Mark Millar is about as on top of the world as any creator can be. The writer has a lineup of "Millarworld" comicbook titles that range from superhero to spy thriller, from viciously violent to campy fun, but all seem to share incredible success in common. He works with artists at the top of their game, and several of his properties have been made into, or are being made into, feature films, like Kingsman, starting work on a sequel now, the Kick-Ass franchise, and upcoming works-in-progress like Huck, Empress, and Starlight.
But Millar knows how hard it was to get to where he is now, and he wants to help others do it. That's what made him decide to open up his portfolio of characters to brand-new writers and artists, giving them the opportunity to get into the business. Thus, Millarworld Annual was born, a new anthology collection of short stories set in the worlds of Millar's creation, completely written and drawn by thirteen new creators looking to get into the business of comicbooks.
"The number one thing was to try and have a ladder from enthusiasm to a job," Millar told Comicbook.com in an interview about the project. "It's a weird thing; you might be good on the guitar, but you don't know how to form a band. It's the same with comics. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from where comics seemed to be being made, but I really, really wanted to be a part of it. There was a bit of a path [in the UK] then, with the weekly magazine 2000 AD, where Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, all the UK creators sort of cracked in through it. They had an apprentice program where new writers could pitch and get in, and from there that led to work at Marvel and DC for everyone."
While Millar admits that there are some great opportunities with "loads of companies" putting out comics independently, and web space for budding creators to put their work on the internet, it's also "nice to get paid!" he said with a laugh. He put out a call for samples, written and drawn, and received hundreds of entries from around the world. The diversity of people and locations surprised him, in fact, with "only about twenty percent of them coming form the USA. They came from Asia, from Africa, from so many countries that I really didn't know had a strong following for the books," Millar said.
"The goal," added editor Rachael Fulton, "was to make an awesome comic book annual wiht a group of talented, hard-working and enthusiastic people. Once we found those people, making the annual awesome was easy."
But first came the finding. Millar and a select group of friends got together for two weeks, giving their own time "out of the goodness of their hearts" to comb through the entries, scrutinize the art, and "find the best people" out of the bunch.
"I think it would've been really embarrassing if I'd put six stories together and they were all rubbish," he said with a laugh. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be the case, here. "I really think all of these people can have professional careers, and I think some of them will, three or four, I think will very quickly, within a matter of weeks, be picked up by Marvel or DC. They're really good. I think all of them are really good, professional-standard."
Of course, that could mean Millar is creating competition for himself.
"I never actually though of that! I'm going to have to mess these guys up before it ships!" he joked.
One thing that really blew Millar away was the quality of stories that came out of creators who not only hadn't done professional work before, but were often working completely separately, from nations far from one another, all coordinated by Fulton.
"They are an incredibly talented group of creators from all different countries and walks of life. We have a 22-year-old painter from India, a medic-turned-writer that was born in the Phillipines and lives in Brooklyn, a Nigerian artist who delivers fantastic pages despite a patchy internet connection and a Kiwi writer and beer rep based in Dumfries, Scotland - to reference just a few of the gang," Fulton said. She was shocked by the "staggering wealth of talent" that came out of the "diverse range of personalities, background, and circumstances." Many of the writers haven't seen the finished pages by the artists, and might not until Millarworld Annual is released on July 13, 2016. "We just can't wait" for the reveal, she said.
Millar, meanwhile, said it was "slightly scary" to put his own characters and creations up to these brand-new creators, as it was a definite creative risk. That fear went away when he started reading the stories, though.
"I don't want to pick favorites, but the guy who did the Hit-Girl story (Mark Abnett, out of Scotland by way of New Zealand), I actually though, 'this is better than mine!' (laughs) It's slightly scary but also made me proud as well. It must be how Stan Lee feels when he reads a really good Marvel Comic or something. It's a lovely feeling, actually, to see your stuff done really well. I've never let anyone else write or draw these characters except the creators, and I think the standard has been great," Millar intimated. He also specifically called out Deniz Camp, a resident of Brooklyn born in the Phillippines' work on Starlight as "inspiring," saying he "would've been proud to have written it myself."
While they're anxious for the first Millarworld Annual to get out in July, both Millar and Fulton are already looking to the future, as well, and plan to "have this public platform to get new creators out there" every year, he said.
"We'll be casting our net out in October," Fulton added, "so if any budding writers or artists are reading this thinking 'That could be me next year' you are correct, and you should enter. I can't wait to be inundated with entries!"
In addition to helping new creators, the Annual will also help older creators who are in need, as all profits from the book will go to the Hero Initiative.
"I'd like the people to buy it for a few reasons," Millar concluded. "1, it's really good. 2, I think these characters do really well here. 3, getting to see this new talent do a great job. And 4, the profits go to the Hero Initiative and help creators who need it. There's something quite poignant as well, about young creators just starting out doing something that's helping people who need the cash that did the books they loved growing up."
Millarworld Annual will be in stores July 13, 2016. Full creator bios and a gallery follow.
Satine Zillah [Cover]
Born in 1991, I come from Slovakia but I'm currently living in the Czech Republic.
I spend most of my days working on comic interiors and covers but mostly comissions. Besides that I'm a lecturer of comic and drawing courses at an art school.
-Dangerous Game comic written by James Mascia (will be released this year)
-Covers for Only Human comic horror series
-Currently working on my own comic book Havoc
Complete portfolio can be seen here:
Mark Abnett [Writer, Hit Girl]
A New Zealander living with a South African in the south of Scotland.
With a background in PR and Advertising, Mark has travelled the globe with stints in Australia, Canada and England tending bars, selling magical elixirs and marketing said elixirs to the lucky public.
The Millarworld community gave me the confidence to share my creative work and begin a journey that has allowed those juices to start flowing again.
Ozgur Yildirim [Artist, Hit Girl]
Ozgur lives in Istanbul and has been drawing comic characters since he was five years old. He's also an industrial designer; and since 2002 has worked as a graphic and concept designer as well as a storyboard artist. Now, thanks to The Millarworld competition, he's been given the opportunity to show his work. He hopes this will be the start of his comic career.
Cliff Bumgardner [Writer, American Jesus]
Cliff Bumgardner is a writer, filmmaker, and Co-Founder of InternetPicnic.com — the biggest little website you've never heard of. HIs other work includes numerous screenplays, short stories, and the upcoming original comic series Gearslammer. He's still waiting to be shaken awake and told he has to get a real job.
Also available at www.cliffbumgardner.com
Steve Beach [Artist, American Jesus]
Lives with three dudes in a house in Philly. His first published work was for the Vertigo Horror Anthology the Witching Hour. For the past year he has been drawing the web comic, The Lost Boys of the U-boat Bremen with writer Phillip Johnson.
Myron [Artist, Kingsman]
Myron Macklin does design, makes comics and uses the same language to do both. He gets most excited when connecting the dots. Myron wrote and drew The Zoo Act, an original crime comic (thezooact.com) and is co-writer/producer of The Midnight Show: a story, talk and commentary podcast (midnightshowradio.com). He dates his wife and walks his dog in Charlotte, NC.
Philip Huxley, [Writer, Kingsman]
Philip Huxley hails from South East London where he grew up on a steady diet of John Carpenter films, arcade machines and heavy metal. As well as developing a career as a portrait artist and painter, Philip's passion for writing has led to him gaining several video game writing credits on major titles including the Killzone franchise and most recently Batman: Arkham Knight, which won Best British Game at this years BAFTAs. He is also developing several film projects with his brother Neil Huxley, an LA based director.
Deniz Camp, [Writer, Starlight]
Baby Deniz Camp was rocketed away from the Philippines and raised in the American heartland. After a lifetime of study in science and medicine, he abruptly changed directions and became the writer of such comics as MURDER ONE, WAR INTELLIGENCE, and MAXWELL'S DEMONS, which can be found on his website at www.denizcamp.com. He currently lives with his girlfriend and 13 chickens in Brooklyn, NY and can be reached on twitter at @mdesaad.
Pracheta Banerjee, [Artist, Starlight]
Pracheta Banerjee, from India, was born on Sep 20 1994. She is currently studying at St. Xavier's College. She is a self-taught artist who decided to take up painting seriously at the age of 11. She moved from traditional to digital painting five years later. She is influenced by a wide range of styles, especially those from the East. Her first book was published in November 2014, Project Cirrus.
She was featured among 101 Top Female Illustrators From India and is among India's leading illustrators.
Ifesinachi Orjiekwe [Artist, Kick Ass]
My name is Ifesinachi Anthony Orjiekwe Adrian, I am 23 years old and I live in Nigeria. I am an aspiring comic illustrator, and a freelance storyboard artist. I started drawing when I was little and always loved watching cartoons. I would also create my own characters and make my own comics, and hope to one day make my own animated TV show. My creativity is fueled by things happening around me, my work focuses a lot on storyline, I enjoy creating art that has a lot of visual story telling,also because I am largely influenced by animation. You can check out more of my works athttps://ifesinachi.deviantart.com/ https://ifesinachiadrian.tumblr.com/ or on facebook as Ifesinachi Adrian Orjiekwe.
Ricardo Mo [Writer, Kick Ass]
Ricardo lives with his family in Bournemouth, UK. He writes while you sleep. Twitter: @RicardoMoTron
The first issue of Propeller, his series with Alberto Muriel, is available for free download here: https://gum.co/prop1
Shaun Brill [Writer, Chrononauts]
Shaun lives in Bristol in the UK. Raised on The Beano and Simpsons comic books as a child, it was reading Watchmen while studying for his degree in Creative Writing that rekindled his love of comics, and he has been reading and writing them ever since. He can be found on twitter at @ShaunDBrill.
Conor Hughes [Artist, Chrononauts]
Conor Hughes is an graduate of the School of Visual Arts with several published pieces and has worked in the cartooning, illustration and design field. He draws from a wide range of influences and loves effective story telling. He's always happy to hear from people and can be reached via email@example.com