October 29, 2010

Michael McMillian talks Magic, Mystery, and “Lucid!”

Today we talk with Michael McMillian, the creator/writer of the latest mini-series from Archaia Entertainment that delves into the secret realm of magic, Lucid! Issue #1 is already on the shelves and #2 debuts on November 10th.

COMIC ATTACK: Tell us a little about the company Before the Door and how Lucid came to be co-published by them and Archaia.

MICHAEL MCMILLIAN: It goes back to college, really. I went to Carnegie Mellon University to study acting where I met Zachary Quinto, Corey Moosa, and Neal Dodson. We were all a bunch of ambitious little tykes back then and dreamed of one day flaunting our creative prowess in Hollywood. Cut to years later: Zachary had just finished shooting Star Trek so he and Neal and Corey formed Before the Door to launch projects ranging from comics to web series to TV and film. Neal had read a few early scripts of mine that I had written between jobs and was always very supportive of my work. I came in at his request to pitch them some ideas for comics. Thus Lucid was born.

CA: Were there any other publishing candidates in the running for the series?

MM: There were, but it was clear from early on in the process that Archaia was the place we wanted to go. They didn’t want Lucid to be a vanity project starring Zachary Quinto’s likeness as a comic character. They were interested in making a good comic. That did it for me. The last thing I wanted to write was a movie pitch in the form of a comic book. I wanted to do a comic that would stand on it’s own merit.

CA: What/Who were some of your major influences in creating the world of Lucid?

MM: James Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Wars… You know, obscure works of art that nobody has heard of.  Really, I wanted to create a heightened, hyper-kinetic world of boyhood escapism. So I drew from all of those movies I loved as a kid and a large portion of comics I was into during college. I thought it might be fun to look at 20th Century American folklore (conspiracy theories, UFO’s, paranormal happenings,) through the lens of magic. That’s why we have Matthew Dee flying around in a Black Triangle. We usually assume aliens are commanding those sort of things, but what if Magical Secret Agents working for the Government were zooming around the night sky? That captured my imagination. That was a world I wanted to go to.

Cover to Lucid #2. The following images are preview shots from this issue. Click'em to enlarge!

CA: Lucid is rich with magical elements and themes; what’s your personal take on the genre, and what has made you a “magic fan,” so to speak?

MM: I had written a pilot a few years back that has a supernatural spin to it. I went down the rabbit hole while researching the occult and discovered figures like Aleister Crowley and John Dee and Jack Parsons. And then I made the connection that these guys were featured heavily in Promethea by Alan Moore which I was already loved and read. I started to realize that so many contemporary myths and stories, from comic books to conspiracy theories, have links back to magic and the occult. We have such a rich history of mysticism in our culture that is virtually ignored or brushed off today. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but that’s where my imagination tends to wander.

CA: When characters in Lucid cast spells, they speak a symbol as opposed to a more traditional chant, or specific keyword, or the ever obnoxious talking backwards. I like the choice, and think it’s a great one as it serves the story well; leaving it up to the reader to figure out what spell was cast. Why did you decide to do it this way?

MM: Thanks. For a couple of reasons: The first was that I didn’t want to do what had been done before, the backwards spell casting of Zatanna or the Dr. Strange H.P. Lovecraftian Latin, etc, I wanted to do something new and something that would only work in a comic book. Second, I was a fan of Grant Morrison’s Pop Magick, and thought it would be cool to create sigils and place those within the context of the book.

CA: Are there any future plans for a codex describing all the spells in the world of Lucid?

MM: Possibly. I’ve gotten a couple requests! Each sigil has a double meaning. The first is the meaning within the fictional world of Matthew Dee: this sigil represents a “Dissarming Spell” or that series of sigils cast a “Daoine Sidhe Banishing Spell” and so forth. The second meaning is a real-world meaning. I designed all of the sigils by hand and created them to be real, interactive magic spells. So in a way, Lucid is my first magical experiment. I figured it was time to get off my ass and actually try some of that stuff Morrison has been telling us to do. Results are pending.

CA: So, who is Ariah, and why can’t we see her?

MM: Ariah is the first real mystery of the Lucid story. She is the heart of the world of Lucid and that’s about all I can say about her at this point. You will see her so stay tuned.

CA: In issue #1’s opening scene, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is a subject of contention for a much younger version of our main character, Agent Dee. Do you have any personal history or attachment to this book, or was it there solely for the Merlin connection?

MM: Yes. I read it in English class my sophomore year of high school. The Once and Future King was my gateway drug into Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey and archetypes. It was the point where I looked back on all of those movies and stories I loved growing up and infused them with meaning So that’s the personal attachment. But really its presence is to set up that Matthew was once a very disenchanted youth, and the title paves way for the villain of the first arc, the so-called “Pendragon,” who is claiming to be King Arthur returned.

