By Beau Smith

Travel. If ya read Busted Knuckles, then ya know I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like short flights and I sure as hell don’t like long ones. This week I had to take time out of my busy schedule at IDW Publishing and my even nuttier schedule of writin’ comics to get on a plane and head overseas. Target ? Mark Millar’s home turf ? Scotland.

For those of you that need a police blotter to get familiar with Mark’s record maybe this little bit of info will get ya up to speed:

Mark Millar has written Ultimate X-Men, The Ultimates and, together with Brian Bendis, Ultimate Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics in New York, the highest-selling launches of 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively. His previous work includes the sell-out Superman: Red Son for DC Comics and the revolutionary superhero title The Authority with artist Frank Quitely which launched his name as a major mainstream writer. In December 2003, he created his Millarworld imprint in partnership with Top Cow, Image, Dark Horse and Avatar Comics to produce Wanted, Run, Chosen and The Unfunnies. Wanted has since become the highest-selling independent comic of the last three years.

He is currently working on two major superhero screenplays and co-producing one of his comic-book adaptations, but still remains deeply in love with the comic book medium. His commitment to Marvel Comics extends until the end of 2005, for projects that include the new Spider-Man title and the relaunch of the best-selling The Ultimates with a second volume and a new number one first issue. He lives with his wife, his daughter, two goldfish and a hamster in his native Scotland and has no plans on moving anywhere else.

The above info was supplied by the good folks at Mark’s really nice website http://www.millarworld.net. It’s a real good site with a manly message board. There are lots of hardcore Millar fans there as well as comic book readers. I highly suggest that ya go there and hang out a while. Mark is real good about postin’ and there is always somethin’ good goin’ on.

Now that the free plug part is over, let’s get back to the core of the story. Travel.

I hate it.

Do ya know how long it takes to get to Scotland from Ceredo?

Too long.

When ya fly to a foreign country there are always people from that foreign country flyin’ on your plane. Unlike me, they talk real funny. Unlike me, they wanna engage in small talk. Unlike me, they seem to enjoy it.

When I fly on a crowded plane and I know I have to sit beside somebody for a long time I wish for one of two things. Either a very hot lookin’ babe in a short skirt that will not get too creeped out by me eyeballin’ em’ or a skinny little old lady. Why the skinny little old lady ya ask? Because they don’t take up much room, they don’t talk much ?if they do they are always very polite and they never seem to have to get up to use the bathroom.

I don’t like to sit beside yuppie mothers and their screamin’ brats that have never heard the word “No”. I don’t like sittin’ next to big people, they take up too much room. Most of all I don’t like sittin’ next to talkers of any age, size, gender, shape or form.

Am I bitchin’? Yeah?so do us both a favor and don’t sit next to me on a plane.

Anyway, The flight over was not bad. I got the second choice, a nice old lady. She never bugged me, whined about the meal or got up and used the bathroom. Life was good.

I won’t waste any more of your time with my travel log. Bottom line is I got there. Once I got outta the city part I hit some really beautiful scenery. I’ve had family that had been to Scotland a few times and they always came back with great stories of how beautiful it is. They were right. I decided to drive myself to meet Mark. Ya know, soak in a little more atmosphere. They didn’t have a truck for me to rent so I ended up with some weird little car that looked like it was from 60s foreign movie where there are subtitles.

I musta stripped the gearbox on that little roller skate on tires because it made all sorts of funny noises when I shifted. Had to be the car. Couldn’t have been my manly fault. Ya see, I don’t worry about stuff like that. That’s also why I will never have an ulcer. I don’t care.

It was pre-planned that I meet Mark at this “pub” he told me about. Ya see there’s another thing about those of foreign birth, over there they call it a pub. Where I come from it’s a beer joint. Different names, same results, beer.

Believe it or not I found the place without too much trouble. I was surprised. I’m not the best at directions. Lord knows I refuse to ask for em’. It’s not my way. So that means Mark was real good at emailin’ me the path to follow.

The pub looked like it had been there for 400 years. I guess when ya think about Scotland it just might have been. That was fine with me. The older the place the better. That means they know what they’re doin to be in business that long. These guys musta really known their stuff.

I parked the car where it looked like it would stay put. There was an old guy walkin’ his goats down in front of the place. I liked that. I could sense that there weren’t gonna be any punk frat-boys at this place. They can take their Maxim Magazine readin’ ass elsewhere.

