Interview: Mark Millar on STARLIGHT and the Millarworld Universe

December 10, 2013

Coming March 2014 from Image Comics is STARLIGHT. Written by Mark Millar and drawn by Goran Parlov, STARLIGHT #1 details exactly what happens when Duke McQueen, a space-age hero who may be a little past his prime, is invited back to space for one final adventure. His children are long-gone, his wife has already passed away, and Duke himself is feeling his age. But when duty calls, can Duke resist the pull of space? Should he? STARLIGHT answers those questions and launches the Millarworld Universe with style. We sat down with Millar for a quick chat about where STARLIGHT came from and his goals for the series along with a preview of issue #1 at the end of the interview.

What's the origin of the title "STARLIGHT?" How does it relate to the story?

Mark Millar: Actually, the title itself comes from the great Bryan Hitch. I didn't actually have a title, which is annoying because if it doesn't come right away it's always like pulling teeth. So I sent a copy of the first issue out to a dozen friends and asked for help and Bryan came back with "Starlight," which I instantly liked. Instinctively, it just felt right because it has a kind of twilight of the gods feel, a final adventure, but felt retro- sci-fi at the same time. As soon as I saw it on Bryan's list of about 40 suggestions it immediately resonated. This is the story of an old space hero coming out of retirement for one last, possibly fatal mission, and when I saw the logo over John Cassaday's cover I just knew it was 100% right.

The solicit for STARLIGHT suggests that the book is something of a melancholy "one last job" tale. Is STARLIGHT a straight science fiction story, or are you going to be pulling from any other traditions, like heist films or pulp fiction, while writing the series?

Millar: It's not going to be a genre mash-up as much as a very, very human and emotional sci-fi story, which is something I always like, with a hugely relatable and empathetic lead character. Duke McQueen is an aging space-hero and this is the kind of character I've wanted to write since I was around nine or ten. As a kid in Scotland, we got those Saturday morning sci-fi serials forty years after the rest of the world so I grew up with leading men like Buster Crabbe at the same time I was into Han Solo and Superman. I loved things like Crash Corrigan and Commando Cody and all those weird black-and-white sci-fi spectaculars and I've always had an idea in the back of my mind about what happened next for those guys. They weren't professional, full-time heroes like Superman or Batman. They weren't billionaires. They didn't even have any real proof about what they'd done. So a guy would go off and save an alien world and there would be this massive parade on 42nd Street for him after it, but I liked the idea of this one amazing thing happening to one of those guys and nobody believing him when he gets back. He maybe writes a book or something detailing what happened, but he's essentially an object of public ridicule and maybe quits his job and moves away, getting married and living in Vermont or something. The whole character just seemed to pour out the moment I started writing him, which is always a good sign for me, and I found myself really caring about him. His life is like any of our father's or grandfather's, except for this one amazing thing that happened forty years ago, and so as the first issue closes and he gets a chance to go back we're really with him on that journey.

You're working with Goran Parlov on STARLIGHT. What attracted you to Goran's work?

Millar: I actually think, and this is a huge thing to say, that Goran might be the best artist working in comics right now. He and I have been talking about doing something for a couple of years, but we had to wait until he was finished with his commitments to the excellent Punisher series he was doing for Garth over at Marvel. Every artist I know is a huge fan of Goran. He's got a very European sensibility, Moebius being the most obvious choice, but you can see guys like Alex Toth and Milo Manara in there too. There's an almost effortless look to his work, which is ridiculous because you know how difficult it is to pull of, but it's that same confidence with the pencil Alex Toth has. Every page is so beautifully balanced and his art is so easy on the eye, especially when he inks himself. As you can see, I'm an enormous fan so it's an honour to be working with him. I send every page he does to all my friends at work every time one lands in my inbox and everybody coos at them for the next couple of hours. I know this embarrasses him, but the work he's done here is just so impressive. He's just gone up to the next level in terms of what he's accomplishing.

The Millarworld titles have been Earth-based thus far. What led you to outer space for this tale?

Millar: I have this big, grand plan. It actually goes all the way back to WANTED #1 ten years ago and in about six years time you'll see how that ties into something I have planned at the end of the decade, if that doesn't make me sound like the guy in A Beautiful Mind or maybe a Scottish, ginger Doctor Doom. But basically the launch of the Millarworld Universe from the pages of Kick-Ass 3 is just where this all goes from here and over the next 3 years I have nine or ten new titles with enormous artists planned, STARLIGHT being the first of them, but work coming from the likes of Sean Gordon Murphy, Jae Lee, Bryan Hitch, and others on top of the established books returning by Frank Quitely, Steve McNiven, and so on. But STARLIGHT #1 is where this next phase kicks off and if you want to really appreciate everything we have coming up you really need to read this book because absolutely everything ties into it, whether it's Wesley Gibson or American Jesus or JUPITER'S LEGACY or Kick-Ass. We pull back and see the big picture of what's going on here, but at the same time it's also a brilliant jumping on point for new readers. Plus Buzz Lightyear meets Unforgiven is such a good hook you can't NOT want to see where this thing is going.

Look for STARLIGHT #1 in comic shops on 3/5. Pre-order Cover A, featuring art by John Cassaday, with Diamond Code JAN140531. Cover B, with art by series artist Goran Parlov, may be pre-ordered with Diamond Code JAN140532.

Check out both covers to for STARLIGHT #1 and this 3 page preview of the first issue: