Welcoming the weekend is we have another Shooting the Breeze interview, this time with another one of my comic book heroes; Peter Milligan. A writer who has been as much a part of my life as any other with a style of writing that really appeals to me. I loved his madcap work on 2000AD as well as his take on Shade the Changing Man for Vertigo – a comic book that really encapsulated the drug-induced hedonism and hallucinogenics of the 90s – as well as more recent titles such as Britannia for Valiant and Black Crown’s Kid Lobotomy and Marvel’s Legion, to name but a few. I can’t think of a better way to round up this week’s round of interviews, so let’s tuck in.
Olly MacNamee: Now, for many creators a life of isolation is nothing new, but these are, I think we can all agree, unprecedented times. As such, have you noticed any changes yet to your regular daily routines, for better or for worse?
Peter Milligan: My day to day working life hasn’t seen too many changes – I get up the same time, at my desk the same time. There’s been some potential hiccoughs with some of the projects I’m working on but I’m really not dwelling on those things beyond my control. My wife is on furlough so she’s in the house the whole time, although she sometimes used to work from home anyway so that’s not a huge difference. I make it a thing now that I have one long-ish walk everyday, whereas before walking was just part of my life. Pre-Covid I’d normally have lunch in the centre of London at least once a week and I suppose that’s a negative, but in the great scheme of things, looking at what others have to contend with all around the world, the absence of dim sum seems pretty small beer.
OM: Like so many others, have you pledged to take up any new hobbies or interests during this downtime? I imagine after one week that resolution—like New Year’s Eve resolutions—may have ebbed for some? So, do you ebb or flow? And that’s not euphemism!
PM: No, I have absolutely no pledges and no new hobbies, and don’t intend to start. My life is pretty full anyhow what with work, improving my German, embarrassing myself on guitar, and nurturing a whole plethora of grievances that I barely have time to breathe.
OM: This could very well go on for a few months, listening to the experts rather than the politicians. We’re all going to soon be clambering the walls, if we’re not distracted. What comic book gems will you have the time to go back, dig out and re-read and suggest to our readers to go order from their local comic book store to help support their business?
PM: I just don’t think I’ll be clambering up any walls. I’m not re-reading any comic book gems as such – though I’ve glanced at 100 Bullets and Nick Abadziz’s wonderful Laika – but I’d ask and recommend everyone to order whatever they can from whatever comic store is still operating. We want there to be some kind of world waiting for us when this is all over, though see my thoughts below on this.
OM: And, what will be playing on your turntable over the coming weeks? What albums could you not live without?
PM: I don’t know about couldn’t live without, but I’m listening to quite a bit of the Estonian composer Arvo Part. His minimalist style seems well-suited to our current pared-down lives. I’m also enjoying Chick Corea’s latest album and like a new young London mostly-female Jazz group called Nerija.
OM: Any box sets you’ll be going back to rewatching? Or any new films and TV you may now have the time to invest in?
PM: I like Babylon Berlin, re-watching some of the early episodes with my wife, who didn’t see it the first time round.
OM: I must admit, getting back to comics, it’s been really pleasing to read, see and hear the comic book communities coming together at a time like this. What have been some of the positive stories coming out of the comic book industry that have caught your eye over the past week or so?
PM: I’m bit of a miserablist so tend to avoid and largely distrust all positive stories, which I see as the illusions they really are.
OM: It would have been the start of another busy comic con season on both sides of the pond, but alas no more. Will you miss these chances to socialise and meet up with fellow colleagues and friends?
PM: I’ll throw my miserablist hat aside for a moment and say yes, it’s a shame I won’t be going to some of the shows I would have gone to. Meeting new people and old friends at these shows is a real plus point about this business.
OM: What hopes do you harbour for the comic book industry once these stormy clouds have passed?
PM: At times like these I remember the words of Saint Augustine: “Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.” That pretty much sums up my feelings on what the comics industry and the world at large might or might not look like when this crazy war is over.
OM: Finally, and to leave a smile on our readers’ faces, have you heard any good/bad jokes recently?
PM. Strange that locksmiths have been closed in the lockdown. Clearly, they’re not key workers.
OM: Many thanks, and all the best. A phrase with even more weight to it than usual.