How MARK MILLAR Pitted Two Publishers in a Fake Game of Chicken to Break Into Comics

Mark Millar
Credit: Millarworld

Merry Christmas! While many are settling down for their long winter’s nap and the go-go news cycle downshifts, Newsarama will keep you fires burning with fascinating anecdotes never before revealed. Enjoy!

Credit: Daniel Vallely/Nigel Kitching (Trident Comics)

Writer Mark Millar was a 19-year-old in 1989 in Glasgow, Scotland trying desperately to break into comics. He finally made it…with a little subterfuge.

Take it away, Mark!

“I was so desperate to get into DC. That was my only ambition in life. But I was living on a rainy rock on the other side of the world, you know? I sent them pitches, which they always rejected. The route seemed to be through British comics, 2000 A.D. That was Alan Moore’s route.

“I did an independent book, but they weren’t impressed. So I contacted DC and I said, ‘Listen, I’ve got all this stuff coming up in 2000 A.D.,’ and I simultaneously contacted 2000 A.D. and said, ‘Oh, I have this Phantom Stanger series happening at DC, this Hellblazer, so if you want to get me writing for you, you’d better do it quick.’ Now it was all bullshit, but I consider it a little white lie, because at least I had written the DC proposals. So I was planning to do the stuff for DC if they had accepted it…which they didn’t.

Credit: Paul Johnson (Rebellion)

“So 2000 A.D. thought, ‘There might be something interesting with this young guy, and he seems to be getting a lot of stuff at DC, let’s get him.’ So they gave me a bunch of 2000 A.D. assignments! Then once I started writing for them, I got in contact with [editor] Archie Goodwin at DC and said, ‘Listen, I’ve got all this stuff going at 2000 A.D.,’ and I faxed him, I actually faxed him the pages because that’s what you did at the time, from the 2000 A.D. assignments, not even published yet.

“It was all smoke and mirrors. It was stone soup, you know? There’s was nothing there to begin with; I just played on the fact that maybe two publishers would be scared of losing the new hot guy. And 2000 A.D. blinked.

“So Archie Goodwin says he wants to meet me for lunch when he’s in London. Now I’m 19 years old, and I have no money to get from Glasgow to London. So I borrowed money to get a 12-pound ride on this nightmare bus that’s just filled with junkies on an overnight ride to London, and you can’t sleep because you might have to defend yourself, stay alive, if anything happens. Archie’s staying at this nice hotel, the Dorchester, which is like hotel James Bond would stay in. He’s arranged to meet me for lunch at the hotel, and I remember just gulping hard as I went in because they had this doorman who’s looking at me like a thief. I don’t belong here, he’s giving me the eye.

Credit: Steve Yeowell (DC)

“I introduce myself to Archie, and he does a double-take. I think he assumed I was older, and honestly, when I was 19, I looked about 12. But I kept the bluff going and said ‘Yeah, I think you should have me doing Legends of the Dark Knight, this new series you’ll be doing.’ And…I sold him on a story! I almost blew it at he end when I took out two Manhunter comics he had written and said, ‘Could you sign these for me?’ Almost completely blew the whole thing.

“And I remember the whole time sitting there thinking, ‘Shit, this is an expensive place. I hope I don’t have to buy him a drink.’ All I had was 12 more pounds to get on that dangerous bus back to Glasgow that night, and one drink probably would have cost me 12 pounds there. But I didn’t care. I would have walked back home if I had to.

“I would recommend this to anyone starting out: Hustle. You’ve got to be a hustler. Even as an established freelancer, the minute you stop hustling, you lose work. Hustle.”

—Similar articles of this ilk are archived on a crummy-looking blog. You can also follow @McLauchlin on Twitter.

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