SOME superheroes are invulnerable. Their creators, on the whole, tend not to be.

“I’ve actually had the most interesting day.” Mark Millar tells me before anything else. “I knackered my shoulder and I had to go to the hospital and get an injection into my shoulder with a steroid about 11 o’clock this morning. And I didn’t feel a thing.

“I saw a needle this long …” He holds up his hands, estimates the size of the needle, then doubles it. “ …Going into my shoulder. And I was saying, ‘That wasn’t sore at all.’

“And then somebody pointed out to me I’ve had the anaesthetic. It’s going be agony when it wears off.

“I’m kind of terrified. I’m sitting waiting for it to wear off.”

Right now, Millar is at home in the West End of Glasgow talking to me on Zoom full of steroids, anaesthetic, fear and bullish self-confidence (which tends to be his default setting when talking to the press). We are a couple of weeks away from the launch of his new TV series Jupiter’s Legacy and everything, he says, is pretty great. Well, apart from his shoulder.

The latter is his own fault, he says. “You know January first you try to be fitter? So, every day I was lifting weights. You know the way you go from no exercise at all to everything. I was trying to be Batman overnight.”

HeraldScotland: Mark MillarMark Millar

That’s the problem with being an action hero, I tell him. It can be dangerous. “I’m thinking of my pals who go to the gym,” he says. “They always have injuries. See the guys who watch TV? They’re fine. They’re all okay.”

Shoulder apart, so is he. Mark Millar, Coatbridge-born comic book writer, film producer, TV producer (and, yes, TV watcher), world-builder, the man who gave us Kick-Ass, Wanted and the Kingsman series, is in promotion mode today.

Jupiter’s Legacy is the first fruit of his deal with Netflix following the streaming giant’s purchase of the creator-owned company Millarworld for a reported figure of somewhere in the region of $35million (£24.8m) in 2017. There are currently nine other projects in various stages of development.

“We’ve got the next three or four years planned out. And that’s just the television side,” Millar explains.

“Back when I was running Millarworld as our own company we had a film every two years, but now we’re going to have several a year.”

There is no better huckster than Millar, but then he has a lot to sell. He’s the boy who grew up wanting to write comics, who worked for DC and Marvel, creating comic books that were made to be made into movies (and often were; the Wolverine film Logan was based on his original comic story) and then decided to create his own comic book universe which is now being recreated on screen by Netflix.

His writing has always been blockbuster-adjacent; noisy, flashy and fun (a bit like his interviews). No wonder TV and filmmakers are so keen on it.

“It must be awful to be a guy who really, really wants to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra or something, but he has to write pop songs to pay the bills,” Millar suggests. “I’m really lucky I’m writing the pop songs. That’s what I really love. In terms of how I want to spend my day, I just find it much more interesting when someone’s driving a car off a bridge into a spaceship.”

HeraldScotland: Jupiter's Legacy is the first fruit of Millar's Netflix dealJupiter's Legacy is the first fruit of Millar's Netflix deal

Of course, these days he’s not just writing the comics that others are turning into movies and TV. He’s involved in the process himself.

When he sold Millarworld to Netflix, he says, “I was 47. I was pretty young, and I just thought, ‘I don’t want to stop.’”

He went on holiday to Majorca for a week and while he was there, he got a call from Netflix saying they’d like him to continue to run Millarworld within their company.

“So, I feel as if I’ve sold somebody a house and then they gave me the keys and I can still live in the house. It’s brilliant.”

Last year he was even going to leave Scotland and move to California, but the pandemic put paid to that idea. “I just didn’t fancy another year of being so far away from friends and family,” he says.

He has lived in the West End of Glasgow for the last 10 years with his wife and business partner Lucy and his children (he has three aged, seven, nine and 22; his eldest daughter is from his first marriage).

But the house has just gone on the market and the family are moving to England. “I’ve worked for 29 years in America and I’ve never lived more than 10 miles from where I was born, so it will be a bit of a culture shock. It will be strange.

“But it’s good for my wife because her mum’s down there. She normally sees her mum three times a year and she hasn’t seen her at all this year and I think she just thought, ‘I should be a bit closer to help her out a bit more.’”

The last time I spoke to Millar at length was back in 2008, a couple of months before the release of the film Wanted starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy and based on a series he had created with artist JG Jones. He has been hugely successful in the years since. But in some ways, he says, his working life hasn’t changed much.

HeraldScotland: James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie in WantedJames McAvoy and Angelina Jolie in Wanted

“Life is still sitting down at a desk, typing. That’s the bulk of my day. Because if you are swanning around and doing cool things, you’re not a writer.

“So, weirdly, there is a lot of glamorous stuff in the background but the actual day-to-day is so similar. I’ve just got a better computer.”

We should talk about Jupiter’s Legacy, shouldn’t we? Based on a superhero series he created with Glasgow artist Frank Quitely, it’s a big-budget fantasy epic that he hopes will be the ultimate superhero story.

“We’ve had 20 years non-stop of superhero material. Every month there’s a superhero TV show or movie. So, my big thing was there’s no point doing this unless it’s the best one, right? That’s kind of my pitch for it.

“I write everything on these Ryman pads, and I remember my note at the top when I started to put this together in 2012 was, ‘The greatest superhero epic of all time,’ underlined. And then I put, ‘Or what’s the point?’

“The very simple elevator pitch for it is, what if Superman married Wonder Woman and their kids turned out pure garbage. They were just like the Kardashians.

“Superman and Wonder Woman want to help people, but these guys just want sponsorship deals. They want to be influencers and all that and they miss the point of what they are.”

There’s a bit more to it than that. The millennial superheroes have their own complaints about their parents’ super-generation too. What difference have they made? Wars and poverty go on after all.

Millar sees it as an attempt to match the hugeness of something like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but in a superhero context.

“The story goes billions of years into the future. So, it starts in 1929, runs to the end of time and explains the mystery of human existence. All wrapped up in a big Game of Thrones superhero epic.”


Having watched the first couple of episodes I have a question, Mark, I say. Why does every superhero seem to have daddy issues?

“Every one of them,” he agrees. “It’s not a good superhero story unless they follow that Disney formula. Bambi’s mother gets shot and Batman’s parents getting shot. Or Superman’s planet explodes. All the best heroes are orphans, all the way back to the Greek myths. You’ve got to give them that early trauma to be superheroes.”

You wonder if he sees the shadow of his own story in that archetype. Millar was born in 1969 into a big Coatbridge family, the youngest (by far) of six. His siblings were always there for him, but he was only in his early teens when his mother died. Four years later he lost his father too.

“You know, my mum died when I was 14 and I remember saying to her when I was about 13, ‘I think I’d quite like to be a comic writer.’ And she was like, ‘Don’t do that. That’s crazy.’

“I think what they worried about was poverty. I remember when I was about 17, dad saying, ‘Never be an artist. Artists die poor.’ Parents only have your best interests at heart.

“But, weirdly, the fact that I had no parents removed that fear of disappointing them. I think because I was on my own, I didn’t really feel like I had to live up to anything. There was nobody to say, ‘I’d rather you did this.’ I did what I wanted to do, and I managed to get a career out of it.

“I have pals who are lawyers who really wanted to be musicians. It was their total dream to be in a band, but they always felt their parents pushing them in a certain direction. That might have happened with me as well possibly. I don’t know. I think it does sound a bit unlikely to work out, doesn’t it? When you say, ‘I’d really like to write Spider-Man,’ you’d just think, ‘My kid has gone mad.’

“It’s like one of those X Factor contestants saying, ‘I’d like to be singing with Beyonce in six months.’ It does sound mental.”

TV and film come first these days. As someone whose comic book work was always praised (and lambasted) for its cinematic quality, I’m surprised he doesn’t want to make the programmes himself. Doesn’t he want to be a showrunner?

“I pick the showrunner. I interview showrunners to come in and do the show. With the movies I pick the director.”

But you don’t want to be either?

“It just doesn’t interest me really. It’s a different set of muscles.

“I understand the process. I know who’s talented and who’s not talented, so I think I’m more like a producer. The producer side of it, I completely get. That’s what my job is.

“It’s kind of like what Kevin Feige [the president of Marvel studios] is doing. I’ll look at the whole thing and go, ‘This guy would be a much better director than me. This girl would be an amazing screenwriter.’ I’ll find people who are better than I am and put them together and hopefully elevate the material, which is always your dream.

“People always say, ‘Are you not disappointed when the movie is better than the book?’ No, it’s great. It’s like somebody adopting your kid and turning them into Einstein. It’s brilliant.”

Millar has always had this brazen Barnumesque quality. No one sells himself better. Not everyone likes that about him, of course, but it makes him entertaining to talk to. There’s no false modesty, no shortage of self-belief. He loves strong opinions (he loved Martin Scorese speaking out about his distaste for superhero movies, he tells me) and is a man of strong opinions himself. Some of them are heartfelt, some of them are pure cheek.


When I ask him who does he see as his competitors these days, his reply is very Millaresque.

“I don’t see individuals as competitors,” he tells me. “I see Disney as a competitor. I gave a speech at Netflix when we sold the company and I sounded like a baddie from Empire Strikes Back. ‘We must destroy Disney.’

“I see Disney as the competition I see Amazon as the competition. I’m in for the long haul with Netflix. I’ve signed up for a good few years. I’ve got a plan to put 20 franchises out there and there’s nobody builds a global brand like Netflix. Its reach is just incredible. It’s the biggest platform in the world right now, so the potential is enormous for this. So, I don’t look at individuals.”

No problems with your ego, then Mark. He laughs and talks about his presentation again. “Everyone looked uncomfortable when I said, ‘When we all come back here in five years’ time, I want to be holding Mickey Mouse’s head up and I want you all to be cheering.’ There was a quiet in the hall. I thought I better tone this down a little.”

Millar does love such jokey provocation. He has always known how to give good quote.

Back when I spoke to him in 2008, I remember him telling me how amazing it was that that Claudia Schiffer would bring him a cup of tea when he was working with her film director husband Matthew Vaughn. All these years on that glamour has worn off, he says.

HeraldScotland: Aaron Tayjor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicolas Cage in Kick-AssAaron Tayjor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicolas Cage in Kick-Ass

“The unreality becomes the new normal so quickly. On day one you’re going, ‘Oh my God, that’s Nicolas Cage. Day two, it’s ‘Are you finished with those biscuits?’ You’re weirdly unimpressed by that kind of thing. You’re never in awe.

“The only stuff that really actually excites me is when I see people from my childhood. Lucy and I were in New York about seven or eight years ago. There was a convention on, and I saw Lee Majors from The Six Million Dollar Man at a bar. He was standing with Adam West, who was Batman of course. And do you know who Gil Gerard is? He played Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

“So, I saw Buck Rogers, Batman and the Six Million Dollar Man standing at the bar. And I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was like I was looking at the sun.

“And my wife said, ‘You should go up and say hello. You’re at the same show.’ And I was like, ‘They’ll be solving a crime or something like that. They won’t be wanting a conversation with me.”

“Those guys they are larger than life to me. That’s the stuff when I suddenly think I’m actually living that dream I had as a kid.”

Somewhere behind all Mark Millar’s bravura there is still a 13-year-old boy.

Jupiter’s Legacy launches on Netflix on Friday