|1985 variant covers, by Jim Cheung, John Dell, Justin Ponser et al|
The first part of the introduction to "Shameless? The Superhero Comics Of Mark Millar" has just been posted over at Sequart. I can't help but hope you might pop over there and take a look. I'll of course be reworking it, and perhaps drastically too, before it's finally published. Indeed, I'm unsure of whether this particular opening chapter belongs in the book at all. Still, making mistakes in public is the great advantage of the platform that Sequart have so kindly offered me. Having chapter after chapter of the first complete run-through of "Shameless?" up at another site puts a touch of distance between writer and work, and it should make it easier for me to recognise everything that needs improving. In that context, please do feel free to point out all that I've got wrong, or at least, all that I've been mistaken about beyond the fact that I'm writing about Mr Millar and his work in the first place.
For in some people's eyes, the very act of paying close attention to Millar's comics is a deeply dubious business. As such, I do tend to receive comments which declare that his writing ought to be utterly shunned if it's not to be definitively damned. In both writerly and ethical terms, it seems, Millar is completely beyond the pale where a fairly vociferous cadre of the Taste Police are concerned. It's a response which arrives whether I'm praising the man's work or not, and there's been plenty of positive, negative and mixed pieces posted at TooBusyThinking to inspire these, shall we say, forceful responses.
Yet even amongst many of those who'd never dream of suggesting that he ought to be defined as verboten, there's often a lack of interest in Millar's career that I find somewhat baffling. Regardless of whether the reader enjoys his work or not, the man has surely been one of the most successful and powerful creators and publishers in 21st century comics. That in itself would surely suggest that he's a figure of considerable importance, and well-worth a measure of chin-stroking and pontificating.
|From Civil War, by Steve McNiven et al|
But I am absolutely convinced that there's a great more to Millar's writing than sales-figures and influence. Some of his work demands to be ranked amongst the best that the superhero tradition has ever produced, and even his less successful projects can tell us a great deal about how the sub-genre functions in terms of art and commerce. After all, his debut was at the fag-end of the black'n'white Indy boom of the Eighties, while 2013 finds his pioneering work in producing comics designed to appeal to a mass audience both on the page and on the screen returning intimidatingly substantial rewards. As such, Millar's career has both reflected the industry's development since 1989 as well as impacting significantly upon it. From a neophyte scripter who struggled to compose a workable script to one who has successfully fused classic Silver and Bronze-Age storytelling with Warren Ellis's widescreen revolution, Millar's little-credited progress as a craftman and stylist also demands attention. In short, it's almost impossible to understand what's happened to the superhero book without trying to get to grips with Mark Millar's progress.
Added to that are the ethical controversies which have so often characterised his work, the slice-of-life short strips marked by restraint and feeling, and a slew of scenes so unexpectedly tender that the cynical might suspect that they'd been produced by a ringer. While all the time, the man's constant attempts to huckster up attention and success through the media have resulted in a fascinating, if at times profoundly grating, campaign of hype, disinformation and surprisingly personal details.
To my mind, the question "Why Mark Millar?" seems to quite miss the point. By contrast, I'd suggest that he's the perfect choice for such a discussion.
But then, to take Mandy Rice-Davies out of context, I would, wouldn't I?
The first-run at an introduction for "Shameless?" can be found here. Mind you, I think next week's piece is far better. But then, to quote Mandy Rice-Davies out of ....