Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Civil War Directors' Commentary

I love Director's Commentaries! Especially when you find out the going-ons about how your favourite comic or series or storyline got created and you managed to pick up those little fanboy tidbits that was left in the panels...and then to pick up those things that you DIDN'T see the first time around.

Director's Commentaries in comics makes it feel as if you're getting a whole lot of information to help you enjoy the comic, akin to a DVD. I even purchased the Wizard Xtra! Exclusive Creator Content Collection, which was basically a reprint of all the Director's Commentaries Wizard had published over the years.

So I'm psyched that there's a Director's Commentary for Civil War, perhaps the event of the 2007 so far! I'd love to read what Millar and McNiven were thinking when they chose to have Spider-man reveal his identity to the world!

The war heroes! The wild controversy! Mark Millar and Steve McNiven dish all the dirt behind the decade’s hottest event!

By Mike Cotton

Posted November 26, 2007 5:50 PM

No one in the room really cared much that Mark Millar wasn’t schooled in the history of America’s Civil War. n “I don’t even know which side won,” he smirked through his Scottish accent. n All everyone present at 2005’s Marvel summit knew was that Millar was the man to lead them through a Civil War of heroes vs. heroes. And in a think tank that included superstars such as Joe Quesada, Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb, Joss Whedon and more, it was high praise indeed. n And there were debates—Who would die? How would it end?—but now it’s done. And the two men most responsible for the biggest-selling miniseries of the past decade are ready to reflect upon the controversies, the Easter eggs and even a few regrets.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 7]
MILLAR: This is the bad thing [about crossovers] actually because my knowledge of Marvel stuff after Stan Lee stopped writing it is incredibly, incredibly small, right? It’s funny, whenever the scripts that are eventually published in hardback, people will realize that Marvel was really badly distributed to where I grew up, but we got loads of reprints of the Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko stuff…I’m really familiar with all of that. And I had never even heard of Nitro. I put in the panel descriptions and [Civil War editor] Tom Brevoort came up with Nitro. And you see that all through the script. It’s shocking. But it seems to sell well.

McNIVEN: [Laughs] Yeah, Tom was great with that. He really was a very supportive guy with all the reference you ever need.

MILLAR: Tom is one of the two heroes of this whole thing. One is Steve for doing a spectacular job and the other one is Tom for absolutely saving my ass when every single page is incredible. And it does mean a lot of work. Sometimes I was rewriting this stuff five or six times and you watch it, Tom is just doing it right. He knows everything. He’s read every Marvel book.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 8-9]
McNIVEN: Mark had a very clear idea of what he wanted to see with that spread. Mark’s got the ability to not have you second-guess the script and go, “Is that going to work?” It’s all right there. I really did want to convey the mood of it, and have the guys on opposite sides of the page.

MILLAR: Even if somebody’s a really good artist, there’s no guarantee they’re going to gel with you. That’s always a concern before the pages come back, and it’s kind of like that Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt situation in that movie, “The Mexican.” The [film studio] just said, “Let’s get the biggest male star and biggest female star together, and it’s going to be the greatest movie ever,” and it just tanked because there was no chemistry. There was a relief when the pages came through—Steve and I just clicked. It’s like a relationship. There’s got to be chemistry there. Bryan Hitch and I have it, and John Romita Jr. and I have it. And it’s just great to see Steve and I having it, as well. It was very exciting switching on the computer in the morning because usually [pages] were sent, Scottish time, during the night. So it was like Christmas every couple of days and seeing another lovely page.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 14]
MILLAR: We were kind of slightly shocked by some of the reaction because a lot of people saw Tony as the ├╝ber-villain, and really if you read the core book, we really do play a balance. But the other thing is that Tony comes off as a little safe because [Captain America] is the guy who threw the first punch and started the fight. And some of the tie-ins…I mean, there’s so many books, how are they going to keep everything under control? We just have control for our seven comics and try to make it balanced, and some of the [tie-in books] made Tony a little more evil than we even intended.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 16-17]
McNIVEN: I think this worked well. [Mark] wanted to bring in the Fantastic Four into the story reasonably soon, because they are one of the pillars.

