The "Ultimate" MARK MILLAR Interview - Part 2


Ultimate Avengers 2 #3

Mark Millar has a talent for "ultimizing."

The writer, who helped form Marvel's Ultimate Universe when it was in its infancy, introduced many of the "ultimized" Marvel characters who now occupy the Ultimate Universe, creating them for titles like The Ultimates, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate X-Men.

While Millar had taken a break from the Ultimate Universe for awhile, he returned last year to help relaunch the entire imprint's line-up by penning Ultimate Comics Avengers, a new team book with rotating artists that features the ultimate versions of Captain America and Nick Fury.

Newsarama spoke to the writer earlier about his role in the Ultimate relaunch and what he thinks of the new line-up. Now we turn our attention to what's coming next in Ultimate Comics Avengers, including a young Ultimate Daredevil, a vampire-centric Blade story drawn by Steve Dillon, and the eventual resolution of the Stark brothers' feud.

Newsarama: Mark, let's talk about what's coming up in Ultimate Comics Avengers. We've seen Ultimate Punisher, and we're in the midst of the Ultimate Ghost Rider story, and you've introduced a few other new characters. Next is Ultimate Blade, whom you're re-introducing after his brief appearance in Ultimate Spider-Man. With Ultimate Avengers, were you hoping to introduce some new characters into the Ultimate Universe?

Mark Millar: Yeah, I realized we all have our own skill sets. Brian Bendis' skill is that he's a wonderfully naturalistic dialogue guy. And if I bring something to it, I suppose it's reinventing characters, like Ultimate Thor, Ultimate Tony Stark, Ultimate Captain America, and some people tend to like these characters.

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So I thought it would be cool to "ultimize" a few characters. I loved doing Ultimate Ghost Rider. That was just a real buzz for me, because it was something I loved as a kid. And I gave him a very clean, simple origin for the Ultimate Universe.

And I thought about how Jeph killed off Ultimate Daredevil, and I thought it would be fun to create a new Daredevil for this next arc. He's a 12-year-old boy, and he's dressed in yellow and black. And I just had a lot of fun with all of that. I pulled the rug out from under everyone's feet with it. And the story as well; it's not what you're expecting.

And my all-time favorite Marvel character is, possibly, Blade. I've loved Blade since I was like seven years old. So getting a chance to write Blade, I've been desperate for. I pitched a Blade idea to Joe Quesada about five years ago, and Joe was like, "Oh, I'd rather you did Wolverine." And I thought, OK, Wolverine's going to make Marvel more cash, so I can understand that. But I always had that Blade idea. You know? I like horror superheroes. And Blade was just the perfect conduit for that.

So what I've done in Ultimate Avengers is a Blade/Avengers kind of story.

Nrama: The new Ultimate Daredevil sounds very different. But is Ultimate Blade pretty much the same character we know from the regular Marvel Universe?

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Millar: Yeah. I think when you're "ultimizing" something, and I've ultimized a lot of characters, from Avengers to Fantastic Four to X-Men, I've found that the thing to do is, if it doesn't need fixed, walk with it. Just try to clarify what the character's all about and brush away all the barnacles.

Like on X-Men, when we did Ultimate X-Men, there had been five or 10 years of very, very confusing X-Men continuity. So Ultimate X-Men was just a simplification of X-Men for people who enjoyed the movie. And it was a very, very straight, kind of linear story. And for example, with Captain America in The Ultimates, I just took that kind of central "man-out-of-time" idea and just moved it up from the '60s when he woke up to the year 2002 when he woke up.

So with Blade, he's half-human, half-vampire and kills vampires. I just took that central idea and worked on it from there. There isn't a lot you have to fix with Blade. And I think the movie version is terrific, so I used some of that for the basis of it. Unfortunately a lot of the stuff I like about Blade, like the 1970's stuff, doesn't really play to a young, teenage audience, so I play it as less Shaft/more Wesley Snipes.

Nrama: Does this story arc go very far into the idea of vampires in the Ultimate Universe? Are they in New York?

Millar: Yeah! The thing I love about Blade is that it combines my two great loves in life: superheroes and horror. And the idea of juxtaposing both is really exciting to me. One of the comics I loved as a kid was those Len Wein or Alan Moore kind of comics, where you have superheroes and horror co-existing in the same universe. Before everything broke off into DC or Vertigo, you would have creepy Justice League stories, you know? So I love the idea horror characters and superheroes existing in the same New York setting.

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The idea in this story arc is that the last guy in the planet you want to get bitten by a vampire gets bitten by a vampire. And that starts an infection that runs through and infests the supervillain community, and then the superhero community. So what you have is the potential for global annihilation. If you're a smart vampire, you want to make sure you have Colossus and Wolverine and Thor on your side as well. If these guys are out there and are vampires backing you up, then your bloodline is going to rule. It's going rule the planet.

