Last week saw Titan Comics release the first issue of their brand new Hammer Horror series, THE MUMMY.
Serving as the first offering from exciting new partnership between Titan and Hammer, the debut issue – written by comics superstar Peter Milligan (Justice League Dark) and drawn by Ronilson Freire (The Green Hornet) – was absolutely fantastic, and we found ourselves instantly wanting to find out more about just how this project came about.
Thankfully, writer Peter Milligan was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and have a chat with us about it.
BIG COMIC PAGE: For those that haven’t read it yet, what’s your new Mummy comic about?
PETER MILLIGAN: It’s about two women who are being used for terrible ends. One is a priestess of Isis who lived over two thousand years ago in the time of the Pharaoh Seti II, the other a feisty Ukrainian girl who’s been sex-trafficked to the UK on the empty promise of a good job. Thrown into this mix is ancient Egyptian magic and two modern-day Egypt-obsessed secret societies. The result is The Mummy: Palimpsest, a modern day Mummy story.
BCP: What attracted you to the property?
MILLIGAN: I’ve been fascinated by the world of Egypt since I was a kid and visited the Egyptian gallery in the British Museum. Later, I visited Egypt, the Valley of the Kings. I love the idea of doing a modern story that somehow harnesses some of that ancient world or mentality.
BCP: Are you a Hammer fan in general? If so, why and what are your favourites?
MILLIGAN: I like a lot of Hammer’s stuff. Some of the Vampire films are classics, particular the Karnstein movies. There were others, too many to mention. The Devil Rides Out; To The Devil, a Daughter. Really it was the sensibility a lot of them had that I liked.
BCP: The story comes across like a new angle on an old tale, with you re-examining the Mummy Mythos in a modern setting. How important was it for you to do that and not create another Hammer period piece?
MILLIGAN: For me, and for Hammer, it was essential that I approached this story from a new angle. The whole mythos of the Mummy is an ancient one, but there’s no reason why it cannot be used to examine very modern issues: that’s what we’re trying to do in this book.
BCP: How do you go about making The Mummy scary in 2016?
MILLIGAN: You make it real, you make stuff happen to real people, living real lives today. Before I got down to working on this book I watched all the old Mummy films. One thing that quickly became apparent was that tall geezers wrapped in bandages prancing around was about as scary as a cold shower. Probably less so. I needed a new way of thinking. I started by asking myself “what do I find scary or potentially horrific about mummies?”
BCP: Unusually for Mummy stories, you seem to have excised the general racism and sexism in the storylines in favour of the religious aspects and the actual mummification process. How conscious were you to avoid the old tropes and how much research did you have to put into getting the details right?
MILLIGAN: Besides the fact that old style mummies had probably lost their potential to scare us, another thing I noticed about the old Mummy films was the implicit (and sometimes pretty explicit) racism. The bad guy was usually brown, and Egyptian. The hero of the day always white, British, male and plucky. I wanted to turn that on its head a bit. Also, one thing that really interested me about the world of the Mummy and Ancient Egypt was the mythology behind it all. The Land of the Dead. Their obsession with death and the afterlife. I always wanted to see more of this in the films… so it’s something I explore in the comic and make pretty central to the story.
BCP: The horror feels more like body horror focuses than the gothic melodramatic horror people may have expected?
MILLIGAN: Yes, I occasionally chose to adopt what you might call a ‘body horror’ style. Seemed to me that the very process of mummification, how brutal it was, was one of the most horrific or frightening things about the whole Mummy scenario. And again, I’d never really seen that in any films.
BCP: There’s lots of themes of bodies being used and abused in there… For all its modernisation, it still retains a very British (and classic Hammer) feel to it. Was that deliberate?
MILLIGAN: I wanted this new Mummy story to be ABOUT something, something that might resonate with a modern audience, and the theme of bodies being used – whether for mummification or the sex trade – is one I explore. It’s the thing that somehow links the ancient Egyptian priestess and the modern day trafficked Ukrainian woman.
BCP: Pete, what does Ronilson Friere bring to the table?
MILLIGAN: In short, he brings a real sense of Hammer. Something claustrophobic and clammy. It helps create the connective tissue between this story and the Hammer mummy stories that have gone before it.
BCP: It seems to be a perfect blend of the modern and the antiquated… Is it completely independent or do you see it as the next chapter in Hammer’s ongoing Mummy saga?
MILLIGAN: Look, it’s clearly different from some of the earlier Hammer movies but from the outset I’ve seen this as the latest story in the on-going Hammer Mummy saga. This version of the Mummy myth might be being told in the form of a comic but to me that’s irrelevant. It’s a contemporary Hammer Mummy story.
BCP: Are there any other Hammer properties you would like a crack at it if the line is successful?
MILLIGAN: There are a couple I have my eye on, but I’d rather not talk about these until things are firmed up a bit.
THE MUMMY #1 is on sale now from Titan Comics, and the second issue will hit stores and digital platforms on the 7th of December.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy