First Look: “Ragtime Soldier”, a new World War One comic from Pat Mills

"Ragtime Soldier" by Pat Mills with art by Gary Welsh and Phil VaughanPat Mills, creator of 2000AD and co-creator and writer of the classic World War One strip “Charley’s War” for Battle, has revealed the first page of his new anti-war story, “Ragtime Soldier“, featuring art by Gary Welsh and Phil Vaughan.

The story is the lead strip in an upcoming anthology, part of a Heritage Lottery funded project about the Great War Dundeeedited by Phil Vaughan and Chris Murray at the University of Dundee, which will be printed and publish through the University’s imprint UniVerse. The launch of the comic will coincide with the end of the project and will be launched  at the V&A Dundee on Friday 20th September 2019, where Pat will be the guest of honour.

“As you can see, it’s very much in the tradition of my long-running anti-war saga ‘Charley’s War’, says Pat. “Gary and Phil have clearly been inspired by the brilliant art of Joe Colquhoun on ‘Charley’s War’ to produce their own take on the Great War.

“Our story focuses on the Battle of Loos, where Scottish losses were heavy. And Dundee’s in particular.

“Joe’s an incredibly hard act to follow, but Gary and Phil have cracked it,” Pat told downthetubes. “I’ve seen the later pages and they are really compelling.

“Today, Charley’s War is selling more strongly than ever, which proves there is a huge potential audience for anti-war stories. Particularly amongst younger readers. Yet, as a genre, despite this provable commercial success, it’s still sadly neglected in favour of escapist fantasy. I guess because that’s editors and publishers’ personal preferences, even if their audience feels differently.

“I hope ‘Ragtime Soldier’ goes some way to changing things and encouraging others to produce stories about the genuine, real life heroes who were our forefathers. There are so many more stories about the truth of World War One waiting to be told…”

In Ragtime Soldier, Robbie McTaggart is a talented player of Ragtime music, the rebellious new music loved by teenagers; hence why the troops called themselves ‘The Ragtime Infantry’. It was the hot music of its day and therefore was hated by parents and the older generation.

Pat Mills and Charley's War art

Pat Mills and Charley’s War art

“It was like the soldiers were calling themselves ‘The Rock ’n Roll Infantry’,” notes Pat.

“Robbie is also a member of Dundee’s legendary Black Watch – the Fighting Fourth – who went over the top to the battle cry of ‘Marmalade!’

“It’s a story with a twist,” he adds, “because it also deals with an incredible event after the war, when a member of the War Resistance movement sensationally beat Winston Churchill in the Dundee election and became Member of Parliament.

“We hope Ragtime Soldier will form the start of a series about Robbie McTaggart’s adventures at the Battles of Loos, the Somme, Ypres and in the grim Aftermath of the war.”

The comic launch, which will feature a cover by Ian Kennedy, will take place at the V&A Dundee on Friday 20th September, starting at around lunchtime and there will be talks and a keynote by Pat Mills. The Commando comic team have also agreed to participate.

“It’s an all ages event/comic,” notes Phil Vaughn, “and we are looking to highlight some unknown (or unpublicised) stories about World War One. This is why we approached Pat for the Ragtime script: we wanted to have a ‘Charley’s War’ vibe to the lead comic strip.

“We are looking to expand the 11-pager to a full graphic novel at a later date and are currently looking at other funding streams.

“There will be other backup strips in the Great War Dundee comic,” Phil adds, “which will be given away free at the event, and also an extensive ‘Making Of’ section at the backend, as Pat’s research and development is second to none.”5:47 - Shot at DawnAs part of Great War Dundee, another comic has already been published – 5:47, available as a digital download, by Fruzsiner Pittner, supported by The Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee Innovation Internship, and Iain Donald, Abertay University.

During the course of World War One,  some 346 men were executed for various offences including desertion and cowardice. We know now that many of those men were likely suffering from the trauma of war; a condition today referred to as post traumatic stress syndrome and combat stress reaction. In 2007, after years of campaigning and the eventual signing of the Armed Forces Act 2006, 306 of those men were pardoned posthumously – and 5:47 tells the story of the men who served, and the campaign to have them remembered.

UniVerse is the imprint set up by the University of Dundee to publish the work of the students on both the university’s Masters in Comics and Graphic Novels and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) Animation, Graphic Design and Illustration course’s Comic Art and Graphic Novels module. It has also been used to feature the work of the winners and runners up in the annual Dundee Comics Day art competition.


Art from "Charley's War", written by Pat Mills and drawn by Joe Colquhoun

Art from “Charley’s War”, written by Pat Mills and drawn by Joe Colquhoun

Great War Dundee is online at | V&A Dundee

Explore the downthetubes “Charley’s War Micro Site”, originally published by Neil Emery and created in its current form with thanks to Pat Mills, Moose Harris and Rebellion Publishing Ltd
With thanks to Pat Mills – and Colin Noble for the heads up on this great-looking new comics project
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1 reply

  1. “because it also deals with an incredible event after the war, when a member of the War Resistance movement sensationally beat Winston Churchill in the Dundee election and became Member of Parliament.”

    This statement needs some background.

    “The election was called on 26th October 1922 and Winston had had his appendix removed in London on the 18th October. He was stuck, convalescing in bed until finally he could travel to Dundee to campaign on Armistice day,11th November (looking pale and unwell). He had to deliver his speech sitting down.

    “His campaigning beforehand had consisted of statements from his bed and sending (rather posh, often ignorant of the issues and otherwise unsuitable – one being slightly drunk!) friends to Dundee to campaign for him. Only Winston’s wife Clemmie seemed to impress the Dundee electorate.

    “Winston himself made a key tactical error in insulting local newspaper owner (and employer) D.C. Thompson.
    Thompson’s papers were, unsurprisingly, scathing of Churchill.

    “Churchill’s vote collapsed and he trailed in 4th (nearly 22,000 votes behind the winner )

    “The hard working and hard drinking people of Dundee had elected a tee total prohibitionist in favour of hard working hard drinking Winston Churchill.

    As we know, the “hard working hard drinking Winston Churchill” was also ousted in 1945.

    I like the over-the-top cry of “Marmalade!”. A bit of local flavour, with lots of zest.

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