Scottish comic book writer Mark Millar tells us about Superior, the superhero with a difference…
When you think of superheroes, the likes of Batman and Spider-Man instantly spring to mind. As ordinary people with extraordinary powers who use their special abilities to save the world, superheroes are a massive hit with little and big kids the world over.
One lesser-known crime fighter making waves in the comic book world is Superior, the alter-ego of a 12-year-old boy who has multiple sclerosis.
BIG MEETS SUPERMAN
“Superior is about a little boy, Simon, who has multiple sclerosis,” the comic’s creator Mark Millar explains. “He’s granted a magic wish, and his wish is to get out of his wheelchair and be a big-screen superhero. It’s kind of like the Tom Hanks movie Big, except the adult he becomes has all the powers of Superman and he exists here in the real world. You have this little 12-year-old who can literally move mountains and he becomes the most famous guy on the planet overnight, not only catching crooks and all the superhero stuff, but also ending the war in Afghanistan and feeding the starving. His wish comes at a terrible price as we discover in the story, but I can’t give too much away without spoiling it! Big meets Superman is a pretty accurate description.”
Mark, from the Scottish town of Coatbridge, is a big player in the world of comics. Since the late ’80s, he has written for comic book giants DC Comics and Marvel, creating story lines for Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four. More recently, his own comics have moved to the big screen with Kick-Ass and Wanted. The Superior series, illustrated by
Leinil Francis Yu, has a different feel from Mark’s previous work, swapping violence and satire for what he describes as “a wish fulfilment thing; a fairytale and quite sweet.”
MS DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE
That’s not the only thing which makes the seven-part Superior series different – Simon’s wish brings incredible powers to a boy whose ‘real life’ often leaves him feeling powerless. So why did Mark pick MS?
“It’s always wise to write about something you understand,” the writer says. “I had a school friend who developed MS and a member of my family was also diagnosed about ten years ago. I wanted to write about the way it doesn’t discriminate.
“One thing I loved about the superheroes Stan Lee created in the 60s, like Spider-Man and the X-Men,
is that they were flawed. They might have been characters children aspired to be, but they also had weaknesses in their secret identity. I did this with Kick-Ass and I’ve done it here because it gives the reader someone to relate to.
“Daredevil is blind, Tony Stark [Iron Man] has a heart condition, The Hulk has anger management problems and Superior is secretly a child with a chronic illness. It humanises these guys and I think it’s what makes them different from other superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, who are perhaps a little too perfect for modern audiences.”
While comic book lovers might not have much time for Superman, the crime fighter had an influence over the character of Superior.
“The idea literally popped into my head the day after [Superman actor] Christopher Reeve died,” Mark
recalls. “I remember seeing all these newspaper front pages with Reeve as Superman beside the actor, years later, in his wheelchair. The image was very powerful; someone debilitated who is recognised as the most powerful character in cinema. Those two images juxtaposed with one another felt like the story unfolding right in front of me and by the time I left the shop I had it all figured out. That’s why I dedicated the book to Christopher Reeve. The first Superman movie is the reason I got into this business. I spent my first big royalty cheque on the cape he wore in one of the movies.”
One of the knock-on effects of Superior is that it has brought MS into the spotlight. With a big-budget Hollywood adaptation on the cards for 2013, and Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn signed up, the Superior story is set to develop further. Mark has also teamed up with the US branch of the MS Society to help raise awareness of the condition through the character.
“The reaction from people online when they heard about the partnership [with the MS Society] was amazing,” Mark says. “I love the idea of a person with MS having someone they can relate to in an action movie, someone who’s been through what they’ve been through, but who’s up there catching planes or fighting off an alien invasion or any of the things superheroes do.”
All seven issues of Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu will be gathered in a hardback collection, which is set for release in February 2012.