MILLAR: My thinking was, Johnny Storm is the most likely guy to have his identity out there in the open and be wandering around in a slightly dangerous civilian situation. Johnny just seemed the logical one to me. Plus, the Fantastic Four have never really had that thing in the Marvel Universe where Spider-Man was being hunted by the policemen. The Marvel Universe loves them. To actually see them get mobbed in the street is probably a little more shocking.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 18-20]
MILLAR: We had the same picture in mind. I didn’t say to Steve the image I had in mind was this great John Buscema shot in Avengers [#60, see inset] I saw when I was a little kid. He even took a very similar angle. That was the sign that we were on the same page, that things are going well. Both our minds were in exactly the same place.

McNIVEN: If you ever read Mark’s scripts, when he really wants something, he’s like, “You got to draw the best freaking spread ever! It’s like the comic book Kirby would draw. It’ll make your ass swell up.” And you’re just sitting there going, “Holy sh--!” That was the first one where I went, “Whoa, okay.” It was a challenge. It was a lot of work, but Mark was really nice about it. And actually I sent you that page.

MILLAR: I was just going to say I’ve actually got that page hanging up in my home as you walk in. You’re welcomed into my house with that page.
I was a bit anxious about [choosing sides for each hero] so I didn’t speak to any other writers at all. Just because it would really overcomplicate it. And it’s bad enough doing it with editorial and senior writers without adding in all the tie-ins. I thought the only way to stay sane on this project is really have no contact with anyone. And it sounds terrible, but what I did was I just said, “Look, don’t phone me, anyone. I’m just working on this.” The minute you start listening to people, then your story’s off in 20 directions. And you really have to let it cross over as it is. So what I did was I wrote the spine of it. But Tom [Brevoort, Civil War editor] knows the characters so well, he drew up a list of who would be on what side, and again, that was one of those cases where Tom was just invaluable and knows all the minutiae.

CIVIL WAR #1 [Pg. 25-30]
McNIVEN: I think Morry [Hollowell] did a great job coloring this. He did a lovely job with setting the mood of the page, lots of blues and reds and it’s a good chance to sort of cut in with some two-fisted action, and it was great. It was fun. Mark gave me all the great beats to hit and I just went with it.

MILLAR: What I wanted to do is put that sequence in a little file and [send it] to these other artists: “Look what Steve McNiven can do.” And make them all really angry. But I sent it to my friends and they were just awed by it. They absolutely loved it. That’s one of my favorite sequences in the whole book actually.

McNIVEN: I had fun with it. Some of the parts are really difficult to put together, especially the strobing shot with Captain America falling off the side of the helicarrier and all the bullets bouncing off of him. It took a bit of work. But it’s fun. It’s worth it. It’s better than drawing a whole bunch of freaking talking heads over and over again. [When I first get a script] I pick up the scenes that I think will really stand out, the few pages here and there that I’ll spend extra time on, and that sequence had a few pages along the way in that sequence that I went, “I’m going to break out an extra day.” I’ll spend like a day and a half, maybe even two days working those pages out because I think it’s worth it in terms of the overall read of the book.

CIVIL WAR #2 [Pg. 5-6]

MILLAR: It’s interesting because there are so few married couples, especially between superheroes. Even as a kid, I knew it was an unusual marriage. You have this genius who is married to a person of average intelligence. And somebody who is beautiful and young married to somebody who’s middle-aged. The guy’s distracted all the time. So maybe I just took my cue, as all of us did, from the Lee-Kirby stuff. And Steve, you draw a hot Sue Storm.

McNIVEN: Thanks. I usually take reference photos. In that case I just sort of put on a nice leotard and put some padding up there and I got a pretty tight ass.

MILLAR: I feel so dirty from being turned on by these pictures. [Both laugh]

CIVIL WAR #2 [Pg. 20-22]

McNIVEN: I think Mark did a great job with the Spider-Man unmasking, just having Jonah disappear, like fall behind his desk and everyone react. I think it was a great moment. It was really difficult. I was worried that I couldn’t pull it off, but it read great in the script.

