What's So Bad About Mark Millar?

Abomination

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I'm glad he put rape in his comics and I'm glad he told people to stop being so knee-jerky about it.

Girl gets raped, it's not nice, the comic doesn't portray it as a "good" thing... why is this an issue? Is rape not allowed to happen in any work of fiction? Or is there some certified rape author accreditation someone must achieve before they can write about it?

************ is an evil bastard, how evil? He rapes people. Yeah, it's not Shakespeare, it's a bit ham-fisted but it's still valid.
 

Lieju

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Abomination said:
I'm glad he put rape in his comics and I'm glad he told people to stop being so knee-jerky about it.

Girl gets raped, it's not nice, the comic doesn't portray it as a "good" thing... why is this an issue? Is rape not allowed to happen in any work of fiction? Or is there some certified rape author accreditation someone must achieve before they can write about it?

************ is an evil bastard, how evil? He rapes people. Yeah, it's not Shakespeare, it's a bit ham-fisted but it's still valid.
It's not that rape shouldn't be portrayed, but we can criticise it when it's done badly.

To give you an example of a woman raped in a comic, that helps male character's development, and is written by a man, that I have no problem with;

Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
There is a part where the muse Calliope is imprisoned by an author who keeps her for decades locked in a room and rapes her to get inspiration. Eventually Dream shows up to free her.

But it's her story, and it's not sexualised. Also it's more than cheap shock, the rapist is more nuanced that 'lol, evil', and it takes the concept of a muse and turns it horror.

Millar, on the other hand, has stated that rape is the same as death in a narrative, and this is wrong. I'm going to repeat myself here; death is about those left behind, rape is about the victim.

When death happens in real life, the people it touches are the friends, and the family, and the enemies etc. Rape leaves a living victim. So it's disturbing how common it's to put that in a story and then make it about the victim's boyfriend/dad/etc like that's the person most affected by it.
 

rob_simple

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evilthecat said:
This is not the kind of person who is fit to write about rape. If you are writing it and find you have no emotional response to it, put the pen down. Noone else, particularly the people who actually understand what you're talking about, wants to have to deal with your low-empathy bullshit.
Which is why no one is forcing anyone to read it. Honestly, I'd never heard about any of this Millar controversy before, but now that I have, and if I had a problem with rape fiction, I would stay away from his work because it wouldn't appeal to me. You can say he is not fit to write about it all you want, but if he's still getting paid to do it, that means that someone thinks it's profitable for him to do so, which means that a lot of people either disagree with you, or just don't care.

Also:
It's basically giving the middle finger to a surprisingly large section of the female population (and a small but statistically significant proportion of the male population). You can bleat on about how murder is so much worse, but there aren't going to be murder victims in your audience.
Okay, how about getting stabbed/assaulted? I'm willing to bet that there are just as many victims of GBH in the world as there are victims of rape --possibly more, seeing as that Venn diagram probably overlaps a lot-- so how is it okay to give the middle finger to a gigantic portion of the population who have been affected by regular violence and make incredibly brutal scenes of regular assault?

And I know you're going to say something along the lines of 'getting beaten isn't as bad as getting raped because of the violation part' but, personally speaking, if it's a knife in my stomach (which funnily enough Kickass also has) or a cock up my arse, I'm not going to be in a rush to re-live either experience.
 

Boris Goodenough

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Having just read through it, they don't show the rape in the comic and when you see her again she's most likely in a coma from the assault (and not seen again after that).
Mother Fucker even gets flack from his own men for doing it.
This happens right after he slaughtered several kids and a fair few grown-ups in a suburban neighbourhood.
 

Abomination

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FargoDog said:
Abomination said:
I'm glad he put rape in his comics and I'm glad he told people to stop being so knee-jerky about it.

Girl gets raped, it's not nice, the comic doesn't portray it as a "good" thing... why is this an issue? Is rape not allowed to happen in any work of fiction? Or is there some certified rape author accreditation someone must achieve before they can write about it?

