The Column: Issue #23

Fri, February 14th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Mark Millar, Columnist

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MARK MILLAR, PRESIDENT AND PUBLISHER OF DC COMICS

I shouldn't read Newsarama so close to bedtime because all that talk of DC reshuffles can give a boy the strangest dreams. Take last night, for example; I dreamt that the phone rang and I answered, naked from the waist-down as usual, as someone from Warner Brothers offered me a job at DC Comics.

MM        : No, sorry, mate. I've been Making Mine Marvel for the last couple of years and I'm really quite happy where I am, thank you very much.

VOICE        : I'm afraid you misunderstand, Mr Millar. We're not offering you some lowly freelancing job at our measly DC page rates. We're offering you a staff position. A salary…

MM        : Uh-huh.

VOICE        : We're offering you Paul Levitz's job, my Scottish friend.

MM        : Come again?

VOICE         : Paul Levitz. President and publisher of DC Comics. Do you know the President of DC earns three times what the President of Marvel earns, regardless of how much the books sell? Eight or nine months in this job and you'd be a millionaire.

MM        : But I like Paul! I couldn't oust him like this!

VOICE        : Relax. He just realized all the flak he was getting wasn't worth the hassle and decided to retire to some Caribbean Island with a gaggle of porn stars and all that stock he's been sitting on. He's a happy man. Trust me.

MM        : So his job's mine if I want it? Seriously?

VOICE        : The dream job, the dream offices, a billion dollar company backing you up, the most famous characters in the world and connections the Marvel guys can only dream of in Hollywood, retail and the book-chains. All we need to know is how you'd redesign the company if you were sitting in the big chair, Mister Millar.

How I'd redesign DC. How I'd redesign DC. I must admit this is something I've often thought about. Supposing I had 12 months to start from scratch and turn the whole place around. Who would be my perfect pack of writers and artists? You, dear reader, can play this at length on your various message-boards, but the rules are that you mustn't give anyone more books than they're currently producing (although a Jim Lee-style head-start is, of course, okay for those lazy-ass artists since we're only talking about a twelve issue jump-start for the company). Another rule, just to avoid any of the current creative teams getting offended, is that nobody on this list is allowed to work on something they're currently writing or drawing.

Got that? Everybody happy?

Okay, big deep breath and away we go…

THE DC UNIVERSE

I'd streamline the DCU down to the following titles, ripping back all the spin-off books (however good) because I think in this period of consolidation they distract from the parent book that should really be getting our attention. We can build these books up again as we approach the next boom, but right now the DCU needs to consolidate assets and put their biggest names on their biggest characters. It's the only real way to get people excited and re-ignite enthusiasm in the line.

SUPERMAN
Mark Millar/ Bryan Hitch

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
Warren Ellis/ John Cassaday

ACTION COMICS
Mark Waid/ Andy Kubert

I know Mark Waid would rather write the Superman title, but this is my little private fantasy and so he's going to have to settle for Action Comics here. How d'you like THEM apples, Mister Waid? Also, Warren, you might as well face the fact that you write superheroes better than anyone else and stop being embarrassed about it, you English slag. Hitch and I have been preparing for Superman since we were eight years old so this one doesn't even go to a vote, I'm afraid.

DETECTIVE
Brian Bendis/ Leinil Yu

BATMAN
Brian Azzarello/ Adam Kubert

BATMAN AND ROBIN
Grant Morrison/ Alan Davis

Giving up Loeb and Lee would be ridiculous, of course, but the rules of the game are the rules of the game and we'll keep them busy elsewhere. Bendis and Azz on Batman is a no-brainer and Adam Kubert has always said it's his favourite character. Morrison, I think, writes a much better Batman than Superman (easily the best moments in JLA were Batman moments and Gothic and Arkham are among the best things he's ever done). Alan Davis, like I really need to say it, drew the best run on Batman since Neal Adams when he teamed up with Mike Barr in the late eighties for a classic stint on Detective so he and Morrison would make a perfect team here.

WORLD'S FINEST
Mark Millar/ Joe Quesada

Joe Quesada is, without doubt, the best Batman artist out there and he draws a mean Superman, too. I know he's being paid a lot of money to run Marvel, but in my spanking new DC I'd pay him three times that money to draw Superman and Batman. People would fuck their own mothers to see these guys drawn by Quesada.

