• Interview - Mark Millar - The Death Of Northstar

    This interview was conducted days after the release of Wolverine #25, in which publicly the homosexual hero Northstar was killed. It is important to note that later in the storyline (after this interview was conducted) Northstar was resurrected.

    Hello Mark, let me first tank you for taking time out of your day.

    Mark Millar: My pleasure, Ben. I came across your site when I was researching the character just prior to this story-line and really like it. It's a really smart site and the comments on the boards are always really constructive and pretty funny.

    AlphaFlight.net: As I'm sure you know, before Wolverine #25 has even hit the shelves, the net is buzzing about the death of Northstar. Can you tell me what lead you to the decision of killing him off? Was this decision based more on the story in question, or the character?

    Mark Millar: It was based on a number of factors. The most obvious, of course, is that Wolverine was securing a pretty enormous body-count over these first six issues and some heroes ended up in the mix. We have some villains being taken down too very shortly, but there needed to be some heroes killed and I wanted the conclusion to Enemy of the State to have some serious injuries. Marvel don't like killing characters because, even on a business level, it limits the number of movies, toys and underpants they can sell featuring that character. However, sometimes a death can have real resonance. Probably all the best Marvel stories are featured around a death of a beloved character (whether it's Gwen Stacy, Jean DeWolff or Jean Grey) and so I feel that, from time to time, it's definitely not something we should absolutely rule out. In the Internet age, it would be impossible to keep a secret like the Death of Phoenix and so I wanted to try something a little more low-key and natural. Heroes tend to die saving the universe. They're usually riddled with bullets, but still manage to pull the lever that shuts down the bad guy before they say their final goodbye. I wanted to play against that a little and have a death that's a bit more like real life where it's all very fast and unexpected. I think this will surprise people more because it's unlike your typical superhero death.

    AlphaFlight.net: How did Marvel react when you first proposed having Wolverine gut Northstar?

    Mark Millar: They were okay about it. Obviously, the character isn't as popular as Cyclops or The Beast, but he's a big part of X-Men history and was probably the most high-profile X-Man during the nineties when he was outed in the mainstream media. This was a huge story in the mainstream press and I wasn't sure if Marvel would go for this for a number of reasons, but they tend to be very supportive and know it's all part of a grand plan I have. They're very happy with the story, readers are very happy with the story and our sales just keep going up and up. It takes years for a company to trust you and I appreciate that I'm very lucky to be in that position at the moment.

    AlphaFlight.net: Wolverine has long been a "friend" of Northstar's, how will he react once he realizes what he has done?

    Mark Millar: This was one of the main reasons I picked him over several of the other characters I considered. They obviously have a shared history in Alpha Flight and a shared heritage to some extent. I have a scene in issue 27 (after Wolverine has probably the best scene we've given him so far) where he just sits down and starts crying. Everything Hydra and The Hand makes him do just comes flooding back and he's disgusted with himself. Wolverine strikes me as a character with an enormous amount of self-loathing and he channels this negative energy into flipping out and taking down the bad guys. This is what the second half of Agent of SHIELD is really all about. He's killed an old friend and these guys have made him murder everything from cops to, er, sharks. He's pissed off and it gives the series an enormous energy. We're really pleased with this. It's almost like a non-stop berkserker rage going on for a few issues.

    AlphaFlight.net: Any word from Nunzio DeFilippis about loosing Northstar as a teacher in NEW X-MEN: ACADEMY X?

    Mark Millar: We've co-ordinated with the X-editor Mike Marts for every issue and he's been keeping Nunzio in the loop. But they've been very generous over there and let us really play around with the characters over this run.

    AlphaFlight.net: Were you aware that the week before this story comes out, in the final issue of Alpha Flight, a past version of Northstar has come into the present? Some fans are curious if this may have effected Marvel's decision of letting him die.

    Mark Millar: I was completely unaware of this so I really have no idea.

    AlphaFlight.net: As was inevitable, the death of Northstar is raising extra noise due to his sexuality. Did the attention it would make have any bearing on you choosing Northstar as Wolverine's target?

    Mark Millar: Not at all. I think it would be a little cheap to play on that, especially if it's killing off a character that has a sizable fan-base. In fact, we kept it an absolute secret who was dying so if anything we really played it down in terms of who was actually on the receiving end of those claws.

    AlphaFlight.net: I'm sure you were expecting some anger due to you writing the death of one of Marvel's few openly gay characters, not to mention most popular as such. Do have any reaction you would like to share about those calling you homophobic, or bigoted for this choice?

    Mark Millar: It's just ridiculous and, thankfully, very few have suggested this was even a motive. As someone who's won two gay and lesbian awards for the treatment of Apollo and The Midnighter, had glowing reviews in a clutch of gay magazines, was all over the British tabloid press three years ago defending my use of gay superheroes (even when the cardinal of my own church described it as a disgrace) and introduced a gay Colossus into Ultimate X-Men, it just seems preposterous to assume this is bigoted in any way. I'm comic-books most dripping-wet liberal. This was an equal opportunities kill, as you might say. His sexuality didn't enter my head. It's like saying World War Two was an exercise in homophobia because hundreds of thousands of the troops who died would have been gay. It's just completely inconsequential to the story, no more relevant than the death of Harry Osborn or Barry Allen being an attack on heterosexuality.

    AlphaFlight.net: Already rumors have begun surrounding Northstar's "resurrection", and there is speculation that he may be brought back as an agent of "The Hand". Any chance you would care to confirm, or deny this?

    Mark Millar: I'll neither confirm nor deny. There are some resurrections, though not necessarily Northstar.

    AlphaFlight.net: Is there any chance we might get to see some of Alpha Flight's reactions to Northstar's death? Maybe from Aurora?

    Mark Millar: Again, sorry to be a pain, but I don't want to give too much away. There's a lot of ramifications explored in the second arc. We touch on it a little at the beginning and play it up more towards the end. But there are a few surprises.

    AlphaFlight.net: Do you any plans for other Alpha Flight characters, be it in the Marvel Universe, or the Ultimate Universe?

    Mark Millar: One thing I've learned is the keep the casts as small as possible. Joss learned this really quickly on Astonishing and the book is stronger for it. I love the designs in particular of Byrne's Alpha Flight and was tempted to use them in Ultimate X-Men. But you have to restrain yourself and not just use characters for the sake of it. Many 90s comics suffered from this affliction. I have some long-terms plans they'll probably feature in to some extent. I don't see them as comedic or anything so my take would very different from the way you're seeing them at the moment. They might feature in a post-Ultimates project that Bryan Hitch and I have been considering featuring a lot of Marvel characters. If we don't go and revamp Superman we might be touching on these characters in a year or two.

    AlphaFlight.net: On a side note, I understand you have a second round of creator owned work coming out. How is that shaping up?

    Mark Millar: Really beautifully. There's actually still a couple of things hanging over from the first wave. There's a mini-series I have coming out that was excluded from my Marvel contract and a one-shot I'm just writing at the moment. Both will be revealed soon, but the one-shot is a straight piece of journalism. It's more of a documentary than a comic-book, but something I've wanted to do for a long time. Millarworld Phase One was where I was supposed to disappear and do some low-key stuff that I just wanted to write for myself, but it ended up becoming a monster. We've got Chosen with Chris Columbus, Wanted with Mark Platt and Universal and the books all sold like crazy. The six issues of Wanted have sold over 400,000 copies over three or four printings. It's just insane. So now there's this huge expectation for Millarworld 2 when these things were supposed to be my downtime. What's nice is that the success of the first books have brought a lot of artists to me and the names I have for the second wave are pretty shocking. We'll be doing a couple through Icon and this means we have a couple of Marvel exclusive guys too. At the moment, the line-up is a four part superhero thing, a three part super-crime thing, a four part horror thing, a three part sci-fi thing and a biography. I'm disappearing in August or September and you want see me for six to twelve months at all. This is when, among other things, I'll be working on Millarworld 2. If I do anything else for Marvel after Ultimate FF (which I'm halfway through), it'll just be very short. I've had a great time, but I'm taking a break from company-owned characters as I go off and plan the Next Big Thing.

    AlphaFlight.net: How are things going with the Wanted movie?

    Mark Millar: I have no idea. They just gave me and JG some money and we haven't heard anything since. They got some high profile screenwriters to do the script, but I still haven't seen it.

    AlphaFlight.net: I heard you once tried to shove potato chips down a British man named Del's pants. Is this a method you often use to get close to your fans? (the "me" noted there is my moderator Phil, and well, I think you would remember Del)

    Mark Millar: As you can imagine, I mistook him for a beautiful woman, Ben.

    AlphaFlight.net: Again, thanks very much for your time Mark, I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

    Mark Millar: Cheers, mate. Thanks again for the interest and for taking the time. I hope you like it. My plan is just to do a nice twelve issue run on Wolverine that people feel puts the character back on top. My only aim is to make people feel the book was worth the money and have a nice, little trade up there on the shelf beside Ultimates, Red Son, Wanted, etc.