************ is an evil bastard, how evil? He rapes people. Yeah, it's not Shakespeare, it's a bit ham-fisted but it's still valid.
I don't think you're seeing the point here. The issue with the Kick-Ass 2 scene in particular is that it portrays the rape as entirely from the point of view of the rapist, who shows almost no remorse. If a point was to be made about how horrible and awful rape is, then there needs to be some communication about how the rape affects the actual victim or the people who care about them. Your whole argument is hyperbolic. Of course people can write about rape. It's a real world issue that affects people and affects them long after the time. But it needs to be treated with at least some gravitas, and at least some poignancy. Rape being used as a shorthand for 'This guy is a bad guy' is cheap and pretty disgusting.

You could argue 'Well, why is murder not treated the same way?' Because it's a lot easier for most people to understand the consequences and even rationalise murder then it is rape. Unless you've been raped or know someone very close to you who's been raped, I don't know if most people 'get' why it's so atrocious, or what it does to someone mentally and physically for years after. It's much more complex and puts much more emphasis on victimization, and that's why it fails as simply a tool to show that the bad guy is bad.
You mean what it CAN do to someone mentally and physically...

It's a piece of fiction, it's viewing a scenario through the lens none of us are (I hope) ever going to see. It's a horrible act, just as horrible as writing about a villain doing any other horrible thing like bombing a school, or a hospital, or forcing people to kill each other... or any number of horrible things.

Yet for some arbitrary reason rape is off the table. You can write about someone dropping nukes on people, you can play a person who nukes an entire town just for shits and giggles... but rape is supposedly "worse".

It's all bad, which one is greater or lesser is entirely subjective. His methods of writing might be ham-fisted or "cheap" way of establishing how disgusting a character is... but that doesn't make him sexist, a misogynist or possessing of any other negative moral character flaw.

Where has he ever hinted at the idea that raping something isn't a horrible thing to do to someone?
 

Terminal Blue

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rob_simple said:
Which is why no one is forcing anyone to read it. Honestly, I'd never heard about any of this Millar controversy before, but now that I have, and if I had a problem with rape fiction, I would stay away from his work because it wouldn't appeal to me. You can say he is not fit to write about it all you want, but if he's still getting paid to do it, that means that someone thinks it's profitable for him to do so, which means that a lot of people either disagree with you, or just don't care.
I'm just going to repeat myself.

2) A large proportion of the population is demonstrable incapable of reacting to rape with any kind of empathy, because they have no experience and no genuine understanding of it. For most men and a few women, rape is something which happens to other people and will never significantly affect them. People do not react to rape like they react to murder, they are not capable of understanding its effect on the victim because they have never imagined themselves as victims and will never have to.
Hint: This now includes you.
 

Raikas

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rob_simple said:
Which is why no one is forcing anyone to read it. Honestly, I'd never heard about any of this Millar controversy before, but now that I have, and if I had a problem with rape fiction, I would stay away from his work because it wouldn't appeal to me. You can say he is not fit to write about it all you want, but if he's still getting paid to do it, that means that someone thinks it's profitable for him to do so, which means that a lot of people either disagree with you, or just don't care.
I think that's misrepresenting the issue though, because it's not about having "a problem with rape fiction". Plenty of people have written rape scenes in comics (Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis have all been mentioned in this thread) that aren't problematic in the same way because it's not about rape in-and-of itself.

I don't think there are many people out there who keep buying the work of people whose writing style they despise, so it's absurd to say that they should just stay away - they probably are, but they had to read something and recognize that it had issues in order to make that decision. And if you end up in a discussion of his work (because a movie based on it just came out, or because someone else is recommending something) then it makes sense to talk about what those issues are.

Like I said, I was a fan (years ago, so way before the KA2 scene we're talking about) until I realized that he was all show/no substance - but it took a while because you don't necessarily notice that there's no point right away. And that's precisely because plenty of other writers use the same kind of scene as build up to something that actually has meaning.
 

