The latest issue of Gay Times has run a series of interviews with comic book creators, associated with gay-friendly books. Interviewer Joe Glass has offered Bleeding Cool the unexpurgated versions. Including Mark Millar, creator of Kick-Ass, Wanted, Civil War and Trouble.
Joe Glass: You quite famously wrote the out gay couple Apollo and Midnighter in The Authority. Not only were they open with their sexuality, but they got a gay marriage and adopted a child together, exceptionally progressive, especially for comic books. Was that part of the reason you wrote all that with them? That there were so little visible gay issues in comics that you went all the
way in The Authority?
Mark Millar: I always think it’s a mistake to write a story around an issue, but if it flows naturally from the characters that’s fine. The Apollo and Midnighter were gay and my plan was never to make a big deal of it. Heterosexuals don’t sit around talking about the heterosexual experience so I wanted to make this very matter of fact and real-life. They were more likely to talk about what was on telly that night or what they should have for dinner than whether gay marriage laws should be enacted in California. The adoption of the baby was again just played very naturally. The team had to look after an orphan and these two characters were the only couple on the team. It just made sense.
JG: There always been a lot of rumours that DC was quite uncomfortable with a lot of the content in The Authority, to the point that the book was censored a lot. Some rumours seem to suggest that many of the content issues involved Apollo and Midnighter, is this true?
MM: DC didn’t like the book. It had become this runaway success when everything else was collapsing, which made it especially hard for them, but it just wasn’t stuff they wanted to see in a superhero comic. They had their edgy crime and horror books, but they didn’t like to see controversy and superheroes mixed in the same way. They’re custodians of America’s icons and part of a massive multinational. Naturally, I suppose they were just fearful of their jobs. Nobody there wanted a man who looked like Batman kissing a man who looked like Superman, but that’s exactly what Warren gave them when he created the book (laughs).
JG: Aside from those two characters, you don’t often touch on gay issues since. The biggest I can think of is Ultimate Colossus, and that was pretty much just subtext when you wrote him. He didn’t officially come out until the end of Brian K Vaughan’s run on Ultimate X-Men to my knowledge. Is it simply a case that it hasn’t been relevant to any of your projects since?
MM: I just never think in those terms when writing a story. If a character pops into my head as a gay guy or a blue eyed guy or a red-head that’s the way I write him. I hate it when you see a group and they have their Hispanic, their gay guy, their black guy and so on. It feels like it’s made my committee. If it doesn’t come naturally it shouldn’t be a part of the story.
JG: Also, during your run on Wolverine ‘Enemy of the State’, the title character killed Northstar, the first openly gay superhero. In the same month, Marvel released books where Northstar was killed a further two times (in the Ultimate Universe and X-Men: The End). Although in two of these cases the character ‘got better’ (albeit through a brief ‘evil’ phase in one case), Marvel came under some pretty heavy flack amongst LGBT readers for killing the character three times in a month. Do you think that Marvel really ‘fumbled the ball’ in this case?
There was also a rumour that it was your original intention to kill of Gambit in that scene, but Marvel had plans for him. Was it Marvel who then suggested Northstar? Or your own idea? Were you aware of Marvel’s plans to off him in several other books?
MM: I find the whole death of Northstar one of the oddest experiences of my professional career. I’d literally just won a couple of GLAAD awards for The Authority stuff and spoke out against Clause 29, a piece of homophobic legislation in the UK government (despite howls of fury from newspapers and politicians here in Scotland) and then I had these people writing a petition to have me fired for killing off a gay X-Man. It was insane. Enemy of the State had about 5000 people killed. Literally 5000 characters. It was a bloodbath. And one of them happened to be gay. The upset this caused was massively blown out of proportion and I was so incensed by the idiocy of the people carping about it and what they were accusing me of that I just dismissed the whole thing. It was honestly beneath contempt. To single out the one gay death and accusing me of homophobia would be like singling out the death of a Chinese guy and declaring me racist. It was totally nuts. They must have been furious watching Titanic when that ship went down and statistically some gay people surely died then too (laughs). Northstar was simply chosen because he was the biggest name on a list of characters nobody had any upcoming plans for. That’s the reality of how companies decide who lives and who dies in these events. he was the only one I’d ever heard of (laughs). But to go from being given a couple of gay awards to suddenly having someone campaign outside the office was just ridiculous.
JG: You’ve worked for both DC and Marvel, is there a particular company you’d say is more progressive in terms of LGBT issues and characters in their mainstream superhero comics?
MM: I wouldn’t say any of them are especially interested or disinterested. They just care about the stories, which is the way it should be. But I’ve never really heard of anyone being edited for having a gay character or a gay scene or whatever. The Authority was unique because those guys looked so much like Superman and Batman, but both companies are nice, liberal groups of people for the most part.
JG: Finally, do you have any personal thoughts on the topic of LGBT in comics? Does it have a place? Does the level of inclusion, both in the books and the industry need to be improved, and how? Are there any problems with LGBT in the comics industry that you’ve found? And why do you think that superhero comics seem to attract so many LGBT fans?
MM: I don’t think there’s any problems as such. The industry has always been very gay friendly and the big two, like Hollywood, has a huge number of gay employees at all levels. I think comics attract such a big LGBT audience for the same reason things like Dr Who and Star Trek does. It’s all about fantasy and escaping the humdrum of everyday life. As a little kid, I lived in a street with no other children for a while and my siblings were much older. Comics were my escape route. It’s a world of outsiders, quite literally in the case of the X-Men, who are feared or distrusted because they’re a little different. Bryan Singer said this is what attracted him into comic-books. That’s something he could utterly identify with. I don’t think you have to be gay understand that experience, but I think it’s probably very pertinent.