CA: Tell us about the Pendragon and how he ties into Agent Dee.

MM: This is really where Issue 2 jumps off, so I don’t want to spoil it too much. “The Pendragon,” as he calls himself, comes out of the idea that Camelot will return one day led by an Arthurian leader. Camelot is the Golden Age. It’s what civilization is trying to make itself into. But it always fails. Things like greed, war and stupidity always get in the way. Matthew’s magical order,  which is called the Ambrosian Order, have built their practice on the idea that this Celtic messiah myth will try again and again until it finally gets it right. Matthew, despite his training, doesn’t take the prophecy literally and believes there is danger in doing so. Like all wonderful prophecies it seems ripe for hijacking.

CA: What was it about Anna Wieszczyk’s art that made you know she had to work on this book with you?

MM: Lucid was always designed to be a step away from street-level, uber-realistic artwork that’s popular in comics these days. That stuff is great, but not right for our book. Anna was discovered by Stephen Christy at Archaia and he was really jazzed about her from the get-go. In my mind, Lucid would have elements of Paul Pope, Frank Quitely, and a bit of Anime, all which we got with Anna. That being said, her style is uniquely her own and I can’t imagine the book without her.

CA: A couple of weeks ago I met you in my store here in LA, Collector’s Paradise, when you were signing copies of Lucid #1. There’s no doubt about it, you’re definitely into comics! What are you currently reading, and what are some of your all time favorite stories?

MM: I am knee-deep in reading the classic Marvel G.I. JOE run that IDW is reprinting in trades. I’m on a bit of a nostalgia kick at the moment mostly due to a comic I’m writing with my childhood best friend called THE INDIAN AND THE BANDIT, which is all about being an 11 year-old boy in the late 80’s. It’s been really fun to go back and re-read those stories. I picked up SCARLET, by Bendis while I was at Collector’s Paradise which is pretty cool. I’m loving the TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM mini. When Tom Strong is good it’s just about the most fun out there. I really miss those ABC characters. Peter Hogan and Chris Sprouse are kicking ass on that book. All time favorites include: LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, PREACHER, SCOTT PILGRIM, BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, THE INVISIBLES, PLANETARY and the David Micheline and Todd McFarlane run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

CA: Who are some of your favorite comic book characters?

MM: Spider-Man was always number one. He was the first super-hero I read going back in the Spidey Super-Stories published in Electric Company Magazine. They were pretty silly stories, but accessible to a 4-year old and had all of Peter’s important cast members, like Mary Jane and Aunt May. When I picked up my first true comic book a few years later it was Amazing Spider-Man because I had read those strips as a kid. I love Jesse Custer, who was so empathetic and yet at times just made horrible, horrible choices. But you really loved him and rooted for him. Sandman is also such a compelling character. To me he was like a best friend that just kept disappointing you. I think Damian Wayne as Robin is the currently the most exciting and entertaining comic character in a mainstream super-hero book. I can’t believe Morrsion almost killed him off.

CA: If you could write any comic book story featuring any comic book character(s) with an artist of your choice on the series, what would it be, who would it feature, and whom would you pick?

MM: Easy. Amazing Spider-Man with Chris Sprouse on art.  He was born to draw Peter Parker.

CA: Imagine you’re a sorcerer and you’re living your last days of life. You have just enough energy left to cast any three spells you wish. What would they be?

MM: World peace, more time, and the ability to conjure banana bread out of thin air.

CA: Lucid is your first foray into writing comics, but have you penned any other published material?

MM: I wrote an episode of “What I Like About You” called “Girls Gone Wild.” Instant classic. Lucid is my first true foray into published work.

CA: Lucid still has 3 issues to go, but what’s next for you once it’s wrapped?

MM: Hopefully, W. David Keith and I will find a home for The Indian and the Bandit. David is another artist who has his own unique style. He’s drawing it now and I am really excited about this project. We’ll self-publish if we need to. Aside from Bandit, I have my next comics writing gig lined up, but it won’t be announced until Long Beach Comic Con. I am very, very excited about that. I am dying to share.

CA: Any closing words about Lucid?

MM: Just a huge thank you to everybody who picked up Issue 1! I hope they enjoy the run and tell their friends about it.

Remember to check out Lucid #2 on November 10th, and to the Lucid Facebook page by clicking here! For more from Archaia Entertainment, visit this link!

Andy Liegl


One Comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Olayinka Hassan, Before The Door. Before The Door said: McMillian talks more LUCID – Issue 2 coming soon. […]

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