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Friday, August 09, 2013 

The New Republic and the vile violence of Mark Millar's storytelling

The New Republic wrote about Mark Millar and how he became the "sickest mind" in the medium. Which doesn't make his work kosher, of course. Some of the examples given here include a 2010 story called Nemesis:
The execution was as horrifying as the set-up was straightforward. The titular protagonist—a twist on a paradigm beloved by hundreds of millions of moviegoers and comics readers—spent four issues committing crimes that the Marquis de Sade would have been hard-pressed to stomach. Take, for example, what he did to the son and daughter of his rival, a big-city police chief. After Nemesis kidnaps them and releases them as part of a bargain, doctors find out not only did he impregnate the daughter with the son’s sperm but he also, as one doctor explains, “rigged your daughter’s womb to completely collapse if we attempt a termination.”
And tragically, there's an audience for this out there? Sad.
...Millar has done something insanely rare for any medium: He has become its most shocking deconstructionist and its most successful advocate.
I don't think so. If his comics don't sell sky high in the millions - and indeed they don't - then he's obviously no more successful than countless other representatives who've done little to convince moviegoers to try a whole different genre. Mainly because they don't critique how people of Millar's standing are giving the medium a bad name, under the shield of favoratism by Marvel and DC's publishers. But deconstructionist? Yep, they got that right. Just what went wrong with comics this century.
In a phone interview from his home in Glasgow, Millar said his provocative approach stems from a pair of comics he read when he was six: one starring Spider-Man and one starring Superman.

“The Superman comic, the front cover was Clark Kent leaving Superman and walking away like, 'I'm not gonna do this anymore,’ and that was a quite shocking image,” he recalled. “And in the other, Norman Osborn was killed by Spider-Man, and Spider-Man has accidentally killed his girlfriend, and then he goes home and finds his best friend out of his mind on LSD.”

“These are the best first comics you could possibly have!” he said with a laugh. “There's part of me that wants that outrageousness.”
So he's sensationalizing everything and obscuring the lessons from the time about why drugs like LSD are hazardous to one's health. Very poor. He's also inaccurate about Norman being killed by Spidey: the hero backed off, and Norman got killed by his own Goblin glider, which he attempted to kill Spidey with, but Peter got lucky and his Spidey-sense alerted him to dodge.

When Millar left DC and joined Marvel, here's why:
Marvel’s vice president at the time, Bill Jemas, was looking for writers who could do comics “more the way movies are written,” and he had loved Millar’s work on The Authority. “Mark was jaw-droppingly creative on so many levels,” Jemas told me.
Not so, but at least he explains what went wrong with comics, just as Sean Howe was saying. That's just why comics continually lost audience, because moviegoers obviously aren't asking for them to resemble movies in every way.

And it's not just conservatives Millar could offend:
As you might expect, Millar’s take-no-prisoners approach has drawn near-constant criticism. It’s come not just from moral crusaders but also diehard comics fans who say that, instead of deconstructing superhero comics, he’s actually reinforced some of the genre’s worst impulses. Indeed, the criticisms often come from the liberal end of the political spectrum: His work has been called classist, racist, and sexist.

Take some of his portrayals of women, for example. Millar has spoken out against the underrepresentation of female characters in comics, but his depictions of rape have alienated some readers. In Wanted, the sadistic protagonist gleefully commits rape over and over again, at one time bragging that he “raped an A-list celebrity and it didn’t even make the news.” In The Authority, a Captain America analog rapes two unconscious women. In issue four of Kick-Ass 2, a group of bad guys finds the young hero’s love interest, a teenaged girl named Katie, and brutally gang-rapes her.
I'd say it's more a case of reinforcing the worst impulses in fanfiction, where you could find scores of contrived sexual assault with no clear distinctions between good and evil, all depicted in a normalized manner. Millar may have once come to the aid of a couple women who were being harrassed online, and that was doing the right thing. But he has to understand that if he's going to indulge in this kind of fanfiction monstrosity, he could be influencing the very people causing innocents a problem, even if he never intended to. After all, what if those very crackpots happen to be reading his worst work?

He even defended his practices by saying:
“The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know?” he told me. “I don't really think it matters. It's the same as, like, a decapitation. It's just a horrible act to show that somebody's a bad guy.”
He may not think so, but others do. And I don't see why it's so important to show or even prove that somebody's a bad guy, even if he does create his own villains to serve that purpose. I thought the whole purpose of entertainment was to offer escapism, yet all he can think of doing is "proving" something very moot.
Millar is very critical of war and institutional violence. “Europeans tend to be pretty left-wing, and Scotland's always been a left-wing country, so I'm always suspicious of uniforms,” he told me. “I think it's quite interesting to write superheroes from the perspective of someone who's lost an empire, whereas American writers are still very gung-ho about that whole thing.”

That perspective on violence and power was most fully fleshed out in The Ultimates, which Millar wrote for Marvel in the mid-’00s. It was a radical re-imagining of Marvel’s flagship super-team, a private clubhouse of heroes called the Avengers. Millar’s series jettisoned the Avengers’ three-plus decades of continuity, renamed them “the Ultimates,” and made them a wing of the U.S. military. They saluted George W. Bush, forcibly disarmed Iran, and fought to defend neocon imperialism. In one oft-quoted scene, a bad guy demands that Captain America surrender. “Surrender? Surrender??!!” Cap replies, then points to the “A” on his helmet. “You think this letter on my head stands for France?”

As you might expect, the subversion and satire in the series was lost on many. But Millar, despite his political leanings, was only mildly perturbed by right-wing fan appropriation.
If I'd been an avid reader of that series only to learn it wasn't what some people might've originally thought, I'd be embarrassed. In any case, his redo of the Hank Pym-as-wife-abuser storyline from 1981 was reason enough to avoid it, since all it was done for was cheap sensationalism and shock tactics. A puzzling thing about Millar's opposition to institutionalized violence is that, despite his standing, he still opposes defeating the kind of Islamofascist regimes that institutionalize the very things he says he's against.

As most readers with more sense know, Millar's not the only writer to incorporate the worst aspects of fanfiction into his work. There's also Geoff Johns, Brian Bendis, Grant Morrison, and probably a few others I can't remember just now. But they've all since proven themselves some of the worst things that could happen to comics, both mainstream and independent, draining the escapism out of entertainment for the sake of their own self-interested goals and politics.

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A puzzling thing about Millar's opposition to institutionalized violence is that, despite his standing, he still opposes defeating the kind of Islamofascist regimes that institutionalize the very things he says he's against.

Yet this is modern "progressivism" to a tee. It always ends up being ridiculously hypocritical, usually b/c of contradictions due to their PC worship. Just look at Obama's blasting of Putin for Russia's anti-gay laws. Um, hello? How 'bout the entire freakin' Muslim world w/regards to that, not to mention basic women's rights??

Yeah, and "progressives" don't want Americans to own semi-automatic firearms, because anyone who lives east of Beverly Hills and west of Park Avenue is a trigger-happy, homophobic, misogynist redneck. But those progressives want to send fully automatic weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood, who make American rednecks look like libertarians.

All you need to know about the state of the Big Two right now? Mark Millar is a hot property. Chuck Dixon is persona non grata.

Good points, Drizzt. Dixon has been ostracized from Marvel and DC. He currently writes for IDW and their GI Joe comics, which are pretty good.

And good points, Hube. I can't stand liberals who whine about alleged "racism/sexism/homophobia" in the Western world but ignore the problems of the Muslim world such as their very medieval attitudes toward women.

It always ends up being ridiculously hypocritical, usually b/c of contradictions due to AHA BLS CPR Los Angeles their PC worship. thanks a lot

I can't help but wonder what kind of inspiration is the idea behind the stories that Miller (both of them) and others like him tell?

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