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BCP Interview with Pat Mills

Sláine or Jack Nicholson?

Sláine or Jack Nicholson?

Following on from our interview the other week with one of 2000AD’s greatest writers if not one of the UK’s greatest writers in John Wagner [Interview can be found by clicking here] now after that we thought the bar may have been set to high.

After much thought it became clear there was someone on par if not better, hell even Wagner (and the likes of Alan Moore) have cited him as a huge influance, high praise indeed for… Pat Mills who includes being creator 2000AD among his many accomplishments in the world of comics.

It’s well documented that you spent much of your early career working on girls comics, what influence did that have on your later works?

A huge amount. Girls comics follow the principles of storytelling much closer than most male comics, then and now. It was a valuable education. So I applied what I learnt to Battle, Action, 2000AD and onwards.

2000AD has had a resurgence in popularity as of late with Dredd hitting the silver screen and being printed state side by IDW and panels at the London Super Comic Con and the Glasgow Film Festival being made up of 2000AD staff alumni, As the creator of 2000AD did you ever picture it having such staying power?

Yes. It was obvious to me , very early on, that something special was emerging. Marvels comics last for ever, ditto DC, why shouldn’t British comics, if they’re well done. It’s not that remarkable. Also bear in mind, the majority of UK comics then (and now) were produced either for the middle classes (Eagle), for fans of American comics, or without any real understanding of popular culture and a mass audience, aged – let’s say – 8 – 14 years old. The reason for this is that many professionals don’t actually like writing for that British “young” audience.

Or they don’t know how to relate to them and what they want as readers. You’d be hard put to think of many today. I like writing for that British audience and I understand it, so it’s easy then to produce something good. The challenge is to keep out influences that don’t like them. I think the decline of British comics is directly related to the resurgence of the middle classes in comics and their intellectualizing (not the right word, but it’ll have to do) of the media.

Nothing wrong with it as a genre, except when it harms popular culture, which it has. If you look elsewhere, where is the New English Library (a supreme example of popular culture) which produced Sven Hassel, James Herbert’s the Rats, some wonderfully trashy and politically incorrect thrillers, and “working class” paperbacks.

Modern publishers don’t like that kind of thing, so it’s not pursued with any vigour. The same attitudes are true in comics. There are exceptions: Games Workshop and Rebellion – hence their popular culture sf books. But I see this snobby attitude in the media all the time and I despise it. It’s why no one will reprint classic girls comics.

They know they will outsell male comics – and there’s sufficient evidence to verify this – but they don’t like them because they are true popular culture. And there’s also the sexism factor – as powerful today as ever.

It would be soooo embarrassing if a Tammy or Misty-style story outsold some famous super hero. So let’s pretend they never existed.

As a British writer whose works have been popular on both sides of the Atlantic especially Marshal Law as well as working on different iterations of The Punisher, How do you find the differences between the comics medium in the UK and the US?

France is my preferred country – good rights deals, great paper, creative freedom and great food! These elements are missing elsewhere, so I’ve never had my peers’ attraction to the US.

It’s fine as a market, but it’s not a priority or a mountain I need to climb. Bear in mind, US comic sales are Number Three – after Japan and France, although you wouldn’t think so from the way the comic media presents it.

I don’t see any major differences between UK and US – it’s all down to the editor or publisher – but that’s probably because I only work for them now and again. DC are reprinting Marshal Law (due out in April) and dealing with them felt no different to dealing with a large British publishing company.

Speaking of Marshal Law, Have you every been tempted to return to the character?

I’d love to, but Kevin is working on League, so I don’t see it happening. So I try and feature the elements of Law I really care about (anti-establishment attitude) in other ways in other characters. Defoe, for instance, despises the super heroes of his day – the Vizards.

Sláine is another of your creations that has proved very successful, With characters like Dredd hitting the big screen do you think fans will ever see the legendary tribesman being adapted as a picture?

It’s a nice thought, but it wouldn’t be easy, I guess. Primarily because it’s not a US imprint. Somehow Dredd crossed that bridge but it would be hard for others to follow. That said, guys in the media who grew up on Sláine might give it a push. Who would play him? No one jumps out at me. Back in the day, when I started him, I based him on a young Jack Nicholson. These days, the artists base him on themselves. So whoever looks nearest to Clint, Simon etc. !

Sláine – The Book of Scars – celebrating 30 years of his career with new short stories by Mike McMahon, Clint, Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry is out later this year.

Which character or story from you prolific career have been most proud of?

Charley’s War. It’s the one chance I had to really kick the establishment in the teeth and tell some truths about their murderous ways. I know of at least ten guys who would have gone into the army but didn’t because they read Charley’s War.

That’s a result. That’s worth more to me than accolades for writing about some prat in tights, some neo-liberal symbol of US recolonization of the planet.

That is real life. Normally successful series are copied by other writers – look at Marshal Law – but Charley’s War which was hugely successful has never been followed by others in any way that I would say passes the litmus test of an anti-war story. That’s a sad comment on how conservative the comic industry is today.

The local Glasgow/Scottish scene is seeing a new lease of life with some fantastic work being put out, is there anything that has caught your eye recently in the UK?

Yes. Fay Dalton who illustrates pages of American Reaper in the Megazine.

I was ranting about the lack of girls comics and an agent heard my talk and we ran a competition to find a promising female comics newcomer.

Fay won – think it was a One K prize – and she’s going from strength to strength working on Party Girls, by Jenny McDade, a popular culture graphic novel. Do look her up on line. She’s a major talent.

Who are your main influences as a writer?

John Pilger. Robert Graves. Graham Greene. Hitchcock. The film “It Happened Here”. The book and tv series “A Very British Coup”. Thomas Kinsella’s adaption of The Tain. (relevant for Slaine). Robert McKee: Story. Rider Haggard. P. G. Wodehouse. Giovanni Guareschi. Emil Ludwig. Caza (French comic artist and writer). Conquering Armies (reprinted and out very shortly – major inspiration for Slaine). Catch 22.

There’s obviously more, but those are the names that come to mind just now.

And, of course, John Wagner and I influenced each other as we started writing together. We share a certain – er – dour view of the world. I still laugh out loud at some of his early outrageous Judge Dredds.

Do you have any work in the Pipeline you’d like to talk about?

Marshal Law is due out from DC in April.

Pat then finished the interview by saying he misses Scotland from his time here [The Dundee scene] and hinted that when he is next due here for a visit to Edinburgh he may do a Marshal signing so fingers crossed folks.

You can catch up on what Pat is doing by following him on twitter @PatMillsComics


The writer of this piece was: GARYavGary Kane aka (GK)
Article: Where are They Now (Prev: Under The Influence)
GK tweets from @Kanoclassic

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