The value of a guru apparently can't be underestimated. Marvel Studios has Joss Whedon, who signed an exclusive deal to help oversee their film and television properties over the next few years. The X-Men, unofficially, have Bryan Singer, who's been involved in every one of their worthwhile properties. And a few weeks ago, 20th Century Fox announced that they'd hired established comics writer Mark Millar to oversee their properties, among which include the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
A long-time writer on titles like "Ultimate X-Men," "The Authority," and his own creator-owned properties such as "Kick-Ass" and "Wanted," Millar made a name for himself as one of the most entertaining creators in comics. When he was writing company-owned characters, Millar's talents as a writer quickly shown through: an eye for big picture plotting, unrivaled ability for choreographing arresting action scenes, a skill for using continuity and shared universe as complements to his own original plots, snappy characterization that swung for the fences rather than relying on the slow burn and an insistence on working with the industry's best artists, among others.
Loosely translated to film, these would seem to be winning attributes as superhero movies must often speed along rather than wait for things to unfold, and rely on impressive visuals to provide the visceral awe of seeing paper-bound abilities brought to life.
My favorite story he ever wrote, "Wolverine: Enemy of the State," reflects those talents. The premise was that Wolverine is brainwashed into an agent of the Hand, and then goes on the warpath against the Marvel Universe as he acts their bidding. Eventually, he's turned back to the light side, and sets off against his former captors. Unfolding over a year, it was nevertheless a densely-written story that incorporated multiple parts of the Marvel Universe into an original spin on a familiar premise while introducing its own memorable characters and shaking things up in the status quo. It's, I think, a story that fandom would explode over should it somehow be translated into a movie. (Alas, the involved characters all belong to separate studios, though I'm sure that's the least of the answer as to why it would never get made.) But something like it -- a unique narrative structure involving familiar and new elements of the Marvel world -- is the most any fan could hope for.
While it's not entirely clear what he's actively working on -- "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is well underway without his involvement -- Millar gave some comments to SFX about what he might be helping to orchestrate. "Fox have said that they want to build a cohesive universe and I'd personally like this to work in complement to the Marvel one," he said. "It would be cool if these universes didn't contradict each other so if you went to see Spidey, The Avengers, the X-Men, etc, as a viewer you would have no idea that all three are coming from different studios. I'd love to make it look like they're all just happening in one place."
Continuing from that, he said: "I don't think it's something anyone would want to rush into. Following that Marvel model, we want to establish things first. If you had a Fantastic Four relaunch, and Wolverine and the X-Men were in it, I think it would distract you from the Fantastic Four. You can make people aware that they're existing in the same universe without making it a big crossover movie but it would be an injustice to the Fantastic Four not to make their first movie all about them."
Last week, I briefly (well, not briefly) wrote about the troubles of introducing a shared continuity in movies, which don't have the flexible scheduling of the comic books. While all of my points were fair, I think Millar's approach is as ideal as it gets: something natural and honest that wouldn't distract too much from the important players. Unless given reason to believe otherwise, I can't help but think his greater inclusion with the Marvel movies is anything but a home run.
This Mutant Life explores all corners of the cinematic X-verse, from the kids of "First Class" to the berserker rage of "The Wolverine." Suggest topics for future columns in the comments or on Twitter!
Previously on This Mutant Life: