Mark Millar: God and Comics
The uber-successful comics writer, who has penned everything from Captain America to Superman to creator-owned works like KICK-ASS, spoke with us from his native Scotland about his new book SUPERIOR; what it's like being a practicing Catholic in a secular industry; and the time DC comics made him remove prayer from a story.
BY: Evan Derrick
BN: It’s interesting to talk to someone from Europe who’s actually a practicing Catholic.
MARK: And very relaxed about it! It's just a very fundamental part of my life. And I think it drew me to comics a little bit as well, because if you think about it, the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is about a man coming from the sky and performing miracles and standing up against the status quo. The story of Jesus really is, without sounding too crass, kind of like a superhero story. A lot of comics mythology is drawn from the old and new testament, Superman very overtly. Even the idea of Superman’s rocket being fired off from Krypton is very similar to the Moses story. So I think there is a definite relationship between comic books and Christianity, superheroes and Christianity, and there always will be. The altruistic idea of a guy going out and trying to help other people and not caring about self, that appeals to both Christians and superhero fans.
BN: Not to ask you to name names, but were there any moments when working on the bigger titles where you had written something about faith or God and you were forced to take it out?
MARK: Oh yeah, definitely, and I can give you a definite example that I don’t mind sharing. I remember I had this little scene, (I wrote a Superman story years back, it was Superman Adventures #36. I still remember because it was a good little story) and it started with this little kid kneeling down by his bedside and saying a little prayer. His dog had gone missing and he was crying and he was just saying, “Please God, let Dad find my dog.” And Superman is flying past at that moment and he’s actually tuning in to a thousand different problems in the world. He goes and stops terrorists on one side of the country, and he flies to Paris and he delivers a heart transplant and stuff like that, all the things he’s hearing with his superhearing. He’s solving all these massive problems, all the way up to a space station in trouble, a really major event. And the story ends with the kid waking up and the dog sitting by his bed, and Superman has heard him as well as everything else, and the kid obviously thinks it’s God who’s delivered the dog. And I was told by DC [Comics] that you can’t have a kid praying. And I was like, “Why not?” And they said because it would be offensive to people who aren’t Christian. And I said who in their right mind is going to write a letter to DC because they’re so offended that this kid is praying? And they said, "Trust me, someone will be annoyed by it." So I had to remove it. And in the end I had to have the kid talking to Superman, “Superman, I know you have super hearing, and I hope you can hear me.” And it was just the most ridiculous politically correct thing I’ve ever had to do.
BN: A lot of your work is based on experiences from when you were a kid. Like the boy with multiple sclerosis in Superior, did you ever wish some entity would come out of the sky and say, “Now you are Superman!” and bestow you with powers?
MARK: Absolutely. There were two ways to become a superhero as far as I was concerned. You had to train hard, like Batman, or superpowers were going to be bestowed upon you somehow, like Green Lantern. And I was kind of hoping for the latter because I didn’t really want to do all that training (laughing).
That was 18 years ago That would have been 18 years of training! But the idea of someone just showing up with a magic ring, that’s every kids dream. My older brother, who’s 14 years older than me, he told me when I was four, and I have such a clear memory of it, “Don’t tell mum and dad that I’ve told you, but you actually have superpowers.” And I said really? And he said, “Yup. You’re going to get all the powers of Sueprman when you turn seven, on your seventh birthday.
BN: Your brother is awful!
MARK: So I kept it secret for three years, and I remember smiling to myself thinking, “This is going to be amazing!” And I remember on my seventh birthday sort of thinking that it might not be true, but I remember being really excited to get up and going to the end of my bed and trying to lift my bed, and I couldn’t do it. And I realized he was lying. And he’d even forgotten that he’d told me this.