This weekend SuperHeroHype attended Mark Millar’s new London-based comic convention, Kapow!. While the event was billed as a British equivalent to the San Diego Comic-Con, it was actually a far smaller and more intimate affair. With only 5,500 tickets available, the atmosphere was laid back, and guests routinely wandered the convention floor, taking a look at the show for themselves and interacting with fans as they did so.
As the convention drew to a close on the Sunday evening, we sat down with Mark Millar for an exclusive interview to discuss the weekend, plans for the next event, his forthcoming projects, and why he chose to close out Kapow! by showing James Gunn’s Super.
SuperHeroHype: The event was much more informal than a usual convention. Guests were walking around, talking to fans.
Mark Millar: I think it’s to do with the scale. Keeping it at five and a half thousand people means you get a chance to talk to everybody you want to talk to. If you go somewhere like San Diego, you’re talking about 160,000 people, and maybe 2,000 well-known professionals, so the odds of getting to actually spend time with somebody are quite slim, but this is a more intimate affair; there’s only two hotels involved and the convention centre’s nice and tight.
SHH: Are you planning that the next one’s going to be on a similar scale?
MM: It’ll be identical in scale. Lucy’s [Uwin, Millar’s girlfriend, and the convention organizer] background is in marketing, and what she said was, ‘intimacy is what makes these things cool.’ The exclusivity’s so important as well. It should be awesome to get a ticket, and if you don’t buy one when they go on sale, the chances of getting one are zero.
SHH: The implication then is that next year is going to be a bit more exclusive?
MM: I think it’ll be very similar, but it’ll be even better in terms of content. The content this year was amazing, and it feels like the fifth year of a convention on the first year, to get the stars was just nuts, but next year, a lot of my friends that work in the industry are going to be here next year because they’ve got movies out, but also, several people who were watching to see what we did this year have come up to us and said, ‘OK, put us down for next year.’ If you think about it, there’s a finite number of movies we can promote, and it’s going to be first come, first served.
SHH: Is it going to have that same mix of content, about five movies, and mostly comics?
MM: It’s tempting to go wide, but it’s a mistake. I think staying in a niche is the way to do it. The retailers are ecstatic, because it’s the best con they’ve done in this country in terms of take. You’ve only got 5,500 people in each day, but they say it’s the most money they’ve made. My theory with this is, if you’ve got wrestlers there, and manga and those sort of things, what you’re doing is dividing your market, so you only have, maybe, 20% comic fans in there, so the retailers are all sitting there chatting with each other, but ours is 100% comic fans, so the cash flow is incredible. All the artists were saying that it’s the best cash they’ve ever made.
SHH: The one place I could see the schedule being squeezed next year would be TV…
MM: Losing it?
SHH: Squeezing it a little.
MM: I don’t think so. We would have had "Doctor Who" this year, but Sue and Stephen Moffat were on holiday. Next year we’re going to have a very strong television presence, but we may have different programs. "Doctor Who," I’m a massive fan of, I really love it, and Stephen is the most hard working man in television, and I’d have loved to have him here this year, but it was literally off on their holidays this weekend because it’s the school break. So TV is a definite section. We’re going to try to stick to the same formula.
SHH: There’s obviously a clear comparison between "Super" and "Kick-Ass." There are things that are done in the same way, because it would have been impossible to not do them in the same way. Was that a deliberate choice to, of all of the films you might have shown, bring in one similar to "Kick-Ass"?
MM: It’s funny, some people have said to me, ‘oh my God, he’s ripping off Kick-Ass,’ because it’s coming out one year later, but James was doing this when I was doing "Kick-Ass" as well. Both projects were coming together at exactly the same time. We were e-mailing each other at the time, and I asked him, ‘what are you working on at the moment?’ and he said, ‘a realistic superhero project,’ and I said, ‘So am I. Sh*t.’ And we were e-mailing back and forth saying, ‘this is terrible’, and we decided that we’d best not look at each other’s stuff. James said, ‘there’s a million bank heist movies, there’s a million high school comedies’, so there’s room for more.
SHH: "Miracle Park" obviously.
MM: "Miracle Park" is, sort of, a reverse of "Kick-Ass" in a way, because it’s about people with superpowers, whereas "Kick-Ass" is about guys who don’t have superpowers, this is guys with superpowers, trying not to accept those, so it’s kind of the polar opposite of "Kick-Ass" in a way. It’s being shot like "Paranormal Activity," or a Ken Loach movie, in a way. It’s been done with quiet, no effects superheroics; in a way it’s actually made me really think about how to portray superpowers on camera, because normally we’re so used to spectaculars with CGI, but you can do really clever things without a budget. You can show time travel, and you can show super speed and these things just by playing around with camera tricks.
SHH: What camera are you shooting on?
MM: Cannon 5d. Everybody seems to be doing that nowadays. They’re so easy to use.
SHH: Won’t that make it very difficult to convert for a theatrical release?
MM: I’m a great believer in, if it’s good, it will work out. If it’s not good, then it’s my fault. I’m an inexperienced, first-time director, it’s very possible it’ll be rubbish. If it’s good it’ll find its audience, and if not, I can only blame myself.
SHH: What is the budget on it?
MM: It’s tiny, microscopic. We’re doing it for £150,000 ($250,000).
SHH: Proper guerrilla filmmaking.
MM: Yeah. I’ve shot 30 minutes of it, and it’ll come in at about 70-80 minutes.
SHH: Is the reason for only shooting 30 minutes of it so far to do with your schedule.
MM: Yeah it is. It’s funny actually, because I said to everyone, ‘I’m gonna shoot the movie in about three weeks, I’ll do it before I get on with Kick-Ass 2. Then as I was doing it I realized that actually, this takes a bit longer than I expected, and real life gets in the way. We actually, in Scotland, had snow for three weeks. We couldn’t get the car out of the driveway, and then I had to do "Kick-Ass 2," "Superior" and stuff like that. In a way it’s good though, because I’ve had a bit of a breather, and I like doing lots of projects at once, so we’re actually going back to filming the week after next. I can’t wait.
SHH: I take it you’re going to shoot the last forty minutes or so in one go?
MM: No. I’m going to probably shoot the middle section and come back. The final section is using a much smaller number of actors. There’s a scene with 500 people in it in the middle section. It’s funny, we talk about this gigantic cast, and yet the movie’s only being made for 150 grand; then there’s a massive action sequence with a crowd of 500 people in the centre of Glasgow.
SHH: You mentioned "Supercrooks" at the Millarworld panel. Is that going to have the feel of British gangster stuff, or are you going to steer clear of that?
MM: It touches on that. The high concept is "Ocean’s Eleven" meets "The X-Men," but I actually want it to have a Euro-vibe. I love European cinema, I love superheroes, and I haven’t seen them merged yet. I quite like those cultural mash-ups, and that’s what I love about "District 9"; "District 9" was one of my favourite films for the last ten years, and the thing I loved was taking something that you’re familiar with and putting it in an unfamiliar setting. I wanted to do the same. There’s a superhero movie in "Miracle Park," taking place in Scotland, but to then go further east, and take it to Madrid, and make it American leads. There’ll be six American leads, in an alien setting. We had an amazing lucky break, which are the Spanish tax breaks. I picked that out of a hat, but as it turns out, the director that we had is a great Spanish director. It was one of those luck bits of fate where everything just falls into place.
SHH: Are you able to tell me who that Spanish director might be?
MM: I can’t I’m sworn to secrecy. He’s the sort of guy who’d probably walk if I told you.
SHH: What’s happening with the sequel to "Wanted"?
MM: It’s almost like a riddle. "Wanted" made so much money, but it cost $70 million but they made $250, so they want a sequel, but they killed off the reason that it made that money, so they’re trying to figure out a way of bringing Angelina back from the dead, and they can’t figure it out. Every month or so I’ll talk to the guys at Universal, and they’ll say ‘We’ll talk to some screenwriters, we’ll do another draft’, and Angelina’s like ‘my character’s dead, I’m not coming back.’ There’s been two or three screenplays.
SHH: And "Kick-Ass 2"?
MM: "Kick-Ass 2," just not sure. We’re all getting paid real money now, so it’s really hard to get everyone back in the same room.
SHH: You’re obviously now straddling both worlds between film and comics. Are you trying to spend more time making films?
MM: No, no, no. I’ve got three new comic properties that I’m just doing instead. I don’t want to write screenplays. The only screenplay I’ve attempted was "Miracle Park," because I knew I was directing that myself. I hate writing them to be honest; I like the finished product, but I hate the process.
SHH: So after "Miracle Park," no more directing?
MM: If it’s any good, maybe another film, but it’s not a burning passion. I had a lot of fun doing it, but there’s nothing I love more than the freedom of comics, and movies can’t possibly offer that. A talking heads scene in a movie doesn’t cost any money but an alien invasion does. Comics it’s all the same price. I love that, you’re only limited by your imagination. I’ll always be a comic book guy. Films is my hobby, comics is my job.