what a lot of people online are comparing it to and I’m really happy with that. That’s a great compliment.

JE: One of the big topics when discussing time travel are the rules that govern it. How much thought was put into how the mechanics of traveling through time works in this universe?

Chrononauts01_Page2MM: I love Rod Serling. I generally don’t read modern sci-fi, but I love the humanity and simplicity in his sci-fi and we saw it in the guys he worked with like Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. The mechanics weren’t interesting to them. It was the human consequences that engaged us and I think that’s how you do sci-fi for a mass audience. Chrononauts owes a lot to those guys. A simple idea using real world events and people.

JE: One of the biggest appeals of Chrononauts is seeing you paired with the great Sean G. Murphy. He has made quite the name for himself in recent years and is considered by some to be one of the best artists in the industry. I know you’re used to working with superstar artists at Millarworld but what made Murphy the right fit for this book? Was there anything about working with him that surprised you? 

MM: I always like to ask my readers who they like. The minute you stop listening you’ve lost it. New, brilliant artists and writers are always coming through and I hadn’t really seen much of his stuff. I was blown away. We talked about doing something for a while and he told me he loved drawing cars and car chases and technology and so when I decided I was going to write this thing I almost couldn’t see anybody else. It’s like casting a movie. Once you have someone in your head you don’t want to see any other actors. It’s the same with comics. I only wanted Johnny Romita for Kick-Ass. I begged Marvel to poach Bryan Hitch from another company where he’d just signed up for Ultimates. I just see the comic unfolding in front of me and Sean took what I imagined and made it 100 times better. He’s the best guy I’ve ever worked with. It’s an honour to have him.

JE: As I read the first two issues, I kept thinking to myself “Wow! I’d love to see Murphy do a whole book of that time period.” Without giving too much away, what was your favorite time period to see Sean draw? Did you change the scripts at all to fit in any more of that time period?

jc1MM: I won’t spoil too much but let’s just say there’s a car chase in issue 3 which, I think, is the best drawn sequence out of anything I’ve ever had. It’s astonishing.

JE: Chrononauts isn’t the only Millarworld title set to launch, as Jupiter’s Circle will be released next month. It serves as a prequel to Jupiter’s Legacy, but really does seem to stand on its own. What’s the story about? What characters are involved? Where does the series fit in relation to Jupiter’s Legacy?

MM: Jupiter’s Legacy is set now and in the near future. It’s about the kids of the superheroes not living up to their incredible parents. About them being disappointments. Jupiter’s Circle on the other hand is about the parents at exactly the same age. I’m fascinated by the idea that our parents were young once and that’s what this is about. The greatest super-team in the world circa 1959 and how they’re just as flawed and human as their children. How we needn’t worry about measuring up to our mothers and fathers because we all have our good and bad points. Very simply, that’s what it’s about. It’s a very emotional story. In a writing sense, it’s my best work I think.

JE: Was a prequel story alwaya in the works as you were planning Jupiter’s Legacy?

MM: I spent 2 months working it out so I knew the back-story of all the characters in JL, but I wasn’t sure I’d have time. We’re banking the sequel to Jupiter’s Legacy so Frank Quitely’s meticulous process doesn’t cause delays and that seemed the perfect time to get this out there.

jc2JE: Can you talk about the style you wanted for Jupiter’s Circle? It has a look to it where I don’t think Don Draper showing up would be surprising. It really does have the feel of a superhero version of Mad Men. How did you come across the work of Wilfredo Torres? He is obviously talented, but doesn’t have the resume that almost all of the other Millarworld artists do. 

MM: Sometimes you get an artist just because he’s perfect. It didn’t bother me he hadn’t done a 3 year run on X-Men. His following will explode when people see what he’s done here. He gets that detail and that vibe so beautifully. He’s amazing.

JE: There are some strong LGBT themes that drive a lot of the opening issue of Jupiter’s Circle. What do you find important in exploring these issues, and specifically exploring what identifying as LGBT means/meant during this time period? 

MM: We thankfully live in a world that’s reasonably progressive now, at least in the West. the last ten to fifteen years has seen major strides in LGBT rights to the point where it’s kind of odd NOT to regard another human being as having the same rights you have as opposed to this just being a fringe issue. This is especially true among young people, which is a fantastic glimpse into the future, and most sit-coms or dramas now have one matter-of-fact gay character, which is fine. However, 1959 was quite different and I like the idea of a guy who essentially has two secret identities. On the hand he’s a superhero, in his other life he’s an old school professional who’s respected by his peers, but secretly he’s got a private life that could ruin everything. From a dramatic point of view there’s something much more interesting about a gay superhero in 1958 because the shockwaves it would create if he came out the closet would be enormous in the period. This opening story is kind of an analogue of what was happening to the carefully managed movie stars of the day like Rock Hudson or Montgomery Clift.

jc3JE: With Jupiter’s LegacyStarlightMPH, and now Chrononauts and Jupiter’s Circle you are arguably on the hottest streak of your career over the past year or two. These are some of the most critically acclaimed books of your career, and each new book seems to be just as good if not better than the last. What, if anything, do you think is responsible for not only the continuing success of Millarworld, but the increasing success?

MM: I just try hard. I never take it for granted. I never coast. The minute a story’s done it’s done. I don’t like writing 100 issues and going through weak patches you have to suffer through. I just like ton challenge myself by reinventing the wheel three or four times a year. I could have lived off Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl very comfortably for the next ten years, but like a reader I like switching on my computer in the morning and not knowing what to expect.

JE: I’ll leave you with an opportunity to share anything special or extra with the readers of Comicosity. Is there anything new you can tell us about any of the Millarworld properties in any medium? Or at the very least when we can expect some news? 

MM: I’m developing a television series. Movies is my thing, but the quality of TV is so good that I wanted to expand into a few TV shows too. My production company has been putting together documentaries, but this is different. This is a big genre TV show. We’ll see what happens, but the people I’m working with are great, which is the secret to any kind of success.

Thank you for your time Mark, and we here at Comicosity wish you and he Millarworld team nothing but the best!

Chrononauts #1 is available now at your local comic book shop, and digitally through Comixology. Issue #2 will be in stores on April 15th. Make sure to preorder Jupiter’s Circle #1, available April 8th.

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