“10 Questions is a feature in which I look at the most influential writers in comics and ask them 10 questions.” Marc McCann.
This week: Pat Mills
If you want to know where the edge in modern comic books comes from, whether that be the inception of DC’s 80s Vertigo line, the Image creator evolution of the 90s, right on up to the Indie Artist ripe market-place, vying for a spot among the giants in modernity, then perhaps turn your head back to the late 70’s and the birth of 2000AD.
2000 AD Creator Pat Mills wanted to write working class comic books that shook the establishment and reached out to an angry youth with a subversive message that spoke to them through sci-fantasy. He succeeded with a revolution in British comic book storytelling that’s been oft imitated but never replicated.
Pat is writer of multi-award winning Charley’s War, Nemesis the Warlock, The ABC Warriors, Ro-Busters, Slaine, DeFoe, Marshal Law, Third World War, Requiem Vampire Knight and more.
FTN: 2000 AD kicked the doors open for a disenfranchised generation tired of ‘safe’ comic books with off-beat, accessible characters in dystopian fantasies. In today’s politically correct, heavily surveilled, hyper-propagandised and commercially charged atmosphere do you feel your story commentary has become prophetic?
PM: I value your comment about a disenfranchised generation. You’re right. That’s what they were. I think changing that was very important to me. Probably because my personal experience of authority in all its forms was quite negative. So it struck that chord with the readers and I’m so happy that it did.
Today, there’s a new form of disenfranchise in the way you’ve described. It’s sad. I guess there was an element of prophecy. I only wish we could hit the establishment harder today, but many 2000AD readers might say we were being polemic, preachy, David Icke, whatever. So I personally have to be a little subversive in what I say. But not too much! But that’s okay – I’ve a lot of experience at subversion going back to the very first stories I wrote (for girls’ comics) which criticiced the British occupation in Northern Ireland by describing their torture techniques (sound weapons etc).
FTN: Your characters are famously anti-establishment every men. Where do these politics come from in your own life?
PM: How long have we got?!! …Well, for a start – the Catholic Church influenced me – it is very establishment and corrupt. My personal experience of it is that it’s actually more sinister than anything you hear about in the media. It’s more masonic for example. Hence Jimmy Savile was a Knight of Malta and his coffin was surrounded by Knights of Saint Columba. What does that mean? Why doesn’t anyone bother to ask?
Other areas of Savile’s life have been investigated but not his links to the Catholic Church (or royalty). So my encountering two masonic organisations as a kid (one Catholic, one Gnostic) have a lot to do with my anti-establishment perspective.
The town I grew up in was one where everyone in power knew everyone else whether they were masons or something else. And they used their power in negative ways. I guess I’m still getting even with them! It made me suspicious of the establishment in all its forms.
So take Mother Theresa, shortly to be made a saint. If you google Sturn magazine’s article on her and “the mission millions” you’ll discover she’s a complete fraud. As a kid, I witnessed nuns being similarly fraudulent, lying and hiding the truth.
FTN: If you could become any one of your characters for the day, who would it be. Why?
PM: Marshal Law because he attacks super heroes who are pillars of the establishment. How many good arms dealers or tycoons do you know in real life? I’m not aware of any.
“My encountering two masonic organizations as a kid (one Catholic, one Gnostic) have a lot to do with my anti-establishment perspective.”
FTN: Barring the obvious need to create, what fuels you as a writer to tell the stories you tell?
PM: A kind of catharsis. For example, Exploring Slaine’s childhood in the latest story allowed me to explore my own psychology. And a form of veneration of my heroes. Defoe is a Leveller – they were great men who schools deliberately do not teach kids about because they stood for freedom. If the Levellers had won it wouldn’t be Charles 1 alone on the scaffold. They’d have got rid of all privilege. And there’d be no Charles 111. How our country allows an idiot with a disturbing, troubled and suspicious private life to take the throne of Britain is beyond me.
FTN: You’re a vocal advocate of online comics. With Independent creators seemingly in a stronger position now than they’ve ever been, do you think the advent of ‘technology for everyone’ threatens the U.S. big 2’s comic book hegemony?
PM: I’d like to think so! There are some buts though, which most creators don’t take any notice of
a) Write for an audience – not just for yourself.
b) You’ve got to understand the techno side – you can’t upload and hope for the best.
c) You’ve got to be good at marketing – and most creators aren’t. They think it’s enough to be “good”. It’s not.
FTN: With the exception of solid entertainment, what message do you try to convey to the reader in your work?
