Interview with Pat Mills
Pat Mills, famed as ‘the Godfather of British comics’, created Britain’s most successful comic 2000AD which celebrated its 40th birthday in 2017 and is the subject of his autobiography: Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History. He also co-created the girls’ mystery comic Misty, now enjoying new success in collected editions.
What was the first thing you remember reading?
An illustrated History of Britain aimed at young children. Based on famous paintings, it captured the drama of the past and gave me a lifelong love of history.
How did you break into comics?
I was trained as a magazine journalist at D.C. Thomson—one of the two major publishers of comics in the UK. It showed me how comics should be written. At that time few people were interested in writing comics, so it wasn’t too difficult to sell my stories.
…and how did you come to create/help develop such classics as 2000 A.D.
I’d already produced two successful comics—Battle (with John Wagner) and Action. So creating 2000 A.D. was the next step
…and Judge Dredd?
John Wagner and I had noticed how readers like extreme characters, so when John came up with a grim death-dealing cop I jumped at the chance. It took a considerable amount of development to get the story and character right, but the art—by Ezquerra—was perfect from the beginning. So I knew we were onto a winner.
I don’t think anyone who lived in the ‘80s and read comics doesn’t know who Marshal Law is. How did the creation of that book come about?
Marvel Epic’s Archie Goodwin wanted to work with Kevin O’Neill and myself. So we came up with a story and art. But at this stage he was “just a cop.” Then I realized he looked like a superhero, but I have little affection or knowledge of superheroes. However, I am supremely qualified to write about a superhero hunter as I loathe them so much, so I ran the idea past Kevin and we developed it further. I think Archie was surprised but accepted it which was brave of him, given that he worked for Marvel, and it took off from there.
What artist/writer inspires you the most?
Joe Colquhoun, the artist on my ‘80s anti-war series Charley’s War because his work directly challenges all the usual comic rules. Namely the hero was just an ordinary kid and Joe showed the humanity and the super-heroism of ordinary people, rather than cowards in capes. It was hugely popular with readers and continues to be popular to this day—an uncomfortable proposition for fans who prefer escapism.
What story/book/comic series are you proudest of?
Charley’s War for the reasons above. And also my latest project SPACEWARP—an anthology comic aimed at all ages, in the tradition of early 2000 A.D. I’m proudest of it because it is creator-owned by the writer (myself) and the 6 artists. It’s available from bookshops, Amazon and Get My Comics.com.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on type of art you create?
My type of writing? I live in a beautiful part of Southern Spain, but when I’m working I’m lost in my own inner world so I’m barely aware of my environment.
Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?
For a long time I’ve been giving myself my assignments on the characters I create. But sometimes an external assignment comes along and then I enjoy the challenge of meeting the client’s criteria
Where do you think the world of literature/popular culture will be like in ten years?
I think there will be much more self publishing—hence I self publish SPACEWARP and others are doing the same. Publishers seem to have lost touch with their audience and are often mining the past rather than developing the future. Self-publishers have to stay in contact with their audience
What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your writing career? A specific assignment/books for a publisher?
To write an opening story for 2000 A.D. about the Russian invasion of Britain, a rather paranoid idea in 1977, but it was during the Cold War. Eventually the Russians had to be toned down into the fantasy “Volgans” but it was still very successful and I only stopped writing it about five years ago.
What projects are you working on now?
SPACEWARP issue two is my priority now. And editing and publishing KISS MY AXE! My text memoir of the Secret History of Slaine the Warped Warrior celebrating its 40 years in comics! It should be published in the Autumn.