Among the highlights, Millar comments on the lack of creativity at Marvel and DC, compares the current state of comics to the 90s, talks about “event” driven comics, the desperation behind the DC Relaunch and how they are accountable to Warner Bros, the state of current comic book art and more.
Question: With Marvel announcing a plan to kill off a major character every month and DC relaunching their entire line, is there a lack of good creativity and writing in the medium at the moment and is it indicative of increasingly reductive sensationalism and events in comics?
Mark Millar: Definitely. There’s no doubt about it. The beginning of the end was in 2006-7. When I did Civil War for Marvel, the sales were about 2 and a half times what they expected, and Marvel were like, “oh, let’s go back to the bad old days!” and DC were like “let’s copy them!”.
And so it was being engineered really by accounts again. That’s kinda what killed comics for a while in the 1990s, the early nineties, that things were event driven instead of being story driven. I mean it’s a boom bust cycle, it’s the way it always goes: in the 1990s it collapsed and then Marvel bid thoroughly in the early noughties, started having good writers and good artists or good characters and made it work, and they built it up over 5-6 years.
But I understand how it works, because quarterly they’re accountable to their bosses and they look at what worked in the last quarter – “that big crossover with everyone in it? Let’s do another one next quarter”, you know? And eventually it is so reductive. The event isn’t an event if it’s happening all the time.
It’s great for guys like us, because I left Marvel two weeks ago, after ten years, to focus entirely on creator owned. All the higher profile creators are heading off now doing their own thing. The smaller personalities are hanging around a little bit. For a few years this will probably be the case, writing and drawing things and then editorial are shaping the stories because they have a financial quarterly, they need to hit a certain number.
It’s just the cycle of comics. The same thing happened twenty years ago and twenty years before that. That will wear out and then everything will change again. But unfortunately for Marvel and DC, they’re in that kind of boring period just now.
And at DC it seems that there’s a massive desperation, they’re relaunching their entire line right now in September, all in one month. And I said, why didn’t you guys just roll it out over a year so that everybody gets a chance to buy, you know, try out the first issues? And they said, we’re actually more accountable to Warner Brothers now than we’ve ever been before – we need to show some serious profit.
It’s a shame that art is coming in second really at the moment. But not in the creator owned scene. In the creator owned scene all the exciting stuff is happening. All my favourite books right now are probably independent books. That wasn’t the case five years ago, when the big two were great.
Millar continues with his thoughts on female super heroes, the tempatation to join DC and do Superman, which you can read at ComicBookGrrl.com, and this on the new Justice League:
The culture atrophies if we just keep recycling the same thing, and when I saw the new Justice League that’s coming out in September, all slightly redesigned, it just felt like when you see Sylvester Stallone’s mum with botox?! It just looks weird. How many times can Batman kick the sh-t out of the Joker? How many times can the Penguin cause grief? If Galactus hasn’t destroyed the Earth the last forty times, chances are things are going to be fine!