There are only a handful of what I consider “legends” in the comics field. There are very few individuals that are able to have a massive impact on the comics world and the overall culture. I was lucky enough for one of these individuals to have taken a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to a lowly peon like me. Peter Milligan is certainly an icon in the comics world and I am grateful of him taking the time to answer a few questions for this site.
I will also say that I am 100% sold on his new series The Discipline and I also picked up two of his older titles The Extremist and Enigma for future reading. Both of which look totally strange and seem right up my alley. But enough of me jabbering, take it away Peter!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background? (Where are you from, where you grew up, when did you start writing?)
I was born in London, And I live there now. I started writing when I was art school. My first published work was for 200AD and for a small independent publisher called PACIFIC in the USA, where I published FREAKWAVE and STRANGE DAYS and other items of weirdness with Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins.
Your bibliography is, well, its massive, and not only that you have written for just about every publisher and title out there. Do you find it hard to jump from one character to another? Is it hard to write an interesting Bat-Man story then jump to X-Men and write a story for that title?
The trick is to be totally immersed in whatever story and character you’re writing. Sure, it’s possible for there to be what you might call “leakage” from one character or style to another, but you just have to be aware of it and stop it happening. It forces you to focus on what a story is about.
That’s a really hard one. I’ve done one or two short DOCTOR STRANGE stories and I really enjoyed that. I love that character and would happily write him again. There’s not really any character I haven’t written that I’m desperate to write: but I’d like to have another go at ELEKTRA. I don’t feel I did myself or the character justice when I wrote her (albeit there were mitigating circumstances) and would like to have another go at the dark eyed assassin.
You have some very interesting creator owned books. Where do you get your ideas?
Just stuff that interests me, or annoys or in some way engages me. Stuff I see around me, and those thoughts you have at four in the morning.
In your book The Programme, which is 12 issues, I felt like the book is almost two separate stories. In the first 6 chapters (Vol 1) you seem to be heading down one path, then in the last 6 chapters (Vol 2) there see ms to be a 180 from where the story starts and where it ends. While writing this story, why did take the story in the direction you did. As the reader it seemed to be heading in another direction, more in line with superhero, but the story seemed to follow more of a political and racial theme. Why did you follow this avenue?
Well, I think if a story wrong-foots a reader it’s good, so long as the reader continues to be engaged. There was always meant to be a political aspect to the Programme. It was my starting point. The notion of superheroes was my way into telling this story.
Being from across the pond, that is England for those that don’t know, how are comics and graphic novels viewed in England. Is there the same following in England and Europe or is that something that is unique to America? What are the main differences that you see being in the industry?
The UK has to be seen as something different from the rest of Europe, where they often have their own culture and traditions when it comes to comics and graphic novels. Comics – at least superheroes – are probably not as deeply culturally rooted here as they are in the USA. Now, I’d say comics were not as big as they are as in the USA but there’s certainly a following. Our bigger conventions can draw a lot of people and interest.
You have also worked on a few movies in your career. Can you talk about what that experience was like and why you made the jump from comics to writing movies?
I’ve worked on a number of projects, two of which have been made and one which hopefully will go into production this year (though you never know with films). I’ve done a bit of that flying off to Hollywood and meeting stars but when it all comes down to it it still starts with you, a keyboard, and the creative part of your brain.
I always think this is interesting when talking to comic writers. How do you find an artist for your books? When you are writing a title for Marvel do they (Marvel) just tell you which artist you are working with, or do you have a say as the writer. For your creator owned books how do you pick an artist to work with? Is there a particular art style that you look for or do you look for a style that fits the tone of your story?
Either you have an artist in mind at the beginning and the artist is part of the creative process, with designs etc or he or she is brought in at a later date, sometimes as late as when the scripts are written. Usually – and this is preferable – the choice of artist is a collaborative affair between you, the writer and the editors.
Recently you have been working on New Romancer, can you talk a little about this story and how you came up with this idea?
This is a very different kind of book for me. What you might call a supernatural rom-com. It’s also something of a labor of love. I’ve been interested in Lord Byron – his poetry and his whole phenomenon – for a long time and in NEW ROMANCER a geeky but romantic young genius in Silicon Valley called Lexy manages to bring Byron back to life. Byron is this strange girl’s dream lover. When she brings back the reality of this charming but difficult man she realizes that maybe dreams are best kept just as that, dreams.
Your most recent book was released a few weeks ago called The Discipline. You said “This might be the edgiest story I’ve written. In most ‘erotic thrillers’ sex is the end-game, the objective. In The Discipline the erotic charge is simply a step towards something stranger, darker… beyond human.” I think this book looks really interesting, can you talk more about this story?
It’s being published by IMAGE and it’s drawn by Leandro Fernandez, who worked with me on THE NAMES. It is very edgy, very sexual, and pretty weird. But all the sex is there for a reason. At its heart it is the story of a woman trying to juggle different worlds. She comes from a blue collar background and still interacts with this world, but now she’s married to a wealthy banker and lives the high life in Manhattan. However, she’s bored and frustrated. The theme of trying to span different worlds is pushed further when she begins to enter the world of a weird organization called The Discipline, and the strange and terrifying war that this group is fighting.
In both of you most recent works you seem to be getting away from the traditional superhero stories in comics. Do you see this as a natural transition of mainstream comics – away from superheroes and moving into more diverse stories? Even with The Discipline there seems to be more adult themes in this book. What do you think the future holds for comics? Will the genre ever be able to shake the stereotypes that are associated with comics?
I’m not sure if it’s a transition for comics. I don’t tend to think or work that way. These are the ideas I’m wanting to write right now, and if I happen to be some harbinger of the zeitgeist, so be it. I think the medium of comics – if you look at the all the different things that are being published – is probably shaking itself free of some of the stereotypes. It’ll probably take longer – especially in English speaking countries – for the same to happen.
As a successful writer, do you have any specific goals? Maybe something that you set for yourself either words per day, or how many pieces you would like to complete each year? What drives you to keep pushing forward?
Fun’s not half as much fun as work.
Of all your projects which on are you most proud of, or which one means the most to and why?
That’s impossible to say. There’s been Shade. There’s been X-Statix. Shorter stories like Skin or Enigma. But others, too. The ones I’m thinking about most and am most interested in tend to be those I’m working on currently or those that are being published right now. So that’d be New Romancer and The Discipline. Plus a few miniseries that I don’t want to talk about because they’re both not yet at the stage where I feel comfortable about talking about them.
Who was your biggest influence that pushed you to want to be a writer?
That pushed me into a being a COMIC BOOK WRITER, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy.
That made me want to be a writer? Probably James Joyce.
Is there anything else you would like to add? (Please include any links you would like posted Facebook, twitter, website, and I will make sure people know where to find and buy your books.)
It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this site, which struck me as a peculiarly interesting one.