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Home ¦ Features ¦ Pat Mills Interview

Pat Mills- A 2000 AD Review Interview
21st August 04

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
Slaine by Simon Bisley
Interview by Richmond Clements

Pat Mills is one of the founding fathers of 2000AD, and is partly responsible for the longevity of the comic. Creator of some of the longest running characters in the comic, including Slaine and the ABC Warriors, Mills continues to keep these characters alive in the comic today. We caught up with him for a few words...

What is a typical days work for you? Do you work to a strict regime, or a looser timetable?

Both really. Sometimes I write abroad while travelling. Other times with friends. Other times alone at home.

I’d like to begin earlier in your career, with Charley’s War. With its political message, this tale was unlike anything else at the time. Did you have any trouble convincing your editor to accept it?

None at all. It would be far harder today.

And did the politics cause you to receive any fallout?

No - no problems

Did you ever write anything in Charley’s War where your editor thought you had went too far, either politically or in the depiction of the results of battle?

Three minor censorships... Charley shoots a friend cos he's drowning in mud... deletion of white American racism... deletion of fishing for rats with barbed wire

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
Charlie's War by Joe Colquhoun
As well as its graphic portrayal of the brutality of WW I, the story did not shy away from showing the British class system at it worst. You have obviously written this from a point of strong personal passion. I was wondering just how personal. Did you have any family members who served in the War?

Yes. My Grandfather was a policeman. Rather than arrest deserters, he joined the army and served in the trenches as a cook. After the war he went back to being a cop. CW was very much my chance to portray the Class War. I'd like to have continued into World War Two

As one of only a handful of original contributors still working for 2000AD, you are well placed to answer this. How do you think 2000AD has changed in the last quarter century?

It's become more responsive to fandom as opposed to general readership (whatever that is). This is inevitable given distribution problems, and - arguably - fandom is keeping it alive. But its roots were general readership. The differences between them are hard to put into words, but everyone is aware that there are differences.

What do you think has been the secret of it’s longevity?

It's addictive. I started reading Private Eye when I was 17 or 18. I still buy it.

What do you think it needs to do to insure it’s continued survival?

I think it's pretty well aimed in the right direction which is very much down to the current editors of Megazine and 2000AD who are more open than recent past editors.

You have written for online ‘digital’ comics, could you see 2000AD, or indeed comics in general, heading in this direction, or do you think there will always be a place for paper and print?

Both. But online doesn't seem to really be working commercially as yet

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
Marshal Law by Kevin O Neill
Nemesis, Marshal Law, Metalzoic. All created with Kevin O’Neil. You seem to, if you don’t mind me saying, bring out the weird in each other! Is there any chance of you two working together again?

I've written two Marshal Law text novels with Kevin recently. One - Day of the Dead - is just out.

From its beginning Slaine has seemed to have had more than its fair share of groundbreaking artist, for McMahon, Fabry, Bisley and right through to Langley’s amazing photo real work at present. Is this a happy coincidence, or have you an active role in selecting the artist?

Finding artists has been a nightmare on Slaine. It's caused a lot of serious trauma for artists over the years.

Angela Kincaid's opening set a different style and standard and therein lies the core of the difficulty. As various artists surpassed her, but still had that demanding and different approach, we had to find similar artists. I have to have an active role in selecting the artist because when I don't - the readers blame me. AND the artists seem to disappear off the map if it isn't right (e.g. Steve Tappin - Grail Slaines) This is actually unfair and damaging to the artists, when it was sometimes the editor's choice.

Example would be the guy who drew Secret Commonwealth, Dave Bircham. I said he was great but maybe not right for Slaine. Dave Bishop said to trust his choice. I had no choice and I thought maybe I should concede to Bishop's strongly held views. There was a howl of incoherent anger from fans directed against the artist and the stories. The tragedy is that it seemed to push Dave Bircham off 2000AD which I think was wrong. He's very talented, but needs the right story. I think there should have been far greater care in choosing him.

So these days I have to choose the artist, otherwise I get it in the neck.

(On a personal note) Are you planning to bring back Ukko?

Eventually, but some way off

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
Savage by Charlie Adlard

What made you decide it was time to bring back Savage?

The readers wanted him back. Matt asked me, and I felt I had to because I have a horror of seeing stories screwed up by other writers. I've seen this happen elsewhere on 2000AD in the past.

Apart from copyright reasons, I strongly believe only writers and artists who create stories should do them - the days of house stories should be in the past. They are - in my view - a throwback to less happy and archaic times. Occasionally I will pass a story over (like an ABC novel), but only when I know the writer well and feel I can trust them.

How many books do you plan the tale to run for?

It depends on time. In an ideal world, several books. I hope I have the time, because it's very close to my heart

Have you written the next book of Savage,

I wish. I wish! I'm itching to do it, but run out of time for now

and if so, can you give us any hints as to what’s going to happen?

I think Savage may go after Vashkov - if I can make it work. I'm currently researching that aspect

Is Charlie Adlard returning as artist?

Yes. He's as into it as me

You seem to have a knack of coming up with off the wall technologies and weapons. Most recently the Belly Blaster in ABC Warriors

That was a fantasy idea that a friend of mine, Alan Mitchell, came up with.

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
ABC Warriors by Henry Flint
or the gun Bill used to down the chopper in Savage.

That actually exists.

These sort of things must be fun to dream up?

Yes. But many exist. We live in an SF world

The Medusa War was, as far as I am aware, your first novel. How did writing it compare to writing a comic script?

Harder work. Tough on my eyes (written on a lap top). But I enjoyed it.

The novel fits very tightly into the storyline running in 2000AD at the moment. Are there sections of the novel that maybe started off as parts of the strip, or vice versa?

Yes. Parts are dramatisations of the comic strip. Notably the Biohazard troopers because they originally had excellent funky black dialogue contributed by my black co-writer on the novel, Alan Mitchell. This was altered at the time by 2000AD editorial without my knowledge and in an inappropriate and uncool way. It made my toes curl it was so wrong. So I thought it was important to put it back the way it should be. I think the text version is much better. Although having said that, I'm sure some perverse fan is now going to say he preferred the comic version. In which case, my response would be I'm sure you enjoy McDonalds burgers, too.

The novel is left wide open for another volume at the end. Do you plan another prose volume, or will all the plot strands be answered in the strip?

The text novels continue the story and lead up to the current comic strip

Have you any plans to write novels for some of your other characters?

I'm talking to Games Workshop about Slaine. Maybe others will follow.

I wrote in the review of the novel that I thought you write with your tongue in your cheek a lot more often than the fans give you credit for... would I be right in thinking this?

Maybe. I think some fans don't like anything that is remotely polemical, but easily digestible/disposable entertainment ain't my style and wasn't my aim when I created 2000AD. Given the world we live in, I don't apologise for being polemical. Many "ordinary" readers like it and it's them I prefer to write for. If hard comic core fans want pure entertainment - well, they must look elsewhere.

2000 AD - Pat Mills interview
Requiem by Olivier Ledroit
Who are your favourite comic creators?

Ken Reid - who created Jonah and lots of Odhams publisher characters. Joe Colquohoun artist creator on Charley's War.

Kevin O'Neill, and all my other artist creator colleagues.

Abroad - Bilal.

What are your tips for us to look out for in the future?

I work a lot for France - as well as for 2000AD. So that's Requiem - Vampire Knight. Claudia - Vampire Knight.

What’s the next thing we can expect to see from you?

The next Slaine.

Thanks to Pal Mills for the interview. You can catch the latest ABC Warriors series in this week's 2000AD.


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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).