WONDER WOMAN
Kevin Smith/ Terry Dodson

Hmm. Best babe artist with the nicest style around teamed up with the guy who writes the best female characters in comics? No brainer, people. Smith has also proven that he can make the lowliest of the lowly characters sell more than even JLA or the X-books so he's genuinely the one man alive who could resurrect Wonder Woman from the position she's pretty much always held in the sales charts (barring a brief spike with Perez when I was still in high school).

JLA
Alan Moore/ Jim Lee

C'mon, Jimbo and Moore? Could this be the book that makes Jim even more money than that new X-Men number one made him all those years ago?

TEEN TITANS
Joe Casey/ Kaare Andrews

Think about it. They're perfect for this.

JSA
Jeph Loeb/ Alex Ross

Again, Jeph is the best writer DC has at the moment and Alex was born to do the JSA. The two of them producing a JSA book (set in the forties to avoid confusion with a revamped JLA) would probably be my favourite comic on this list. These guys scream class and Alex was just telling me yesterday that he can paint four pages a week.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
Warren Ellis/ Seth Fisher

The 31st Century, meet Spider Jerusalem. Sci-Fi as only Warren can write it. Madness as only Seth can draw it.

AQUAMAN
Alan Moore/ Frank Quitely

Swamp Thing was a large, talking vegetable and very possibly the most difficult character to write in comics and yet Alan Moore turned the series into the most critically acclaimed book of the 1980s. Aquaman is a very, very difficult character to get right, but I think Moore is the only guy who could really find the right angle on him. Quitely on art, I think, because I have a feeling he'd be very good at drawing fish and octopi and stuff.

GREEN LANTERN
Warren Ellis/ Kevin O'Neill

Our best sci-fi writer with our best sci-fi artist? Again, no brainer.

THE FLASH
JMS/ Ed McGuinness

Joe might have a funny, kind of foreign surname, but he's one of the cleverest writers around when it comes to really thinking through a character's abilities and showing us things we've never seen before. Geoff and Mark have a particular aptitude for this too and it's something integral to making The Flash work. He's also fabulous at character development and could, I'm sure, do for Wally West what he did for Peter Parker. He and Ed would thrive on this book.

SHAZAM!
Grant Morrison/ Mike Weiringo

Morrison's never really written Captain Marvel, but the fundamentals of the character (magic, childhood, wish fulfilment and weird uncles) are an environment where I think he could really do something special for a modern audience and finally draw a line under that whole retro-vibe Cap's had since DC started publishing him in the 70s. Ringo would, naturally, draw this book like no other.

MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Joe Kelly/ Doug Mahnke

Martian Manhunter should be the Superman of the Southern Hemisphere and these are the only guys who could pull that off convincingly. Joe's a very clever, inventive writer and, like JMS, is a brilliant character guy. His Martian Manhunter is probably the high point of his JLA book and he's just about the only person you could really trust to make this difficult character really work.

GREEN ARROW
Greg Rucka/ Eduardo Risso

A few words for anyone who doesn't think this could be DC's best book: Tangled Web issue four

MISTER MIRACLE
Jeph Loeb/ Adam Hughes

Like this ISN'T already on the cards, Jephy-boy! Comics' worst-kept secret ;)

HAWKMAN
Bruce Jones/ John Romita Junior

THE ATOM
Pete Milligan/ Mike Allred

PLASTIC MAN
Brian Bendis/ Ty Templeton

Each and every one of these books has been found dead before they hit number twenty four in the past, but Jones and JRJR resurrected The Hulk from his grave and who wouldn't kill to read the madness of a Milligan/ Allred Atom? Bendis and Ty on Plastic Man? I'd pay TEN TIMES the cover price for these books.

ELSEWORLDS
Tom Peyer/ various

Okay, here's the deal. You give Tom Peyer, probably comics most brilliant satirist, a monthly adult book called Elseworlds where you can do whatever the fuck he likes to whoever the fuck he wants. This could be the funniest superhero book on the stands and quite unlike anything else we've got right now. The Atom as a crack ho'? The Flash teaming up with Stephen Hawking? The possibilities are endless.

