Thursday, January 15, 2009

Young Romance

I know I'm not supposed to like him really, but I want to have Mark Millar's babies.

I'm happily married and the sight of other mens' penises doesn't do anything for me, but I love Mark Millar. I don't care if this sounds a bit gay. I want to have my way with his Crohns-ravaged body and leave him gasping for more in that sexy, sexy Scottish burr. I want to go on the cover of Hello! magazine, declaring that I have a hidden passion for a wee Glaswegian with big ears. I want to kiss him on the mouth.

I wasn't always like this. The first time I noticed his name, it was after reading the Silo story he did for 2000ad. I was too young and stupid to appreciate Dave D'Antiquis' smooth black and white art, but I could recognise when the writer was ripping off Die Hard. That movie is the best action movie ever made and any direct theft would not be tolerated.

I was going to keep my eye on this Mark Millar guy. He was as bad as Michael Fleisher.

This decision looked like a good one at first. Millar gave Robo-Hunter a good going over, managing to miss the point of the strip by several light-years. It was unfortunate that Ian Gibson had stepped away from the story several years earlier, or Millar's work might have stood up a little better. But the Casanovas art team never really clicked with the script and the whole thing was dead in the water.

But then something happened, and Millar gave me a flirty wink from the other side of the dance hall. The odd nice idea, good line or awful joke began showing up in his scripts. As he was trying to impress boob-obsessed 12-year-old boys with work like Babe Race 2000, or pulp-culture obsessed students with Red Razors, he managed to get the insidious Insiders into 'adult' comic Crisis. A genuinely bleak prison story with no redemption waiting at the end of any sentence, it ended with a convicted killer giving the fingers to the world. He is a piece of murdering filth, true scum, and Millar somehow makes the moment uplifting.

Another little Crisis oddity still resonates, as Millar and John McCrea filled a few pages in #31 with Her Parents, the story of a teenage boy picking up a girl from her parents house, so they can go to the new James Bond film. That's it, that's the whole story, but the stamp of recognisable dread, of living room nightmares and the crushing knowledge that Connery will always be the best Bond.

That Millar. He's all right, isn't he? Seems to like a laugh.

There were still some terrible, terrible Judge Dredd stories in the young man, but even Grant Morrison wasn't at his best with that character. When the two teamed up on Dredd, something was definitely off, although they both managed to wring a little humour out of it all. (Big Dave was loads better.) Canon Fodder showed a lot of promise before running out of puff. He had also seen publication in comics from UK imprint Tundra, but outside some dated shock value, The Saviour is just a bit dull these day and is best left in the late eighties.

And then he went to America, and if there was one thing Mark Millar was supposed to do in this life, it was go to America. British comic writers, raised on a diet of faraway comics where New York exists in the same imaginary world as Gotham City, love America, to the point where Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis made the permanent move to the USA.

Millar is still in his Scottish land, but his heart is in America, and given the chance to show what a big softie he really is, he seized the opportunity. Outside a dedicated few, nobody cared about the comic adventures of the cartoon version of Superman, even though they were often meticulously crafted, while also being a hell fo a lot of fun. After Scott McLoud produced a fine dozen stories for Superman Adventures, an assortment of fill ins were printed, before Millar had a go at the comic.

And it was phenomenal. It was sweet, it was witty and there was loads of punching. Superman came up against his fair share of impossible situations and overcame them with strength, honour and compassion.

Millar is still a bit of a bad boy at heart though, and his Swamp Thing, also produced around the same time, was evidence of that. Given a short boost from Morrison, Millar was soon off on his on, crafting stories that were just the right side of horrible. With the capable hands of Phil Hester at the art table, Millar grew in confidence with his first regular monthly series, coming up with a variety of short, shocking stories and long arcs that built in existential horror before climaxing in a spectacular fashion. By the end, Swamp Thing found his own humanity within omnipotence, evolved a little bit further and brought a bird back to life.

And even Anton Arcane, the most evil motherfucker on the planet, was even given his own little dose of redemption, and it was his apology and ability to change that saved the world from annihilation.

That was it. The courtship was over. I was Millar's boy.

Since then, I've loved his ultra-hyper Wolverine and the steady build up of his Ultimates arcs. He gave The Authority a surprisingly fitting off-kilter feel, (although Frank Quitely also has to take a lot of the credit there). I somehow missed Trouble, but get loads of guilty pleasure from Wanted, with that last page a source of real glee.

Civil War was unmitigated rubbish, but the shine goes off any relationship after long enough. It might have been a lot easier to handle if every character didn't act like a complete arsehole, but the usual Millar tricks in dialogue and plotting were getting a little bit too noticeable anyway.

I still buy Kick-Ass, because it makes me laugh, and Fantastic Four, because it's just the right kind of silly. I'm behind on War Heroes, 1985 and the current Wolverine run, but there is still plenty of time for that.

Because I love Mark Millar, and I don't care who knows it. Sometimes I don't know what the hell he is doing or where the fuck he is going, but I'll read his stuff until the day I die, and usually get something out of it.

I promised my wife that she could run off with Angelina Jolie if she ever got the chance, but she doesn't know that I would drop her for Millar in a man moment.

I also have a total crush on Paul Rudd, but I know I'm not the only heterosexual male out there with that one, am I?


Anonymous said...

I swear my dear husband feels the same way about Alan Moore.

Bob Temuka said...

Oh my word, yes. I can understand that. I just watched The Mindscape of Alan Moore last week and have a minor Moore-crush going on. It's not the beard, it's that magnificent voice.

David Uzumeri said...

What *is* it with the Millar despise I see out there? He's not the best writer in comics by any standard, but sometimes the level of invective I see thrown at him is surprising. I don't know if I *love* him, but I know that when I read a Mark Millar comic I certainly won't be bored.

By the way, if you're reading FF, you should really track down his current Wolverine run and 1985 - the intertextual aspects are starting to come together and I, at least, am quite enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

Good to know it's not just me then (the beard just freaks me out; Andrew has one just like it! indeed Andrew's concerned that the sainted Mr. Moore will think he's copying him as Andrew also has long hair, a beard, an American wife...). For a long time I worked at a job with horribe tech-support in Northampton so I came to associate his voice with incompetent people who couldn't fix my computer, but luckily I soon left that job and am back to swooning when I hear him. :) I love the recordings of the magicky performance pieces he's done partly for this reason.

Bob Temuka said...

Man, now I just have an image of Moore working in an IT department...

"Did you try turning it off and on? I see. How about offering a little prayer to Glycon? That always works wonders for me."

And I can kind of understand where the Millar hate comes from, David. He does tend to rely on the same tricks, and readers seem to get a bit miffed when he promises the best thing since sliced Moses in every single interview he does, before delivering something that conspicuously fails to please everybody. And Civil War really was a mess.

But I'm still his boy, and even though I'm not buying 1985 or Wolverine every month, I have every intention of getting them in trades. I'm just one of those annoying readers making the long transition from the monthly format and the collected stuff, and liking a bit of both.