If there’s one man responsible for creating some of the most memorable characters in recent British comics history, it’s Pat Mills. He co-created Battle and was the genius/madman behind the controversial Action and the title it spawned – 2000AD. Other memorable credits include Marshall Law (with long- time collaborator, artist Kevin O’Neill) and a variety of US comics, such as DC Comics’ Batman: Book of Shadows.
Memorabilia Magazine: What was the British comics industry like to work in?
Pat Mils: Full of fuck-wits. It’s improved a little over the years, but in a sense, these days, it’s become more colourless – at least people then were pretty wacky and eccentric and drunk! These days when I’ve entered a couple of editorial studios it’s like a morgue! But the fuck-wits are still around, only they’ve become better at hiding their incompetence. Back in those days you could spot them at a thousand paces – usually by their pipe smoke and sports jackets. There were lots of them. Having come from a non-comic background, sent in to stir the industry up with some new titles and new thinking, and being given a free hand to achieve it, you could imagine how well I got on with them. I realised that if I was going to produce something worthwhile, I’d have to start from scratch without the pipe-smokers.
Memorabilia Magazine: What can you tell us about the interference you had with later parts of your anti-war story for Battle, Charley’s War?
Pat: Not much on the censorship front. I can recall two examples. If you mean the fact another writer took over Charley’s War, I accepted this because Joe Colquhoun, the artist, wanted to carry on to retirement and I thought the world of him. Alas, the new writer pretty well killed Charley’s War stone dead. It lasted a matter of months after I left it.
Memorabilia Magazine: What was the reaction to Charley’s War at the time?
Pat: Very popular. No problems. Being World War One, no one in charge paid any attention.
Memorabilia Magazine: Is there any chance it will be reprinted again?
Pat: It seems very likely. We’re gathering requests [via the Charley’s War web site here from readers to pass on to Titan [who previously published it in two graphic albums]. The more we get, the more likely they will reprint.
Memorabilia Magazine: What do you think made the comics you created such a success – and as sought after as Action and Battle are with their fans today?
Pat: Because I aimed them at the ordinary reader. Not comic aficionados. Both [Battle and Action] were very street level. Both were subversive in one way or another; Action particularly so. And on both, we sweated blood.
Memorabilia Magazine: Why do you think the British comics market has changed so dramatically since then? Why are there no longer any original ‘boys comics’ (except for 2000AD)?
Pat: Because all the talent is going elsewhere, to the US in most Brit writers and artists’ cases, to France, in my case. You could say it’s the weekly format being out of date, but The Beano is still there, so I feel that’s an excuse. Imagine a Brit weekly comic filled with top writers and artists – I think it would succeed, and 2000AD’s ongoing success also bears this out.
Memorabilia Magazine: If you collect comics at all, what do you chase down at comics festivals?
Pat: I don’t collect, but if I did, it would have to be Ken Reid. Especially his Jonah and Frankie Stein. The man was a genius. His satirical black humour pre-dated Monty Python and seems to have working class roots, rather than university origins. Yet it is as funny and warped as any of them. I still wish I’d been able to run his story in 2000AD about a nuclear survivor who is so hideous he tries to kill himself every week. But the pipe- smokers won on that occasion and stopped me.
Memorabilia Magazine: What are you working on now?
Pat: Requiem-Vampire Knight and two other ongoing bandes dessines for France. The French market is extremely important to me – good deals, good format, good sales and plenty of respect for creators.
Charley’s War created by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun
CHARLEY’S WAR ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT © REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.