WILDSTORM

The twenty or so titles you see above are really all I'd publish in the DCU. I know there's some great books out there missing from the list, but I think this is an important period where we really have to focus on the main characters again and spend the next 12 months building them up from scratch again. I'd also place a ban on creating new heroes for the DCU right now. Nobody seems to have noticed yet, but the only ones who really last more than a couple of years are the ones who are at least forty years old. It's something I've learned to my own cost too, but perhaps there's ENOUGH super-people flying around in Metropolis, you get what I'm saying? The DCU should be the heroes who were created in the 20th Century. Wildstorm, since it needs a function within the DC family, should be the home of the 21st century heroes. The Authority, for example, should be as different from the JLA as the Justice League was from the Justice Society. This is where the brave, experimental and super-commercial new books should be burning up the racks and beyond the three titles mentioned below (the 21st century versions of JLA, X-Men and Teen Titans respectively) I'd make every one of their books new characters by excellent new creators like Will Pfeiffer, Mike Carey and Brian Vaughan.

THE AUTHORITY
Brian Azzarello/ Stevie Dillon

For sentimental reasons.

WILDCATS
Jim Robinson/ JG Jones

Because Jim wrote one of the best superhero comics of the 90s when he tackled WildCATS and outclassed even Moore. JG is Earth's successor to Travis Charest.

GEN 13
Brian Bendis/ Humberto Ramos

The writer of Ultimate Spidey and the artist from Impulse on a teen-team-superhero book? Again, nuff said!

VERTIGO

Personally, I don't really think Vertigo needs a huge amount of tweaking. They were lost for a couple of years in the wake of losing all the big British names, but some good Americans writers have stepped up to the plate at last and some of the big British names are back where they feel most comfortable. A real problem is the fact that almost none of there books sell over cancellation point (I think their highest is around 21,000 or thereabouts), but this could be remedied by rethinking the line a little and making it the place where all new non-superhero projects are launched (the new superhero books being launched at Wildstorm) and where the DC magical characters have a permanent home in 18-only books.

PHANTOM STRANGER
Neil Gaiman/ Ashley Wood

Because Neil has had a Stranger proposal in his drawer for fifteen years.

DOCTOR FATE
Geoff Johns/ Carlos Pacheco

Because Geoff has already proven he has a gift for writing these characters and, for fuck's sake, didn't you SEE that JLA/ JSA thing??

DEADMAN
Garth Ennis/ Howard Chaykin

Because Deadman is one of the most tragically underused and commercially mainstream ideas in the business. Nobody has ever really tapped the brilliant, bad-taste potential of this character and I think Garth could write this for sixty issues without even stopping for a drink. Chaykin is probably my all-time favourite artist and was responsible for just about every masturbation fantasy I had in the nineteen eighties. Honestly, there's nobody who could pull Deadman off like these guys could (if that doesn't sound too lewd).

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC
Joe Kelly/ Chris Bachalo

Because Harry Potter is the most famous fictional character in the world at the moment and the fact that we aren't capitalizing on this with a brilliant, spooky creative team is a fucking disgrace.

HELLBLAZER
Pete Milligan/ Richard Corben

Because Milligan would realize this character better than anyone since Gaiman and Corben was responsible for the best visualization of John Constantine ever. It's really that simple.

CARTOON BOOKS

You want comics for kids? Forget the animated superhero books. They might be the best books featuring the characters sometimes, but that's just a disgraceful admission that the parent titles are completely inaccessible and poorly produced. Hence the reason I'd scrap them all at a stroke and make the mainstream DCU titles as easy to read as these books ever were. As the parent of a four year old, I also understand that kids don't want comics about characters they don't recognize from television, movies, video-games and toys and so I'd have a MASSIVE attempt to lure in young readers with everything from Powerpuff Girls to Barbie and Ed, Edd and Eddy, getting them hooked on the habit of turning pages and then gradually easing them into some of the mainstream DC titles like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. You want comics for the 4-8 year old? Well, here they are and the advertising revenue lost from streamlining the DCU could be made up here. Besides, these things make a fortune when repackaged abroad so this could also be very lucrative.

IN SUMMARY

DCU is where the most famous names do the most famous characters, Wildstorm is where the new superhero material appears for a new audience and Vertigo is where people go for a more sophisticated read. No specials, no minis and no prestige projects for an entire year and every one of these books would at least double in sales. Right now I'm reading maybe two or three DC titles and, I swear to God, I'd read every single one of these and each and every one of them is possible with a little effort. No company can really excuse a lacklustre writer or artist right now because the wealth of talent has really never been this strong and the above list proves it.

MM        : So what do you think, Warner Brothers? Do I get the job?

VOICE        : Sorry. That all actually sounds kind of shit, to be honest. I think we're going to try Bill and Joe.

CLICK!

Visit Mark Millar on the Web at www.millarworld.biz and discuss this column on the MillarWorld forums.

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