I walked in the place and liked it right off. It was dark and smelled of beer. There were folks of all ages in the place. Old guys playin’ some sorta card game by the window. There were some younger guys over by the bar. You could tell by their clothes they worked for a livin’. Everybody seemed to have mud on their boots. That’s always a very good sign. The bar was made of wood. Old wood. The kind that if it could talk it would have manly stories that would thrill ya for a lifetime.

I stepped up to the bar and asked the big guy behind it if Mark Millar had been seen here today. He smiled and said that Mark was here and was waitin’ for me. He mentioned that I must be the American that Mark had told him about earlier. He said the cowboy hat was a dead giveaway. He handed me an ale and said that Mark’s table was in the next room to the left.

I thanked him and wandered into the next room. There I was met by a guy that stood a good 5 inches taller than me. A brute of a man. I could tell right off that this guy musta played rugby most of his life. He had the look. He was also wearin’ a rugby shirt that looked like it had never been washed. There was still grass and blood stains on it. They looked fresh. He informed me that this was a private party. I informed him that I was invited. He said that he didn’t know me. I replied that he was a stranger to me as well. We both shifted our stance at the same time. That happens when ya might have to throw a punch. Ya want to be able to to get a short, quick shot in and ya don’t wanna be standing square. That’ll get ya knocked off balance and on your ass real quick.

With him bein’ taller I figured I was gonna hit him in the throat real fast like. That’ll cut down the size difference pretty quick. His eyes were watchin’ the hand I had the beer in. I think he was figurin’ I might wanna throw it in his face to distract him or maybe he thought I was gonna brain him with it. That was fine. Let him ponder on that. More of a chance for me to go for his throat. He was thinkin’ defense. I was thinkin’ offense.

We never got to play out that little game. It was then that yet another funny soundin’ voice called from behind the big guy.

“Vincent, no need for sortin’ this fellow out. I’ve been waiting for him, remember? the cowboy hat?”

My new friend, Vincent, looked at my hat and then it was like a light bulb went off in his head. His expression was one of delight that he had figured it out. His brutish face cracked a smile and he stuck out his giant sized hand to me.

“Put her there, mate. I’m Vincent. You must be Beau. Mark said you’d be comin’,” Vincent said in his most friendly tone. I could tell he was genuinely pleased to meet me? now.

I returned the handshake and my hand was lost in the Bermuda Triangle of flesh. Vincent’s hand was huge. It was then that Mark walked out from behind the eclipse of the sun called Vincent. This was the first time I had met Mark in person. He pretty much looked like most of the photos I had seem of him in Wizard and on the web. A few inches shorter than me, wavy hair and, of course? he talked funny? unlike me.

We shook hands and then he motioned for me to his table. He was there with some of his “mates” as they call themselves in this part of the world. That means amigos to guys like you and me. Most of em’ had funny soundin’ names. That’s okay. If the situation was reversed and Mark was on my turf I’m sure that he would think my buddies, Rob Earl, Billy Bob, Odell, and Lamar had funny soundin’ names. Imagine that.

I noticed that Mark had a big ol’ mug of Guinness. I think they refer to em’ as pints in Scotland. I always wondered why they drank em’ in pints. That just means more trips to the bar. I like mine in quart bottles. Save walks to the bar and trips for the waitress.

I was immediately taken with Mark’s ability to make ya feel at home. We had some mutual friends in comics. They all had nothin’ but good things to say about Mark. That’s always a good sign when a person comes with high marks from your buddies. Mark asked what my favorite beer was because he was buyin’. I told him that my favorite beer was what ever he was buyin’. My taste buds love the taste of a good beer. My brain cells aren’t as particular, like Lemmings they just take it in and then jump off the cliff. My bladder? well? it let’s my body sort out what it need s and then it gets rid of the rest.

That’s Beauology 101 – The Manly Body.

Mark and I spent about an hour talkin’ about comics, friends and family. The beers kept comin’. The conversation was good. The only part where Mark and I parted company were some points of politics. I usually don’t get too deep into conversations of politics and religion with folks. I figure that to each his own and I don’t try and shove my beliefs down their neck. I’ve never cottoned much for folks tryin’ to cram theirs down mine. I like a good spirited discussion, but as long as it doesn’t get to the point where the two of ya are just yellin’ at each other. I’d rather keep an old friend than invent a new enemy. I used to have lots of enemies in the old days. Most of them are gone now. I don’t need to plant another crop of em’.

I looked at my watch and saw that it was time to haul out my Five Manly Questions. Mark was pretty stoked about answerin’ em’. Another round arrived and that was our cue to have at it. Here’s how it went down:

Beau: What annoyin’ celebrity would ya like to smack in the head with a shovel or stab in the eye with a rusty fork?

Mark: The list is endless. I hate to sound like one of those people stalking the Hollywood Hills with duct tape and a stun gun, but there’s so many of these guys who get under my skin I don’t even know where to start.

What it all boils down to, I think, is my complete amazement that the general public admire such a large group of needy, dysfunctional assholes. I appreciate that there’s a certain skill in bringing these characters to life, but it’s when they start believing their own bullshit that I reach for the sharp objects. I hate Will Smith, hate Forrest Whittaker and loathe Reece Witherspoon. The worst film I’ve ever seen in my life is Sweet Home Alabama. It was the first Republican hick-flick I’ve ever seen and left with me a terrible feeling. Bad Boys 2 was likewise the first film of the New World Order, right down to the Guantanamo Bay guards-as-heroes ending that had me standing up and yelling in the cinema (yes, I am losing my mind). However, my number one bete noir is probably Bruce Willis. I fucking DETEST this guy. He’s the phoniest tough guy in the history of movies. How creepy is it to see someone who trained in the New York Actors’ Studio dressing up in army clothes and visiting the troops in Iraq? I mean, COME ON! His most laughable quote was when he said he wanted to get his hands on Saddam and had asked the President to give him ten minutes alone in a locked room with him. Saddam could kick this guy’s ass. The only real danger would be Willis SHAGGING the captured despot.

Beau: Other than your own beautiful and understanding wife, name some of the sexiest babes on the planet. That is if Hitch won’t get jealous either.

Mark: Okay, now we’re talking. I much prefer thinking about people I like rather than people I hate so I’d have to opt for Julianne Moore. She’s Hollywood’s top MILF and really smart as well as beautiful. In the words of David Brent, I like a woman to be as intelligent or maybe slightly less intelligent than I am and she completely appeals to that side of my brain.

I’ve always dug older woman and now I’m 34 these women are getting worryingly older still (Moore is around ten years older than me). In terms of pure sexiness, though, I don’t know if any of the Hollywood A-list really score. I was talking to my wife’s friends about how Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Andie McDowell, et al, all look like men and they said that these actresses aren’t there to appeal to men as much as appeal to women as being likeable. That’s why these big movie stars are seldom sexy and it makes a lot of sense when you think they’re all designed for chick-flicks. That’s also why porn stars are much hotter than movie stars because they appeal directly to guys. I think, if I had to choose a celebrity, it would be someone outside of acting for this very reason. Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor is pretty close to my perfect girl. I used to fancy her Mum too when she was a TV presenter over here. Lots of chicks who read the news, for some reason. The BBC’s Fiona Bruce kind of reminds me of my wife and I find Condoleeza Rice oddly attractive. She’s a bit funny looking, but strikes me as someone who’d get pretty dirty once you distracted her from talking about UN resolutions and all that shit.

Beau: I gotta say, Mark, that’s one of the most varied and interesting lists I’ve heard yet. Next question: Name some manly movies that every real man should see if he wants to rev up his testosterone or better yet learn from someone other than their parents what a real man is like.

Mark: Ah, this is easy. Jaws.

Jaws is the greatest movie ever made. It’s just the perfect film. I saw it in the cinema when I was six and it gave me a lifelong love of sharks and a lifelong fear of being eaten by one. You could have told that story 5000 years ago and it would still have worked. It’s really primal. A monster is picking off people in your community and three very different guys get together and go kill it. What could be simpler and more interesting than that? Any Clint movie from the 60s and 70s, of course. Anything starring The Duke. I’m more left wing that probably anyone reading this column and yet often end up friends with right-wingers for some reason. They just tend to be funnier. John Wayne really comes across as engaging when you see him getting interviewed. Early Harrison Ford was also a guarantee of a good guy’s movie until maybe 1986. What the Hell happened there? The Godfather movies, of course. Gill and I watch these at least once a year. The seventies was great for guy movies with everything from the classy (like Godfather and Jaws) to just good fun stuff like Freebie and The Bean, Smokey and The Bandit, and anything with Clint hanging out with a monkey buddy.

What happened to movie bar-room brawls?

Beau: Mark, what manly CDs are ya listenin’ to right now or suggest to my tone deaf readers?

Mark: I don’t think there’s such a thing as manly music. Country and Western PRETENDS to be manly, but it’s the gayest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Garth Brooks just looks like gay porn. I like the 70s stuff like Kenny Rogers where the aforementioned bar-room brawl makes its way into every single music video he ever made and the songs were always about getting revenge on the guys who raped your mum, and so on? but I think I’ll opt for limp-wristed British music any day. I love guitar solos and The Darkness is playing as I type. Also love Bond soundtracks. Not the manly ones of Sean Connery for me this week, though, but instead it’s the Burt Bacharach-penned Casino Royale that I was playing over breakfast.

Beau: [I didn’t really wanna know how Mark knew what gay porn looked like. Some things are best left unsaid or for Warren Ellis to try and blind ya with a link.]

Name your latest and upcoming manly work in comics and entertainment so my manly readers can steal the money from their mom’s purse to buy it. Name the publisher as well.

Mark: Man, let me think: I’m writing Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Ultimates 2 for Marvel at the moment. These are small, very personal projects and not a lot of people have heard of the characters so I hope your readers go out on a limb and take a chance on this stuff at the expense of Demo, and Y, The Last Man. Upcoming books include a VERY manly title for Marvel and ANOTHER very manly title for Marvel and then I disappear for a year as I work on Millarworld 2. This is the, uh, sequel to Millarworld 1.

Beau: Bonus Question Just For You: Name the most manly American comic book writers you know.

Mark: Well, up until today we hadn’t met in the flesh yet, Beau, so for all I knew you could’ve been a mincing, simpering queen with a fetish for tough-guy talk so I’ll have to leave you off my list for now. Or until I get to know you better.

Toughest American pro? Chuck [Dixon] would be an obvious choice. He looks a lot like those former black ops marines now running martial arts training camps and I know he likes guns, but he’s such a nice big guy. I don’t know if I could imagine him hurting somebody. He’s a sweet guy. Steranko and Starlin still look like they could handle themselves. Somebody was telling me Starlin used to be a green beret and he’s still in really good shape. Same goes for John Romita Jr. He looks like he’d be pretty good in a fight. All the ones in my age-group are pussies, though. They talk the talk, but they’re all just art school boys with World Music albums in their CD collection and limp goatee beards. Wolverine editor Jenny Lee could kick all their asses. No kidding, she runs a martial arts school and is a kind of real-life Elektra. I’ve seen videos of her crucifying gangs of people. She’s actually quite terrifying. She’s small, pretty and very smart and engaging, but she could destroy each and every one of you in three simple moves. So Jenny gets my vote, I’m afraid.

I took Mark’s remark about me bein’ a simprin’ Queen with a fetish for tough guy talk in stride. After all, before I got to sit down with him at this little meetin’ I thought he might be Bryan Hitch’s personal galley boy and resident fancy lad. Goes to show ya that ya shouldn’t judge a person until they buy ya a beer.

The night had moved on passed us. It was just a few minutes before dawn when we finished our conversation. Most of Mark’s buddies were sawin’ logs at various places in the pub. All except Vincent. He was still in the other room with a couple of his rugby pals? er? mates? singin’ Scottish rugby fight songs.

Mark suggested that we grab somethin’ to eat at a local eatery that he went to on a regular basis. I said it sounded good. He wanted to ask me about the story of Chuck Dixon and Larry Hama havin’ a target shootin’ contest in the Marvel Offices back in the day when Marvel was a more manly place to carry a gun and threaten people.

Since I’ve been around in comics a while, young guys like Mark are always askin’ me to tell em’ about the good old days when men in comics were all geeks , the women were all ugly and I had all their lunch money.

Some things have changed, I haven’t.

My time with Mark was good. I feel I’ve got a new amigo I look forward to hangin’ with him again. Even if he does talk funny.

Make sure y’all check out Mark’s website http://www.millarworld.net and buy his comics. Hell, ya might even wanna talk politics with him. Also make sure ya check out all the news and brand new photos that I’ve put up on my own manly website http://www.flyingfistranch.com. Go there now and feel good about yourself.

Your amigo,
Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
http://www.flyingfistranch.com


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About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin