Grim_Noir’s Audience With The Godfather (of British Comics), Pat Mills

Pat Mills Comic Con

Upon Titan Comics’ release of their collected The Complete Accident Man hardback, Pat Mills sat down and answered a few questions for us. The “Godfather of British Comics” talks about the current state of British comics, superheroes with messiah complexes, and the differences between writing for British and American audiences…

Grim_Noir: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I have always been a fan of your U.S.-released works, particularly the Dark Horse miniseries of Accident Man. There is certain vision/voice that came out of your graduating class from 2000AD (yourself, John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Tony Skinner, John Smith, Kevin O’Neill, John Ridgway, etc). That voice has a lot of snark and nihilism, which I loved. It seemed to me that this voice was a product of its times: Britain’s place in the Cold War, the Punk movement, and the downturn in the U.K. economy expressed with English wit. Do you think today’s British creators are a product of their times, or are they just aping your original 2000AD collaborators’ style?

Pat Mills: I think today “Politics is a dirty word” and Complacency & Consumerism are encouraged. That can have a mentally castrating effect. I can’t think of a distinctive voice in Brit comics of a new generation, but it may be out there in the small press. There is a small but dynamic movement towards “comic lit” amongst UK publishers. That could bear fruit and it’s a market I’ve personally adapted to. For example, SelfMadeHero‘s [program at] Edinburgh [International Book] Festival producing a graphic novel I’ve written the lead story for; First Second Books producing a graphic novel adaption of war poems with versions by myself and many other Brits.

Grim: Do you have any favorites out of the current crop of creators?

Pat: I tend to follow the French market which was my key influence in creating 2000AD. So it would have to be Tardi — his anti-war art is sensational.

Grim: Now, how much of your writing style is collaborative with your artists and how much is a full-blown script that you have in your head? Does that balance depend of the artist you are working with?

Pat: Very much so. A collaboration with Kevin is probably the exception, because his sense of humour and mine correspond so closely, so it’s worth giving up my autonomy to include his excellent ideas. Otherwise, I take the artists’ views into account and then do my own thing. Because there is a danger of becoming the artist’s typist. I know this has happened to other writers and it’s happened to me once. It was not a happy experience.

Grim: I am thinking of the semi-famous story of you and Kevin O’Neill reacting to IPC’s decree against long chase scenes with the short story “Terror Tube.” You have worked with him quite a bit. Did you push him to be even more violent and twisted in his imagery, and/or did he ever take an idea that you gave him and go even farther with it? How much of the subversion and spoofing of superheroes that you did in Marshall Law evolved organically between you two and how much was one person’s idea that you polished up together?

Pat: The darkest ideas were invariably Kevin’s! For example, in “Kingdom of the Blind,” the car with the sewing machine that slits open villains and then sews them up again (“On bad days I go over them in reverse“). That was Kev’s idea. Ditto many of the other ideas in “Kingdom of the Blind” — like the coffins of the parents. Generally I’d come up with a plot and then the story evolved organically with long conversations between us. Well, worth it!

Grim: You were once quoted as saying, “Comic books should strive to¬†always to be subversive. They should represent counterculture.” A very rock’n’roll sentiment. Does that ever apply to comic book characters in the movies, such as Judge Dredd? What was your opinion of the latest reboot?

Pat: I think it worked better for the fans than the earlier film. It was very much John Wagner’s vision and I found myself chuckling at many of the lines which felt like John. But I was sad that Ezquerra’s Gaudi-esque SF vision of Dredd — which I’d initially encouraged at the start of Dredd — had got lost. For me, that flamboyance was necessary — right from the start — to beef the character up and also to compensate for the loss of comedy post Robo-Cop‘s sampling of Dredd.

Grim: In the same vein, did you think Man of Steel was a step in the right direction, or wrong direction, for the Superman franchise?

Pat: I’m not really a fan of Superman — except the very early material — because of its messianic aspects. Anything that reinforces Judaeo-Christian myths is not for me.

Accident Man Cover

Grim: I was only familiar with your Accident Man character from the Dark Horse mini-series. Going back and being able to re-read the entire U.K. and U.S. saga from the beginning with Titan Comic’ hardcover, I notice a subtle shift in storytelling: The early U.K. stories are very much in the “Make the murder look like an accident” storyline that has become a standard in action movies. However, in the Dark Horse series, the sentiment was more “Let the accident commit the murder.” The chandelier sequence, for instance, has stayed in my head for years. Was this a conscious decision or a natural evolution of the concept?

Pat: The pacing was different for the U.S. market. A bigger story arc, for instance. And we may have been subconsciously influenced by the U.S. market. For the U.K. market we could go for an audience who enjoyed 2000AD humour and follow suit with Fallon. But for the States we had to reintroduce the character for a different audience

Grim: Finally, you have written a couple of audio plays for the eighth Doctor Who (Paul McGann). Have you enjoyed doing them? What was your opinion of the original TV movie that introduced his character? And, who was “your Doctor” growing up?

Pat: Tom Baker. I thought he was excellent. I’ve written three audios altogether. Dead London (McGann) probably the strongest. I thought the direction and acting were fabulous. My space whale story featured Colin Baker, who was wonderful to work with; very friendly and approachable. He picked up on some weak spots in the script and suggested alternative lines in a pro-active, rather than critical way. I rate him very highly.

Grim: Again, thank you for your time and consideration. It has been much appreciated.

Pat: Thank you, Grim_Noir! Cheers!

Patrick Mills 2011

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend him on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

Posted in : Comics, Interview, Misc, Movies, Pop Culture
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply