By contrast, there’s never been the slightest confusion about Millar’s date of birth: December 24th 1969. Arriving on the last Christmas Eve of the Sixties was, in Millar’s estimation, a monumental stroke of good fortune. Others sharing his birthdate might bemoan the closeness on each year’s calendar of Christmas, and with it, the possibility that its celebrations might subsume more personal landmarks. That wasn’t even so, it seems, for Millar in his earliest years, who believed, up until or around his turning seven, “that all the Christmas lights up in (the) streets were for my birthday”. This endearingly grandiose grasp of his own importance is surely understandable. By his own account, Millar was “massively indulged” as a boy, having unexpectedly arrived, as a very late blessing, long after his siblings. Anyway, the passing years would soon put him right on the matter of whose birth it was that the wider community were celebrating at the tail-end of each December. It doesn’t seem to have diminished Millar’s enthusiasm for the season at all. As he enthused in 2021, he would always love having a Birthday falling on “Dec 24th”. Why have two separate celebrations when they might be fused together, their pleasures amplified and their responsibilities underscored? In Millar’s accounts, as here, in the details as well as the broad strokes, the stars aligned perfectly at his birth. As a consequence, he would have, despite hardships and, in his teens, tragedies, a happy and secure childhood. Furthermore, the time and place into which he was born would inspire him to become a writer while lending him a distinct storytelling sensibility. Even Christmas was, after a fashion, to be transformed by the chance of his birth.

As is often the way with Millar, he’s enjoyed putting the moment of his appearance into the world on Christmas Eve 1969 into the context of the time’s popular – if not Pop – culture. Beginning at nine o’clock that night on TV during the hour of Millar’s arrival was, as he’s several times explained, the joyfully vulgar Carry On Christmas. Transmitted on the commercial-carrying Scottish Television channel, the “innuendo laden tribute to Charles Dickens” certainly feels like a more appropriate herald of Millar’s arrival in the world than the BBC shows which were aired at the same time. (There were but three British channels available then.) On BBC1 at the same moment was Franz Lehar’s opera The Merry Widow, while BBC2 showed the quietly charming, if hardly dynamic, 1953 comedy Genevieve. Both suggest little if anything about the tone and content of Millar’s future career.

By their very nature, omens require contextualising. Millar, who has often discussed his conviction that the future can be predicted with reference to historically reoccurring cycles of events, certainly believes that interpretation demands a judicious separation of the signal from the noise. We might, accordingly, cast an eye on what else was prominent and, with the benefit of hindsight, symbolically relevant in the popular culture of December 1969. Where movies are concerned, and Millar has always loved the movies, we can safely discard the likes of the Barbara Streisand musical Hello Dolly. But the arrival on the 18th of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sixth James Movie film, and the first without Sean Connery, can easily be claimed as an augury. Millar has always been a voluble devotee of the Bond franchise, and comics of his such as 2012’s Secret Service / Kingsmen and 2021’s King Of Spies can be seen as both celebrations and critiques of the 007 movies.

With a considerably less palatable, and entirely inapposite, measure of unfortunate coincidence, convicted sex offender Rolf Harris’s twee Two Little Boys was the UK’s number 1 single at the same time, as Millar’s sister discovered to her dismay in 2019 when she sent off for the top 45” of Christmas 1969 as a birthday present for him. But then, music has only very rarely fired Millar’s enthusiasm and inspiration to the degree that comics and film, in particular, have. Had he been more interested in it beyond his beloved “Dad rock” 70s bands such as ELO and Queen, Millar might have also considered the presence of The Beatles’ Abbey Road at the head of the album charts at end of 1969 as a symbolically significant coincidence. As Iain MacDonald wrote in Revolution In The Head, “the extent to which The Beatles and the Sixties were symbiotic is difficult to imagine”. Now both were, appropriately enough, over, even if The Beatles’ painful and murky demise would stretch out into the Seventies for a few months yet. Mark Millar was to be very much a child of the new decade, not just by the obvious happenstance of his birth, but by the lasting and immeasurable influence of the period’s culture upon his taste, his writing and his convictions.


We are all strongly and enduringly shaped by our earliest years, of course. But in Mark Millar’s recollections, this is perhaps especially true. His loyalty to the world of his childhood, its fundamental values and everyday habits, its deeply-grounded traditions and longstanding community institutions, is adamantine. Even into his sixth decade, Millar’s work remains rooted in his experiences in predominantly working class and strongly Catholic Coatbridge during the Seventies and the first half of the Eighties. It is a matter of loyal continuity that is extremely important to him. To take but the single matter of his sense of humour, a 2013 Spectator interview with Peter Hoskins saw Millar responding to the accusation that he’d produced work that was “a little bit, y’know, puerile”:

“I feel my tastes haven’t changed tremendously since I was 15. What made me smile then makes me smile now.”

It’s a point he also made to Edmond Gross in the same year, albeit one made in a far broader context:

“I don’t think I’ve really changed that much from being about 15 to now.”

On a fundamental level, as Millar explained to Alison Rowan in 2015, his “personality was formed” by the age of seven, when he was already “into Sherlock Holmes, superheroes, Star Trek, so I was never going to be a ned”.

The implication is that Millar’s broad range of fantastical interests helped to cancel out any disastrously sybaritic temptations. Detectives, costumed crimefighters and spacemen: they filled up the hours that might otherwise inspire a derailing sense of boredom, meaninglessness, alienation and misanthropy, while they also helped propel Millar forward to a tomorrow where he could make a life from the raw stuff of pop culture. To be a Ned was, as the carelessly censorious label would have it, to be an anti-social, convention-scorning loafer and lout who habitually swigged Buckfast, a sweet and famously powerful wine laced with pure caffeine. Heroic fiction, it seems, worked to close off any possibility of Millar embracing the Ned stereotype. In that, genre adventures helped underscore the lessons imparted hour-upon-hour by his family and local community. Accordingly, the likes of Superman and Spider-Man served as moral anchors and inspirations, as Millar emphasised to Abraham Riesman in 2013 when responding to the suggestion that the idea of the superhero was “fundamentally fucked up”:

“Actually quite the opposite. I actually think the superhero is the ultimate in human aspiration. It’s brilliant. I think as a kid, it’s the best role model you can possibly have.”