So that's the basis of the story. And Blade's the only guy who can help you. Captain America's not as effective against vampires as Blade. So that's when he has to become an Avenger.

Nrama: You launched the whole "Marvel Zombies" line with your Ultimate Fantastic Four arc. If this takes off, do you think you've got a "Marvel Vampires" line here?

Millar: Oh, I don't know, but that would be fun, wouldn't it? And it's funny because the timing works out as well. When I was first thinking of this whole idea, I thought maybe I'd missed the trend, because it was right after Buffy. But what was so bizarre was that vampires never seem to stop being popular. They really are undead. As one ends, another one rises, you know? I suppose vampires are always kind of fashionable. Just when you think people don't want them anymore, after Buffy's finished, then suddenly Twilight comes out, and that's huge as well.

And with Twilight, you know, I kind of hate it, but I kind of love it as well, because my daughter loves it. I get some pleasure from it by osmosis, and the fact that my 11-year-old daughter is so obsessed with it, and so are all her friends. I think it's kind of lovely.

But I still couldn't help myself in the comic. My 40-year-old self just had to get in some kind of comment on Twilight. So I had a scene where Blade has a dream sequence, a kind of fantasy thing, where he sort of skewers Robert Pattinson. He puts a stake through Robert Pattinson. [laughs]

Nrama: OK, that's hilarious. So I assume these vampires obey the Marvel Universe rules of vampires?

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Millar: Oh, god yes. I think vampires should be scary and slightly ugly. It's funny. I showed my daughter Buffy recently, and she said, "What a rip-off of Twilight! [laughs] I said, "No, no, no, you don't understand!" And she also said, "Why are the vampires so ugly?" It's funny because there's a whole generation of people who think being a vampire is like being Batman or something. They think it's cool. So yeah, the Ultimate Avengers vampire story has a few twists in it, but our vampires aren't pretty.

Nrama: You've also got a new artist coming up. Is the plan still to change artists every six issues?

Millar: Yes. And one of the things I love about this book is that it kind of reinvents itself every six issues. I'm a guy who gets bored really easily. So the idea of doing six issues with Carlos Pacheco with a particular team of characters, and then suddenly jumping and doing an entirely different cast of characters with Leinil Francis Yu, it felt like starting a new job, you know? It just felt really exciting. I couldn't wait to get into the next arc.

And the same thing has happened again, with this vampire arc. Working with Steve Dillon itself is a dream. Steve Dillon is amazing. I've worked with him once before, and he's one of the best storytellers in comics. That's exciting. But then it's also an excuse to start with a whole new bunch of characters again. 'Cause this is Ultimate Daredevil and Ultimate Blade, with Captain America and Hulk thrown in there.

Nrama: Having different artists also makes the comic come out in a pretty timely manner. Do you write ahead for the artists?

Millar: Yeah. Leading up to the Kick-Ass movie, I wanted to get as many scripts in the can as I could, before all the press junkets and everything for the movie. I didn't want the book to be late. So I just shot ahead, and I had a great time. So what's lovely about this Punisher/Ghost Rider arc is that it's going to come out more frequently. Leinil is so fast and so far ahead, these are going to be completely done by August. And then we enter this vampire arc, which I'm really looking forward to.

Nrama: But I noticed that these shorter arcs have a lot of mysteries and themes that carry over. Are you building a larger storyline within these shorter ones?

Millar: Yeah. The four arcs here form one big super arc. There's a 24-issue giant storyline made up of six big stories.

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And one of the main ideas is behind this bigger story is, what the hell has been going on with Tony Stark and his twin brother? Tony has this twin named Gregory Stark, and he's older by 22 minutes. And he and Tony have been in this terrible feud for years, where one of them rules the Northern Hemisphere of the world, while the other one has all of his companies in the Southern Hemisphere. And they hate each other's guts. Tony supplies the Ultimates, and the black ops team is supplied by Gregory, his slightly evil older brother.

So that's what I've been building toward. The final arc explains everything behind who the hell is Gregory Stark and what he's been up to.

Nrama: With all the movies and creator-owned comics you're involved in, do you think you'll be able to continue working on shared universe stuff like this in the future?

Millar: Yeah, I'm not going anywhere. [laughs] Once I finish the Ultimate Avengers story, I'm definitely planning to do more company-owned stuff. I mean, I love doing all the movies, and we're setting up two new creator-owned things. I'm almost embarrassed when I'm talking about this, how quickly these things get made into films. I never actually planned them that way. I just like writing my comics.

But Leinil Francis Yu and I have a series coming out in September, and we're halfway through it now. And I've also got Nemesis right now with Steve McNiven.

But I love the characters I grew up with as well. So I really intend to stick around with it. Once Ultimate Avengers is done, which won't be too long now, I'm going to get into the Marvel U proper again. I'm going to go meet the Marvel guys in a couple of months and talk to them about it. I have a big, big plan.

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