Mark Millar On Why KAPOW's 'Stan Lee Awards' Were Overdue
There are a lot of different awards given to comics — the Eisners each year at Comic-Con International: San Diego, the Harvey Awards at the Baltimore Comic Con, the Eagle Awards at the London MCM Expo — but Mark Millar thinks there’s room for one more.So April 9 of this year at the first installment of the comic book writer’s two-day Kapow Comic Con at the London Business Design Centre will be the debut of the Stan Lee Awards, named after the legendary co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and many more iconic Marvel characters.
Thanks to the power of international calling, Newsarama talked with the Ultimates and Kick-Ass writer from his office in Scotland to find out why another comic book award ceremony was necessary, what makes the Stan Lee Awards different, and what he’s got planned for the ceremony itself.
Mark Millar: The number one think for me is that [Jack] Kirby and Lee, fundamentally, are the reasons we’re all in jobs right now. [Will] Eisner, I think is a genius, he was a personal friend of mine — massively influential guy, going all the way back to the Golden Age, when he met [Jerry] Siegel and [Joe] Shuster when they were hawking Superman around. He’s an industry legend. Harvey Kurtzman, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of as well. But Stan and Jack are the reason that we have the comic book industry. It would have probably just dissolved without them. I just always thought it was odd that we did have the Kirby Awards, but Stan wasn’t honored — to co-create Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk and so on, and leave more of a mark than probably anyone else in the history of the medium. And really, for three generations, has been a name that the average person on the street probably recognizes, in a way that they don’t with myself or any contemporary creator, I just think it’s bizarre that we didn’t have Stan Lee Awards.
At conventions, in the bar, for some reason over the years I’ve spoken about this with friends, and all my friends are like, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right, someone should do it.” Then I just thought, whenever Kapow was coming together, “This is the place to do it.” Kapow’s an international convention, it’s not a UK thing, it just happens to be in Europe. So these are international awards, and all the people taking part as judges for the nominations are very, very international — it’s retailers from all over the world, figures from the international comic book industry, from Hollywood, and the European movie scene, and a lot of mainstream press all over the world. We just wanted the Stan awards to be the biggest — the biggest in the lot, because Stan is the biggest figure.
Nrama: And I’m sure you talked to Stan himself to get him on board and the permission to use his name for the awards.
Millar: Stan, delighted to say, is a friend. For a few years, he and I have been sort of e-mail buddies. I interviewed him for a sci-fi magazine called SFX over here in the UK, and I said, “Do you not think there should be a Stan Lee Awards?” And he said, “Yes, there absolutely should.” [Laughs.] He and I chatted about it in the past, so when I brought it up, I think he just seems really pleased. Believe it or not, Stan actually is quite a modest guy. His online persona and everything is very much the opposite, but Stan himself is actually a quite humble guy. But in the back of his mind, he must have been thinking it was odd that nothing had happened before. He must be aware of how important and how influential he has been, and I’m just pleased that in his lifetime, this is happening. I’m pleased for him.
Nrama: For the most part, the Eisners tend to focus more on niche and independent comics. I’m guessing the Stan Lee Awards are probably going to be a bit more mainstream?
Millar: Absolutely, yeah. To me that’s the fundamental of it, really. One thing that Stan taught, is that for comics to survive, we have to reach the maximum number of people. Sometimes in all art forms, certain groups within it will be afraid of the mainstream. But to me, Inception’s a complex, interesting movie, and still made 850 million dollars. Just because it’s mainstream doesn’t mean it has to be low quality, and Stan, and Jack, and [Steve] Ditko and those guys proved that.
To me, the other award ceremonies, I think you’re right, tend to award the books that are a little more niche and possibly minority interest. And I mean that in a good way. Especially when you’re not being rewarded financially, and you’re doing a book just out of pure love, that you’re losing money on, and you have to do a job during the day, it is actually lovely to get a little bit of recognition for it. I know a lot of friends who have been on the verge of giving up, and then they get an Eisner nomination, and it boosts their sales by 2,000 copies and keeps them afloat. I think every award ceremony has a place, but the Stans are unashamedly mainstream, because Stan is.
Nrama: What do you have planned for the actual award ceremony itself? I’m sure you have some ideas to make it a bit of a show.
Millar: It’s actually going to literally be a show. The 90-minute ceremony is going to be broadcast online, which is pretty cool. We want it to be as cool as a television award ceremony, so there’s going to be big-name presenters. Just like the Golden Globes or the Oscars or whatever, we’re trying to do our industry’s equivalent.
The digital stream side of it is actually very complex, and it’s very expensive to do, but we have really good media partners who are taking care of that for us. Ten thousand people will there be in London, but it could be watched by hundreds of thousands online. We’ve got some pretty big people that are tying in with us for this event, and so we want this to go really, really wide. It’s going to have massive European visibility, as well as American. We want to make a lot of waves with this.
Nrama: And if you truly can keep it to 90 minutes, I think a lot of people would appreciate that given the tendency of award shows in general to run long.
Millar: Oh, yeah. I’ve been to award shows where I’ve won awards and still wanted to kill myself halfway through. [Laughs.] We just want this to be funny, and short, and breezy. We’re digitally streaming a few things — there’s a comic book game show at the convention as well, that’s hosted by Britain’s biggest television personality, a guy called Jonathan Ross. He’s a comic as well, he’s a good friend of mine, and a terrific writer in his own right. He’s incredibly funny, incredibly smart, and also maybe the biggest fanboy I’ve ever met. He’s created a comic book game show that pits the fans versus the pros.
I was looking at the schedule, and I was thinking, “God, this all looks so good, and I probably not going to get to see almost any of it.” I actually felt kind of sad about it, because I’ll always be doing a signing, or at a panel, so I’m going to miss all of the cooler stuff, probably.
Stay tuned to Newsarama later in the week for more of our talk with Mark Millar, including further discussion of the Kapow Comic Con, his directorial debut Miracle Park, his magazine CLiNT and, yep, his comic book work.