Charley’s War co-creator and 2000AD creator Pat Mills has revealed he is working on Brothers in Arms, a new World War One project, drawn by David Hitchcock.
Pat continues to receive deserved acclaim for his World War One comic story Charley’s War, which first appeared in Battle Picture Weekly in the 1970s and has most recently been collected in English by Titan Books and in French by Delirium.
“It’s a World War One series in the tradition of Charley’s War but with a number of significant differences,” Pat told downthetubes.
“Brothers in Arms started off as Fred’s War but is widening by the day into a group story. I’m very lucky to have the artist David Hitchcock on board, who has a superb Edwardian/gothic-y style with tonnes of atmosphere.
“Brothers begins at the start of hostilities in 1914 and features a supporting cast – Australian, French, German and American – to give it an international appeal. Brothers also has a more sophisticated visual look and reconciliation theme than Charley’s War, for today’s audience.
“We have several publishers interested, and a French publisher already wants to buy the French rights,” Pat reveals. “I’m pleased with the way things are going as this story was just a gleam in my eye back in July!
“It’s likely to evolve, depending on who it’s published with,” he continues. “But it will include some hard hitting areas that weren’t covered in Charley’s War and are rarely – if ever – covered in British accounts of the war. amely, the widespread use of ‘Forced March’ tablets (cocaine and caffeine) – probably taken with the rum ration; and extensive trading with the enemy: Britain, France and Germany were all selling important war materials to each other, which took some digging to find out about.
“I also cover conscientious objectors and the shocking story of the Wheeldons, who were framed by the State. That’s the plan, anyway! We’ll have to see how it all plays out. Ideally, it would be ready to publish Vol 1 in Aug 2014 to coincide with the outbreak of hostilities. There will be five or six volumes in total – it’s very open at the moment.”
Brothers in Arms is the story of Fred, Tom, and Ned, three brothers in the Great War, who, during the story meet: Henri (from France), Karl (a German), Anton (Russian) and Sean (American).
“The focal character Fred,” Pat explains. “He’s a regular reserve soldier, a member of the British Expeditionary Force, nicknamed ‘Fred Karno’s Army’, after the slapstick comedian. His older brother Ned emigrated to Australia in 1910 and volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force. His younger brother, Tom, becomes a conscientious objector who believes he too, is fighting – for peace.
“Each volume focuses on Fred but also on a soldier from another country with whom he will have a strong emotional connection. As the war progresses, we see further glimpses of each of Fred’s ‘Brothers’ until their eventual death, injury or demobilisation.
“The theme is the World is my country… It’s set in World War One because of [of the upcoming] anniversary and because there’s a lot happening with Charley’s War during the anniversary years. Six years ago, it wouldn’t have flown. See Hislop’s Wipers Times where he said the same thing. He tried six years ago with it and couldn’t get any interest.
“The story started with Fred and his conscientious objector younger brother. That phrase “The World is my country” comes from Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man.
“The Wheeldon pacifists who feature heavily in my story,” he says. Alice Wheeldon was a member of the Independent Labour Party, pacifist and anti-war campaigner, arrested in 1917 along with her family and imprisoned. Evidence given in the case against them appears to have been fabricated by “a government eager to disgrace the antiwar movement”. Incredibly, her descendants are still trying tio seure a pardon for them today.
“We need more working class heroines like them for this anniversary,” argues Pat, “otherwise we’ll all be submerged by tales and poetry of middle and upper-class heroes.
“Directly pursuing the theme led to secondary but significant roles for a German, Frenchman, Australian (Fred’s older brother), American and even a Russian. So, combined with the conscientious objector, there is a ‘Magnificent Seven’ of the Great War where ‘The World is my country’.”
Pat and David’s new project is a welcome addition to new Charley’s War collections from Titan Books utilising scans from artist Joe Colquhoun’s original art, Chris Geary’s already-published International Aces (see news story) and To End All Wars, a collection of short comic stories set during World War One, edited by Jonathan Clode and John Stuart Clark (aka the artist ‘Brick’), which will be published by Soaring Penguin, after the idea was first floated on the downthetubes forum back in January (see news story).
• Read about Alice Wheeldon’s extraordinary story here on Wikipedia.
• The great-granddaughters of Alice Wheeldon – Winnie and Alf Mason – have created a website as part of their campaign to clear their names so that history can record that what happened to them was a miscarriage of justice: www.alicewheeldon.org
• Charley’s War web site: http://charleyswar.sevenpennynightmare.co.uk