MILLAR:That was a big one because the one thing you don’t want to screw up is something as monumental as Spider-Man’s unmasking. It must have been quite scary drawing those pages because you knew that they were [going] in every newspaper in the world and fans were going to be talking about them for years.

McNIVEN: Oh, and I hate the pages. I really do.

MILLAR: I think they look great.

McNIVEN: Oh God, I hate them.

MILLAR: Well, what don’t you like?

McNIVEN: I left them in my drawer for the longest time. I just would redo them entirely but I think the pressure got to me a little bit with those pages and I just don’t think I did the best job that I could.

MILLAR: Well, I think you draw a great Spider-Man.

McNIVEN: Thanks.

MILLAR: It actually looks like Spider-Man. You and John Romita Jr., I think, are the two best Spidey artists.

McNIVEN: Cheers.

CIVIL WAR #3 [Pg. 11-15]
MILLAR: I think Tony was given a tough break by people. Tony was like, “Hey, let’s not fight. Come on. I’m just trying to do the right thing here. I don’t want superheroes getting closed down.” This is the big compromise and then Cap has a bomb in his hand. And Tony somehow seems like the bad guy? So yeah, that scene was important because the natural inclination is always to root for the guy who’s the underdog. I think for me that was a turning point when you suddenly thought Tony’s actually trying to do the right thing here. He’s offering his hand of friendship and Cap screws him over.

McNIVEN: I think it was clever for him to lift his visor up as well because usually Iron Man, if he has his visor down he looks a little cold, a little menacing. So bringing the visor up, we get to see his face, and he generally wants, even though he has an army behind him, he’s offering the hand of friendship.

CIVIL WAR #3 [Pg. 22]

MILLAR: We talked about this quite a lot actually because normally a miniseries, like an event thing, when you use cliffhangers or something, there’s a moment. But the thing that was nice with this was there was a lot of kind of big moments and Thor coming back was huge, but it was eclipsed by Spider-Man unmasking the previous issue. There was a lot of stuff happening on the page there. I think we were just reeling and punch-drunk by that point. We had no idea what to expect. It just seemed like another big event.

McNIVEN: That was crazy. It was great. I thought it was an excellent cliffhanger after obviously, as you said, issue #2 being Spider-Man unmasking. I mean, the last thing you want is to come out with issue #3 and have it sort of lackluster. It really packed a huge punch. It was fun. And then the next issue when he starts tearing into everybody and killing people, I knew that was going to whip up the fan frenzy a little bit more.

CIVIL WAR #4 [Pg. 4]
MILLAR: Some people were really angry. Cap is saying the most horrible things. Tony is a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Cap was born behind a bakery in Brooklyn or something, probably shared an apartment with a lot of people in the Depression. And so I think Tony’s going to look like he’s had a pretty easy life compared to Cap.

McNIVEN: I think you’re right. It’s not like they’re going to consider what they’re saying. They’re speaking in anger and I think that definitely shows the caliber of writing involved in the book.

MILLAR: I can only agree with that.

McNIVEN: It really works well. I think a lot of people are taking issue with it without realizing the kind of horrible things that you do say when you’re fighting with someone like that. Especially somebody with such entrenched views of how things should be, they say things that they probably wouldn’t say that if they were just hanging out, but they’re fighting.

CIVIL WAR #4 [Pg. 8]
MILLAR: The thing that makes me laugh about this is I got an e-mail about five minutes after this came out from a white guy and he says, “Well done. You just had the ultimate visual of an Aryan Superman, taking down one of the Marvel Universe’s few black guys.” And I never really thought about it. Thor would actually be probably like the Ku Klux Klan’s favorite superhero, you know? I hadn’t actually pictured it in those terms because I’d just e-mailed Marvel and said, “Listen, I’ve got to take down a big character, who will you give me?” And the best they could give was Goliath.

McNIVEN: Was there anyone that you were thinking of besides Goliath? If you could, who would you have taken out?

