The Column: Issue #6

Fri, August 30th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Mark Millar, Columnist

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THE SECRET DIARY OF MARK MILLAR (AGED 32 )

Ever wondered how a comic-book professional spends his day? Well, here's the last week from my point of view in excruciating detail…

FRIDAY, 23RD AUGUST 2002

Woke up really early and found myself in the wrong bed. There's a kind of shuffling of bodies during the night in our house as I hunt down the perfect sleep in various other rooms. Our four year-old has woken up too early every single night since the 19th June 1998 and usually wants to play around 2am. Lucky for her she's so adorable and funny or else we'd have got rid of her by now.

It's been a weird week. Been plotting The Ultimates issues eight through twelve since Tuesday, but my mind kept drifting towards issues thirteen and fourteen. Issue fourteen has my version of The Defenders and I've had such a laugh putting this together. I've no idea what people are going to think of this, but it's been working out well so far. Issue eight finally came together early this evening and I can actually stop for the weekend without feeling nervous and under-achieving. Also sent Joe Quesada an e-mail asking him if Marvel could get away with a line of offensive T-shirts next year. Picture a close-up of Cap (from the cover of The Ultimates issue three) with the tagline NOBODY FUCKS WITH CAPTAIN AMERICA. Or picture a Spidey T-shirt with the words THE GREEN GOBLIN SAYS: SPIDER-MAN SUCKS IRAQI COCK. Is there a market for this kind of crap? I hope so.

Tonight's the second-last night I'll be sleeping in this house and the very last Friday I'll be living in the small town I grew up in. Although I've always worked in London or America, I've always lived here in a relatively poor post-industrial town in west central Scotland. Suddenly finding myself considerably richer than I expected to be a couple of years ago, I feel compelled to move somewhere slightly more snobby and where I'm less likely to read the court-pages to find out what old school chums are getting up to these days. I'm slightly nervous about ditching Coatbridge because I have a lot of family and friends here whereas X-Men's Frank Quitely is one of the few faces I'll recognize in our new Bruce Wayne-style neighbourhood. Still, if it's shite I can always move back and look stupid.

Must stop typing. My wife is tumbling downstairs with boxes filled with large, heavy things and I'm sitting here singing to myself and typing away like a big girlie. I spent the afternoon in a hair salon and followed this with a sports massage as my poor wife was packing crates, disassembling furniture and piling up literally thousands of boxes in the dining room. We've become some kind of weird role-reversal thing from a 50s science fiction movie where Rod Serling would have pondered how husband and wife might live together in the year 2002. Is this the result of all that oestrogen in the water?

SATURDAY, 24TH AUGUST 2002

Ugh! What a hangover! The only two hangovers I've ever known which lasted beyond 1pm next day were a trip to Ireland a few years ago where I was too sick to even swallow the paracetamol I so desperately needed and the three day nightmare which followed my stag-night. Today marks Massive Hangover Number 3, which is all the more embarrassing given that I had a 3pm appointment with acupuncturist Doctor Liu. Was really sick last year, but about eighty per cent back to normal since January thanks to a pile of pills I have to swallow every day. However, in three short weeks, the flying fists of Dr Liu have restored me to pretty much 100% efficiency again and he reckons I can trash these pills altogether in a matter of months. The man's a genius, but he insists that all his patients abstain from booze for the duration of their treatment. I keep lying, of course, but these wise and ancient Chinese guys can read minds or something, can't they? Even if they can't, they definitely have the power to smell my rancid breath.

Last night was a laugh, though. I was standing around chatting to some people when an unknown woman approached us and said that she hated heterosexual men and could only abide the company of extremely gay men. Gay men, she told us, were the best friends a woman could have and she wished all other males would just roll over and die. I told her I suspected that fag-hags just felt uncomfortable hanging around guys who might actually want to sleep with them and the conversation quickly degenerated as I found myself making up new words like 'cock-phobic'. Not good. Gill threw my jacket at me and said a taxi was waiting outside. Why can't I finish a comic or a conversation that doesn't offend around 30 per cent of the fucking population? A poor education, I suppose.

A baby-sitter two nights in a row is close to impossible in our family so I stuck on my old copy of The Matrix as a poor sub for a night out. It was the first time Gill had ever seen it and she actually managed to ruin it for me completely by pointing out a major plot hurdle the next two films really better explain. We're all living in The Matrix, right? We're all slaves to the robotic parasites who use our bodies as batteries while they distract us with our nice, glamorous lives in what we perceive to be the real world, right? Neo is The One who's going to free us from these evil robot masters and help us all wake up and reclaim our planet, right? So far, so good, but the world we reclaim is a post-nuclear nightmare, brother! No sun, no fun, no food, no nice clothes, no new comics every Wednesday or Thursday. Imagine everything and everyone you know suddenly switching off as you open your eyes in your little special effects pod and Lawrence bloody Fishburne is standing there with a nuclear winter blowing behind him, telling us he's saved humanity.

Thanks a lot, Morpheus, you big, fucking twat.

SUNDAY, 25TH AUGUST 2002

The removal company aren't actually coming until tomorrow, but I told my family to help themselves to anything we weren't taking. Big mistake. Nieces and nephews descend like locusts and leave only a few bones of furniture for us to take to our new des-res. I always swear I don't work Saturdays and Sundays, but usually sneak in a couple of hours as a means of making a dent in the e-mail mountain. No such luck today. Interesting conversation with my four year old nephew, though. He's a brilliant kid called Konner who insists we call him 'Superboy' and made me sneak him into the Spider-Man movie (we had a 12 rating over here). He's smart, funny, imaginative… and psychic too, apparently.

His Mum was telling me that she went to see a fortune-teller recently who warned her about her son's Sixth Sense and prepared her for some big revelations to come. Konner had been talking for a while about a brother he doesn't have and how they both fought in the war together, but we'd always put this down to his insane imagination. The fortune-teller said the brother was called Gary and that they'd fought in World War One, but Konner would supply the rest of the details. As soon as Debbie got home, Konner explained everything from regiment number, desert manoeuvres, battle-fiends where they fought, the place where they died and how Gary went to Heaven whereas HE decided to come back because somebody down here needs his help at some point in the future. I was so sure this was a wind-up until I sat him on the front steps of his house and had him tell me exactly the same story in the most terrifying detail. He's four fucking years old and he was explaining to me how soldiers used to dig beds in the French mud so snipers couldn't get them when they were sleeping. Jesus Christ, I love my family!

Sneaked a look at my weekend e-mails and found something from my old pal Nick at Dynamic Forces. Looks like me and John Cassaday are going to be doing a project for him which OBSESSED me as a nine year old. The inner-geek satisfied, I am now off to bed.

MONDAY, 26TH AUGUST 2002

Removal company came and went this morning. Eight guys packed and moved everything I bloody own in less than forty five minutes. So glad I don't have to do anything really hard like this for a living, though, because those poor buggers looked absolutely knackered and I felt a bit guilty about sitting around reading my comic stash while they were puffing and panting. Alias is really good, as always. I really like Bendis, but hate the fact that he can churn so many books out without a dip in quality. I don't think anyone else in the industry at the moment can do this; an increased workload almost always indirectly proportional to my interest in any particular writer.

We don't move into our big place (thank you, Ultimate X-Men royalties) until Friday, but lucked out when friends buggered off to France on Sunday and left us their keys. After rummaging through all their drawers and playing their piano as loudly as I could, I settled down and actually got a little work done. I'm supposed to be writing the double-sized issue twenty-five of Ultimate X-Men this week (or at least STARTING it) and had written twelve pages a few weeks ago. Where the FUCK are they? I've been going through all my disks, but some Artful Dodger from cyber-world seems to have nicked them and taken them back to cyber-Fagan or whatever he calls himself. Where they fuck are those pages? I'm SURE they were about 50% better than usual!!!!

Nice email from Gail Simone. She really is just about the funniest person in the industry at the moment. I knew from the first email she sent me that she was going to be famous and here she is; only several scripts into her career and already one of my favourite writers. It's a brilliant time to be working in comics. I don't think we've ever had as many good writers in the industry at the same time as we have right now.

Telephone call as I wrote this very entry asking me to come down to London tomorrow for a meeting regarding a project I'm consulting on. I love this kind of shit, but it's such a weird week. Don't even have a proper address and phone number again until Friday and they want me down on the midnight sleeper train from Glasgow to London. Must pack!

TUESDAY, 27th AUGUST 2002

Caught the midnight sleeper train down to London late last night. Absolutely brilliant. You close your eyes in Glasgow and wake up five hundred miles away. The closest thing we'll have to teleportation until Jeff Goldblum perfects that fucking machine of his. One of the carriages is turned into an all-night bar and you can get pissed at eighty miles an hour. Does life get any better than this?

Meeting went well too. I like these things where I charge by the hour and just sit back, nodding, and looking as intelligent as someone from my genetic stock possibly can. I really like London and never seem to spot all the negative things you hear people complaining about. When you come from the arse-end of nowhere, it all looks like Steed and Mrs Peel no matter which way you turn. Blissful day too. Shame I had to zip home early on the train. Lots of work to get through and I missed the conference call with Bill and Joe last night. Had it late this afternoon when I cycled up to my studio and was joined by Dave Bogart, Bill Rosemann and a few other people. I hate being the one person on the speaker-phone in a big conference call like this. I always have a sneaking suspicion that the others are naked and I'm probably absolutely correct when the Marvel guys are concerned. Lots of cool stuff discussed for the big Ultimates Versus Ultimate X-Men event in December. Marvel really seem to be getting behind this, which is good for all of us.

Wanted to have Ultimates issue eight finished by today, but it's looking more like Thursday now. Also spoke to Joe privately about a book he's asked me to take over in late 2003 and laid some groundwork for something I want to write in 2004. It's weird thinking ahead like this, but Hitch and I are already making notes on our post-Ultimates project and that won't even be out until around Easter 2004. I realized writing comics was a weird job when I was scripting Christmas stories in the heat of Summer so I'm getting used to these time-jumps by now.

Note to self: don't forget to watch Oz tonight on Channel Four (a new episode of my all-time favourite TV show).

WEDNESDAY, 28th AUGUST 2002

Fuck! Where the Hell is that disk with those missing pages? I've turned the office upside down and STILL can't find them. I'm out of here on Friday so hopefully it'll show up when I'm doing all my packing. Marvel comp box arrived with last month's comics. Yay! This is always a good excuse for two hours off while I read everything and then a call to Hitch as we dissect the entire pack. Hitch tells me that he's going to rent a studio outside the house as of next week, just as I'm moving my office back into the family best. Will it all end in tears? Will I do The Shining like I almost did last time after the millionth bloody visitor? God help us all!

Two pals appeared at the office and convinced me I should see Reign of Fire. I justify this afternoon off by saying it might give me some nice visual ideas for The Ultimates I'm supposed to be writing and disappear for a liquid lunch. Convince my sister to let my god-sons get an afternoon of school and I sneak them in too. It's really good, but there's no dragons destroying London. I wanted to see dragons killing English people! It occurred to me about halfway through it that the structure is identical to Jaws, right down to a slightly miscast Mathew Whatever-he's-called impersonating Robert Shaw and joining the protagonist and a science whiz as they team-up and hunt the monster in the final arc? Does he meet a similarly bloody death? Damn right he does (no spoilers here, baby)!

Home late and Gill and Emily are watching The Book of Pooh. I saw this a couple of months back in Joe Q's (surprisingly tidy) apartment and remember Joe, Hitch and I watching an entire episode and marvelling at how good 3D animation has become. It's only when I got home I found the video and discovered it wasn't CGI, but PUPPETS. Still haven't had the heart to tell Hitch and Joe this.

THURSDAY, 29th AUGUST 2002

Has there ever been a week when I've written so little? Post-illness speed is up at a comfortable three books a month right now and I'm loving it, but this week has seen only three pages! Frank Quitely DRAWS faster than this. Spent literally the entire day packing up my office as I prepare to haul my ass out of here tomorrow. I'll miss the studio. The people here are really nice and I said my tearful goodbyes at lunch-time. As of next week, Gill will be how much I actually arse about all day when she thinks I'm working and will no longer console me with a warm dinner when I stagger home. What have I done?

Quite emotional leaving the town. We're going out with some pals tonight for a goodbye curry and booze-up, but here I am in the studio at 8.30pm writing this bloody diary. Hitch was on for an hour telling me MORE plans for this post-Ultimates gig and we've already worked each other up into a slightly hysterical frenzy. He tells me he's had a great week and actually drew eight pages. Sounds like the issue goes off to the printers next week and will be fourteen days late at the most. I can't wait to see this. My fax machine's been jiggered for a couple of weeks and I've hardly seen any of these pages. He's bloody good, that Hitch; especially when you take into account that he's mentally handicapped.

One last search through the files for Ultimate X-Men 25. Please, please, please don't let me have lost all those bloody pages!

UPDATE 30th, AUGUST 2002

Mark Millar got the keys to his lovely new house at 9am this morning. He, his wife and his daughter moved in and everything went far smoother than any of them expected. The whereabouts of those missing Ultimate X-Men pages are still unknown.

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