SonicWaffle

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Lieju said:
I haven't read the book in question, so tell me, how is the victim's point of view handled?
It isn't. The character is basically "standard disposable comic book girlfriend", and doesn't really have anything beyond being a love interest for the main character. She's also beaten pretty brutally and falls into a coma, so there's no exploration of her reaction afterwards either. You could write that off as another semi-parody of comic books tropes (whereby the woman only exists for the hero to have feelings for or be used as a weapon against him) if you're willing to give Millar that much credit, but I don't think I'd buy it.

My argument is not "this is a worthy portrayal of rape and its emotional fallout", just that it has more purpose in the story than "let's have a rape scene now!"

Lieju said:
Because wouldn't showing what being rape is like for the victim realistically and focusing on her point of view taking the common trope and bringing it to the real world, showing the real consequences?

Because wasn't the point of the comic to show what superheroes and those tropes would be in real life? Handling the rape like that is not commenting on the trope, it's just using it.
Despite what the fans would claim, showing the realistic consequences of actions was never really the point of the comic. Otherwise Kick-Ass would be dead pretty early on, or crippled.
 

rob_simple

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Raikas said:
rob_simple said:
Which is why no one is forcing anyone to read it. Honestly, I'd never heard about any of this Millar controversy before, but now that I have, and if I had a problem with rape fiction, I would stay away from his work because it wouldn't appeal to me. You can say he is not fit to write about it all you want, but if he's still getting paid to do it, that means that someone thinks it's profitable for him to do so, which means that a lot of people either disagree with you, or just don't care.
I think that's misrepresenting the issue though, because it's not about having "a problem with rape fiction". Plenty of people have written rape scenes in comics (Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis have all been mentioned in this thread) that aren't problematic in the same way because it's not about rape in-and-of itself.

I don't think there are many people out there who keep buying the work of people whose writing style they despise, so it's absurd to say that they should just stay away - they probably are, but they had to read something and recognize that it had issues in order to make that decision. And if you end up in a discussion of his work (because a movie based on it just came out, or because someone else is recommending something) then it makes sense to talk about what those issues are.

Like I said, I was a fan (years ago, so way before the KA2 scene we're talking about) until I realized that he was all show/no substance - but it took a while because you don't necessarily notice that there's no point right away. And that's precisely because plenty of other writers use the same kind of scene as build up to something that actually has meaning.
Oh I completely agree that it's a valid point of discussion, but I was taking issue with the guy saying what Millar should and shouldn't do. It's Millar's right as an artist to make bad rape fiction, just like it's our right to call it bad.

I'm all for hearing what problems people have with artists, especially when the things they don't like about them are what I find appealing, but when I see 'I don't like X therefore they shouldn't do it' that feels less like discussion and more like 'I know how the world works, everyone do as I say.'
 

rob_simple

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evilthecat said:
rob_simple said:
Which is why no one is forcing anyone to read it. Honestly, I'd never heard about any of this Millar controversy before, but now that I have, and if I had a problem with rape fiction, I would stay away from his work because it wouldn't appeal to me. You can say he is not fit to write about it all you want, but if he's still getting paid to do it, that means that someone thinks it's profitable for him to do so, which means that a lot of people either disagree with you, or just don't care.
I'm just going to repeat myself.

2) A large proportion of the population is demonstrable incapable of reacting to rape with any kind of empathy, because they have no experience and no genuine understanding of it. For most men and a few women, rape is something which happens to other people and will never significantly affect them. People do not react to rape like they react to murder, they are not capable of understanding its effect on the victim because they have never imagined themselves as victims and will never have to.
Hint: This now includes you.
Sorry, but I have no experience or understanding of being stabbed either. My point stands.
 

Therumancer

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So Kick-Ass 2 is in theatres now, and people (like MovieBob) are using the opportunity to talk about Mark Millar, the writer of the comics that inspired both the Kick-Ass and Wanted films (I haven't seen KA, but the Wanted movie was the most loosely-based "Adaptation" of all ti>ime).