MILLAR: I don’t know. You know I feel a bit funny killing guys off. That’s exciting. But I literally don’t have anyone in mind. I mean, people kept saying to me, “How many Marvel characters are you going to kill off in the series?” And I kept saying almost none because I don’t think you had to do something as cheap as kill them off in the book to get excitement going.

McNIVEN: That was a hard shot to draw actually, because Thor’s hammer’s pretty small compared to Goliath. Y’know, there’s Dagger’s ass again. [See inset] Yeah, I did draw Dagger’s ass well, didn’t I?

MILLAR: Yeah. You’ve got a piece of her ass showing, even.

McNIVEN: I know. [Laughs]

CIVIL WAR #4 [Pg. 9-12]
McNIVEN: It was a great moment in that issue where you suddenly realize, whoa, it’s not really Thor. I think, again, it generates a buzz.

MILLAR: We thought it was a hilariously brilliant twist. And a lot of people were like, “Hey, we thought Thor was coming back.” We forgot how excited people were going to be that Thor’s coming back.

CIVIL WAR #4 [Pg. 10]
MILLAR: I used to have a crush on Sue Storm when I was a kid. And I had this crush on the Scarlet Witch. They were both drawn by Kirby at the time and when I look back at those, they look like meaty transvestites because Kirby tried to eliminate the old look. I’m sure that there are young kids on the floor looking at those pictures. I have a feeling. I also said too much.

McNIVEN: [Sue switching sides] was a great moment, really dramatic moment. Make her show her [boobs].

MILLAR: You know, Steve, when you think about it, some kids out there are wanking to your drawings. Haven’t you ever thought about that before? The wanking must now go on today.

McNIVEN: …Yeah. I prefer not to think about that.

MILLAR: It’s going to be in the back of your mind now every page you draw.

CIVIL WAR #4 [Pg. 22]

McNIVEN: Again, another great ending to an issue to generate a lot of buzz and controversy. I don’t think Mark’s a stranger to controversy and this one really upped the ante for that. It’s great. It’s fun. I keep saying that over and over again today, but it’s fun. Bullseye’s such a great character. He’s got such an interesting backstory, all the Frank Miller stuff, so that was one character that I wanted to draw. The other characters, I mean, the pumpkin-headed guy [Jack O’Lantern]…that’s just f---ing ridiculous. I looked at that and I’m like, “I’m going to put him as close to off-panel as I possibly can.” Who ever thought the flaming-pumpkin-headed guy was scary? Honest to God.

MILLAR: It was funny because we knew that a couple of these guys were going to die and we were like, ‘Hmmm, who are we going to kill off? Are we going to kill off Venom? Lady Deathstrike? Or the guy with the pumpkin head that we just drew in the background?” [Laughs]

CIVIL WAR #5 [Pg. 9-11]
McNIVEN: I really hated—you can ask Tom—I hate the pumpkin-headed guy. Like, with a passion. I think he was the most ridiculous…something that drives me crazy in comics is when they come up with....There was another guy in the issue that was minor character that I just couldn’t draw. Some guy with a giant bone for a head.

MILLAR: A bone?

McNIVEN: Yeah, a bone for a head. And I’m like, “I can’t, I cannot draw that.” The shame would be too much. But you know, the pumpkin-headed guy…I just wanted him dead so much. And then I’m like, “Yes! I get to blow his brains out.”
MILLAR: My dream has always been to draw a pumpkin-headed guy. I can’t believe you were annoyed about it.

McNIVEN: Never again. He’s really dead, right? I hope. He could be a very popular character. I’ll bet you I’m pissing off tons of loyal pumpkin-head fans.

MILLAR: I’ve actually got a vegetable superteam in the works that he was going to lead.

CIVIL WAR #6 [Pg. 10-13]
MILLAR: I think there’s a little nobility to the Punisher because in his heart he absolutely believes he’s doing the right thing, and I think I have a line in here about how those two guys—Cap and Punisher—are two superheroes separated by different wars, really. Cap is the product of a good war and the Punisher’s the product of a really bad war that America lost. And it was all very vague. And so I think they’re kind of the same guy in a sense and Cap I think recognizes the decency in Frank Castle. I think he retains a hope for the best when Frank comes and says he wants to help you, he means it in his own screwed-up way.

