Origins, Crossovers, And Staying Subversive – The Return Of ABC Warriors With Pat Mills
by Hannah Means Shannon
The ABC Warriors will be appearing in a full fourth volume of Mek Files coming up in March 2018, but this week they are also back in all-new stories in the pages of 2000AD Prog 2062, both written by Pat Mills and illustrated by Clint Langley.
In fact, you might have guessed something was up from the cover:
Here at Comicon.com, we were delighted to have the opportunity to ask the legendary Pat Mills some questions about his long-lasting creations. This interview was conducted by Hannah Means-Shannon and Olly MacNamee.
Comicon.com: This story in Mech Files 04 is told mainly in flashback, with each ABC Warrior reminiscing over the Volgan Wars and each one’s meeting with both the enemy Volkahn and the heroic loner, Zippo. How do you work with your collaborators to create such amazing, over-the-top characters?
Pat Mills: To go back to the beginning…Soon after creating 2000AD, I wrote and researched robot characters for Mekomania, a robot history of the future for a French publisher. That didn’t work out, but I had lots of ideas for stories and robots. The ABC Warriors came from those ideas. Mongrol, particularly. Initially, there were just two artist creators: Kevin O’Neill and Mike McMahon. I sent them lots of references which they interpreted in their own way. This original story Mek Files 01 was told at a classic British comics breakneck speed. So, later there was the opportunity to revisit those stories and develop them in more detail. Clint [Langley] is brilliant at such world building.
Comicon.com: In your mind, Pat, we know you see 2000AD as a shared universe. Certainly, the Volgans add to that greatly. Was this always your intent with the comic, or something that came organically? And, how far does your road map take us? How will that impact the new series?
PM: I always saw 2000AD as being a shared universe. But I devised it in an open way without obligatory cross-overs, which can be contrived. It was up to other creators how far they wanted to cross over their characters. Some did, but I don’t think really explored the full potential. I think if I’d had my time over again, I would have made it more central to the comic. So, in my text novel series ‘Read Em and Weep’ where I write about ‘the 2000AD that never was’, and other fictional comics, there’s a central event that impacts all the stories, without, once again, it being too restrictive.
In the new ABC Warriors series the crossovers are invaluable because the ABC Warriors and Howard Quartz from Ro-Busters are united on Mars.
Comicon.com: The ABC Warriors started off as a rife on The Magnificent Seven, but they have grown to be far more than that. Where do you both see them standing in the annals of 2000AD history, given their perennial popularity? How will that develop or change in the new series?
PM: They were always very popular characters right from the beginning, but I was originally blocked from writing further stories about them by the editor. Excellent artists have brought them back, but I think Clint’s interpretation now takes them to new heights.
They do have yet greater potential – potentially in their own individual series. Thus, Simon Bisley is working on a Joe Pineapples serial. But it’s hard finding artists and the space in an anthology comic for that to happen. Maybe it’s a good thing, because I wouldn’t be happy with them becoming ‘house characters’, which would lose my voice and I think would dilute their souls. Thus, I was pretty lukewarm a few years back when IDW were talking about them appearing as a back-up story, with no reference to using the original writer or artists.
I’m pretty hostile to the Americanisation of my characters, just as I’m sure American comic creators would be negative about the Anglicisation of their characters. I think it shows a lack of respect for everyone concerned and, particularly, the readers. Comic characters are not just about making a buck, and people who think it’s just so much Disney-style product are likely to find out with dwindling sales and fan disapproval that this is not true. It won’t stop them trying of course, but the past road of comics is littered with such failures.
Comicon.com: Given the origins of modern comics did derive from political cartoons, whether that be Hogarth here in the UK or The Yellow Kid in America, is there room, or even a desire by readers, for political commentary through sci-fi and spandex?
PM: Comics and stories, generally, are often directly or indirectly political, whether it’s personal politics, cultural politics, or state politics. They are making a comment on the status quo. All too often, sadly, they are sort of right wing and endorse the status quo. Dark Knight, for example, which is a brilliant story, but has a strong right wing flavour. In fact, most mainstream super heroes are heroic, successful, middle class professionals, or fabulously wealthy capitalists upholding the status quo.
When this happens, it’s not seen as political. When heroes are counter-culture and challenge the status quo, they are sometimes criticized as being political. Arguably because of readers’ social conditioning to accept the status quo. I see the task of the writer to be sufficiently subversive for the readers not to be aware, or not to care, that a story is polemic or has sub-text until it’s too late and we’ve hooked them on the characters.
Thanks very much to Pat Mills for humoring our questions and giving us insights into the return of the ABC Warriors, arriving this week in 2000AD’s Prog 2062, out now digitally and in UK shops and arriving in shops in the USA on February 3rd, 2018.