Wednesday 9 March 2011

E14 Interviews: Pat Mills

Pat Mills is one of the most important comic writers working today. He has brought us Sláine, Nemesis the Warlock, The ABC Warriors, Defoe and was instrumental in the creation of Judge Dredd - not to mention 2000AD itself.

Today sees the publication of Prog 1724 which sees Pat Mills return with a sequel series to Flesh - a strip that saw its first instalment in the first ever issue of 2000AD in 1977.

As has been mentioned before, E14's Brad Harmer is somewhat fond of Pat Mills, so we stuck him in a Blitzspear and sent him out for a chat with the great man himself.

What prompted you to return to Flesh after a gap of over thirty years?

It's not actually unusual. Savage has similarly returned and there are others - Greysuit, for instance, that’s a re-incarnation of Mach One.

All three Flesh stories were initially very popular and, alongside Judge Dredd, established 2000AD. Subsequently, they were not well served by poor scripts or art, and so I felt that I needed to do something about this. When I create a series, it's annoying to see it screwed up later by clumsy writing or art, so I like to revive my stories myself. I think we owe this to the reader.

I've been trying to revive Flesh for some time but needed to find the right artist. I finally found him with James McKay.

Was it hard to ensure Flesh was accessible to new readers as well - some of whom may not even have been born when the first strip ran?

Many 2000AD readers go back to Prog One, but a story about men hunting dinosaurs for Flesh is pretty easy to get your head around.

Has this started something? Are we going to see you re-visiting some of your other previously assumed finished/abandoned titles in the future?

I think I've now revived all my classic stories. There's a few others I'd like to do more on (Howard Quartz on Ro-Busters, for instance), but I'm short on time at the moment.

What was it about James McKay's style that made you feel he would be the ideal artist for the project?

James is a dinosaur expert, and he is really into wild animal art, so the only learning curve for him was adapting to the 2000AD style. Also, he works for France so we share a common enthusiasm for comic art with backgrounds

Yes, you’ve worked extensively in French comics for the past fifteen years or so. What is it that appeals to you so much about French comics?

I based 2000AD on French and European comics - specifically Metal Hurlant and English translations of French books by Dragons Dream - and on those American comics - like Warren comics - which were cousins of Metal Hurlant. Never Marvel or DC. That was the opposite direction to the way I wanted to go.

So artists like Richard Corben, Mike Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson and so on were working for Warren at the time, and I was blown away by their stuff. Bilal and Druillet, too. Thus the creation of Judge Dredd was influenced by a story in 1984 (Warren) and by Underground stories - like Manix.

For me, working for France is just continuing my work on 2000AD. It was never intended as a training ground or stepping stone for American comics, because that is not in the foundations of 2000AD. I think some past creators have forgotten or ignored this.

While most of my peers went to work for the US, I preferred to work for France where the payments and copyright deal is better, and there is more creative control.

Are there any particular French comics you would recommend to English

My French series Requiem Vampire Knight was originally offered to 2000AD's editor Dave Bishop and subsequently rejected. It is now a best-seller in France. We're celebrating our 10th birthday anniversary with the release of Volume Ten this year.

It's sold throughout the world and English book editions are available from Panini (UK) and Heavy Metal (US). So, this is one French series I'd recommend. It has a very 2000AD flavour so it's very accessible. It's like everything has gone full circle.

To my mind, one of your most under-rated projects was Dice-Man. How did Dice-Man come about?

I loved Dice-Man! I have a gaming background so when Fighting Fantasy was out I devised my own version. I found it was quite easy to write, but it was very much a solo thing and there was no real support, although the readers liked it.

It sold well but there wasn't the publishing will to continue. If you're wondering how that can be and why more wasn't made of it...British comics were a very timid and conservative industry, overshadowed by America and often - in the past - with rather average hands at the helm. It was very frustrating!

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

American Reaper with Clint Langley. That is going to be a major graphic novel series.

Is there plenty of life still to come in Defoe, Sláine and your other long-running titles?

I love Defoe! I owe it to my radical roots to complete the story of the Last Leveller and to honour the Levellers - the British revolutionaries who could have changed the world but were betrayed by the middle classes (Cromwell etc) .Which is why you won't find them on the school curriculum. Far too dangerous!

Every year at Burford their sacrifices are honoured- I must go and pay my respects to these real heroes, as opposed to the bullshit variety.

A recurring theme of your work - and, now I see, your personal philosophy - is a struggle against authority/repression (the aforementioned Levellers in Defoe, the central premise of Nemesis the Warlock, and even the dinosaurs turning on their ranchers in the original Flesh). Is this due to 2000AD's "punk" roots, a representation of your own feelings towards the "timid and conservative" comic industry, or is there a bigger picture there?

It's a sub-text reflecting my own views on society. In music, it's quite normal for musicians to have an anti-authority stance. In comics it's less common and sometimes a "cool" pose, rather than a genuine position.

When I started in comics, I thought it would be like the music industry. Boy - was I wrong. It was (and remains) one of the most conservative industries imaginable. 2000AD is a noticeable exception. The conservatives in the industry may no longer wear cavalry twill trousers and Harris Tweed jackets, but they're still out there. Probably more than ever.

So I find it even more important these days to write stories with a radical barb. Flesh is no exception. For example, Trans-Time Corporation are facing Congressional investigation for causing Time Change, following the reactor explosion on Base Three. They say there is no evidence that their activities cause "Time Pollution".

Does that remind you of anyone?!

I thought long and hard about what the readers of E14 would really like to ask Pat "The Godfather of British Comics" Mills, and so, there's one last question: Why is there an ABC Warrior in the Judge Dredd movie?

Good question! They needed a robot for the film and there was no design that could compare with Kevin's [Kevin O’Neill – original artist for The ABC Warriors] Hammerstein. So they went with Hammerstein.

If you think about it, apart from Mike McMahon, who else has designed such brilliant robots?

Certificate of Authenticity:

Interview: Brad Harmer
Photos: Artwork and headshot courtesy 2000AD/Rebellion. Certificate of Authenticity photograph courtesy of Pat and Lisa.

Skyline is a terrifying journey into our fear of the unknown, a high-velocity, special effects bonanza that resonates with feelings of urban panic in these dangerous times. Visual-effects masters The Brothers Strause (AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator—Requiem) — whose company Hydraulx has imagined visual effects for Avatar, 2012, Iron Man 2, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 300 — have directed, produced and financed a spectacular and chilling independent film of epic proportions.

A group of friends are awakened in the dead of the night by a strange, eerie light beaming through their apartment window. Like moths to a flame, a disturbing blue light is throwing the people of Los Angeles into a trance, drawing them outside before a terrifying extraterrestrial force swallows them off the face of the earth. The city streets are empty, the phones are down and TV stations broadcast HD news feeds of nothing but empty chairs. In a matter of hours, we will all be gone.

For Jarrod and Elaine, a simple weekend away to visit friends Terry and Candice becomes a nightmare. As they watch in terror from Terry’s penthouse windows, people across the city are swallowed into massive alien ships that have blotted out the L.A. skyline: life as they know it is finished. With the military struggling to keep the aliens at bay, now it will take every survival instinct they have to elude capture from the thousands of monstrous creatures that are sweeping the city and searching for all humans in their path. From tankers to drones and hydra-like extraterrestrials, the aliens are inescapable and seemingly indestructible.

Eric Balfour stars alongside David Zayas, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, Neil Hopkins and newcomers Scottie Thompson and Crystal Reed. Skyline is directed by brothers Colin Strause and Greg Strause, written by Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes and producer Kristian Andreson.

Thanks to our friends at Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, we've got five copies of Skyline on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Wednesday 16th March, making sure to put "Skyline" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Skyline" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Skyline is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 21st March.

Get this in the E14 Store for £11.93 on DVD and £14.93 on Blu-ray

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.


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