PM: Challenge society, change society, widen perspectives outside the mental straitjacket the media would put us in. For example, by acknowledging Britain was probably one of the most evil Empires the world has ever known (and it’s still pretty dirty when you look at Iraq and Syria,), it sets us free. It’s not self-flagellation, it’s actually taking pride in the true Britain of characters like Defoe and the Levellers, soldiers like Charley in Charley’s War, wild Celts like Slaine and so on.
FTN: Who are your own biggest influences as a writer?
John Pilger. Wilkie Collins – Moonstone. Susan George – A Fate Worse Than Debt. Thomas M. Disch – the Priest. E.D.Morel (politician against WW1). John S. Clarke (pacifist) Graham Greene. Robert Mckee – author of Story. Joseph Heller – Catch 22. P.G. Wodehouse – Jeeves. Samuel Butler – Erewhon. Richmal Crompton – William books. Dennis Wheatley. Rider Haggard. Giovanni Guareschi – Don Camillo. Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Williams – Molesworth. Searle’s cartoons – Saint Trinians. Emil Ludwig – Life of Bismarck. Stephen Leacock who wrote surreal short comedy stories. My favorite was The Great Detective which took the piss out of the Establishment. I read it when I was 8 or 9 So it’s probably all his fault!
FTN: You formed Repeat Offenders with the aim of developing concepts for the big screen. Given the task of casting one of your characters – who would it be and who would play them?
American Reaper has a very powerful detective cop. Michael Fassbender or Gerard Butler are names that come to mind. I think the screenplay was sent to Gerard Butler but he said no. Actor Scott Adkins has optioned Accident Man cos he wants to star in it, so that’s one step closer to reality.
“Now the Diehards are back as Zombies and they intend to continue eating the Rich! I think we can all identify with them!”
FTN: You’re a keen user of historical characters in your fiction. If you could visit any moment in time and take a particular action; when would it be, what would it be and why would you do it?
Shoot Lord Milner.
He took over from Cecil Rhodes and created the conspiracy to draw Europe into a Great War. Sir Edward Grey was the front man – a master of bulls@#t , the classic “English Gentleman” and also responsible for the mass murder of a generation – but shooting him wouldn’t do much good. But there is no doubt that Britain was secretly – and not so secretly – responsible for World War One.
Milner was the main man, so executing him might have prevented it. Just as executing Hitler might have stopped WWII. All this stuff about Gallant Little Belgium is crap. They don’t believe it in Belgium today – only in UK school books and in the works of establishment shills like Max Hastings. Belgium was in a secret military alliance with Britain and France. E. Morel exposed what Grey was up at to at the time . Morel is a man who also exposed the Congo atrocities.
He’s honoured for that work, but noted establishment military historians – like Gary Sheffield – just say “he was very wrong” where WWI was concerned. Sheffield didn’t explain to me “why” when I had a twitter conversation with him about it. (I gave a lecture on this subject at Liverpool uni recently) Morel wasn’t alone, of course. Historians try to ignore him because he can’t be dismissed as a nut or a David Icke conspiracy theorist. Morel was a distinguished diplomat. A truly great man who needs remembering.
“Actor Scott Adkins has optioned Accident Man cos he wants to star in it, so that’s one step closer to reality.”
McGregor’s Hidden History covers the subject and is very readable. It’s also on-line. Lord Milner’s Second War is a bit dry but also does the job, plus the pamphlets of Morel are available on line. If Milner had been assassinated, in 1912, it could have just stopped Armageddon and opportunist characters like Churchill and Lloyd George might never have come to power with the terrible consequences for the people of 1914 – 1918 and beyond. With some areas of history, I’m still a student, but I’ve been studying WWI since I was a kid and there is no doubt Britain was responsible.
Not something you’re likely to read about in school books or the mainstream media where Max Hastings and Paxman reign supreme, alas. As you can see, I feel strongly about this because we owe it to our ancestors that the truth gets out there. Not the ‘noble sacrifice’ bulls@#t of Cameron and co. The WWI generation of young soldiers were murdered by the British establishment in conjunction with other forces, notably the bankers and merchants of death.
FTN: Finally, what are you currently working on and want the world to know about? Pimp it hard:
Defoe – but it’s at an early stage. I’m still mulling over the plot. I want to carry on the London Hanged in a sequel (with new artist – tbc) called Diehards. Diehards was the name given to men who sneered at death when they were hung at Tyburn.
The intention of the Rich was to terrify the poor into submission and that was the real function of Tyburn. (Just like harsh prison sentences today.) So Diehards were a threat to them. They made a mockery of the terror of public executions. Now the Diehards are back as Zombies and they intend to continue eating the Rich! I think we can all identify with them! A dilemma for Reek Hunter Defoe because he hates Zombies, but he hates the Rich, too. So what’s he going to do?