PAT MILLS: "My driving force is arguably more esoteric"


Since the debut release, Spacewarp, the magazine has been dedicated to the expansion of a new owned-creator universe. Your style of writing is known for operating under a rather strict framework for the kind of stories you choose to work with, so I’m curious how this magazine came to be.

I was saddened that we’d lost the youth market that comics were originally intended for. And anthology comics are very British – so I wanted to reconnect with today’s generation. Thus far it’s worked, but has its challenges. Price for one thing. Comics were traditionally cheaper. So we’ve managed to bring the price down.

Why do you think youth market was lost? What’s the difference between today generation of readers and previous one?

Because all of us creators prioritized the increasingly adult comics which arguably gave creators higher profiles and more prestige. But it’s a much smaller market. It was NOT lost because of video games etc – that’s an excuse to cover up the fact that we fucked up. Consequently we lost the original audience and getting Generation Z interested in comics is challenging. The evidence that they are potentially interested is there – Manga etc – but the first challenge is admitting there is a problem in the first place. Many professionals are in denial or prefer the way things are.

What was your debut work in writing?

Writing for every IPC comic from Cor!! to Tammy with my colleague John Wagner. The humour comics like Cor!! were hard work because they were formulaic rather than anarchic British humour

And anarchism is mostly what you prefer. Why?

Because of my background which is anti-establishment.

Do you remember the struggles you had to face to see your work published?

After I was trained as a magazine journalist with D C Thomson, it was relatively easy. But as a teenager, I remember how driven I was to write and how encouraged I was by enthusiastic responses (e.g. Punch magazine), even if they didn’t actually buy my stories.

That’s interesting what you say right there. Where do you think your driven force for writing comes from? Even when they didn’t buy your stories you continued.

All my stories back then – and now – were anti-establishment. My driving force is arguably more esoteric: the muse - aka known as the soul – wants me to write such stories because of some deep esoteric motivations which are only superficially driven by experiences in this life. I get into it a little in KISS MY AXE, the Secret History of Slaine due out in around a month’s time.


Drawing inspiration not only from underground publications and myths, do you find your work colliding with reality?

All the time. I need the subtext of today’s reality no matter how disguised it is by fantasy or history. Not all writers need this, it seems to me, so they can write vivid stories without ‘polemics’. I envy them!

I think, you are a rebel by heart. Is for you writing an artistic weapon?

Definitely. When it’s not used as a weapon my muse (and thus I) are not interested.

What is so daunting about fiction for you?

Being limited by genre. Some of my stories cross genres, but audiences like very specific labels – murder thrillers, historical romance etc. Generally they would be put off by counter-culture or subversion which appeal to a smaller audience, so it needs packaging in a way that disguises it.

Your stories often illustrate normal people in extraordinary circumstances. Are you interested in that tension?

Absolutely. Ordinary people are heroes and they are often neglected by larger than life fantasy heroes or super heroes. But their story is very important.

That’s the opposite of the typical stereotypical (super)hero of today. Even ancient myths were full of tragedies and struggles where a normal man would defeat destiny. Do you think we are living in a very complacent society and where the sense of true heroism changed?

Undoubtedly. Technology (super powers) has replaced a sense of true heroism. We are discouraged from seeing ordinary people as heroes because it’s too threatening to society. We mistakenly revere idiots – like Johnson – and mass murderers like Tony Blair. Or heroism is diverted into sport where it doesn’t challenge the status quo.

Does your process of writing change from story to story?

Yes. Different styles for different genres and audiences.

What do you create first, the story or the world?

1) The character. 2) The world. 3) The story.
It’s never quite that simple, but that’s the plan.

Torquemada stories usually present a conflict of science versus faith, censorship of knowledge to protect holy truths… the list of intriguing subjects is endless. What do you want to communicate with a character like that?

A Catholic theologian described Nemesis recently as ‘A great work of the Catholic imagination’. It was a way of writing about my recollections of my Catholic childhood.

The Catholic Church was an oppressive and abusive force in my childhood. Organised crime was rampant in the Catholic Church and probably still is.
Writing about it was a valuable catharsis – Dredd and Nemesis. Thus a recent Sunday Times article showed the connection:

(The article is accurate except I was the developer of Dredd, not the creator) But I’ve found recently that it’s not enough, so I run a blog for survivors exposing the crimes of the Catholic Church. It works. The blog directly led to the head of a religious order (the equivalent of an arch-bishop) being suspended.

And there is more work in progress.


To truly summon the spirit of old, when you began composing for the Sláine project you decided to recreate a special environment that birthed the early Celtic mythos material, how much background work you did to develop the characters and story?

Masses! It was an attempt to understand my Irish roots. A personal quest as well as a Celtic quest. I describe the process in my new book ‘Kiss my Axe!’ out in a couple of months.

That’s great. Where can people order a copy of the book?

It will be on AMAZON in about 4 weeks time.And a signed edition available from Get My Comics in about 8 weeks time. It’s called KISS MY AXE! The Secret History of Slaine the Warped Warrior.

How the story for American Reaper came together? I understand that might be a possibility to take the story to the big screen.

It’s currently with Amblin, Spielberg’s company. I wanted a story which showed how wealth and age exploit youth - in Reaper they steal their bodies.

Has patience been an important part of your success?

It is for every writer. And the need to make a living. So you can’t have an arthouse approach. You have to think commercially.

Talent is not everything, right?

Commercial precedes talent and I’m not sure this is understood. To know what an audience is looking for. Thus genre writing is well known and understood in crime, war, romance text novels etc., but comics are often about personal expressions, whereas I believe they should be about the equivalent of genre writing if they are ever to regain their past sales. Manga is one example which demonstrates this. It’s still possible to be commercial and have a personal message, but it has to be that way around. You do it the other way around at your peril, or if you don’t care about the market, or if you think you know better than market forces.

Does being a writer require a thick skin?

Yes. I don’t have one! I’ll accept criticism from someone who knows what they’re doing – e.g. a good professional script editor, producer or director. Or sometimes if I’m paid enough if they don’t know what they’re doing. And I’ll also accept criticism from a target audience – e.g. young readers on Spacewarp. But others I find annoying, because there’s no wisdom in their views. I use Robert McKee’s Story as my bible, to keep me ‘on the rails’.

Do you sometimes feel the pressure that your next book has to be better than the one you wrote before?

Not in that way. The key thing is to make sure it sells and reaches an audience. So there’s plenty of pressure there.

Are you a daylight or nocturnal writer?



What kind of music do you listen to?

All kinds, but I love classic music. Chopin. Russian piano concertos. Carmina Burana. Other music – Leonard Cohen. Nick Cave. Buffy St Marie. Jazz.

Favourite movie

Third Man

What kind of things can you communicate without words?

It depends then on the artist in comics. Joe Colquhoun on Charley’s War was a master of emotion and I should have featured more silent scenes with him. Clint Langley did some good scenes in Slaine without dialogue. A subtle sceptical expression on the hero’s face that says silently ‘I don’t believe you’. That’s very effective.

How do you translate emotion from a piece of music into words on the page?

I haven’t cracked that one yet. I’ll sometimes reference music in battle scenes – like Carmina Burana – or ‘Going Underground’ in the first Nemesis story. It helps get the reader in the mood.

What's for you an uncompromising conviction in artistic integrity?

Exposing the crimes of the ruling class. For me, particularly relating to World War One where Britain deliberately engineered the war and deliberately prolonged it. The ruling class truly were war criminals, guilty of mass murder – Haig, Churchill, Milner, Lloyd George and so on. Conventional history is a proveable lie. How to dramatise this in order to convey it to a large audience is a work in progress.


Name: Pat Mills
DOB: 1949
Place of birth: Ipswich, Great Britain
Occupation: Writer, Editor

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