McNIVEN: I think Cap’s always had Bucky to mentor and all that stuff. I think it makes sense. I think at the end [Cap] realizes [Punisher is] completely insane, but I don’t think he thought that all along.

CIVIL WAR #6 [Pg. 18-19]
MILLAR: Iron Man keeps showing up and saying, “Hey, everybody, come on. Let’s just chat.” And Cap’s always ready to fight. I’m on Iron Man’s side. [Revealing Tigra as a traitor on Cap’s side] was a great way to destabilize things, to activate the cells so that [Cap’s side] could get all their big guys out. So it was just a genius piece of plot.
McNIVEN: It was. And we actually sort of alluded to that whole thing at the beginning of the issue, though it didn’t really come across as well as it could have. My fault. But at the beginning of issue #6, the S.H.I.E.L.D. guy that comes and gets Commander Hill is actually supposed to be the Hulkling.

MILLAR: I thought it worked.

CIVIL WAR #7 [Pg. 1-2]
McNIVEN: This was fun. I love stuff like Cap shoving Bishop’s head into the ground. It’s a bunch of guys fighting!

MILLAR: I love when Neil Gaiman has a new novel and goes to do a reading and it’s brilliant because they can sit down and just read it out and it’s like reading a novel. But if
I could do a reading of one of my books, it’s just things like “Ah! Look out! Oh, no! Ah!”

McNIVEN: You don’t have any sound effects though. I think we had sound effects at the beginning of the issue for a little bit, didn’t we?

MILLAR: Really? Because I never really put sound effects in. Maybe Marvel did it or something.

McNIVEN: I think they put some in the Cap scene at the very first issue. [See p. 106 for panel with sound effects]

MILLAR: Oh yeah. Yeah. That actually did work well. Generally, I’m not a fan of sound effects.

McNIVEN: I’m glad there wasn’t any.

MILLAR: Generally, whenever I’m doing something, [my script is] very specific. But with Steve, we got to the point where I just trusted him. And I just said, “Cap takes someone down and then next panel Iron Man takes someone down with a blast,” you know. So Steve was really doing all the work by the end of the series.

McNIVEN: I can’t remember. Sometimes he does put in descriptions for stuff and sometimes it’s just a cool shot of Cap taking someone down. You know, it’s fun to choreograph the scene. I kind of wanted to get him, get Cap a feeling of him moving around the fight as well as I could. But it’s just a matter of camera changes—you know, turning the camera around—and it was still kind of difficult when you’ve got such a large group of characters. Your initial thought is to jam it as packed as you can and I’m just not one of those guys that likes to jam panels. I mean, there are the guys that can put in a huge amount of characters and actually make the composition work, and then there’s other ones that just fill space, and that drives me nuts because you can’t really tell the movement of the composition, the way the action’s supposed to be flowing and which way the camera’s turning.

MILLAR: Yeah. I thought at least in this, I don’t know if anyone noticed Woody Allen in the New York scene where they all appear in New York and there’s an explosion of yellow cabs and Woody Allen driving to work.

CIVIL WAR #7 [Pg. 14-15]

McNIVEN: There’s a shot of Thor and the Hulk in that amazing issue #5 of the first series of Ultimates. I was trying for something as cool as that. [The art on Ultimates] is spectacular stuff and I thought, “All right, I’ve got to avoid doing that shot.” So for me I was just trying to compose something that had a good scrunch with some good bits coming out. I didn’t put any blood in, though. I should have put some more blood in there.

MILLAR: It’s so sinister-looking. It really is. I mean, that eye hanging out from a big string and everything. It’s just horrible.

McNIVEN: I was going to put his jaw on the other side between, by Hercules’ hammer, just like his jaw was flying off but it didn’t really come across very well.

