Robot 6

Comic Strips to Comic Flicks: Mark Millar movies they haven’t made (yet)

In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from “big two” stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, though, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — one creator who seems to love it more than anyone else is Mark Millar.

After bouncing around the UK comics scene and later DC, Mark Millar made a name for himself for his big-picture epics on The Authority and The Ultimates. Working with artists like Frank Quitely and Bryan Hitch, Millar borrowed some of the wide-screen cinema techniques of film to display comic stories in a new light. From very early on, movie-makers have been cribbing notes from his comics; X-Men: The Last Stand screenwriter Zak Penn said Millar’s work was influencing his own. He was even brought in to act as an informal brain trust to give advice to Jon Favreau during the production of the first Iron Man film.

After seeing glimpses and glimmers of Millar’s influence on company-owned comics-turned-films, it was when Hollywood took notice of his creator-owned work that his bibliography became catnip for movie producers. After back-to-back successes with feature film adaptations of his comics Wanted and Kick-Ass, virtually every creator-owned comic from Mark Millar comes with the question, “How soon will there be a movie announcement?” This attention from movie producers has even led Millar to begin filming his own original movie, which is currently underway.

The question today is this: Of the creator-owned work Mark Millar’s done that haven’t become films yet, which should, and how should they look?

Nemesis: The recently completed four-issue series with Civil War collaborator Steve McNiven saw a look into the dichotomy the Batman/Joker relationship if looking through a funhouse mirror: what if Batman were bad, and acted like the Joker? Hollywood was quick to take notice of this series, snapping up the rights after only a couple issues had been released. Veteran filmmaker Tony Scott snapped up the rights through his film company Scott Free, optioning to direct it as well. Scott’s style would be perfectly suited for Nemesis – if Tony Scott were to ever want to make a superhero movie, this would be a perfect fit.

Savior: The second comic of Jesus Christ, and he’s coming back as a superhero who looks like British TV host Jonathan Ross.  As Millar’s debut comic work, it is woefully under-the-radar but presages his later creator-owned work, specifically Chosen.  This six-issue series from UK publisher Trident is hard to find but worth the looking. As for its big screen potential, it might have some issues due to the subject matter; if you thought Kevin Smith’s Dogma raised some ire in religious circles, this could easily outpace that.

War Heroes: Promoted by Millar as what he originally intended a third volume of The Ultimates would have looked like, War Heroes pits the real-life War on Terror with the idea of drugs administered to U.S. soldiers to give them superpowers. This is put on its head when a group of con artists infiltrate the military, steal the pills and sell them on the black market — unbeknownst to them, Al-Qaeda. Launched in August 2008, only three issues of the expected five have been released — but the rights were bought up a month after it’s debut by Sony & producer Mike De Luca (Fright Night, Ghost Rider). This idea has real cinematic potential — combining modern war movies with super-heroic action and power, it could be Three Kings meets Kick-Ass.

Chosen: Described by Millar as his sequel to The Bible, its concerns a twelve-year-old boy who discovers he’s the resurrected Jesus Christ. In some ways is a de-horrorfied version of The Omen, but Millar is very true to the biblical aspects and makes this a special kind of drama. Published as part of Millar’s initial “Millarworld” line of books with Dark Horse, it is the first in a planned trilogy going under the moniker “American Jesus”. It’s a spiritual book for Millar — in the same way that his first work, Savior, is — but through his own unique lens.  Taking this to Hollywood would need some careful hands, but Sony Pictures has already optioned it. Someone like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Near Dark) would be an ideal candidate to bring this story to life.

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Silo: Another rarity from Millar’s ouvre, Silo was serialized in UK comics mag 2000 AD and followed to American soldiers stationed in a nuclear missile silo that is haunted by the ghost of a 19th century British writer prone to hyperbole and ending the world. Taking place in a very confined and volatile place, the added enhancement of being haunted gives it a unique vibe — think Dr. Strangelove meets The Haunted Tank. All-in-all its a short work, but an able-bodied screenwriter & director could spin this into a full-fledged movie that would be a great suspense story.

Cannon Fodder:  After the End of Times has come and gone and the dead are rising from their grave, the Catholic Church partners with what’s left of law enforcement to create ‘The Priest Patrol’.  Created with artist Chris Weston for 2000AD, this would be ideal for more attention — if not a movie, at least an American comic collection. Rumor has it that the rights are in dispute with the publisher and Millar, going back to a sequel story that was unapproved appearing after the original.

Superior: As Mark Millar’s latest ICON book, Superior is in many ways Mark Millar’s take on what Superman would be like in the real world. Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu, the book owes much to the original Superman mythos but the creators aren’t afraid to take the story in places Clark Kent would never go. If DC somehow let Superman — or closer yet, Captain Marvel — be Ultimate-ized, this would be it. Back in September Millar said he was discussing a feature film adaptation with Kick-Ass helmer Matthew Vaughn, and he’s been quoted as saying that Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm would be ideal for the titular role.

Big Dave:  This is probably the closest thing we’ve seen from Millar when it comes to straight-up comedy. Created with Grant Morrison, Big Dave is an over-the-top affair with the so-called “hardest man in Manchester” taking on Saddam Hussein, a robot version of the British Royalty and a German football team managed by Hitler. Big Dave even ends one story by bedding a very drunk Princess Di and Sarah Ferguson. This strip in 2000AD stirred up considerable controversy in its time and many of its jokes are so comic-centric that filming this might prove impossible. Might.



Pretensious dweeb

February 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

He’s, like, a total sell-out man. He only cares about the money. Mark millar killed my dog, burnt my house down, and he is the devil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I would like to read Big Dave.

Not to fond of his writing. Seems kind of lazy to me.

“Pretentious”, dweeb

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of his. At all.

I wish the moderator would through and get rid off the flaming I think Millar is a great writer and the best writer after Alan Moore to take ove the original series I would like to see savior compiled and finished my self but truth is it is not much different then chosen except for the super hero thing I personally would have mentioned the unfunnies the most adult funny animal comic since fritz the cat good day

I like Millar–Chosen is genius. Where are the other two parts?

Big Dave was very, very funny and very savagely satirical. The problem with that is that would now read as being incredibly dated. The other problem with it is that the jokes would probably be incomprehensible to anyone outside the UK. Sorry, Drew, but unless you’re a serious Anglophile, specializing in the late 80’s/early 90’s and the tail-end of the Thatcher regime, you probably wouldn’t understand it. It really was a case of “you had to be there”.

Millar’s stuff is just good, clean (if he’s writing for Marvel) fun. Or unclean if he’s writing for his creator-owned stuff. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. People who complain are really just giving him what he wants – more publicity.

I really wish 2000AD would collect Big Dave already!!!! I’ve been wanting read it for years but I’ve had no luck finding it or the issues.

I enjoy Millar’s work until recently. There has been a severe lack of quality in Millar’s for-hire work beginning with Ultimate Avengers and it seems to be bleeding into his creator owned material. Beginning with the latest issue of Superior, Millar seems to be more and more invoking Satan as being the main baddie. How unoriginal.

I guess to clarify what I said before, I don’t like his creator owned stuff. Kick-Ass was pretty lame, and honestly I feel like Nemesis had the same twist. 1984 and Old Man Logan were all right, and I say that as someone who doesn’t even like Marvel that much anymore…

Dawnell Bouknight

February 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I would like too see War Heroes made into a movie.

I think he uses a few tricks too often and is overly violent. But, some of his stuff is amazing. Wanted was pretty awesome and Superman: Red Son is just incredible.

He’s a hack that relies on high concepts and gimmicks. Of course Hollywood loves him.

Well, I’m not the biggest Mark Millar fan, I pretty much enjoyed Kick Ass but yeah. I’d probably have to say Cannon Fodder. I’d much prefer to see some Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis comics being PROPERLY adapted to a movie since in my eyes they both surpass Mark Millar by a very long way.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with high concepts, and this ULTIMATES is definitely an incredible two part series, but Millar definitely is of the “comics are just movie storyboards” variety. He’s one of the top guys, but I’d still put him behind Morrison, Johns, Hickman, Brubaker, and a bunch of other, younger talents right now.

Only comic I liked by Millar was ‘American Jesus: Chosen’. ‘Ultimates’ was decent, but everything else was really crummy, in my honest opinion.

Funny enough, I tried reading ‘Kick-Ass’ and found it intolerable, yet I enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Maybe I’d pay to watch Kick-Ass, Superior and Nemesis in one movie. Ultimates was created to make the Marvel Universe look more cinematic and in case you didn’t know, DC also had something similar to the Ultimates in 1997 and 1998. They called it Tangent Comics and the character Millar wrote for Tangent was (The) Superman. Maybe Tangent Superman and Ultimates should also be movies.

Mark Millar is so over-rated. I could never see how he was supposed to be able to write a giant crossover for Marvel despite the fact it obviously was not written out before hand. They spent months through delays trying to tell readers they had this big plan that wasn’t there. If it was there, well, that’s even worse. His stuff is hype. Suddenly all the Marvel characters are different people and there’s a war that just starts with barely an explanation. It’s impossible to buy into this. It starts. Doesn’t go anywhere. ‘I quit’.

I think Marvel is a mess because of it.

FACT: None of the rights are in dispute for any of the material Mark helped create for 2000 AD. He signed an agreement in the late 90s that confirmed Big Dave as a creator-owned entity, and all the other strips scripted by Mark as company-owned properties – including Canon Fodder.

Millar’s work on The Authority with Quitely got me back into comics and drawing again. He’s so good at character to character moments. Just off the top of my head….The Authority, 1984, Ultimates, Civil War…the original ultimate x-men run too….the guys got a ton of hits on his resume…not including his creator owned stuff(and older stuff that I havent read…still haven’t read Red Son). He has his misses just like anyone else….but you have to give him his props…he’s one of the writers that has defined this generation of comics.

I agree that Civil War had a lot of Marvel heroes behaving out of character, but can forgive that as just his take on these icons, as any creator brings his own sensibility to company properties. Ultimates has to be his masterwork-for hire, in my opinion. What a compelling and refreshing take, especially the man-out-of-time aspect to the Captain America arc.

“Silo … think Dr. Strangelove meets The Haunted Tank.”

A bit odd considering he lifts so obviously from different sources – it is The Shining with elements of Die Hard, and not as good as that might sound. I can’t imagine a film company being that interested in it, as the setting was very Cold War, so it hasn’t aged well, and it’d need the obvious lifts from other properties removed. So you might as well start again.

Big Dave is also dated and I can’t see how it’d work as a film but I’d love to see a collection of it for old time’s sake.

Canon Fodder is the real winner in that lot and would make a great film, although that has a lot to do with Chris Weston’s work and Kek-W’s sequel but it is still one of my favourite Mark Millar stories. It was recently reprinted in two Megazine supplements (Meg #278 and 291 which can probably be found on eBay) and so is unlikely to see a UK trade collection (despite a lot of vocal campaigning for it over the years) but Millar and Weston’s names on it might get Simon & Schuster interested in creating a volume for the US market sometime in 2012 (we know most of the release schedule for this year), who knows?

Thanks to Bish-OP for clarifying the ownership situation – pity Zenith couldn’t have been sorted out in a similar manner :(

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