Greg Land is an easy target. Mark Millar gets a bit more complicated.
I read Kick-Ass #8 last week and I came away feeling like Mark Millar didn’t like me very much.
I know it’s a Thing© to say Millar is racist and bad. The Italian stereotype mob isn’t really just a Millar thing, so it doesn’t seem fair to get mad at just him for that. The worst example that immediately sprang to mind is still the first issue, where Kick-Ass just walks up and starts beating on a group of black kids for almost no reason.
I searched the internet, doing tough investigative journalism by typing in stuff like “mark millar racism” and “mark millar is bad and writes bad”. People have done the work for me, and it isn’t hard to find a ton of examples of Millar treating people of color terribly. The dude even managed to kill Black Goliath in two different realities, which is still somehow funny to me even in the very real context of racism.
I read some of my own issues of the stuff I remember liking – Ultimates, Authority, Red Son – to try and find other examples. I still enjoyed them, thanks in no small part to the art on each series, even though I kept finding little examples of minorities being beaten or abused. It’s like the arrow in the FedEx logo, you just can’t unsee it once somebody’s pointed it out. Unlike the arrow, though, I couldn’t figure out if the racism was there on purpose. That arrow is definitely racist. Look at it.
(A little tangent here, but Millar sure does work with some quality artists. Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, Romita Jr., J.G. Jones, Dave Johnson, et al. I can’t think of anyone else who consistently gets top level talent to draw their stuff.)
Anyway, I was really tempted to be all sensitive liberal white guy and bag Millar’s works but I saw a pattern in his books that confused me even more. Everybody in a Millar book is an asshole to some degree. Even Captain America and Superman become unlikeable. Cap has the dual traits of ‘asshole soldier’ and ‘cranky old man’. Superman is a dirty commie and Lex Luthor becomes a sympathetic bad guy with a point when compared to Hammer and Sickle Supes.
I re-read Kick-Ass. Dave beats up minorities in Kick-Ass, but Dave’s a shit head that I don’t particularly identify with anyway. I didn’t feel like Millar was consciously or even sub-consciously telling me minorities were bad people. It was more like, “hey, look at what this stupid kid with a need to feel special is going out to do”. The main character even says as much in the last issue. He’s an asshole.
So, long story short, this isn’t “How I learned to stop worrying and love Mark Millar” since I didn’t particularly enjoy Kick-Ass. And it isn’t a defense of Millar because the ratio of minorities to whites being beaten still seems bizarre.
It’s more like I’ve written all this to get to the point where I’ve got no idea what to think of Millar. Accusing somebody of racism is serious stuff, and it isn’t something I feel entirely equipped to do, either. I think the best kind of commentary I can offer on Millar’s stories is that they seem to be the stories of bad people who get into bad situations. You’re not supposed to like the main characters or the people they clash with, you’re just supposed to be excited by the sparks.
Somebody tell me what to think, please. Or you could just give up and go home since this might just be much ado about nothing.