What's funny is that people are talking about Mark Millar as a misogynist and an immature writer who loves violence too much. For example, apparently a girl is raped in Kick-Ass 2, and that makes Millar a misgynist. Take this quote:

Laura Hudson, the former editor-in-chief of the popular blog Comics Alliance and a senior editor at Wired, thought that scene was deplorable, but typical of Millar. ?There's one and only one reason that happens, and it's to piss off the male character,? she said. ?It's using a trauma you don't understand in a way whose implications you can't understand, and then talking about it as though you're doing the same thing as having someone's head explode. You're not. Those two things are not equivalent, and if you don't understand, you shouldn't be writing rape scenes.?

I'm really tired of seeing women write that men can't understand rape, or that a comic with tons of death and estruction is only pushing too far if rape is involed (I'm one of those "death is worse than rape" types).

I've also heard that Millar is pretty carefree in addressing these issues and does so in a way that pisses some people off. Which is also crap in my opinion, because he should be allowed to feel how he wants and you can just vote with your wallet. I can agree with nothing Millar has done in the last few years matches with what he'd done before (His Ultimate Marvel work is one of the high-water marks for straight superhero comics, in my opinion), but I don't understand the hate he gets these days for his ideas of violence.

So, two questions: Can someone point me to anything particularly nasty, by any definition, he's said in an interview regarding this kind of stuff? And also, what do you think of his writing, or depictions of extreme violence in general? Who gets to write those things and who doesn't?
I haven't had a lot of time for message boards recently, but I was checking up on The Escapist and this caught my attention because it blinked up as under discussion on the main page.

As I've said many times on these forums, with the predictable backlash from the usual crowd of backlashers, most issues like this are simply an attempt for someone to get attention and/or a platform without any real substance to the argument. In this case it gets the name of people like Laura Hudson out there in the spotlight, when to be honest most people probably wouldn't have heard of her anyway despite her writing experience.

It's like this: rape happens, for the most part women can't avenge themselves, or at least most can't ( and lets be honest, even in fantasy if they were hero-material it wouldn't have happened to begin with ). It might be easy writing, but some guy heading out to avenge his girlfriend/daughter/wife/whomever is something a lot of people can associate with, and like many plot hooks it continues because it works, there is no real reason to change it or mix it up, how well it works usually involves the events surrounding the story. Incidently there have been stories where women HAVE avenged themselves after being raped (ie training into a combat machine and coming back looking for revenge), some versions of Red Sonja for example feature this as a key element of the character's origin. There have also been cases where super heroines have rescued their boyfriends from the bad guys. The main difference in many case is that people don't tend to take men bring raped by women seriously, no matter how unwilling it's presented as in the storylines (oh well, that's the stuff of male fantasy go the dismissals). Interestingly, while I wouldn't recommend it's take on gender politics for anything other than kinky roleplay, you might notice that even Gor has featured some role reversal with men being raped. It could be argued that the events which cause Tarl Cabot to become a broken shadow of himself for like 10 books, renaming himself "Bosk Of Port Karr" represents a huge treatise of a sort on the effects of a powerful man being raped. For those who actually READ Gor, Tarl was kind of a nice guy to begin with, opposed to a lot of what was going on in Gor, it wasn't until he's betrayed and turned into a slave himself that he winds up really becoming a Gorean bastard. The origins of Jason Marshall and his first experiences on Gor represent another rarely mentioned take on the subject. The point here is that this kind of thing DOES happen even if it's not taken seriouisly, dismissed, or conveniently forgotten about by those who want to be critical. Until such a time as some dude pretty much gets prison raped in a mainstream comic and has his superhero girlfriend go hunting down the people who did it, and the existence of this storyline is pretty much skywritten over every major city in the USA, some people are going to continue to live in denial here in associating any mention of rape in fantasy with Misogyny for the sake of garnering attention.

At any rate it's sort of like people jumping on FRANK Miller years before this and affecting his career for a few headlines. This was the guy who gave us tons of awesome comics, more so than Mark Millar (Frank highlighted to make the difference of who I'm talking about clear due to the similar last names), until people started riding him for no particularly good reason with claims like "Oh gee, why is it that almost every woman in Frank's writing is a prostitute or former prostitute" this accusation being kind of mind blowing since it usually involves talking about Sin City characters (note the name) or the way he redefined Catwoman for a while, by way of making a kind of valid point that the only place you'd likely find something like she wears is in a fetish shop, unless you just happened to be a really experienced leatherworker with a bunch of specialized equipment which would be adding a whole new skill set into a character whose skills already push the limits of disbelief, and whom Frank was trying to make a bit more realistic. To be honest that idea for Catwoman never especially bothered me because lets be honest... think about how she acts, and the fact that she uses seduction to play all sides of the Gotham underworld/vigilante equasion. Oddly enough I've always felt that she had to be doing Oswald Cobblepot once in a while as the only logical explanation for why he keeps letting her play him without putting her in the ground other than some trivial efforts (for him) with whatever thugs he has on hand when she actually cheats him to his face in front of witnesses... but that's a side point that has nothing to do with anything.

-

Oh yes as another point. One has to be really careful with comics when you blame the writer and when you blame the artists and the guys putting the comic together. I've read a few things over the years about how writers have commented on what they come up with isn't always what winds up on the pages once management adjusts things, or the artists (who are given huge creative liberties) get their hands on things an decide how to tell the story sequentially. Just because you see a graphic rape scene that goes on for however many panels and includes X dialogue, does not mean that the writer is actually responsible for the specifics of the scene. It could be the artist that really got off on the rape scene, or management that figured focusing on more shocking sexual content would be good for a comic book based on shock.

To be honest the wrestling match between writers and artists is kind of legendary on it's own before you even involve management. How much of a group effort comics can be is something a lot of people don't consider, the guys running "point" and saying it's their work aren't always the ones who are most responsible for the finale product. Indeed these kinds of conflicts were largely what caused Image comics to form back in the 1990s (Moviebob also mentioned this) largely due to wanting to control the rights to their characters and artwork in a business sense, but also to get away from managers and writers. Some of Image's early failures were largely an example of why the guys who do great art and can come up with decent characters aren't always the best choice for writing the stories involving them.

It sounds odd (and is an even odder way to end this post), but it's important to consider that going after Millar as the writer/creator/pointman, if you feel there is an issue here to begin with (which I don't) isn't necessarily the right track to take, even if the guy seems to be claiming responsibility for the entire thing (which could be a contractual obligation). If your going to criticize a comic like this, you should have some idea of who actually did and contributed what.

Of course to be fair I don't follow Mark Millar and didn't pay that much attention to the stuff he's done that I've read, so for all I know he's both the writer and the artist. At which point one has to still question the management.
 

Lieju

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SonicWaffle said:
Despite what the fans would claim, showing the realistic consequences of actions was never really the point of the comic. Otherwise Kick-Ass would be dead pretty early on, or crippled.
It kinda failed at that, then. But Millar has stated that it was about 'what would actually happen if people tried to become superheroes in real life'.
 

LiquidGrape

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Mark Millar is an incredulous hack who wants to have his cake and eat it. Or more accurately, have his liberal, equality-loving credentials intact while indulging in highly gendered shock factor.
 

SonicWaffle

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Lieju said:
SonicWaffle said:
Despite what the fans would claim, showing the realistic consequences of actions was never really the point of the comic. Otherwise Kick-Ass would be dead pretty early on, or crippled.
It kinda failed at that, then. But Millar has stated that it was about 'what would actually happen if people tried to become superheroes in real life'.
Yeah, he said that, and then wrote a book about an 11-year-old ninja capable of defeating entire rooms of armed gangsters with a sword.

Realism, thy name is not Kick-Ass.
 

Therumancer

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Lieju said:
SonicWaffle said:
Despite what the fans would claim, showing the realistic consequences of actions was never really the point of the comic. Otherwise Kick-Ass would be dead pretty early on, or crippled.
It kinda failed at that, then. But Millar has stated that it was about 'what would actually happen if people tried to become superheroes in real life'.
Well, the whole problem with the "real life super heroes" thing is that nobody has any real super powers, that's the big thing missing from the equasion and it changes everything. In doing this kind of "physical training" hero, those
who rely on skills and athletics, the "epic fail" generally relies on the characters being relatively ordinary people as opposed to the kinds of characters in comics that would seek out this kind of life. On some levels "Kick Ass" is clever in showing both sides of it.

