Personal disclaimer: I probably wouldn’t be doing comic if it were not for Pat Mills. To me, his way always felt “the” right way. Entertaining but deep, a way of telling stories that allowed both for great dialogs and impactful art, nasty but empathic, I was drafted toward Mills as soon as someone brought a Judge Dredd (which he co-created with John Wagner) in my school. Years later when my mind was blown away by the great Zenda books of Slaine and Marshall Law, I didn’t realize the nectar was coming from the same fountain. But I was left with an endless thirst for more.
He also is a major international author who always wanted to be published in France and achieved it with no one else but Oliver Ledroit. To this days they produced 10 albums together, from the witches of Sha to the Hellish
Pat Mills is not only the celebrated author of those or the wonderful Charlie’s War. He also created many comic magazines, including the absolutely iconic 2000 AD. Name any English artist or writers who matter in comic books (and there’s a lot), they’ve nearly certainly published in it.
So imagine our joy when Pat accepted to be a big part of Gryyym. Not only did he bring a wonderful dark science fiction story illustrated by the amazing Fay Dalton
We’ve asked Pat Mills to be our sponsors as building on the legacy of 2000 AD means a lot to us. Here’s an extensive interview where he gives us his unique perspective of a long, busy carrier spread in UK, USA
Hello Pat, and thank you for your sponsor! You may have launched more UK comics magazine than any other person, living or not, and now here you are helping us Froggies to launch Gryyym, a crowd-funded mook, debuting on March 28th, 2019 on kisskissbankbank. From Battle Weekly (1975) to 2000 AD (1977) to Toxic (1991) and many others and now Gryyym, how do you see the evolution of how one creates a thematic comic publication from your debut to the here and now?
There are several routes. One route in Britain was to produce comics for adults – like Revolver and Crisis. Or to make 2000AD more adult. Ultimately in
A second route is to attract younger readers in Britain whilst retaining a certain sophistication. Thus Valerian is the kind of series that – suitably ‘Anglicised’ – would appeal to readers of all ages in Britain. Today, in Britain, no one is interested in producing comics for kids. It’s a great pity.
In France, all this is different as you have a healthier comic industry. But Gryyym seems like a very healthy step forward to promote new talent
You’ve experienced various resistance and censorship from what you described as the conservative establishment. How do you feel these restrictions have evolved during your career?
Censorship isn’t too bad now. But there is a lack of interest in politics, historical and social themes certainly in Britain. Most people would prefer the same old stuff – so not a lot of progress there. The biggest issues lie elsewhere.
Such as ?
The two big problems which have almost destroyed British comics are as follows:
- First, rights in British publishing are a disgrace. Basically all British mainstream publisher buy all rights and royalties are either non existent or very low. This may be hard for you to understand in France – after all, your country, I understand, was first in creating copyright laws to protect creators. In Britain they have a wretched system where publishers own all the creators’ work. This means many creators don’t give a shit about their work and just use Britain as a stepping stone to work for America – where there is the potential for better money, although, in practise it’s often little better than Britain. Or they treat working in comics as a hobby and don’t give up their day job. Either way the lack of rights has resulted in a loss of talent. So we’re still in the Stone Age in Britain, I’m afraid. Few new talents like Bolland, Bisley, Fabry and O’Neill have come forward in the last decade or so.
There was one notable exception – Fay Dalton who I instantly recognised was first division. Could I get her work on 2000AD? Could I Hell! No explanation, so I have to assume it’s because she’s too classic and too sexy for Britain. Her loss in France’s gain as you’re running one of her stories. And she is now doing work on Casino Royale for Ian Fleming estate. She’s probably now too expensive for comics!
This is how Britain neglects its new talent.
- second we also have a hefty dose of intellectual snobbery. Although few professionals will admit it, they don’t like working for kids. They dream of graphic novels which usually, in practise, sell few copies but may receive good acknowledgement at conventions. So kids, on which the British comic industry was based, are neglected go off to play computer games instead.
In France it’s different – you have a healthy comic industry so you can support books with a certain intellectual snobbery or arthouse or whatever you may call it in France. In
Your stories typically use the light framework of popular genre intricated with a deep political layer. SF societal implications are often easy to grasp; in horror, it can be more subtle. What do you like to use that kind of vehicle for when you’re writing?
Both horror and SF can make strong political points. For instance the horror story Schlock Pioneer 13 – which I know you’re hoping to run – is about product placement in film and tv. I believe in Hollywood it’s actually worse and some of the Marvel films are funded by CIA.
I believe CIA supported Hulk movie. Certainly it was a US government agency. Nearly all Britain’s fictional characters – Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Scarlet Pimpernel etc – derive from the upper classes. In case you’re wondering who the Scarlet Pimpernel is… He was a character who was VERY popular in British films and books until the 1980s. He was Sir Percy Blakeney who rescued those poor, ‘innocent’ French aristocrats from the guillotine, constantly outwitting the villainous secret agent Chauvelin from the French republic who just wasn’t clever enough for the British aristocracy. As you can doubtless guess, my sympathy is with Chauvelin. He should have caught Sir Percy and introduced him to Madame Guillotine.
All my heroes are working class and there are some you won’t know of like Defoe who is a 17th century British Leveller (early socialist/communist) who fights zombies etc.
It’s embarrassing how in Britain we kiss the ass of the upper classes. We need more characters like Fantomas to deal with them! I can see why he was popular in France although we are so obedient of authority in Britain I guess it wouldn’t work here.
You gave us quite a few landmarks comics mixing terrific nasty fun yet packed with adult life topics. Marshall Law hits hard the way the Show Biz, Politics, Science and Military work together in a way that’s explicitly reminiscent of post-Vietnam USA. Slaine is an in-depth demolition of machismo that has a striking precursor quality to how society evolved since. ABC Warriors is a mockery of how all wars are pointless, etc. What do you see as the key thing to speak about for you in 2019?
Probably in my text novels Read Em and Weep which are about the world of comics. There I focus on kids revenging themselves on sexual abusers. In particular a fictional character inspired by the infamous tv celebrity Jimmy Savile. And a further text novel about an assassin in World War One – detailing trading with the enemy during World War One. Thus France was supplying explosives and ingredients for poison gas to Germany. And Germany was supplying France with steel, barbed wire etc. All via Switzerland. It’s all a lie which is repeated today with modern wars.
Charlie is your positive hero, but typically your stories are more of the “band of bastards” type, which I personally dig a lot. That framework for a story has also worked wonderfully in movies like The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. What do you like about this kind of protagonist?
Good guys in films, comics and books can be boring. We always want our characters to be flawed in some way. Charlie was flawed by not being very intelligent and thus believing in the propaganda of World War One.
Charlie is a good guy though. Most of your other characters, not so much…
Probably because we are so cynical in British comics. In text novels there are plenty. In girls comics there were numerous positive heroines. In Britain girls comics outsold male comics by two to one. But it’s a male world in comics and few professionals (apart from me) were interested. They’re now slowly enjoying a small revival.
In another interview you mentioned how you felt the fact that Judge Dredd character was limited interms of successful movie adaptation because of its core fascist nature. Indeed Dredd fulfills a pattern of many “Millsians” heroes with an explicit fascist or terrorist component (Marshal Law, nearly all ABC warriors, Bill Savage, Requiem…). What drives you to that mix of attacking what are typically progressive target (warmongers, the rich and the wealthy…) through protagonists who are never shy of judging and executing with a single bullet?
It’s the most commercially successful way of doing things. It connects quickly with an audience. In a weekly comic we only have six pages per story to make an impact, so we have to move fast! We don’t have the luxury of a 48 page album. And our audience wants a quick result.
We found that the more extreme the character, the better the readers liked it. Hence Dredd. But we twisted it around so it had a radical sub-text. In that
Thank you Pat, and for our readers, stay tuned for the terrific stories Pat has cooked up for Gryyym!