At first glance, it’s something of a remarkable comment for a lifelong Catholic and Socialist to make. But in other moments, Millar has discussed how the figure of Jesus has informed his understanding of Superman, his favourite superhero. The suggestion has often been that he believes a well-informed and productive take on the Man Of Steel expresses the experiences of Christ while on his Earthly mission to First Century Palestine. This is not to confuse the Son of God with the Last Son Of Krypton. But it is to suggest that the world of super-people was understood, if at first intuitively, by the young Millar as an expression of the same fundamental values that he encountered in the home, at school and in Church. As such, Millar’s taste in stories provided far more than life-enriching entertainment and absorption. In combination with the social, political and religious worlds that Millar moved in, the likes of Superman and Spider-Man were lent singular weight as ethical exemplars of political and religious values. As such, to consider his own tales of super-spies and super-crimebusters and super-spacemen in isolation as fictions and nothing but is to miss the vital contexts that originally lent such figures their authority and appeal. If Superman can indeed be considered as “the ultimate in human aspiration”, it is, in this context, because he speaks to truths far more profound than the surface fripperies of superpeople showdowns, as absurdly enjoyable as they may well be.

In 2004, for example, Millar spelt out how his understanding of Superman remains intrinsically and vitally informed by his Catholicism. The relationship between religion and comics, which had, presumably, been taken largely for granted during his childhood, had in the intervening years become a consciously worked-through association:

“… Superman shouldn’t be married to Lois. It’s just stupid. It makes no sense and destroys the whole dynamic. Superman is God, Jor-El is the Holy Spirit and Clark Kent is Jesus. The Kents are Mary and Joseph and Lois is Mary Magdalene.”

None of this is to suggest that Millar has deliberately and painstakingly created a Gnostic fusion of politics, religion and heroic fiction, although these are clearly matters that he’s dedicated considerable thought to. But it is to suggest that the various, key, and acknowledged components of Millar’s worldview aren’t, and never have been, strictly compartmentalised one from the other. His socialism and his Christianity, for example, aren’t in any way held to be in serious conflict with each other. Instead, they appear to be part and parcel of the same fundamental, underlying and numinous truth. And so, despite the convictions of those who saw comics, and in particular American titles, as morally corrupting and intellectually enfeebling, Millar’s boyhood love for fictional super-people of all stripes appears to have reinforced rather than undermined his Catholic and working class values. Indeed, the more Millar’s own recollections and conclusions are encountered, the more it’s suggested that his character and creativity are grounded in a precisely, if initially accidentally, calibrated and delicately interwoven latticework of childhood influences and experiences. Rather than rotting his brain and perverting his morals, comics and their kin have actively helped Millar to be even more committed to traditional values. Or so his words strongly suggest.

If his success as a storyteller is indeed so rooted, then anything less than a continued fealty on Millar’s part to the path long laid down would be as disrespectful as it might be, potentially, creatively destabilising. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that Millar has, for example, held onto “a surreal and gruesome sense of humour”, as his once-friend, colleague and mentor Grant Morrison described it in 2011, a gleeful, prankstering, iconoclastic and sometimes knowingly cruel wit that rejects the twilight existence of the so-labelled Neds without opting instead for comfortable and inoffensive social conformity. What Hoskins saw as “puerile”, therefore, can also be seen as a vital everyday component of the world that Millar grew up in. It’s all part and parcel, in the words of Morrison, of a deep-rooted cultural tradition to be found in the “working-class West of Scotland”, a “black humour” that’s a single aspect of a common identity, to which Millar added as he grew, quite organically, the omnipresent and transformative thrills of fantastical fiction. It’s to that culture, and its various interdependent components, from the everyday business of how and why jokes are made to its most crucial building blocks of life-and-death principle, that Millar has always expressed loyalty to.


In Millar’s recollections, the content of heroic genre fiction mesh perfectly with five other fundamental influences upon his youthful development, namely, family, community, class, church, and nation. Each complimented, and still compliments, the other, and, as approached from Millar’s particular perspective, each is strengthened by the other’s presence. To these six factors, Millar’s public remembrances return over and over again. Together, he’s often reasoned, they provided him not just with a lasting moral framework, as vital as that undoubtedly is, but also with the perfect psychological hinterland for a storyteller’s career. Without them, he argues, his writing would lack an essential and invigorating degree of individuality that sets it apart from his competitors:

” I think your writing has an accent a little bit too, and the thing that makes my stuff a little bit different … is that I come from Coatbridge.”

And if Millar’s past has lent him a distinct perspective based on his upbringing, then it also fired him up with determination and confidence. As he explained to Tony Dann in 2022:

“if you come from a tiny place, it’s kind of a big deal, you’re the guy who can play the guitar or you’re the guy who’s good at drawing Batman. You see, you kind-of have this confidence: I’m the best at this … it’s only later you hit the adult world and you think, oh no, I’m not at all. But by that time, I was so imbued with confidence from growing up, so, surprisingly, you do well”.

Growing up in Coatbridge, according to Millar, lent his work a winning idiosyncratic texture while infusing him with a degree of optimism that little could lastingly dent. Next to those key advantages, growing up in “New York or London or somewhere like that” might well have resulted in a blandly homogenous style and an unhelpfully bruised ego. 


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