The thing to understand though is that people tend not to look at the "big picture" of a lot of super heroes where the antics of characters like Spider Man, and even Bat Man (who is buddies with the Comissioner no less) are routinely presented as public menaces, dark urban legends, and hunted by the police. A super hero in real life would be indistinguishable from one of the bad guys to the common person, which is also a problem heroes face in comics but tends to be forgotten in light of stories that focus on the character and those who come to realize he/she is a hero rather than the fearful masses. Without powers, the whole "public hero"/"Icon" thing cannot work however, and it would be foolish to try, even in comics most public heroes have powers, even if it's the result of gadgets (I mean even Hawkeye in the comics is supposed to be a gizmoteer capable of pretty much putting anything he wants into an arrow head... imagine what this guy could do in the private sector simply in terms of miniaturization....).

To put this into perspective, let's say I decide to dress up in a scary "dark hero" costume and go around killing dirtbags. I commit breaking and entering/home invasions and using what I know about criminology and forensics to get away with in a few times, leaving behind an ornate "T" calling card so everyone knows "Therumancer" is on the loose killing those that the system can't handle. I could probably actually do this, though I have no illusions about eventually being caught. To the public my antics are going to cause fear, the media is going to focus on how all the people I killed had families, and their positive accomplishments, to everyone I'm a bloody seriel killer. Neither the media or the police are going to go around admitting their begrudging respect for "Therumancer", and how they are secretly grateful that I'm killing bad guys, everyone is going to be afraid I might kill them.

Now let's take this one step further. Let's say we have some rich kid with millions at his disposal who happens to have an IQ of 180+, forensics/Criminal Justice training, and manages to both become a collegiate Decathlon champion, successful Amateur Boxer, and enjoys a Brock-Lesner-like collegiate wrestling career while perhaps studying some parkour on the side. This guy decides like in a comic book that instead of enjoying his perfect life he is going to give back to society and does the same thing. He lurks around doing the same thing I did but is not only more successful at it being better than me in every conceivable way, but also in possession of such a vast fortune he can simply pay to cover his tracks, and if ever caught the police would have to worry about facing an OJ-Simpson-like legal defense team. At the end of the day this guy could take out a lot of bad guys, and might even get away with it, but he wouldn't be loved by the public, would be treated as a murderous crime lord if he was caught, and even if he kept going indefinatly probably wouldn't make much of a difference. I mean you could literally kill a dirtbag every night, racking up a body count that would even make the Punisher envious, and at the end of the day you wouldn't accomplish anything.

The point here is that I think Mark Millar is trying to shock people, I don't think he's really approaching the situation from the mentioned angle, because honestly "Kick Ass" himself is intentionally a joke, and his other characters, including the ones with the athletic ability, might be lucky if they share a single brain cell between
them.

That said, there is nothing wrong with his writing, but I still tend to view the definitive work of "real life super heroes" as being "Wild Cards" (a short story anthology/shared world series edited by George R.R. Martin) which pretty much makes the point that for this to even become plausible first you need people to get super powers. The series approaches the idea of non-powered heroes like "The Yeoman" who is a military vet who is a master of Zen Archery (we're talking a really unlikely skill set), who get by in the shadows largely because of all of the empowered heroes (Aces) doing their thing, they basically created the shadows for him to lurk in, everyone is so busy watching the Aces that nobody notices the guy with the mask and the bow who runs around killing people, and quite a few of those who know about him think he is an Ace.
 

Raikas

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Therumancer said:
Of course to be fair I don't follow Mark Millar and didn't pay that much attention to the stuff he's done that I've read, so for all I know he's both the writer and the artist. At which point one has to still question the management.
Looking at an individual scene in an individual comic, yes - you need to consider the artists approach and (depending on the franchise) the publishers (although I think that's less of an issue when we're looking at creator-owned books), Millar has worked similar scenes into his work across publishers and while working with a variety of artists, so I think it's more than fair to point to those as distinctive of his style.