Marvellous Mark drawn to success; Birmingham's annual comic convention opens this weekend with special guest Mark Millar, the man behind Kick Ass and Wanted. NEIL ELKES reports.
THE scenes of rioting and looting on the streets of Birmingham, Manchester and London seemed a little familiar to writer Mark Millar.
He's working on the sequel to his best-selling comic-turned-hit Hollywood violent action movie Kick Ass and noticed some strange similarities.
"I was writing a riot scene for Kick Ass 2, a big scene with all the super villains sending internet messages to each ots her saying 'we're all gonna meet in Times Square and mess the place up'.
''And then I switch on the TV and see it happening.
It was quite odd."
He freely admits that popular culture and TV news has influenced his superhero comics - perhaps one of the reasons why stories such as his Marvel Ultimates and Kick Ass have been mainstream hits.
He says: "It is funny how life imitates art. You are constantly fed by what you are picking up on television, even subconsciously.
I found that when I was doing the Ultimates.
"There are images which stay with you - things like September 11. And things like the fragility of the policemen standing there, you see six cops with a bit of plastic and a stick up against a mass horde running towards them. Or just police cars being attacked. You can't help but see that stuff seeping into superhero stories. Scenes start forming in your head."
But the scenes of the last few weeks have not put him off coming to Birmingham for 2011BC, the re-branded Birmingham International Comics Show, at the Holiday Inn tomorrow.
"I'm going to make a bit of a weekend of it. Seeing conventions coming out to the regions is brilliant.
"Growing up in Glasgow I am aware how metropolitan the scene can be. When the first one came to Glasgow, I thought it was like Disneyland.
"I'm delighted Birmingham is doing well. I've known the organisers for ten years. They helped out with Kapow (Mark's own convention earlier this year) with advice. It's a friendly group and they were always happy to help."
In superhero comics over the last decade there are few bigger names than his. Mark is renowned for writing landmark stories for established characters like Superman Red Son which saw the Man of Steel raised by Stalin in Soviet Russia, and the Ultimate remakes of X-men and Captain America.
More recently he has turned his hand to his own creations and, as producer, has already ushered two stories, Wanted and Kick Ass, onto the big screen.
His latest book, Superior, in which a boy with multiple sclerosis gets his wish to become a Superman, is next in line for Hollywood treatment.
Mark seems amazed that Kick Ass was so well received and critically acclaimed, despite a couple of highly negative headlines over the foulmouthed deadly 11-yearold vigilante Hit Girl.
He says: "Constructing a child dressed as a superhero saying the worst word imaginable then killing a load of people. How could you not be offended? "But it is the context, Hit Girl made absolute sense within the story. A little girl, raised by her father with no female influence who grew up loving Arnold Schwarzenegger films.
"Even then we were surprised that so many people got it and liked it."
Next up is the launch of his own publishing house, the modestly named Millarworld.
"It's like a Motown label, except for ginger Scottish people," he jokes, "I do my ow n characters and own them with the artists."
He says it is creatively rewarding and vastly more lucrative.
He explains he was inspired by an interview with Stan Lee in which the legendary Marvel superhero writer asked why people are still writing for characters he created in the 1960s when they could be making their own.
"It was such a blunt and brilliant point. And I was lucky Wanted, the first one, ended up a film.
TicketInfo Also appearing at 2011BC are Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong, Batman), Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, and Midlands artists Jimmy Broxton and Alan Davis. For full details visit www.thecomicsshow.co.uk/2011BC. For more comics news visit http:// blogs.birminghammail. net/speechballoon/
''Then Kick Ass did really well." Hero worship: Ultimate Avengers by Mark Millar (below). Inset: Kick-Ass was turned into a movie.