One of comics’ most fruitful collaborations is to get its due in Best of Milligan and McCarthy – a deluxe collection of hard-to-find gems from Peter Milligan (Hellblazer, X-Statix) and Brendan McCarthy (Judge Dredd, The Zaucer of Zilk).
There is still nothing else like Freakwave, Paradax!, Skin, and Rogan Gosh, and this 260 plus page volume from Dark Horse Comics, out on 11th September, is the ideal starting place for new readers, collecting 20 years’ worth of the pair’s finest work from Vanguard Illustrated, Strange Days, 2000 AD, and Vertigo, including some early, archival snippets from The Electrick Hoax and Summer of Love.
Included in the collection are:
Paradax, a modern superhero for the modern eighties, both a product and a reflection of this era, erupted from left of field, scruffily iconoclastic and filled with the joie de vivre of an earlier comic book age. Paradax behaved like a hooligan in fancy dress getting drunk at a sombre black-tie event. In an era of long and bloated “concept album” comics, where more pages meant more importance, Paradax was more of a short, sharp, throwaway pop single. (The volume also features the 1986 two-part Paradax miniseries for Vortex Comics).
Rogan Gosh was a product of Indian cultural influences on a young Brendan McCarthy, coupled with the creators interests at the time in various strands of Vedantic mysticism and mind-buggering quantum physics
The Electric Hoax was an early creation for Sounds from Milligan and McCarthy, featuring a cavalcade of punk wackos: The Subliminal Kid, Doctor O’Rotten, Moby Train, and Human Ken. Even Patrick McGoohan and Jasper Johns found their way into this crazy strip!
Freakwave was originally a film pitch, Pacific Comics commissioned it as a backup strip for their anthology series Vanguard Illustrated in 1983. It soon became the most popular feature, and Milligan and McCarthy were offered their own comic, Strange Days.
In Strange Days, Freakwave was completely transformed into a surrealistpunk Tibetan Book of the Dead tale. “Peter’s writing underwent a revolution in style, says Brendan of the title in an intorduction to the pages featured. “He was now lettering Freakwave as well as writing it, which allowed his prose the fluidity to match the flood of outlandish imagery. We were joined by the hugely talented Brett Ewins and became a collective, a kind of ‘art-pop group.’ Brett was drawing Johnny Nemo and contributing logos and ideas to everything else.
“Paradax, our unruly attempt at a superhero, completed the trio of strips. The comic looked and felt really different to what was going on in the UK at the time.”
Fan favourite Mirkin the Mystic featured in the first issue of Paradax, a member of the Mystics race who inhabit the Realms, a set of parallel worlds all derived from the source of ultimate reality. Realm One also know as Earth. In these Realms fictional characters free from the constrictions of ultimate reality come to life.
The Summer of Love – A weekly newspaper comic strip published by The News on Sunday in 1987, which had collected together some of the UK’s biggest names in comics to produce strips, including Scatha the Witch Warrior Woman by Pat Mills, with art by Glenn Fabry). Unfortunately the News on Sunday folded before Summer of Love had finished it run.
The Hollow Circus, which appeared in the anthology A1 and is, suggests Milligan “perhaps the most existentially terrifying little piece we worked on.”
Sooner or Later, which continued Milligan and McCarthy’s fascination with the working-class outsider and appeared in 2000AD.
This mammoth colletion rounds off with Skin, originally scheduled to appear in Crisis, which Peter Milligan describes as “the most controversial story we ever produced” and was finally published by Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and centres on a young skinhed deformed by the drug, thalidomide, a story that began with Brendan, who grew up around skinhead culture.
• The Best of Milligan and McCarthy will be available from all good book shops online stores, Waterstones and signed copoies will be available from Forbidden Planet after their signing at the London Megatorie on 14th September
• Peter Milligan’s official web site: www.petermilligan.co.uk
• Brendan McCarthy’s official fan site: www.brendanmccarthy.co.uk