MILLAR: It’s more disturbing than a human head exploding. A human head I can handle. But seeing “Clor” taken down is very disturbing. But what a great composition. Composing a page is a big deal for me. Like, so few guys can do it. And I’ve got quite a snobby eye when it comes to that stuff. And I just think that’s a perfectly laid-out page. It’s absolutely beautiful.

CIVIL WAR #7 [Pg. 16]
MILLAR: It is very satisfying that you’re seeing someone get the sh-- kicked out of them. Look at Dark Knight Returns Book 2, where Batman is fighting a mutant leader. There’s nothing better than seeing your guy come back and just kick the living sh-- out of a guy. And that [third] panel on that page is the most disturbing image ever, that Iron Man’s helmet just goes to that floor. That’s horrible, but really brilliantly done. At the meeting [where Civil War was planned] it was asked, “Where the hell do we end this?” Because all the specifics of it, you work out all the plot stuff and everything, all the little back-and-forths, that was easy. But it had to be a group decision of who was going to win this because it’s such a change in the Marvel Universe, depending on who won. So yeah, that was actually really hard. And as you know, we argued for a day and a half over who should win and how they should win. And Joss Whedon came in as the voice of common sense and suggested a really nice, simple ending, because one of the things we talked about was a kind of “Hey, everybody wins.” You know, you’re all winners. And he was saying that’s the most unsatisfying ending, and after seven months you have to have one guy beat the other guy. And it was a really good point.

CIVIL WAR #7 [Pg. 17-20]

McNIVEN: I think it was the Cap crying thing, Mark really wanted him to be bawling out. And initially I was like, “I hope I can hit this right.” But I think it did. I think he genuinely has an expression of remorse and sort of stunned into silence in that way. I love that shot with him dropping the shield, and it’s really paved out in the script. It was all there. It was just done for me to draw.

MILLAR: Steve just picked the perfect angle on it. It’s beautiful. Cap with his head down crying, walking away in handcuffs. This is maybe my favorite moment in the book. But I’ve got to say, I should point out that there’s a line that I love on the previous page that Mr. C.B. Cebulski came up with, which was “They’re not arresting Captain America. They’re arresting Steve Rogers.”

CIVIL WAR #7 [Pg. 21-24]
MILLAR: It was great for me to touch on all these little pieces of the Marvel Universe. So with those final eight pages or so, I got to do a blueprint for the Marvel Universe, which is the fun part, you know, coming up with the high concepts. And that’s actually very satisfying. It’s nice having to set up this new Marvel Universe and then letting other people do the hard work. And some of them get carried through and some of them didn’t. Like one I really wanted was the Punisher to become the new Captain America and we have that on some level, but I wanted him to be in costume as the new Cap, that was my idea from there. The Initiative is actually a run I was going to do at some point. My brother used to have a company called the Scottish Initiative that pulled together all of these charities from all over Scotland. So just all these little things like that. I had a very loose idea for [Alpha Flight] that Mike Oeming did a much better job with, which was that some of the heroes would flee across the border because nobody’s really interested in Canadian heroes. Sorry, Steve. [Both laugh]

McNIVEN: When Hank is introducing those guys, the Texas Rangers…these guys are sad. One guy’s an armadillo. [Laughs]

MILLAR: I didn’t look at a single thing after we finished.

McNIVEN: I’m reading Mighty Avengers and New Avengers. Leinil Yu is doing a beautiful job on New Avengers. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

MILLAR: I love all the guys, but I just got too close. After all that time I had to go away and do something else. It would have felt like we were still working on the book if we read the new stuff.

McNIVEN: True. You have a sort of vested interest in it. Yeah.
MILLAR: It was like probably 10 months of a life, but it was literally in your every waking thought.

McNIVEN: Yeah. Well, that last issue, I did it in all of January. Like I started Jan. 1 and I drew every single day until Jan. 31, like every day. Straight through. Thank God it’s done.

Oh yeah, for those of you who think that Spidey's identity has been irrevocably damaged and revealed to the public and there's no way back for him, you might want to check out Avengers: The Initiative #7. I was going to drop this title from my list of purchases, but after THIS bombshell reveal and an awesome story, I'm starting to reconsider!

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