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.
BN: Here’s a silly, but also serious question. If you were offered the same choice as Simon in Superior, be a superman in exchange for your soul, would it be an easy decision to make or would you actually have to think about it?
MARK: It’s interesting because that’s the dilemma that I was writing. For me it would be an easy decision: I absolutely wouldn’t take the powers, because my life actually is pretty nice. I’m lucky to be healthy and I have a great family and a job that I love and everything. So I was actually thinking, what type of person maybe would be tempted? To be in such an amazing physical state like a superhero, you’d kind of have to be the polar opposite, you’d have to be so ravaged by illness that it would actually be tempting. It would have to be someone quite young, too. Because if you’re ravaged by illness when you’re older, you’ve at least lived your life. But to start out life as a disabled child, and then to be given this opportunity, it would be very, very tempting then. And that’s where the character of Simon came from, this kid with multiple sclerosis, and I thought that I could understand his dilemma. In the book part of his heroism is that he’s choosing the powers, not for his own gain, but to try and help other people.
BN: Without giving too much away, did you always know he which choice he would make at the end? To either keep the powers and lose his soul, or to go back to a life of sickness?
MARK: Actually, no. It’s funny because I’ve been through quite a lot of drafts...It’s kind of an unhappy ending, not a Steven Spielberg ending...So I had to go through some other twists and turns, without giving too much away, he does give it up for the right reasons. But in the end everything turns on its head and he [has to make some hard decisions]. Have you read the whole thing?
BN: Oh yes.
MARK: So even though he’s [suffering], it still seems quite upbeat at the end. Did you get that feeling when you read it?
BN: As I got to the end, it felt hopeful, I think is the word, although it's definitely bittersweet. It’s easy when reading about sick children, especially when you have your own kids, to be overwhelmed by the horror of that. But I definitely felt, at the end, that there was a hopeful element to it.
MARK: Even if his body does continue to get sick, it’s kind of about coming to terms with it almost, in a way that he wasn’t at the beginning. And he inspires other people by being Superior, but in turn that inspires him to be able to handle the hand he’s been given. You know it wasn’t an easy story, but I think that people have really responded to it, maybe more than anything else I’ve ever written. And I’ve been very lucky and had a lot of big hits, like with Kick-Ass and The Ultimates, but out of everything I’ve written the one that’s gone down the best with fans has been Superior.